"Preparations for Motherhood"
"A certain professorship- to teach a new human being how to live"
Maria sought to remedy her own lack of education through improving Isabel's own, and this proves a central, subtly subversive preoccupation in her journal. While a grown-up Isabel asserted disdain for the Victorians in her unpublished draft of "Preparation for Motherhood," her progressive ideas about women's education were founded on the values her Victorian mother had instilled in her.
Initially, Sieveking appeared to distance herself from the Victorian "lapse in common sense" manifested in the lack of sex education. She deplored a prudish "moral scruple" that kept women, and even "many modern girls," ignorant of "what the fact of marriage was or how tremendous a responsibility would, in all probability be hers nine months later." Sieveking points out that the Edwardian period is not quite as "modern" as it seems if "this impossible condition" women's oblivion of reproductive facts remains "present in our midst." Yet Sieveking's own elevation of giving birth to and raising children as the most significant aspect of a woman's life aligns with the very conservative ideals of a Victorian cult of motherhood. Likewise, she is careful to couch her cries for sex education for women in the frequent parenthetical qualifier of holy matrimony, "if she intends to marry soon."
Despite these traditional trappings, Sieveking more radically argues for the necessity of conjoining education and motherhood, even calling motherhood "a certain professorship- to teach a new human being how to live." Turning to a "practical illustration" of this motherly ignorance as a danger to babies' lives, Sieveking describes hearing her neighbor, self-consciously oblivious to her screaming child's "daily needs," smack her out of angry exasperation and feeds her "the dinner of a grown-up person, full plates of soup, meat, prunes, and milk pudding." This example of someone with "no previous education in motherhood" emphasizes that caregiving is not a natural instinct but rather a learned skill, one that like dancing, cooking, and making dresses requires training. However, Sieveking's alignment of motherhood with other typically feminine tasks here is subverted by her subsequent emphasis on turning away from the "artificial" preparations of external appearance through "trousseaus" towards the more vital "preparation" of internal cultivation and mental competency.
Sieveking thus professionalizes care-giving as a vocation through which women's education becomes vital, "its own employment, with four intervals, day and night." Indeed, through the figure of the experienced nurse who would teach such "training classes," Sieveking naturalizes the idea of women's employment, yoking their "natural" sphere of the private home with public forms of occupation that require skill and training.