Monthly Archives: September 2015
Choosing the right spouse is no easy task. The lead character in You’re the Cream in My Coffee brings us up to date on her love life over at Miss Marjorie’s Jazz Age Journal. Pop on over and let her know what you think of her choice. Marrying for security is a good idea . . . isn’t it? Especially when you’re practically an old maid at 26? And especially since marrying for “love” might involve Mr. Wrong?
Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Society of New York City offered these morsels of wisdom to new and prospective brides like Marjorie in 1923:
- Don’t be extravagant. Nothing appeals more strongly to a man than the prospect of economic independence.
- Keep your home clean. Nothing is more refreshing to the eyes of the tired, nerve-racked worker than the sight of a well-tidied home.
- Do not permit your person to become unattractive. A slovenly wife makes a truant husband.
- Do not receive attention from other men. Husbands are often jealous and some are suspicious without cause. Do not supply the cause. Friendly attentions from others may be received in a spirit of perfect innocence. When reported by the busy-body they become distorted, often criminal.
- Do not resent reasonable discipline of children by their father. Mothers should not assume that all chastisement of a child by his father is severe and unjustifiable.
- Do not spend too much time with your mother. You may easily, in such a way, spend too little time at home.
- Do not accept advice from neighbors, or even stress too greatly that of your own family. Think for yourself. Have a plan of your own for solution of home problems. In all causes consult freely with your husband.
- Do not disparage your husband.
- Smile. Be attentive in little things. An indifferent wife is often supplanted by an ardent mistress.
- Be tactful. Be feminine. Men, in the last analysis, are but over-grown children. They do not mind coaxing, but they resent coercion. Femininity attracts and compels them. Masculinity in the females repels.
Here’s the complete list of winners.
I didn’t have the opportunity to raise any children. But if I had, I’ve always thought that a child’s entry into young adulthood must be one of the most interesting times to be a parent: the most potentially rewarding, and yet the most weighted with worry. My own young adult years were fraught with choices and decisions that affected the future in profound ways, while at the same time, emotions ran high and maturity was perhaps not as fully formed as I hoped it was.
For these reasons, Mildred Walker’s 1944 novel Winter Wheat appealed to me. Winter Wheat chronicles two years in the life of Ellen Webb. Growing up on a dry-land wheat ranch in central Montana’s Big Sky country with a Russian-immigrant mother and New England-patrician father, Ellen understands hard work, relative social isolation, and a life lived at the mercy of the weather and the price of grain. Traveling to college in Minnesota opens her eyes (and heart) to a wider world. Later, teaching eight pupils in a remote one-room school, her world expands even deeper as she’s tested by both natural and man-made circumstances. When a long-hidden family secret is revealed, she must grapple with seeing her parents not only as Dad and Mom, but as real people making their journey through life with a full load of baggage, just as she is.
Walker, a Pennsylvania native who spent several years in Great Falls, Montana, is a master at capturing the Montana landscape and climate, both meteorological and social. “September is like a quiet day after a whole week of wind,” she writes. “I mean real wind that blows dirt into your eyes and hair and between your teeth and roars in your ears after you’ve gone inside. The harvesting is done and the wheat stored away and you’re through worrying about hail or drought or grasshoppers. The fields have a tired peaceful look, the way I imagine a mother feels when she’s just had her baby and is just lying there thinking about it and feeling pleased.”
In an introduction to Winter Wheat, author James Welch writes, “It is a story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, within the space of a year and a half. But what a year and a half it is!”
I recommend this novel especially to young women who are teetering on the threshold of adulthood, and to the adults who love them and who remember what it’s like to have your whole life stretched out before you, as vast and open and lacking in signposts as a field of hard winter wheat.
What is your favorite coming-of-age story?
(Note: This review was originally published on Writing North Idaho.)
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I took a special interest in Jane Kirkpatrick’s new novel, The Memory Weaver, based on the true story of Eliza Spalding, daughter of real-life missionaries Henry and Eliza Spaulding. The elder Spauldings, along with Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, made the arduous journey from New York to Oregon Territory in the 1830s with the goal of spreading Christianity among the Nez Perce Indians. (Eliza and Narcissa are said to have been the first white women to make that journey.) Upon arrival, the Spauldings settled in Lapwai, near present-day Lewiston, Idaho, while the Whitmans went on to what is now Walla Walla, Washington.
In 1847, a measles epidemic broke out where the Whitmans were serving. Lacking natural resistance to the disease, many Nez Perce died, and they resented Marcus Whitman for, as they saw it, giving preferential medical treatment to whites. That, combined with other simmering resentments toward the missionaries, boiled over into a massacre which killed the Whitmans and 12 other men. Eliza Spaulding witnessed the carnage, as she’d been attending a boarding school run by the Whitmans. She was taken hostage, but her life was spared, presumably because she spoke Nez Perce and could act as a translator.
The Memory Weaver opens a few years after these events have taken place. The Spauldings now live in Brownsville, Oregon Territory, where the widowed Henry Spaulding is a traveling preacher, his missionary work having been shut down by the missions board in the wake of the massacre. Eliza, now thirteen, keeps house for the family and helps her father (a tough old bird with a significant mean streak) in his work. When she meets Andrew Warren, romance enters her young life, over her father’s vehement objections.
The novel alternates between Eliza-the-daughter’s first-person story, and the diary left by Eliza-the-mother. (These switches in point of view are not at all confusing. I had no trouble distinguishing one Eliza from the other.) As the younger Eliza grows to womanhood, experiences romance with Andrew, and faces life-changing decisions of her own, reading her mother’s diaries gives her eye-opening insights into the truth about earlier events.
I found myself deeply engaged with both the characters and the story. Eliza has much to cope with, between her traumatic memories, her cold, demanding father, and the normal trials of adolescence and first love. The story is laced with Scripture and biblical themes, which are woven in quite naturally. And as a lover of history, I was fascinated by the details of missionary activity and daily life in the Oregon Territory. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Spending a lovely evening with friends at a Spokane Indians baseball game brought to mind that old chestnut, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Traditionally sung during the “seventh inning stretch,” the song was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Titzer. Interestingly, neither songwriter had actually been to a ballgame, so it was amazing that they were able to capture the spirit of the ballpark so accurately. The song debuted in a vaudeville act. Its first known use during a ballgame didn’t happen until 1934. It’s written in waltz tempo–imagine the fun of waltzing to it!
Here’s an early recording. Interesting that there’s a whole lot more to the song than just the familiar chorus!
Related post: A is for . . . Antiques Stores