Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 13: The Influence of Our Surroundings

Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 13: The Influence of Our Surroundings

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 08, 2012

Ethics for Young Girls

Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901

Lesson 13: The Influence of Our Surroundings

All thoughtful persons recognize the fact that people are strongly influenced by their environment; by environment is meant the daily surroundings, including home furnishings, relations, friends, with their characteristic qualities.

People, of course, have inherited tendencies, but these tendencies may be diminished or even extinguished, by proper surroundings, including training. Physicians affirm that descendants of consumptives have the tendency to that disease, but if they are reared in suitable climate, given proper food for the body and mind, the disease need not manifest itself. If this be true of physical tendencies, is it not logical to suppose that it is true also of mental ones?

In this lesson we shall discuss that part of our environment for which we are directly responsible, from the standpoint of beauty. Even this subject is so broad that it may profitably cover a number of lessons.

Other things being equal, the more beauty a girl perceives in life the more beautiful will her own life become, for beauty consists of harmonious relations. She will be better able to make her own life harmonize with the world about her.

The first essential of beauty in a room is absolute neatness. No room, no matter how costly its furnishings, is beautiful if it is not clean and neat; on the other hand, a room that betrays even poverty is made beautiful by having everything neat and clean. What is the effect on the mind in each case?

Can the mind work in an orderly manner, can thoughts be logically connected, can our Master be sincerely approached, in a chaotic room?

Most girls have rooms of their own or rooms that belong to two or three of them. These rooms should be their sanctuaries. When does the soul commune with itself? Only when alone; and that time usually comes in the evening when one is in one’s room. Whether these thoughts be elevating or degrading depends to a very great degree upon the surroundings.

Much friction could be avoided if each girl would have her own toilet articles, comb, brushes, towels, soap, hair-pins. At this time, when most girls work and earn money, these things are not impossible. Let the working-girl save the money she would spend for an extra ribbon, to be spent in the purchase of some of these articles. Soon she would have a supply of good toilet articles, for it is cheaper in the end to buy those of good quality. The difficulty with many working girls is that they wish to spend their money for outward show, and go without the things that mark the true lady, such as handkerchiefs, toilet articles, good underclothing, etc.

A woman has more respect for herself when she knows everything about her is whole and clean, and as beautiful as her purse and simplicity will permit her to buy.

There is a point closely connected with this that must be spoken of. Many girls look most “stunning” on the street, but when you see them in the home when they don’t expect you – !

It is as easy to be neat at all times, if the habit be formed, as it is to be untidy. How must a girl feel when she is ragged and dirty! She can’t have very much respect for herself. She can be neat if she is scrubbing, washing or doing anything else.

Pictures have a remarkable influence upon the observer. With them she becomes an eye-witness to the story depicted, and it is constantly before her as a reminder of the truth represented. For example, if one of the beautiful masterpieces be hanging on the wall of her room, she can never look at the picture without being elevated and soothed in her mind.

Now that copies of photographs of the masterpieces can be obtained at so little cost, each girl should have a collection of them. She will obtain much solace and inspiration from them.


1. Mention the things necessary for a comfortable sleeping room for a girl.
2. Name the things which are needless, which require labor in caring for and which are unhealthful in a sleeping room.
3. Make handkerchief cases which represent small cost.
4. Give a talk on underclothing, including cleanliness, simplicity and neatness.
5. Why should churches, schoolhouses and homes be clean and beautiful?
6. Does it cost more to have artistic things than ugly ones?
7. Is it better for a private room to be a museum or a place of rest?
8. What effect have surroundings on character?
9. How can young women help make the meeting houses beautiful?
10. What effect have good pictures on character?

NOTE. – Pictures may be obtained from the “Perry Picture Co.,” Malden, Mass., at prices ranging from one to ten cents. The following beautiful pictures may be obtained at five cents apiece. They are more artistic and are larger than those of one cent: They are called the “extra size.” Mention that point in sending for them. The company pays the postage:

Sistine Madonna, by Raphael.
Madonna of the Chair, by Raphael.
Mater Dolorosa, by Guido Reni.
Aurora, by Guido Reni.
Four Kittens, by Adams.
Angelus, by Millet.
The Gleaners, by Millet.
The Man with a Hoe, by Millet.
Shepherdess Knitting, by Millet.
Feeding Her Birds, by Millet.
Horse Fair, by rosa Bonheur.
Baby Stuart, by Van Dyke.
Christ and the Doctors, by Hofmann.
The Christ, by Hofmann.
Angel Heads, by Joshua Reynolds.
Mother and Child, by Bodenhausen.

These pictures cut out and mounted on gray cardboard make adornments fit for any room.



  1. This reminds me of a famous quote from one of my mission presidents (well, famous in the mission) on the topic of keeping missionary apartments clean:

    “The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell in clutter.”

    And, for once, I agree with most of this post. (Amazing but true, I know).

    Comment by Amy T — November 8, 2012 @ 7:48 am

  2. This is, I’m pretty sure, the best lesson in the series. Not that there has been a lot of competition, but this one is good anyway.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 8, 2012 @ 7:54 am

  3. Not sure what a handkerchief case is, but I am all for neat bedrooms and beautiful paintings. :-)

    “7. Is it better for a private room to be a museum or a place of rest?”
    I am not sure what the expected answer would be. Am I missing something?

    Comment by Julia — November 8, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  4. I have some beautiful handkerchief cases in my collection of antique linen (yeah, another oddball thing to know about me). They’re basically just fabric envelopes, often beautifully embroidered, in which to store your clean linen handkerchiefs, either in a drawer or displayed on your bureau.

    And I think the modern equivalent of the “museum” question would be, “Is it better for a private room to look like something from House Beautiful, with luxurious furnishings that would take all day to keep looking like a page in the magazine, or a room that is neat and clean and restful, even if its furnishings are plain and inexpensive?”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 8, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  5. I want to see pictures of your collection. I can kind if imagine what you are describing, but it seems like sharing pictures of such an historically important thing would go right along with Keepa’s mission! 😉

    Comment by Julia — November 9, 2012 @ 1:40 am

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