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What Should a Young Lady Do
after She Graduates?

Marian Horvat & Elizabeth Lozowski
Dear Tradition in Action,

I am the mother of eight girls. My oldest will be graduating from high school next year. What advice can you give about what a young lady should do after she graduates from high school?

     God bless you for your work,


Dr. Horvat & Miss Lozowski respond:

Dear M.M.,

When it comes the time for the young lady to decide which course to take for the future, two important points must be considered: the preservation of purity and a proper sense of industry.

Home, the surest safeguard of purity

From the time she is a child, the girl’s best defense against impurity and guard of innocence is the home. The home is most suited to a woman’s nature, for it protects the fragile lily of purity from the dangers of the world outside and fosters the feminine spirit of hidden self-sacrifice. When the young lady leaves her home to enter the world, she too often loses the greatest treasure of her womanhood, if not in deed, then in thought or desire.


Fr. Lasance: ‘The primary sphere of a woman's activity is the home’

home girls

Unfortunately, the 20th century was one that emancipated women from the home, encouraging them to enter the work place, to pursue careers and higher degrees, to become dissatisfied with being “just” wives and mothers. Women must learn once again to be content in their homes, rather than seeking to find a pretended fulfillment outside of the home. We say "pretended," because women and girls have never been so discontent, anxious and unhappy as they are today. As the maxim predicts, the Devil never gives what he promises.

Fr. Lasance affirms this in The Catholic Girl’s Guide:

“The sphere of woman’s activity, especially in the class for which I write, is preeminently the home. The object to be kept in view in a girl’s education, whether she be brought up at home or in a boarding-school, is to fit her for domestic life, to give her a love of domesticity, founded on the fear of God.

“This you, my daughter, must seek to acquire; in order that later on, in whatever position you may find yourself, whether you live with your parents, take a situation as housekeeper, or preside over a household of your own, you may for the love of God lead a life of self-sacrificing devotion, unseen and unnoticed, working to promote the welfare of the family, the maintenance of Religion and good principles.” (pg. 367)

It is important to take note that the three options that Fr. Lasance gives for women all infer that the young lady is living in a family home, the natural place for a woman. Although some would consider his advice outdated, it is needed now more than ever in this corrupt modern society wrought with so many grave occasions of sin.

After graduating from high school, too many young women are pressured into leaving their homes "to be independent" and "to find their own way." Living in a small, dreary apartment or a cramped college dorm room, many seek relief from this bleak and boring atmosphere by being with friends and making constant outings. Others live a lonely life filled only with work, nervousness and depression. Often, these young women have no time – or never take the time – to practice any home skills or feminine arts that would provide a sense of contentment, calmness and fulfillment.

girls depressed

Apartment living, lonely & depressing

What is the solution? Young ladies should either stay in their parent’s home, a relative’s home, a trusted guardian’s home or the home of a family that employs them. If circumstances necessitate that the young lady live on her own in the world, she should live with a group of virtuous, trustworthy young women who can support her in her pursuit of true womanhood; together they can guard one another’s purity by always providing accompaniment on outings.

If the young lady upon graduating from high school realizes that she knows nothing of homemaking, the best thing for her to do would be to stay at home with her parents and learn these most important skills; doing this will in turn teach her to practice patience, humility and industry. Once she has mastered these arts and improved in these virtues she will be better able to offer her services to others or successfully engage in a feminine occupation.

The need for industry

Although it is good for a young lady to be in the home, it is not good for her to spend her time in idleness. She should have a proper sense of industry. The degree and type of industry, however, varies according to her class and state of life.

need for industry

The Catholic maxim: ‘Idleness is the Devil's workshop’

girls work at home

In the past, a young lady upon coming of age would often either enter a convent or stay at home to help her parents and siblings. If her family was in need of financial help, she would pursue a feminine occupation to contribute some income.

Young ladies of the higher classes would not have to work outside of the home. Rather, they would be occupied with all of the duties required in the management of a large household – from directing servants to entertaining guests.
Additionally, more study was required of them, as they would receive a higher education through tutors or convent schools. They also occupied their time with embroidery, lace-making, knitting, spinning or pursuing other fine crafts.

