Sunday, November 18, 2012


Farmer and Children in Oklahoma During the Dust Bowl
 I didn't plan on posting any more until next year, but I just had to comment on Ken Burns' documentary about the Dust Bowl. I saw most of the first segment last night on PBS, and in my area the second part will show tonight. Words cannot describe... It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

For the vast, vast majority of us including me, we live a very easy life compared to those who came before us. It is good for me to be reminded of that fact and to be thankful for what God has given to me.

If you have the time, try to tune in and learn about this important time in the history of America. You won't regret it or ever forget it...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

SUNDAY REST FOR ALL, Mrs. N.G. B., North Dakota, 1927

The first few years of my married life when the children were small and we had men to cook for I used to look forward to Sunday with dread. I think this was because Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest, and while every one else seemed to be taking it, there was none for me. I rebelled. I don't think it was selfish of me, either. I put on my thinking cap and here is the outcome:

On Friday, I do quite a good deal of my Saturday's work, add the finishing touches on Saturday, bathe the children and fix something for Sunday dinner.

Sunday breakfast is substantial and dinner, which is served as near 12 o'clock as possible, is as follows:  One hot dish, prepared while getting breakfast or doing up the work, this dish consists of scalloped potatoes with chips of smoked ham cooked with them or baked beans, or cabbage boiled with sausage balls, adding dumplings if wanted, or it may be any of our tomato mixtures, or macaroni dishes. Farm women know all about such dishes. In warm weather this dish is kept warm on a burner of the oil stove turned low. Dessert is pie baked on Saturday, or jello, or sometimes just a dish of fresh fruit with cream and sugar. One of our favorites is plain pie-plant stewed, strained and the juice thickened, flavored and sweetened and left in a cool cellar until wanted, then used with whipped cream. Of course, we have bread, butter, cookies, pickles or any little onions when in season, and hot coffee.

Dishes and food are placed on the kitchen table and the men told to come in and help themselves. Some of them find chairs in the kitchen, some in the dining room, and in hot weather, they go out on the porch or under the trees. They are told to come back and fill their plates if they want more.

The dishes are piled up as they are brought back to the table and I am not a half hour washing them. In fact, the whole dinner never takes an hour's time.

Supper is usually eaten around the table and is nothing more than a hot drink with sandwiches, cold meat, some baking and sauce.

During harvest, threshing, silo filling and potato picking, we never have less than eight men and our men are hired with an understanding of how they will be treated on Sunday; we have never had any one of them "kick" on it.

As our Sunday School comes first in the morning and church service in the evening, the whole space in between is mine to do as I please. If visitors come they are treated just the same as the rest of us.

Friday, November 2, 2012

TIME FOR READING; by Mrs. C.A.T., Ohio; 1927

I get time to read just about like a smoker gets time to light his pipe. I guess I just do it and it is just about as much of a habit with me.

As a child it was my duty to bring the mail from the box about one-half mile from the house. I would run all the way there and read all the way back. Then I would often keep a book or magazine under my bed. Then when I was supposed to be making beds, I would let my own go unmade and use the time thus saved for reading.

My mother thought reading a very foolish waste of time and, of course, I was roundly scolded for snatching these little times whenever I could. But the habit is not yet broken.

When my first baby was very small I began to read while nursing her. This was kept up until the last baby was weaned. Reading fifteen minutes four or five times a day one can soon get over a lot. It seems we have always lived in houses with cold kitchen floors. I just have to stop work once in a while and warm my feet at the living room grate. Surely, my papers are handy and usually made use of.

Then I am not so strong as I would like to be or ought to be considering my duties. I find that a rest in time saves nine--backaches. I usually read while resting. If I can stop only a very short time, I look through a magazine, marking anything that I want to read and have it ready for the next time. Thus conserving the few precious moments I do have.

