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        Christian Clothing                                                                    (PDF version here)


Scripture Standards for Dress and Conduct


Endnotes for section 2

[1]   “This lovely character is drawn according to the usage of ancient times; though the general principles are of universal application. It describes not only the wife of a man of rank, but a wise, useful, and godly matron in her domestic responsibilities. It is ‘a woman professing godliness,’ adorned ‘with good works’ (I Tim. 2:10 ); a Mary no less than a Martha . . .

“Her whole soul is in her work – girding her loins with strength, and strengthening her arms – ready to do any work befitting her sex and station. The land has also her due share of attention. Ever careful for her husband’s interests, she considers the value of a field; and, if it be a good purchase, she buys it, and plants the vineyard for the best produce . . .

“We now again observe her conduct as a mistress. And here also her praise is not, that she spends her time in devotional exercises (though these, as ‘a woman that feareth the Lord’ (Verse 30), she daily prizes); but that, according to the Scriptural canon, ‘she guides her house’ (I Tim. 5:14), watching carefully over her charge, distributing both her meat and her work in due proportion, and ‘in due season.’ This is her responsibility. If ‘man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour till the evening’ (Ps. 104:23), the woman finds her work as ‘a keeper at home.’ (Tit. 2:5.) And beautiful indeed is it to see, how by her industry, self-denial, and heartiness she ‘buildeth her house.’ (Chap. 14:1.) She rises while it is yet night, not for the sake of being admired and talked of, but to give meat to her household. The delicacy also, with which she preserves her own sphere, is remarkable. For while she provides food for the whole household, she giveth the portion – that is – of work – not to the man-servants (these with great propriety she leaves to her husband), but to her maidens. Their clothing is also provided with every regard to their comfort . . .

“But never let the mistress contract her inspection within the sphere of a mere housekeeper, with her whole time and mind employed in the external routine of her household. While she exercises sound discipline and maternal anxiety, her primary principle is a Christian conscience for their highest interests; looking well to their moral habits, their religious instruction, and attendance on the means of grace; giving them time for secret prayer, and reading the word of God, bringing them to the daily ordinance of family worship; inculcating the careful observance of the Sabbath; anxiously watching over their manners, habits, and connections. While we would be careful not to over-work them, yet never let them eat the bread of idleness. If they have nothing to do for us, let them work for God. In short – let us consider them, not as beasts of burden, not as mere mercenaries; but as a solemn and responsible trust for God and for eternity. Who can have the claim to a virtuous woman, who does not feel this weight of family responsibility?” (Charles Bridges on Prov. 31:13-27, A Commentary on Proverbs, pp622-625).  

[2]  This biblical principle was incorporated into our common law: “Under the principle of coverture the married woman became a non-person and for all legal purposes her existence was suspended. Under the principle of coverture the wife was under the protection and influence of the husband. All her property passed to her husband. As divorce was virtually impossible this was not as bad as it might at first appear as, by law, the husband was required to provide his wife with the necessities of life” (Stephen Marantelli, Jim Brennan, Roger Hawthorn, Legal Studies for year 12, Edward Arnold, Australia, 1985, pp377, 378).

Compare with Ebenezer Erskine (1680-1754), a renowned Scottish minister: "You know the wife is not sueable at law while clothed with a husband, he answers for all. Just so when you close with Christ, the better Husband, who is raised from the dead, you become dead to the law, Rom. 7.4. i.e. you have no more concern with the law, and the debts you owe to it as a covenant, either for obedience or punishment, than if they had never been; insomuch that, with joy and triumph you may lift up your heads in the presence of all your creditors or accusers, and say, ‘Who can lay anything to my charge? for it is Christ that died for my offences, and rose again for my justification and acquittance; I am under his covering, I am with him in the bride-chamber, where law and justice have no action against me’” (6th Sermon on Matt. 25:6, ‘The Wise Virgins Going Forth to Meet the Bridegroom’, Works, vol. 3, Free Presbyterian Publications, 2001, p237).  

