Reading For Pleasure & Knowledge; 1937 &1903

From 1937–

I try to read one book every two weeks–and 25 books a year can do much to brighten and make interesting a practical, overworked housewife.

I try to vary my reading diet, for I believe the menu for our minds should be as well balanced as the menu for our tummies. So I include four types of mental food from which I choose:

  1. Non-fiction (biography, travel, etc.)
  2. Poetry (or plays)
  3. Worth-while fiction (perhaps something old and tried, or perhaps something new)
  4. Light fiction (which may include anything at all even to detective stories if I am so inclined! This is dessert!)

I choose from these four types in order, then start all over again.

I can’t tell you what this plan has meant to me. I think I’m becoming better educated than I was, I know I’m becoming happier and more interesting and you know, there’s nothing like interest and happiness to erase lines from one’s face!

From 1903–Of  course, the quotes below would apply to women as well as men.

“What shall I read?” This is an important question to all, and especially to those living in country homes, for those having few associates are influenced much more by what they read, where books become real companions, either to elevate or degrade. Let us be very careful in the selection of our books, not selecting a book that is simply harmless, but choose those that will broaden and ennoble our lives.

It can be truly said, “Show me what a person reads and I can tell what sort of man he is.” How many times we read of boys leaving all that is good and pure, leading dissolute lives, often guilty of grave crimes, who were led to such lives by reading pernicious books. And again how many times the reading of a good book has turned the scale in persons’ lives and they have become noble, helpful men, whose lives are an inspiration to all.

Watch a child, that has few young companions, during the time he is reading such a book as “Little Men.” See how he lives with the characters of the book; he enjoys all their sports, feels all their sorrows; in fact, his imaginative life becomes as real to him as his real life is. Knowing all this one begins to realize the great influence of books.

For older readers in the field of fiction we find too many good authors to mention their names; but we would say in selecting a book, remember to accept nothing that is unreal or sensational, which gives a young person a too romantic or sentimental view of life.

Life on a Wyoming Ranch; 1915

A young woman in Wyoming writes: “This country is so different, so big, that the horizon alone seems to set the limit. I visited on one ranch that is fourteen miles from one end to the other. There are no green wooded hills here, but great rocky slopes and rushing water and great sandy flats with wonderful changing colors. . . . I do not think we miss the outside world as there is something about this country that, after a time, fills one’s whole thoughts and it is hard to remember that there is any other world than this.”

But do you not mind the deep changeless silence in those distant solitary places? “But there is no silence here,” she answers, “except on the high places of the mountain tops. Here there is always the roar of the river at the bottom of the canyon and the wind in the cedars all about me.”

But the Indians? Do you not fear that war-whoop? “It used to alarm me to meet an Indian out on the big flats, but I soon discovered that they will not even look at you as they pass.”

But how about rattlesnakes? In answer came this: “I never had any rattlesnakes in my bed, though I fancied I had one night. I got up, carefully lifted off the sheets, and found–the comfortable (an old-fashioned word for quilt) under me wrinkled up! There are not many rattlesnakes now–you see, we kill them.”

But are you not afraid to stay in your cabin alone on your lofty butte? “No, I do not believe that I am afraid. When I first came here the bigness of the hills frightened me, but now some of the best times I have are when I am walking over the hills and through the trees at night. I have a bull terrier and a collie that are always with me so I am not so much alone as it might seem. I have also a beautiful big Morgan saddle horse; I ride over the country alone and I have never been frightened.”

Kimono Carelessness; 1920

The title of this article intrigued me. I could not imagine what American farm women could know about Japanese kimonos! So I did a search for “1920s kimonos” and I found this picture. Kimono means “robe.” Now I get it!

No matter how many children you may have or how much housework you may have to do, do not let yourself fall into the kimono habit. It may sound exaggerated but it is nevertheless true that this one habit alone has broken up happy homes. Once let it get its clutch on a woman and she loses all proper pride in her appearance. It is difficult sometimes to look neat and trim and it is perilously easy to slip on a kimono.

If Father gets out of bed “the wrong way” and the fire will not burn and the son of the family mislays something or other and upsets everything hunting for it, it is certainly hard for Mother or Daughter to resist just a kimono. Even in such an awful state of affairs as this, it will take scarcely a moment longer to slip into one of those convenient house dresses that one can buy very inexpensively almost anywhere. They look neat and trim—some of them are even “fetching.” Every woman and every girl owes it to herself to be neat and attractive looking at the breakfast table.

Which will make a husband or son or brother the more devoted: to carry about with him all day the image of you eating the morning meal in a slouchy kimono with your hair carelessly twisted up “any old way,” or the recollection of the same you neatly dressed and looking as fresh and sweet as the morning itself? I do not think it would take the average man very long to decide which picture he would prefer. It is all very well to quote the old saying about the way to a man’s heart lying through his stomach —far be it from me to declare its fallacy! —but experience (my own as well as other people’s) has taught me that if a woman wishes to keep a man attentive, she must please his eye as well as his stomach. It is not always the busiest woman, by any means, who is addicted to the kimono habit. For we all know that the hardest worked people somehow seem to find time for neatness and order.

 

How I Spent My Dollar, part 2; Lelia Printz; 1925

Not very long ago, my aunt gave me a dollar to spend anyway I wished. I went to the city to spend the afternoon and I also spent my dollar. I paid a quarter to see a movie, a quarter for a new magazine and because my best girl friend had one and because I wanted one like her, I bought a harmonica for fifty-five cents. Then I bought a nickel’s worth of candy to eat on my way home. I didn’t have a very good time either, for the movie wasn’t as good as I expected it to be and my best hat got wet!

Party Dresses from 1925

When school time came, Mother asked me how many dresses I had that were good enough to wear. She said, “Well, you ought to have at least one more gingham dress but I cannot spare the money now.”

It was then that I began to wish I had saved my dollar for here is what I could have bought with it.

Three yards 33-inch gingham—75 cents
One spool of thread—5 cents
Three skeins embroidery floss—10 cents
One Farmer’s Wife pattern—10 cents

Total—One dollar

This is how I spent my dollar and how I could have spent it had I been wiser at the time.

Note: Lelia was living with her widowed mother when she wrote this story. A year later she married Ray R. Figg and together they raised a family in their home state of Indiana. Hopefully, she shared this lesson with her children, all girls–Evelyn, Rosemary, Wilma and Shirley. Lelia died a widow in 1994, at the age of 88.