While we cannot afford many labor and time saving devices, I try to gain time wherever possible if I can do so without sacrificing something more valuable. I find that very small girls can help mother a great deal at other things besides dishwashing which most of them despise. Even small boys can and will sew on their own buttons, make their own beds and sometimes help about the cooking, if they are just treated right. Of course, they can stand a little praise for their efforts. All these things mean just a little more time for me. Does someone say I am imposing on the children to indulge myself? I think not. I aim to read nothing that will not do me some good in some way. And if a few minutes gleaned at a time during the day and spent in reading, make my life a little cheerier, make me just a little better mother, or make me a little easier to live with. I consider it as much a duty as a privilege. Even if my hair hasn't got the latest wave or if we sleep between sheets that are not ironed every week.

Monday, October 22, 2012

MY QUIET HOUR; Mrs. C.G., Indiana, February 1927

Dear Friends: If, perchance, sorrow has come to dwell within the hearts of any of you, you will need—as I have had great need—of a truly “quiet hour.” One in which your very spirit can relax and grow calm and wait for comfort.

It happens that we live in what may well be termed a wooded country. There is much timber on our farm and for my quiet hour I have long held sacred a beautiful nook in a small wooded ravine. It is really a small creek bed and across it lies a fallen tree. This I climb upon and oftentimes lean against the sloping side. Sometimes I take a rug (blanket) with me; sometimes my Bible but more often I go with nothing, save my sorrowing, harassed spirit seeking comfort. Perhaps you may not know, but there are some sorrows which nothing earthly can soothe. It requires the divine hand. And I think nowhere can one lose care and worry and sorrow so well as in a quiet, woodsy spot, with grass under one's feet and the blue sky overhead, and calm, silent trees all around. From my nook I look up to the blue through a circle of green. Sometimes I look with blurred eyes. But whatever trouble I carried there, it was poured out through that circle and a sense of comfort and peace came.

Sometimes I have entered it with an important problem to decide upon, and left with a clearer sense of what was right and best. I go, too, when I am very happy to pour out my thanksgiving.

So my nook with its quiet hour has grown to be a very necessary part of my life. I do not go every day, often not every week, but whenever I feel the great need of it. Of course, I arrange the domestic regime so that I shall not be needed or missed for a time. I do not say that I am going to my nook. I just quietly see that some one else is at hand to watch over everything and I slip away.

Friday, October 19, 2012

THIS GARDEN IS A TRAINING SCHOOL; by Mrs. F. C., Illinois; 1927

The work in the garden is practically mine and the children's. I consider it one of my greatest privileges and pleasures to be able to put in the garden and tend it.

From the time the children are old enough to understand I take them to the garden with me, show them how the seed is put in the ground and later how the plant and fruit comes from it. By leaving a short strip full of weeds, I show them how it stunts the life of plants. From this I tell them how bad habits can stunt their lives.

Not only do they learn about plants but while resting a bit we get acquainted with the birds who visit our garden for bugs and worms. From the birds we study the insects which do harm and those like the lady bug which are our friends.

Often, too, we work in the garden in the cool of the evening, that most peaceful time of the day. Here we watch a glorious sunset, or a storm coming up. This brings us to a realization of who is responsible for all these wonders and somehow out in the open, it seems easier to impress on little minds how all powerful our Heavenly Father is. That if it wasn't for Him and His goodness we would have no gardens, no birds, no sunsets, no great big world to enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

THE UNSUNG HEROINES--MOTHERS; by John W. Holland; February 1927

Little Willie felt abused. He realized that he was not getting paid for the errands which he was daily running about the house. Musing over it, he felt certain that he was badly abused. So he presented to his mother a bill with items such as bringing in wood, running to the grocery and wiping dishes, at so much per item.

His mother said nothing. Next morning when Willie turned up his plate at breakfast, he found the following statement:

Willie to Mother:
Preparing three meals yesterday....Nothing
Washing and ironing his clothes....Nothing
Washing his neck and ears twice....Nothing
Items too small to be included........Nothing

It is needless to say that Willie had a great deal to think about during that day. Late in the afternoon he came in and said, “Mother, I don't want any pay for my work. I was just in fun.”

When you and I pass out of this world there will be one debt which we have never quite settled. That is the obligations we owe to our mothers.

February is the month when we think of the illustrious sons of Mary Washington and Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

Mary Washington was left a widow when George was eleven years old. There were four other children. Did this heroine sit down and give up? No. She provided the food for her children, and became their teacher in religion and morals. She kept a little book into which she copied the maxims of conduct and her observations on life.

