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The Empty Cradle of Harvard

Condensed from Liberty (July 31, '26)

Brenda Ueland

LOW suicide is taking place among our most gifted and best edu. cated Americans. If it continues, most of the families with a long heritage of culture and achievement in the history of this country will become extinct in a few generations.

Consider, for instance, what is hap pening among graduates of Harvard, the oldest college in the United States. Dr. John C. Phillips has made two studies of the Harvard birth rate. He first studied the classes of 1851-60 and then the classes of 1891-1900.

"In my figures of the latter period," said Dr. Phillips, "5021 graduates produced 4058 sons to take their places. Of this number only about 3600 survived, which leaves about .71 son, or less than three-quarters of a son, per graduate. To maintain an equilibrium, to produce 5021 males of college age to take the places of their fathers, at least 5523 boys should have been born. There was a lack of nearly 1500 male babies.

"But the most serious aspect of this situation is this: 25 per cent of all Harvard marriages in the decade 18911900 are childless, and the rate is still rising; and 19 per cent of the graduates remain unmarried, This last is not unusual, since the percentage of celibacy has remained almost constant since the class of 1850.

"It shows that the burden of bearing the 4058 male children falls on 3074 productive married graduates; for 915 of the men did not marry at all, and 1032 married, but had no children. Therefore, if every place is to be filled by the son of a Harvard man, each productive marriage ought to result in 1.79 male children.

"Now, as to the female children. In order to take the places of their

mothers, about 5322 girl babies should have been born instead of the 3725 that actually were born. Each pro ductive marriage should have resulted in 1.73 daughters.

"Adding to this the male babies, I come to my conclusion that each fam. ily with children would have to produce 3.52 children in order to keep the Harvard stock stationary, instead of the 2.33 children that is the case today.

"The most surprising and disquieting feature of all is the rapidly rising proportion of childless marriages among Harvard graduates. Childless marriages increased from 15 per cent (1851-60) to 25 or 26 per cent in the decade 1891-1900. This rise has been progressive.

"The number of marriages (per cent married) has remained almost con. stant. This, I think, is contrary to a general belief that the intellectual classes are cutting down their marriage rate, and it would be cause for some encouragement were it not for the rapid increase of childless marriages.

"Although the interval between graduation and marriage is decreasing slightly, the age of marriage is really increasing, owing to the later age of graduation. Thus, in the earlier decades, the actual marriage age was 30 years, whereas now it is over 31 years.

"Whereas the class of 1850 was evi. dently composed of 95 per cent of English-speaking stock, the class of 1900 had only 78.7 per cent of similar stock. After 1900 there is a steady increase of foreign elements with each succeeding class (for better or worse, it is not for me to say), until in the class of 1925 there is less than 59 per cent of what I have called the old or English-speaking group. And


likely, since these mixed and foreign elements are so much more fertile than the native American, their influx into Harvard balanced an even further drop in the birth rate of native Americans at Harvard."

Another very interesting study of the vanishing American has been made in the Middle West by the University of Wisconsin. A study was made of 420 primary families, all native Americans, and through them information was obtained of more than 2000 of their married brothers and sisters living in the Middle West. All these families are rich enough in brains and purse to have a child at the University of Wisconsin.

A comparison was made of the difference in the sizes of the families of two generations. The elder generation had 5.44 children per marriage. Their sons and daughters, when they had offspring at all, had only 3.35 children, a shrinkage of 381⁄2 per cent in about 30 years. But since 13 per cent of the present generation are childless, the average number of children per marriage is 2.8.

The fecundity of different occupational groups is interesting. In the present generation the farmers lead with the greatest number of children -4.2 per fertile family; unskilled laborers, 3.7; skilled laborers, 3.3; professional men, 3.2; business men, 2.9; clerical workers, 2.6. But the professional men make a poorer showing if we omit the clergymen, who average 4 children to a family. Without the clergymen the average product of professional men is 3 children.

For farmers and professional men, childlessness was 10 per cent; for skilled labor and business men, 15 per cent; for clerical workers, 20 per cent. Since the childlessness of the clergymen was 8.8 per cent, say the investigators, it is likely that childlessness in excess of this is voluntary.

Concerning the 13 per cent of childlessness among the Middle Western college-going families (Harvard grad· uates, you remember, are 25 to 26 per

cent childless, it is hard to account for. In the 18th century, 3000 American wives had only 2 per cent infertility. The number is now 13 per cent. Whereas, among wives of Polish par entage on the farms of 21 Minnesota counties, the infertility is well under 2 per cent.

This is what is happening: The birth rate among our best citizens is dropping off fast. The children of the very prolific immigrants from Europe are filling the country. Among the immigrants, few scions of gifted fam. ilies have come. Europe has let us have few of her elite, but has been millions relieved of of her lower classes.