Not to be overlooked are the works of charity that these young women undertook, providing food and goods for the poor, visiting the sick and the elderly, assisting others in a multitude of ways. In other words, a good upper class lady, though she remained at home, was never idle.

Needless to say, most country young women also stayed at home, for they had a great many responsibilities in care of the farm, their siblings and the home. Gardening, tending animals, cleaning, cooking, washing and mending occupied their time from morning till night.

Today, lamentably, if a young lady is told to stay at home, she may answer that there is nothing to do. One thing she might do is to simply look around her house to see if everything is in order – corners dusted, closets organized, mirrors polished, books in place, living areas tidy, pantry stocked, kitchen cleaned, the list goes on and on. A majority of the time, the "bored" young lady would find a list of chores to complete.

girls occupation

Tutoring, a good occupation for a lady

When the mother of the house has enough help (from other daughters or servants), the young lady may choose to help her family by making a little extra income through a private enterprise pursued primarily from the home – making and selling homemade clothing, accessories, dolls, artwork, household supplies or other such things. Earning income in this manner, something easily done in today’s world of online shopping, is the ideal, for it allows the young lady to remain at home.

If a young lady chooses not to marry or to enter a convent and is compelled to provide for herself or her parents, she should consider whether her choice of work is of service to others, for this is the primary role of women, to be the “helpmate of man” in some way or another.

Feminine occupations for earning income

feminine occupations

Housemaids & teachers, common occupations of the past, but secretarial work raises problems

secretarial work

Some of the occupations that in times past were – and remain so today – acceptable for young ladies to pursue are nurse, teacher, seamstress, laundress, housemaid, nursemaid, governess, cook (for a private home, not restaurants or other public places). Such occupations will serve to foster the necessary skills a young woman will need to run a home – an art essential for all women, regardless of vocation.

When the Industrial Revolution entered the scenario, women entered the “working world” as factory workers and the “business world” in secretarial positions. Neither occupation is to be recommended.

Although the secretarial work was not necessarily unfit for women, for a young lady to take such a position in an office always constitutes a danger to purity and a temptation to the men in the office. Needless to say, office affairs took root in this soil and were not uncommon. In a like manner, the late hours and rough companions of the factories led to frequent occasions of sin.

In The Dutiful Child, Fr. F. X. Wetzel advises girls to avoid factory and shop work:

“In the same way a girl fares better, both in soul and body, if, when she leaves school, she takes, with the leave of her parents, a good place, where she learns her work thoroughly, than if she goes into a shop or factory.

"Girls brought up to do domestic service make far better wives than shop or factory hands, who seldom know much about either cooking or house work, and who often get into bad company through running about in the evenings.” (pg. 117)

Present-day solutions

Modern occupations for women can thus be classified in two classes.

The first category is service occupations, whereby a young lady can best follow Fr. Lasance’s instruction in his Girls Manual to “lead a life of self-sacrificing devotion, unseen and unnoticed.”

Today, there are many elderly who are in need of a caregiver; a young lady need only ask around her parish to find a position. Although it is acceptable to be a nurse in a hospital (the ideal is a hospital run by nuns, which has all but disappeared after Vatican II), it is becoming more difficult to practice the faith in the professional health services, as you may read here.

caring for sick

Caring for the sick & elderly or giving music lessons are worthy occupations

piano lessons

Many families are looking for nannies or housekeepers, positions most desirable for they best teach a girl how to run a house. Traditional Catholic schools are often in desperate need of teachers, for they cannot afford to pay high salaries. Yet, what they offer is sufficient for a young lady who lives at home or with one of the school’s Catholic families. She could offer services as a private tutor as well, a position that would benefit homeschooling families. A young lady skilled at cooking could pursue catering, in which she could remain at home while preparing meals for other families, parties or gatherings.

Seamstresses are hard to come by in these days, and a young lady talented in this area would be certain to find customers, especially among traditional Catholics looking for modest, feminine clothing that fits correctly. A young lady skilled in art or music could consider giving private lessons from her home.