This little book became the possession of George Washington. He said, “It was consulted by me many times in life.”

When LaFayette returned to visit America, he went to pay a call on Mary Washington. They sat out in the garden and she treated him to some fine gingerbread, and gave him the recipe to take back to France.

After another France general had been in her presence he said, “It is not surprising that America should produce great men since she can boast of such Mothers.”

Down in Lincoln City, Indiana, there is a shrine that humbles the heart of every traveler who goes there. It is the sacred grave of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

She was companion of poverty and hardship. Drudgery in the forest wilderness was her daily duty. Possessed of a little knowledge of books, she taught her children and her neighbors to read.

Broken by sickness, long before her time, she called her family about her bed. She committed their souls to God, prayed for them one by one, exacted a pledge from a tall boy who was kneeling at the bedside, that “he would always be a good boy,” and then closed her tired eyes forever.

Several months later this tall son secured a clergyman to utter above her grave some words of Christian comfort, and offer a prayer. When it was over Lincoln said, “Now I have but one purpose in life: to live as she would have me.”

There are some great leaders of America who are just now little boys. Some of them are in farm homes, going upstairs to bed with a kerosene lamp. If history is to repeat itself, doubtless the greatest leaders of the next generation are living on farms. It is possible that the little question-asking chap in your home will receive a Destiny Call. He will need all the patience and care that can be given him, if he has some great work to do. If that care is bestowed upon him, it will be the work of some mother principally.

It is well to remind ourselves often that the face above the cradle holds the sunshine of the world.

Monday, October 8, 2012

BRIGHTEN THE CORNER WERE YOU ARE; by Mrs. E. M. C., Illinois, October 1927

From Laurie: Last week was full of homeschool, a wonderful time at an historic village (Stonefield) not far from my home, very bad colds, and canning or freezing our garden produce. I have a few more beets and carrots to freeze, (hopefully tonight) but that is it from our garden, although I still might can some apples. During my husband's work day, he passes by a Mennonite food store that sells "second" apples for $18 a bushel (about 50 pounds.) That price is waaayyy higher this year, but with the drought I am just thankful that we are able to get any apples at all.

On to today's posting...It is a good reminder for me, not because I dislike my job of homemaker on our six and a half acres, but if I am not feeling well, crabby I can be!  

Dear Farmers' Wives: I married very young and came from a large city to be a farmer's wife. At first I thought I could not stay because it was unendurable,--so dull, so quiet and lonely on that beautiful farm. I loved my husband dearly, but I began to think I had made a terrible mistake, for always I had wanted to do things, be somebody, and do something great for the world to remember. I loved to go, go, go, and oh, I despised the monotony of farm work.

Then along came the babies, one, two, three, in five years. Much as I loved them, they kept me at home more than ever and the work--! Well, it was never really finished. I was tired, crabbed and cross all the time, for you know there is no pleasure in doing one thing and wishing, always wishing you could be doing another.

One evening when I was putting little Mae to bed, she said her prayer, then added softly this postscript, "Please God, make our Mama not so sour." Only a postscript, but I heard, and how thankful I am that I did. It awoke me. It set me thinking. How did my family regard me? I knew, but dared not let myself think about it. I was ashamed!

Days of deep thought, nights of wakefulness, and I came to the conclusion that I was a snob, making everybody else about me miserable. Even if it had not fallen to my lot to be a "President Coolidge" or a "Harriet Beecher Stowe," there was in this great beautiful world a tiny corner all my own which I had better brighten for the sake of others.

I got to work immediately. It took will power, for I want to tell you that being a grouch can become a firm habit. But I succeeded and today we are a happy family and mother is the merriest of the whole bunch! These words have helped me wonderfully in seeing my mistake and brightening my corner:

"It may not be on the mountain top
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be in the battle front,
My Lord may have need of me.

"There is surely somewhere a lonely place
In earth's harvest field so wide,
Where we may labor in life's short day
For Jesus the crucified."