In other words, the most fruitful fourth (unfortunately, our poorest class of foreign-born) will produce nearly as many children as the remaining three-fourths.

From genealogical records a study has been made of the maternal per formance of 12,722 American wives Those who lived in 1700-50 averaged 6.83 children; those of 1750-1800 aver aged 6.43 children. The America wives of the first half of the 19th cen tury had 4.94 children; of the '50'and '60's, 3.47; of the '70's, 2.77.

It is a great shame that the race o vigorous and high-class native Amer cans is dying out. It is hard to fin a remedy. Someone suggests tha people's philosophy of success shoul be corrected. Glorify the achievement of the family as they did in the pas when there was not such contempt fo aristocracy and family power and di tinction. Today we say of a ma "What has he done?" Instead v should be asking, "What are his ch dren doing? And his grandchildren And men should draw their self-estee out of pointing to a number of fir looking, able descendants.

People like to think they will s vive in their children. But few kn that even two children does not me family survival. To perpetuate yo stock you must have at least fo children.


Fear in Small-Town Life

Excerpts from Harper's Magazine (August, '26)


HY are the people of Durham -as I shall call this new hometown of mine-so afraid? Why are these men and women, so conscious of their own rightness, terrorized by an unfamiliar idea?

It is fear which makes Durham's nicer people so wary to avoid experience, so careful to stay with accustomed friends, to cheer for the happily ended book, to rush to the innocuous movies, to avoid the harsher plays when in New York?

The answer to fear, of any kind, is experience. Defeat timidity with variety, counter prejudice with a succession of truths. But salvation by variety is hard to obtain in Durham. Variety in social life is a luxury of the big city where the celebrity, the personage, the visiting foreigner leaven the mass of ordinary people, spice the routine of ordinary life. There worlds exist within worlds, any number of them, interlacing, vitalized, charming; in our town, there are only so many pyramided groups, each one a little inferior, even in its own eye, to that above it. At the base are the unimportant thousands who live happily from one Saturday night to the next; at the top the elect few hundreds who for three generations, or two, have had banks, factories, surpluses, a tradition of importance, and the proper clothes. There is the group that takes its fun at the lodges and the ladies' nights; the ladies who foregather day after day at the countless small social clubs; the bustling world of fraternal orders with their balls and meetings; the subdued wealthy middle class, who never leave home except for the office or the church; their rampant, richer offspring, who jazz at the country club and whose parties emphasize the failure of prohibition; and lastly again, the brahmins who

keep rigorous social lists, entertain delightfully and flit from Europe to New York to White Sulphur and home.

The group system is a necessary evil in this smaller world, for the hazards of social life stifle the adventuresome spirit who would buccaneer about socially, seeing all sides of life. The pity of it is that each group is so small, so homogeneous that stagnation inevitably results. People hesitate to leave their accustomed circles for fear of being suspended in an outer vacuum, in no group at all. There are few souls whose inner resources are SO sustaining that they can face the risks of isolation. Intellectual and social loneliness are the terror of us all; there is less danger of it in the city where the strangest people find themselves duplicated a hundred times. But in the small city God pity the individual who does not fit naturally into a group, or through ignorance or carelessness, lands in the wrong groove!

There is that strangely attractive Mrs. Chadwick who always looks so well dressed but so obviously has no place to go. At the Ritz, on an ocean liner Mrs. Chadwick would be a cynosure-behold a grown-up woman who knows what life is about. But in Durham, alas, she was imperceptibly dropped into the outer limbo; her taste, her beauty, her exoticism availed her naught. There was something too adult about Mrs. Chadwick. She was bored by the interchange of domestic alarms indulged in by the young matrons of her group. She read French novels and painted her face. She liked to talk to men, impersonally, frankly, freely. Wherever Mrs. Chadwick was, there also were inconsequent mirth, reckless talk, gayety. She disturbed the pattern of what a wife

should be; and socially Mrs. Chadwick is no more.

There are of course in Durham a few souls, confident, audacious, who do as they please socially, and get away with it. But usually they take off from the top of the pyramid to begin with, and they are endowed with & selfless enthusiasm for a cause, for politics, or the mere fun of living. Whenever they appear the party begins, where they are the fight commences. They are the rare birds, the social sports. Mrs. Tower is one of these. In her youth she tamed wild horses; once she rode from here to the Junction on the front of a locomotive to win ten dollars. She can swing a devastating ax, can swim like a salmon. There is no cause she does not sponsor, no movement she does not defend or attack. The politicians fear her; the junk dealers and the ashmen admire her.

The world would be unbearable if we were all like Mrs. Tower, but it is a pity that most people lose in the early 30's their passionate hunger for living. It is so easy to cherish monotony, for fear of something worse, so easy to shudder at the bogey of the unknown rather than fertilize the barren psyche with new ideas.

