Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are U.S. Women Driving American Men To Hell By Baring Their Flesh?

by Stephen J. Gertz

“When women come here with knee length dresses and stoop to pick up apples, I think the men can see more that it is the Lord’s will for them to see.”

So sayeth Mrs. DeWitt Smith in Are We Dragging Our Men To Hell By Our Modern Dress? A four-page pamphlet, it was published without date in the 1940s. It was reprinted without date in the 1960s. It reads as if it were written without date during the 1800s.

Or yesterday in response to Miley Cyrus' recent performance during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and subsequent forced run through the media gauntlet.

The text of Are We Dragging Men To Hell By Our Manner Of Dress? reads in full:

The old sign of the harlot's den was a red light by night, and women sitting in front by day showing their legs. The Bible says to Christians:
"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with broided hair or gold or pearls or costly array." I Timothy 2:9
A preacher said, "Only yesterday my manhood was insulted. Across from and facing me on a street car sat a 'something' -- a female picking her teeth. Her dress was above her knees with no effort to keep them together. Horrors! What are we coming to when a clean man must cover his face with a paper or turn his head the other way to keep from seeing entirely too much? It seems that many of these she animals have lost all modesty and are out for sale, offering all that is left - just leg! legs!! legs!!!"
A good lady said, "These knee-length dresses are not modest. The Holy Spirit showed me that at least half of the calf of the leg should be covered."
Hear what Dr. [Perry] Lichtenstein, Physician of Tombs Prison in New York City, who is able to speak authoritatively on the causes of crime, says: (He has seen, in 12 years, 170,000 prisoners pass over the 'Bridge of Sighs', and he ought to know.) "The so called crimes of passion are increasing alarmingly, and will continue to do so in my opinion until the principal cause is eliminated. This, it seems to me, is the present style of dress which, to say the least, is immodest. Rolled stockings and similar styles have a direct bearing on crime incitation no matter how innocent the wearer may be." It is safe to say that there would be much less crime today, far fewer homes whose happiness has been blasted forever by unfaithfulness, fewer divorce trials, less violations of maidenly honor, if everyone of these underworld styles could be thrown into the deepest Hell.
Dr. [Thomas De Witt] Talmadge said, "Thousands of men are in Hell, whose eternal damnation is due to the improper dress of women."
In a neighboring town lives a boy who was graduated from the State University with the highest honors. Later he had a fine position but acquired a venereal disease, went insane, and now is in the insane asylum part of the time--all because of lust.
Low necks, short dresses scarcely to the knees, bare arms, painted faces - in a word - everything to arouse passion and lust is the order of the day.
"Everybody does it!" I know - but do you belong to the 'everybodies' or are you a pilgrim?

I went to Bible school, and one day the teacher had a special meeting of the girls and told them if they would let the Lord talk to them, they would lengthen their dresses. When the school had a social gathering, one boy left the party when the girls were playing games, etc. He could see too much, he said.
When women come with knee length dresses, and stoop to pick up apples, I think the men can see more that it is the Lord's will for them to see.
I would rather wear my dresses a longer length and please the Lord, than to try to please a hard-to-please fickle world. We surely will never send men to Hell by wearing longer dresses.
D.L. Moody in his book, Prevailing Prayer, said, "Why is it that many of our children are going down to a dishonored grave? Many Godly parents find that their children are going astray. Does it arise from some secret sin clinging around the heart? I sometimes tremble when I hear people quote promises, and say that God is bound to fulfill those promises to them, when all the time there is something in their own lives which they are not willing to give up. It is well to search our hearts and find out why our prayers are not answered."
One saintly woman, who wore rather long dresses, said, when she put on a shorter dress, the Lord would not hear her prayers.