Monday, October 1, 2012


I was never a fan of poetry when I was young. It seemed that the teachers always picked the hardest and most confusing poems and then made the class analyse them. What an awful way to ruin a good poem, I thought. But I can assure you that each of the following poetry selections are not only enjoyable to read, but very understandable, too, with no analysis necessary!

The first one is a contemporary poem written by a fellow quilter named, Dawn. She wrote it several years ago about her Grandmother Mabel Amanda Gravely (Oppen.) Mabel lived in Minnesota and was one of the Lucky Pony Winners. In the picture below, she is posing with her pony "Scrappy." Dawn's Grandmother Mabel died in 1989 at the age of 88. Many thanks to Mabel's daughter Ruth, her grand-daughter Dawn, and the rest of their family for helping me to learn about Mabel. She must have been a wonderful woman to have been loved so much.

More about Mabel and her family can be found on my other blog:

"Memories of Grandma"

Oh Grandma. I remember when
I would sit on your lap
And you'd read me a story
Or we'd sit around and chat.

Mabel Amanda Gravley (Oppen) in 1915
at the age of 14, and her pony "Scrappy"
When you'd take me shopping
And buy me a book
Or we'd take the bus downtown
Just to take a look.

We'd go to our favorite doughnut shop
And have our favorite treats.
We'd sing into the tape recorder
And laugh out of our seats.

Grandma, I can still see your face
And I can see your wonderful smile.
Oh how I sometimes wonder
If you think about me for a while.

I remember all the games we used to play
And we'd smile, giggle and just have fun.
You'd tuck me in bed when I'd spend the night.
And we'd say our prayers when the day is done.

I remember when you'd let me sip your coffee
with a little bit of cream.
Or you'd fix my favorite breakfasts
And we'd talk and daydream.

You taught me how to crochet
And helped me learn to sew.
You'd sit by me and color
Or we'd watch the falling snow.

Oh Grandma, if you only knew
How much those times have meant to me.
They're a part of you I'll have forever
And they'll be treasured endlessly.

I wouldn't change any memories
But there is one thing I'd do
And that is to let you know,
Grandma, how much I do love you.

Both of the following poems, "The Mother" by Berton Braley and "The Farmer's Wife" by John Hanlon were published in 1927.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I have taken several of my Pony Club books to my local copy store to have them spiral bound. The coils are very sturdy and I have been quite pleased with the quailty of the finished books. They are now available for sale on for $27.98 (postage paid) and on my website for $26.00 (postage paid) If you are thinking of giving this book as a gift, (Christmas or otherwise) I also offer gift wrapping on my website. HAPPY QUILTING! 


Monday, September 24, 2012

ONE MONTH OUT OF MY LIFE; by "Sally Sod" (Mrs. Loretto Green); part 3 of 4; 1927

Home...supper...and all ready for bed. Then there were dresses to make. I'm mighty glad they don't make them as they did when I went to school, with a row of buttons down the back. I well remember how we used to turn each other around to count the buttons on the back of each other's dresses to see whether our mothers were lazy or not. The number of buttons decided that.
April 1927 Farmer's Wife Cover
"Haste makes waste." When I was trying my best to finish two dresses in one day I made a miserable blunder and sewed the front of the waist on the back of the skirt. It was then the truth of an old saying came to me: "As ye sew, so shall ye rip."

One day came a card from a city woman saying, "My boy has been sick so much and is so delicate I wish I could send him to your house in the country for a while to see if it would build him up." As usual I was in a grand rush so the next day I sent a card.

"Have Jerry ready Sunday and we will come to get him."

Who should we take with us and who leave at home? Our car does not accommodate twelve or thirteen people for a thirty mile trip. Then just as I was at my usual summer indoor sport, known as "swat and fly," I heard half a dozen voices.

"Ma, hurry...Run...Bleeding to death...Just awful."

When I got outside, there sat my Little Girl with a miserable big cut on the bottom of her foot. Blood...blood everywhere. And such screams. That meant more trips to the Doctor. But it decided who was to be left at home...with one more girl to look after her and the two big boys to cook for them.

Now a cut foot to take care of...dresses...berries. And on Saturday morning (and Saturday is my busy day always) "me gude mon" stepped in and said, "Busy?"

"Of course I'm busy. Do I look as though I were on a vacation?"