The puzzle of Durham is the mystery of America. This is the puzzle -why the amazing adaptability, north, east, south, and west to everything new but ideas? The telephone, the wireless, the movie have torn down the walls of distance that once kept the human spirit isolated. Now everyone goes everywhere, sees everything, hears everything. Upcountry, far north of my city, the flappers in the little villages have shingled hair, wear beige stockings; the pianos hammer out the tunes of Broadway. Houses are standardized, people of similar financial level buy the same type of divan and floor lamp, young girls in all classes demand the same underwear, the same privileges, wear the same impudent empty mask as a face. They are all

so ready to be imprinted by the newest thing-in everything but ideas. Why has the individual human mind lagged behind in this extraordinary receptivity of sensation?

It has lagged behind, no doubt, out of exhaustion. Today there are so many things to do, to know, so many things going on, that the overimpressed consciousness ceases to formulate, is satisfied only to register. What is the need for thinking anyway, when the newspapers, the movies, the radios, the motors will hand one the news and the thrills, absorb all time and leisure? There are few empty hours, solitary days in modern life, days when the mind can retreat within itself and assay its own resources. We are so busy buying things, going to all the places that everyone goes to, and doing all the things that everyone does, that it is hardly necessary to think. It is easy to escape, therefore, by any of these mechanized diversions, that insistent, pressing demon within each of us which asks and asks and insists upon an answer, "What are you good for and what are you making of your life?"

It is harder to answer that demon, harder to keep it cowed in Durham than it was in New York. One is confronted at close range with conventions, faced by prejudice, irritated by the close pressure of other people's opinions. Why can't they let one alone? What is it to them what one does, what one feels? The surrounding microcosm is always there, watching, judging, a nightmare of nearness.

Yet in Durham the very smallness of things, the clear sight one has of every thing at once, day in and day out, the tininess of this life against the immensity of time become a challenge to the individual to hold out, to resist its enemies. Hold on persist, one says to one's own integ.: rity, and you shall endure in the end. It is a trying contest; yet I would not want to leave Durham and perhaps she will let me stay with her free, until the end.


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RESIDENT GLENN FRANK of vey approval to worthy causes, insti

the University of Wisconsin says: "We Americans pile so many duties

I upon our leaders that we make it next to impossible for them to fulfill their primary function, The demands of administration slowly crowd the scholar out of the college presidency and the prophet out of the pulpit. It is the inevitable outcome of our American habit of trying to combine the offices of prophet and executive.”

Now the man whom Americans most overwork, and in whom we most insist on a combination of executive and prophet, is the President. The President fills functions which in similar forms of government are divided among two or three officials. On the executive side the President of the United States must manage the busi. ness of the government capably. That means, among many, many other things, that he must keep an eye on the Treasury; must seek out good men to fill a larger number of executive offices subordinate to him, than any other administrator in the country; must give hours to listening to applicants for some of these jobs and to politicians who back the applicants; must be responsible, ultimately, for the efficient functioning of ten Cabinet departments and several independent bureaus-several of which have operations more extensive than the largest private business corporations. The President must also follow legislation in Congress.

Akin to the essentially executive functions of the Presidency is a, so to speak, ornamental function, which in Great Britain is the function of the king. There the king pins medals on distinguished soldiers, confers the distinction of his presence at the opening of hospitals, has his photograph taken on occasions where it will con

tutions, or persons. In America we add this to the burden of the Presidency.

In addition to these and many other executive functions, the President has some functions, not inconsiderable in weight, as head of his party.

All these things we expect of a President; and then in addition, we expect him to be a prophet. We look to him to provide us with leadership, which we expect in the form of speeches and messages on all sorts of occasions and on all sorts of questions.

Roosevelt spoke of the White House as "The Highest pulpit of the United States." More than any other President Roosevelt preached to the American people about subjects far aside from government, served the people as prophet, gave them inspiration and guidance in fields as remote as outdoor life, sports, "play the game hard," "don't flinch," "the strenuous life," the bringing up of families, poetry, history, and art.

And Roosevelt was again outstanding in the fact that, along with being a prophet, he filled the administrative function of the White House with outstanding excellence. Henry White, the most experienced ambassador America has ever had, says that Roosevelt is the only President he ever knew (and Mr. White began his diplomatic experience under President Grant) who at once was a good executive of the domestic affairs of the nation and also had a complete grasp of its foreign relations.

But it is very rare for the two capacities, executive and prophet, to reside within the same personality. Executive capacity calls for action, swiftness of intellectual processes; to be a prophet calls for reflection, deliberateness of intellectual processes. Moreover, it is difficult for both capacities

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