John Wesley said gay and costly apparel tends to influence lust.
During the first hundred years of her ministry, Methodism was the greatest power for righteousness of any movement since Pentecost. In those days of her glory, Methodism always insisted upon plainness of attire.
We may say if we wear our dresses a longer length we will look differently. What does Charles Finney (one of the most God-used evangelists of the all time) say? "I will confess that I was formerly myself in error. I believed the best way for Christians to pursue was to dress so as not to be noticed: to follow the fashions so as not to appear singular. But I have seen my error and now wonder greatly at my former blindness. It is your duty to dress so plain as to show the world that you place no sort of reliance in things of fashion.
If you wear immodest clothing that offers a suggestive appeal to sex, and stimulates those baser impulses which slumber in the human breast, do you think the Lord is so likely to protect your girl and boy in the wave of immorality among youth and others?
Preachers, if you think these knee length dresses are not modest, and it is a sin for women to wear them, will you be faithful to the Lord to warn them? Can you expect the Lord to put a hedge around yours sons and daughters, and keep them moral in this immoral world, if you do not?
I am trusting the Lord to keep my three sons pure. Can the Lord protect young people? I know He can; because He has kept mine moral. I couldn't commit adultery if you would give me the whole world; neither can I get mixed up in an affair with some other woman's husband (which is so common these days). If He can keep me moral, He can keep your son and daughter moral. The power of the Devil is great; but, praise God, the Lord has more power.
I don't want Jesus to say to me some day, "By the exposure of your flesh you have dragged men to Hell." Do you?

There are plenty of antecedents to the above, not the least of which is Apropos of Women and Theatres, written by former actress and women's rights lecturer, Olive Logan (1839-1909), and published in 1869 by Carleton in New York.

Logan, who earned the scorn of Mark Twain, devotes two chapters to decrying the "coarse rage which [has] spread in our theatres, until it [has] come to be a ruling force in them," to wit: About The Leg Business, detailing the exposure of women's gams on the boards, and About Nudity In The Theatre, discussing the post-Civil War phenomenon of women appearing onstage scantily clad. (Interestingly, Logan makes one of the first references in a general circulation book to "a new theatrical term in use among 'professionals' which embraces all sorts of performances in its comprehensiveness, to wit: The Show Business").

As far as the business of show too much goes, Are We Dragging Our Men To Hell By Our Modern Dress? was not Mrs. DeWitt Smith's only exploration of the looming apocalypse on America's near horizon. Evidently a woman of few words, she wrote two other four-page only tracts, Christians Are Sleeping While Communists Work (Minneapolis: Osterhus Publishing Company, 195?) and Never Take Your First Drink, Never Spend Your First Nickel in Gambling, and Never Touch Tobacco (Randleman, NC: Pilgrim Tract Society, 194?).

To declare that Are Women Dragging Men Into Hell By Their Manner Of Dress is extremely scarce in any edition because there are no copies, according to OCLC, in institutional holdings worldwide sounds impressive but is sort of meaningless; libraries clearly felt it wasn't worth adding to their collections. But it is truly rare: I do not pretend to have seen every similarly themed book and pamphlet but I have seen quite a few over the last thirty years and this one is a first for me.

It does, however, make me feel all warm and fuzzy to report that OCLC records only one copy each of Mrs. Smith's Christians Are Sleeping While Communists Work and Never Take Your First Drink, Never Spend Your First Nickel in Gambling, and Never Touch Tobacco in institutional holdings worldwide. Acquisition librarians have apparently judged that loopy tracts on Communism, alcohol, gambling, and tobacco are of greater importance to our culture than a loopy anti-cheesecake jeremiad. 

SMITH, Mrs. DeWitt. [caption title]. Are We Dragging Men To Hell By Our Modern Dress? (Randleman, N. C.: Pilgrim Tract Society, Inc.), n.d. [after 1948, c. 1960]. Unbound tract, approx. 5.25 x 3.5 inches, [4] pages on green stock. Illus. Later edition.

Image courtesy of Garrett Scott, Bookseller, with our thanks.

1 comment:

  1. You know on the Actor's Studio, when James Lipton asks the guest, "If there is a heaven, what do you want to hear God say when you arrive?" Well, thanks to Mrs. DeWitt Smith, I have my answer: ""By the exposure of your flesh you have dragged men to Hell."


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