Nature seems to have formed the hands of woman for the exercise of needle and thread. The first passion of a young girl is the desire of a needle to dress her doll. And throughout the entire of her after-life, it proves her best friend and recommendation; for it is the prudent housewife who causes the continued attachment and respect of the hushand.
So completely may this he called the woman's weapon, that, even when she is not required to undergo the drudgery of its use, it is still found to be to her the instrument of ornnment. Many elegant articles of fancy can be added to a young lady's toilette by the exercise of her natural ingenuity, joined with a little patience. Indeed, so foreign to the whole nature of a female would be the neglect of what is especially termed work, of some description or other, that it may be doubted whether there be a single instance—to their credit he it spoken—of women, even of the highest rank, who do not dedicate some portion of their time to those little elegancies of their sex ; and while their fair hands are busily engaged in plying the needle or the lace-pins, enjoy that quiet, wholesome reverie of thought (if some agreeable and improving book be not read out to them by relative or friend) which is so pleasant to their fancies and their hearts.
But our young friends must not imagine that work, even in its most laborious everyday acceptation, is a thing irksome and disgraceful. Nothing is disgraceful that is industrious, and nothing industrious is irksome, if we will only take the advice of our mammas, and aunts, and friends, who are older and wiser than ourselves, and put our little hearts merrily into the business. The first step is half the battle, and a little patience and perseverance at first will amply reward you afterwards, by the praise of those whose praise is valuable and dear to you—by the feelings of usefulness and independence which you will acquire, so gratifyiug to an amiable nature, together with the power of rendering yourself valuable in household matters, and the pleasure of making a thousand various little presents to relatives and friends. No little girl should be so proud and so silly as to say, " This is all but sempstress-work, and unfit for the hands of a delicate fine lady." Were this the case—although there could be no harm in her learning even a little of that—and were she disposed, from charitable feelings, to leave coarser work for those who are with great difficulty thus obliged to earn their bread, it would be a different matter. But if this be not a vain and idle excuse, there is no necessity implied here for interfering in the slightest degree with the employment either of regular artisans or of the poor. Labour is the parent of labour —the more you work yourself, the more you will require the cooperation of others ; and the work of a lady's hand embraces the most extensive sources of occupation—usefulness and amusement—from the first infant pleasure with her doll, to the ornament of her person and the perfection of the most elaborate article of dress.
Excerpt from: The Girl's Own Book, by Lydia Maria Child, 17th ed. edited by Clara de Chatelain. Published in London, in 1856. pages 355-357.
**I found this while looking up a source on Google Books, and thought I'd share. :)