"Well, no. But I wondered if you could go to mill for me?"

"Of all things! What for?"

"So I can begin to plow."

"Well, then, I'll go if I can go right now."

"Sure, come right along and I'll start the car for you."

On the way I met a neighbor who said, "I don't, for the life of me, see how you think you have time to go to mill."

"I don't know that I have but I like to help out once in a while if I can," I answered.

Sunday morning...up at five o'clock. At seven, eight of us ready to start. We had a glorious day and brought the little sick boy back with us. Chores...little ones put to bed and then a lunch. We were all hungry except Jerry. Everything I offered him, he answered, "No, thank you. No. No."

Can you imagine a boy without an appetite? I told him to go to bed, intending to send him out to play so hard the next day that he would be starved.

Monday...first day of school. Four lunches to pack, four children to send to school. More work...More worry. The week before school started, had proved to be the most nerve wracking, ear splitting, back breaking one of the year.

Monday, September 17, 2012

ONE MONTH OUT OF MY LIFE; by "Sally Sod" (Mrs. Loretto Green); part 2 of 4; 1927

From then on things happened so fast that I could hardly keep track. A man drove up and said, “Send some of the youngsters up and you can have all the blackberries they can pick.”

So I had to get the car out and take them. But who wouldn't? Won't those pies taste good next winter?
We had just finished dinner one day when up drove a big car, Honk! Honk!

“Hello, Say, did you hear that school starts a week earlier this year?”

“Mercy, no! Well of all things! What shall I do? Here I am with four girls to get ready and the time so short. I guess I'll have to start today. Berries to can, pickles to make, bread baking. . . O, do other people have everything happen at once? I wonder.”

I turned around and went into the house. “If we can get these dishes done in half an hour we'll go to town and get those new school dresses. Yes, really. Every one can pick out her own.”

“All right, Ma, you start to get the little ones ready and we'll do the dishes.”

That sounded good. My! How the dishes flew! The floor was swept and everything done in record time. Let me say right here though, by the time I get little eight ones and myself ready to start some place I feel about ready to stay at home. Nevertheless, to town we went. I parked my car directly in front of the store so I could take my four big girls in with me and at the same time keep my eyes on the four little ones in the car. It is all very nice being the mother of ten children and taking eight at a time away with you but sometimes queer things happen.

The girls had quite a time selecting their new dresses. At last I decided to take two yards of this, two and a fourth of that, two and a half of the pink and as I said two and three-fourths of . . . and started to point at the piece I wanted, I looked out at the car and there was my four-year-old (the one I had left in charge of the other three) [Can you just imagine? LOL] on her knees in the back seat of the car and the little baby was just ready to fall out of the seat. I made a mad dash for the door and caught her mid-air between the seat and the floor. When I got them all straightened around again I went back into the store and there stood the clerk all smiles.

“You see I didn't take you at your word.”

“Why? How so?”

“Well, just before you made that run you said you wanted two and three-fourth yards of that . . . and you pointed at every piece of cloth on these two piles. So I decided to wait to see if you meant it.

“Of course I didn't mean it. I'll take two and three-fourth yards of the blue. Yes, the striped.”
Back Row: Mervin (12), Robert (14); In front of Robert: Jessie (9),
Gladys (11); Front row, girl looking away, Evelyn (7), Marian (8),
Cecil (5), (Cecil is still alive at 90 years old),
Frances (2), Laura Nadine (1), "Farmer" John (4)
“Anything else today?”

“Say, Ma, don't forget the stockings.”

“O, yes, some stockings, please.”


“No, gray.”

“What size?”

“Sizes you mean. Let me see. Size 10 . . . yes, that will do. And one each of size 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 ½.”

“Well, how many more steps have you in that human stair-case?”

It was a good thing I knew the salesman well or who knows but my temper might have flown again.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Mr. Green had taken a lively part in the conversation, adding an illuminating word now and then. Finally I asked him point blank: “What is the secret of your wife's success?”

And he replied without a moment's hesitation, “Her good nature.” Then he added slowly, thinking as he spoke:

Don't you think that when people have the right slant on life—even though they haven't much money—they get more out of living than people who have everything—and haven't the right slant?”