[3]  The era of the entrenchment of liberal doctrine in the churches was the time in which many women began to leave the guidance and protection of fathers and husbands, to undervalue the domestic sphere and consequently to discard chaste behaviour and dress. The following extracts concern the progress of feminism in America and are drawn from a work which supports that philosophy:

“By the 1850s schoolteaching became a major woman’s vocation, with women teachers in the majority in most large cities. The employment of female teachers served to enlarge the work opportunities open to educated women . . . While woman’s work outside the home remained limited, family size was shrinking . . . in the 1830s surgical abortions became common. Abortionists advertised their services in large cities, and middle-class and elite women asked their doctors to perform abortions. One sign of the upswing in abortions was the increase in legislation against it . . . by 1860, twenty states had outlawed it. Only three of those twenty punished the mother, however, and the laws were rarely enforced . . . smaller families and fewer births changed the position and living conditions of women . . . The beginnings of public education in the 1830s and the policy of grouping school children by age tended to reinforce this trend . . . At the same time, working women were pioneering new roles for women beyond the home. Many found teaching a rewarding profession and preferred it to marriage and domesticity. Mill girls forged new roles for women, as did the women who assembled at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Modeling their protest on the Declaration of Independence, they called for political, social, and economic equality for women” (pp278-280).  

“Unlike the First Great Awakening [in Britain and America, c. 1720-1750], when converts were evenly divided by sex, more women than men – particularly young women – answered the call of Christianity during the Second Great Awakening [in America, c. 1795-1835] . . . Young women’s roles changed dramatically at the same time, as cloth production began to move from the household to the factory” (pp203, 204).  

“When [Charles G.] Finney led daytime prayer meetings in Rochester, New York, for instance, pious middle-class women visited families while the men were away at work . . . The organized prayer groups and female missionary societies that preceded and accompanied the Second Great Awakening were soon surpassed by greater organized reform and religious activity. Thus revival prompted and legitimised woman’s public role, providing a path of certainty and stability amidst a rapidly changing economy and society” (p327).  

“In 1800 there were no public schools outside New England; by 1860 every state had some public education . . . Massachusetts established a minimum school year of six months, increased the number of high schools, formalized the training of teachers, and emphasized secular subjects and applied skills rather than religious training. In the process, teaching became a woman’s profession . . . Many traditionalists, including New England Congregationalists, fought to maintain the old ties between education and religion . . . A more controversial reform movement was the rise of American feminism in the 1840s. Ironically, it was women’s traditional image as pious and spiritual that brought them into the public sphere” (p331).  

From 1865 (after the Civil War): “As a result of these changes southerners adopted new values. Women, sheltered in the patriarchal antebellum society, gained substantial new responsibilities. The wives and mothers of soldiers became heads of households and undertook what had previously been considered men’s work . . . In the cities, white women, who had been virtually excluded from the labor force, found a limited number of new, respectable, jobs. Clerks had always been males, but now the war changed that, too. ‘Government girls’ staffed the Confederate bureaucracy, and female schoolteachers became a familiar sight for the first time” (pp388, 389).  

“Northern women, like their southern counterparts, took on new roles . . . The professionalization of medicine since the Revolution had created a medical system dominated by men; thus dedicated and able female nurses had to fight both military regulations and professional hostility to win the chance to make their contribution . . . Even Clara Barton, the most famous female nurse, was ousted from her post during the winter of 1863” (p397).  

“As machines and assembly-line production reduced the need for skilled workers, employers cut wage costs by hiring more women and children. Between 1880 and 1900, the numbers of employed women grew from 2.6 million to 8.6 million, and their employment patterns underwent major changes. First, the proportion of working women engaged in domestic and personal service jobs (maids, cooks, laundresses), traditionally the most common form of female employment, dropped dramatically as jobs opened up in other economic sectors . . . By 1920 nearly half of all clerical workers were women; only 4 percent had been women in 1880” (pp495, 496).  

“Moreover, men feared that entry of women would transform many jobs from all-male to all-female ones, just as clerical jobs were changing. Male workers, accustomed to sex-segregation in employment, could not recognize or accept the possibility of men and women working side by side” (p503).  