The second category is business occupations, which, although not ideal, are acceptable if no other positions can be obtained. One area is shop work: working at a store as a cashier, saleslady, custodian or clerk, or managing a private business such as a bookstore, flower shop, and so on.

If the father has a family business, a young lady could assist in it. Even if it man’s work (construction, plumbing, etc.), she can manage the books or clientele. The presence of her father offers protection, and she could help to support her family in a laudable way.

Unless no other alternatives are available, waitress work is not advisable for women; although it can involve kitchen work and serving, it nonetheless constitutes a great danger to purity due to the many men she must serve , as well as the possibly vulgar and and coarse co-workers with modern customs and vices she must face on a regular basis. Traditionally, restaurants were staffed with male waiters and it would be good to see a return to this custom and keep the serving maid in the home, and not in public places.

Another acceptable occupation is hospitality work, which includes work in hotels, inns or other establishments to cater to the needs of travelers or guests. While such work allows service to others, it is far better to take work with private families than to be in large institutions where the young lady is exposed to many bad habits and occasions of sin. For example, a small bed and breakfast run by relatives or friends is a good alternative to working in a large hotel.

These are just a few options for our modern times; although difficult, it is still possible to find positions in feminine occupations.

Is college worthwhile to a young lady?

The primary choice presented to young ladies today after graduating from high school is to attend college. However, colleges and universities are no longer the prestigious institutions they once were, and there are many concerns about sending young people, particularly women, to them, see this article.

Although there is nothing wrong with a young lady receiving a higher education, provided it is in accordance with her station in life, the circumstances of modern colleges do not lend themselves to purposeful study.

coeed college

First colleges classes were coed, now most dorm rooms are also

Most modern colleges promote the idea of pursuing a career rather than an education, in which case the student is there for the sole purpose of getting a job later. With this mentality, what the student learns is not so important as the test scores and grades that will look good on future job applications. Such an education is not fit for a young lady, whose first interest should not be to pursue a career.

Additionally, modern colleges focus on community life, which includes being with friends and attending parties. Students often begin to consider college a “second home” away from the family home, where they begin to feel more comfortable because they find tolerance for every error and vice. The casual mixing of young men and women also presents a grave danger for sin when the girl is without parental guidance. Coeducation has always been frowned upon by the traditional Magisterium of the Church, see here.

The spirit encouraged in modern colleges is almost always feminist – even some of the women’s colleges of the past had the seeds of feminism. The feminist aim is to remove a woman from her most important duties – preserving the home and nurturing the family.

Most of early women’s colleges, who realized a woman’s vocation was in the home, instructed young ladies in home economics and the womanly arts, as well as literature, music, art and languages, beneficial to them in the upper class circles in which their families moved.

hanging out

Hanging around is often more important than study to modern youth

Not all classes of girls should be educated equally. A young lady should consider her station in life. Is she from a poor family where all must work hard in order to keep the home in order? Does she hope to have a homestead of her own one day where she can tend animals and garden? If so, then it would be better for her not to pursue higher studies, for they would not be in accordance with her future duties in life.

However, if her family is wealthier and she plans to marry a man of a similar class, higher studies could be beneficial to her. In both cases, it is always advisable that the young lady not incur debt. If she marries, she will saddle her husband with that burden, or feel obliged to go to work and “postpone” having children.

It is better for a young lady to study under a governess or tutor than away from home.

college ambience

The normal college ambience –
not appropriate for a Catholic young lady

Should a young lady pursue further studies after high school, she should do so at home, either studying on her own under the direction of her parents or a tutor or attending a local college. If for some reason she is obliged to attend college far from home, she should avoid being alone in public places and be careful about choosing a select group of virtuous friends of her sex with whom she can spend time.

What a young lady does after high school depends, as noted above, much on her station in life and her expectations for the future. What we suggest, however, is that she should look to the past for guidance, when women sought a work suitable to their nature and state of life instead of striving to enter the man’s world. Doing the latter, as our 21st century demonstrates, does not give peace, contentment or self-fulfillment in this life, and certainly jeopardizes one’s eternal happiness in the next.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted October 2, 2023

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