from "Woman In Her Social Relations."

by Henry E. Woodbury

... Let us consider woman in another sphere. If there be one word in our language that is associated more closely with the secret springs of our nature than any other -- a word that is fairly enshrined in the heart of every individual, at the sound of which the blood circulates through the system with a freer flow, and the heart throbs with an accelerated speed -- in short, if there be a word dearer than any other to the noble generous heart, is not that word Mother ? The first accents of the child lisp it: should not the "child of larger growth" revere it? Who does not love its sound? Who does not almost idolize the name of her who gave him being, who watched over him during the hours of his helpless infancy, and with heartfelt delight hailed the first development of his youthful powers, the first faint glimmerings of immortal mind. That ministering angel who regarded not only the physical, but also these nobler, more exalted requirements of her child -- the moral and the intellectual -- is she not worthy of the highest honor and purest affection that child can bestow? What a beautiful manifestation of filial affection was that exhibited by Napoleon when, after his successes, he was greeted as conqueror, and had assumed the imperial purple! Walking in the gardens of St. Cloud, he met his mother. Half earnestly, half seriously, he extended his hand that she might kiss it. Indignantly she flung it back, and, tendering her own, exclaimed, "C'est a vous a baiser la main de celle qui vous a donne la vie." Napoleon immediately stooped over his mother's hand, and affectionately kissed it. This simple act was worthy of the man, and speaks a volume in his favor. There cannot be a truer indication of a good heart than is found in the manifestation of gratitude and love to a mother. Passing through one of our loveliest cemeteries, my attention was attracted by a plain white marble shaft bearing only the inscription, "Our mother." What a comprehensive epitaph! How plainly does it unfold the secret workings of the souls of those who reared it! What a tale of heartfelt gratitude and filial affection is embodied in that simple phrase, "Our mother!"

Of all the impressions made upon the youthful mind, none are so lasting as those received from a mother. While the rough finger of time may eradicate almost all others, these become, as it were, a part of our nature, controlling motives, exerting a powerful influence over us in all the affairs of life. And this fact is sustained by the evidence of many of the greatest men that have ever lived. Perhaps of all whom the world has honored with the appelation of great, more than one-half might, with the strictest propriety, inscribe on the escutcheons as the motto of the success, the simple word, "Mother." Truly weighty then are the obligations devolving on woman in the discharge of her duties in this relation. The formation of character is hers. And may she not be in a great measure responsible for the future welfare or misery of her child, just in proportion as she discharges faithfully, or neglects to discharge, her obligations to him? The child is father of the man, and the seed sown in the moulding of youthful character must bring forth good or evil fruit in the harvest of mature age. Ay, its influence will be felt by future generations, and it remains with the mother whether those who in future time may be affected by the acts of her child, shall have reason to bless or curse the name of her who gave him being. So far does the influence exerted by the mother affect the character of the child that we may, with a considerable degree of confidence, make the assertion, Show us a good mother, and we will show you a good son. Many a young man of warm sensibilities and fine intellectual acquirements has been obliged to attribute his want of success in the business of life to the false impressions received from a mother, whose errors (to her sorrow be it said) were errors of the head, not of the heart. In the almost faultless character of a Washington, we see written in lines of living light a true biography of her whose noble virtues were only reflected in the career of so distinguished a son. Let mothers emulate her in the training of their children, and the character of American women shall be placed upon a foundation which no spirit of detraction nor jealousy can ever undermine. ...

Godey's Lady's Book
October, 1852.