“In the rural society that the United States was in the nineteenth century, women and children worked at tasks that were important to the family’s daily existence – cooking, cleaning, planting, and harvesting. Their jobs were often hard to define, and they seldom appeared in employment figures because they earned no wages” (p539).  

“In 1930 over 10.5 million women were in the work force, composing 22 per cent of all workers. Despite these statistics, most Americans believed that women should not work outside the home, that they should strive instead to be good wives and mothers, and that women who worked were doing so for “pin money” to buy frivolous things. Moreover, the depression invigorated the longstanding charge that women in the labor force necessarily displaced male breadwinners. One Chicago civic group protested that women ‘are holding jobs that rightfully belong to the God-intended providers of the household.’ Married women workers received the most criticism; some states even passed laws forbidding the hiring of married women for civil service positions” (p. 717)

“Well over 6 million women entered the labor force during the war years, increasing the number of working women 57 percent in less than five years. Two million took clerical jobs; another 2.5 million worked in manufacturing . . . There was a change in attitude toward heavy labor for women. Up to the early months of the war employers had insisted that women were not suited for industrial jobs. If women were allowed to work in factories they would begin to wear overalls instead of dresses; their muscles would bulge; they might even drink whiskey and swear like men. As labor shortages began to threaten the war effort, employers did an about-face” (pp804, 805).  

“In the 1970s . . . increasing numbers of women were committing themselves to the struggle for equality with men. In 1974 Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which enabled women to get bank loans and obtain cards on the same terms as men . . . To take advantage of new opportunities, many women delayed having children until they were in their thirties and had established themselves in their careers. Still, women continued to encounter barriers in their quest for equality. One of the most formidable was the antifeminist, or ‘profamily,’ movement, which contended that men should lead and women should follow, particularly within the family. The backlash against feminism became an increasingly powerful force in the 1970s. In defense of the family – especially the patriarchal, or father-led, family – antifeminists campaigned against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the gay rights movement, and abortion on demand” (p988). [Mary Beth Norton, David M. Katzman, Paul D. Escott, Howard P. Chudacoff, Thomas G. Paterson, William M. Tuttle, Jr., A People and a Nation - A History of the United States, Houghton Miffin Company, 1986].

Similar changes occurred in the other Western countries, including Australia:

“There were also major changes in the sex composition of the workforce. In 1857 women made up less than a quarter of Melbourne’s employees, with two-thirds working as domestics and the rest in manufacturing. By 1901 female employment opportunities had widened and almost a third of the city’s workers were women. Forty out of every hundred working women remained in personal service, but often now outside the home as a hairdresser rather than in it as a maid . . . In the half century after 1871 two in every five Melbourne women between the ages of fifteen and sixty years earned wages. Mostly they were single, with perhaps only one married woman in ten going out to work” (pp167, 168).

“In 1954 only one married woman in eight worked for wages but by 1970 one in three did so; furthermore over half the women in Melbourne aged between fifteen and sixty were in paid employment” (p225). [Tony Dingle, The Victorians Settling, Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates 1984].  

[4]  The late 19th century replacement of biblically-based education in schools by secular (atheistic) philosophies coincided with the large-scale introduction of women as public teachers of children. The blasphemous Woman’s Bible (Elizabeth Cady Stanton & “Revising Committee”) says of the inspired apostle: “Could Paul have looked down to the nineteenth century with clairvoyant vision . . . he might, perhaps, have been less anxious about the apparel and the manners of his converts . . . Or, could he have had a vision of the public school system of this Republic, and witnessed the fact that a large proportion of the teachers are women, it is possible that he might have hesitated to utter so tyrannical an edict: ‘But I permit not a woman to teach’” (‘Epistles to Timothy – Further comments by Lucinda B. Chandler’, The Woman’s Bible, 1898, p163). Compare such sentiments with the historic Protestant teaching: “According to St. Paul, women must be learners, and are not allowed to be public teachers in the church: for teaching is an office of authority; whereas she is not to usurp authority over the man, but is to be in silence. But, notwithstanding this prohibition, good women may and ought to teach their children at home the principles of true religion” (Matthew Henry on I Tim. 2:11, 12, Commentary, vol. 6, p1196).

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