“Success?” Sally Sod echoed. “No one knows any better than I, that I am a complete failure in more ways than one. And if our Ship of Matrimony should, sometime in the future, anchor safely in the Harbor of Success, I should feel that it was the farmer's success—not the farmer's wife's.

“Webster says: 'Success is the termination of anything attempted.' That is what we are working for now and we'll have to keep right at it for years to come. It's going to be uphill work.

“After seeing me, if you still consider me worthy of a niche in your Hall of Fame please don't write 'Finis.' I still consider myself only a candidate for success and I am willing—more willing than ever—to wage a heavy campaign. My motto will be:

Hard work and more of it.

“And my emblem—a baby buggy with a pair of patched overalls rampant.”

August 1927 cover


ONE MONTH OUT OF MY LIFE, by “Sally Sod” Herself

Dishes washed; beds made; floors swept; a line of baby clothes flapping in the breeze; the owner of those same clothes asleep in her little bed; the next three out in the sunshine playing; and the six big ones away at school. Now that my house is quiet I will sit down and tell you the story of a sample month of my life.

August, October or March, it makes no difference. There is always enough to do and I never would have had this tale to tell only that I lost my temper on the first day of August—all over one simple little question my Boy said, “Why didn't you sew up that tear in my shirt.”

That was enough. I was angry in a minute. Didn't I have all the big things to do? Didn't I keep house for twelve? Ten of them under fourteen at that! Didn't I wash, sew, mend and cook for all of them? Beside keeping track of them all the time! That was enough. . .without doing every one of all the little bits of things that should be done. Well, I would keep track of my work and next time some one said, “Why?” to me I would have facts and figures that would show how I spent my time.

There is always housework to do. But the farm work has a mighty sway over the house, too. August first found us with our hay cut and wheat in the barn. That filled every inch clear to the roof and now the oats were cut and shocked and must be drawn up to the barn and stacked. So we decided the best way to do this would be to get three extra men to help. Three extra doing farm work, means three extra to cook for. Well, anyhow, that made the job short. One day it rained so the men left early and I said, “When I get a meal ready I like to have some one here to eat it.”

Just like an answer to prayer, a car stopped in front of the house and let out five people who came to spend the day. The end of that week totaled 29 loaves of bread, 5 cakes, 4 washings, 8 floors cleaned, 16 meals extra for help and 5 for company.

The next week everything went along as usual until Friday when the news came that there would be company for dinner Tuesday.


“Aunt Lizzie, Aunt Flossie and her three youngsters.”

You should have seen my children then! Whoops, “hollers,” somersaults, cart wheels and hand springs.

“What shall we have to eat?”

“Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!” their voices sang out clear and loud.

“What else?”



“Soup . . . noodle soup!”

“Hold on! Hold on! Not all that at once.”

“Well, say, Ma, fry the chicken anyway and have some of those new pickles and pie.” We vote by acclamation at our house.

“Why, that will be Sister's birthday. Why not a great big cake?”

So we decided on cake instead of pie. Then I thought, “There's a woman near here who came to this part of the country with Aunt Lizzie . . . when they were young. I'll ask her over, too.”

When Tuesday came the day was fine, and everything was nice. We had a good visit and a good dinner and Little Son said, “I'm full up to the neck. When do we have another birthday?”

After my company was gone I began to think and figure. I had my pencil and paper out and one of the boys said, “What's the big scowl for?”

I told him that I was trying to figure out two winter coats and a bed blanket after the money was all spent and he said,”Don't worry, Ma, I'll learn how to rubberize Pa's milk checks. Then you can always stretch the money.”

Monday, September 10, 2012


An ad for Sun Maid raisins by Norman Rockwell (August 1927)
“Sunday is my day of rest. I don't bother with potatoes that day. A little extra baking on Saturday leaves me more time to myself: 'I work hard all the week so that I will know enough to appreciate my rest when it comes.'

“My little trips are a pleasure, too. They give me a few breaths of air, a change of scenery and a little chatter along the way. All three of which are very refreshing.

“I can't do any Community work. But,” brightening, “Elwyn always gets me out to vote. He says, 'It's a duty now that women have the ballot.'

