THE RIGHTS OF A GIRL
She has certain inalienable rights, regardless of race, color or social state. When it has thought about her at all, society in general has supposed, until recently, that in a free country, a glorious land of opportunity, the girl has her rights—the right to work, the right to play, the right to secure an education and to enter the professions, the right to marry or to refuse, the right in short to do as she shall choose. And in a sense and to the casual observer this is true. Our country gives to her some rights which she can enjoy nowhere else in the world. But as one learns to know her, little by little the stupendous fact is impressed upon him that girlhood has been and is being denied its rights.
It is the right of every girl to be born into a community where the sanitary conditions are such that she has at least a fair chance to enter upon life without being physically handicapped at the start. But hundreds of girls every year open their baby eyes in dark inner rooms where the dim gas light steals what oxygen there may chance to be in the heavy air, take their first steps in foul alleys, find their first toys in garbage cans and gutters. They have been denied their rights at the start. In a Christian land, they grow weak, anemic, yield to the white specter and in a few years pass out of the unfair world to which they came, or remain to fight out a miserable existence against terrific odds. They make up an army of girls who have been denied their rights. And her religion? What is it that religion may offer to her in compensation for that which she has been denied?
It is the right of every girl to be born under conditions which will make possible sufficient food and clothing for her natural growth and development. But scores of little girls go shivering to school every morning after a breakfast of bread and tea, they return numb with cold after a dinner of more bread and tea and they go home to a supper of the same with a piece of stale cake or a cookie to help out. Nature calls aloud for nourishment and there is no answer. The girl enters her teens, finds a "job," goes to work, hungry the long year through, fighting to win out over the cold in winter, and to endure the scorching days of summer. And her religion? What is it that religion may offer to her in compensation for what she has been denied?
It is the right of every girl to receive, through the educational work of the community, training which shall fit her for clean, honest and efficient living. Yet every year sees hundreds of girls turned out into the world wholly unequipped for life, their special talents undiscovered, their energies undirected, their purposes unformed, their ambitions unawakened.
It is the right of every girl to be shielded from the moral danger and physical strain of labor for her daily bread, at least until she shall reach the age of sixteen. Yet every year sees a long procession of girls from eight to sixteen entering into the economic struggle who cannot claim their rights....