“One of our greatest compensations is reading. We are all great readers. We read everything we can get hold of. The source of our supply is two of Wayne County's circulating libraries and the grade school and high school. Between these we can get any kind of book any time.

“We have the daily papers, the farm papers, the general run of magazines and The Farmer's Wife. What are you editors doing? Giving the magazine more milk and sunshine, or what. It seems to be improving right along.

“Astonished at the amount of work I do? Well, there is more to that, too. You see my health is fine, 100 per cent, and I am still young.

“Moreover, there's my Husband. He's the backbone of this institution. I wouldn't be anything without Elwyn.

He's a fine farmer, and a fine man, too. Every year I see his work all done so well.

“We're doing general farming and specializing in Holstein cattle with a registered sire. The cattle are the cause of the children's health. Milk saved their lives. O, I wouldn't dare to live in town with this 'bunch.'

“One thing I find in your Success Stories. All the Success women have modern conveniences of 1926 while I have the inconveniences of 1890...But you may look over the place for yourself.

“Just see our 115 acres of low, flat land. It's so flat that sometimes I think it must ache, like Mexico and China, for a little uprising.

“Back to the house. It was built new for us when we had one baby and here it stands,--made strong and warm. But it was either stunted at birth or else it developed the rickets immediately after, for it has failed to keep pace with our growing family. Five rooms. No more; no less. Not a porch, cellar, cupboard, clothes-closet, well or cistern. So if I am a Success, you see it is in a cramped and cluttered way.

“I had no training at all for farm life, though I was born on a farm and lived there till I was four years old. I was the youngest of six and so much younger than the rest that I grew up almost alone.

“If there is anything sweet and gentle in my nature it came from my Mother. You know her kind. She was Grandma Hughes to the whole neighborhood.

“It was from my Dad that I got my ability to 'laugh it off'; also my square shoulders. He was a hard-working man, a horse-shoer by trade. At the age of 76 he still has a hearty laugh, can crack a joke and dance a merry jig.

Fashions of Spring 1927

“When I was a small child, we moved into town and I went to grade school and had two years of high school. Then I worked one year in a paper mill and that's where I met 'me gude mon.'

“Elwyn was sick. He couldn't stand inside work,--couldn't eat. That's why we decided to come here to his father's farm. I was only 18 when I came here as a farmer's wife. I didn't know a thing about housework. Couldn't boil water without burning it. They laugh at me still because I tried to freshen salt pork in boiling water. I don't know whatever I would have done if it hadn't been for my Husband's three sisters. I do wish you would say that what I am in the line of cook, housekeeper and seamstress, I owe to them.

“Of course I've been too busy raising children to help financially. The only money I've ever made has been from The Farmer's Wife. First there was ten dollars for a prize letter, “Writing Home to Mother,' and then the money for the 'Sally Sod' letters and the 'One Month' article. When your letter came telling me they were accepted, I drew a deep breath and was transported straight through the air to the southwest corner of a gloriously pink cloud. And there I am yet.

“It has been one of the greatest desires of my life to burst forth on a printed page. But I never expected it to happen.

“And the money...I really didn't know I had that many dollars worth of brains in my dome. Elwyn insisted I should spend it all for myself, but of course I wouldn't do that. It meant a lot to the little Greens, coming just before Christmas, as it did.

“I had no idea that the simple expression of my feelings would cause such an outburst. I wish I could answer all the nice letters that have been written in reply. But that would be quite an order. I had to smile when I read them. I couldn't help thinking, 'How human these women would find me if they could see me reading their letters leaning on my mop handle.”

Friday, September 7, 2012


These little ones would be at least 85 years old if still living
Flaxen-haired, pearly-teethed “Gladys—with—the--joke.” She was standing a little apart, bubbling over with amusement. It danced out of her eyes and rippled out in her voice. And finally, with a little coaxing, the secret popped all the way out in one breathless rush.

“I knew Ma wrote those Sally Sod letters. She didn't tell us. But I guessed it, 'cause Ma had counted up what she had done in August. And I knew no other mother had. So I guessed it.” And Gladys laughed—such a rippling little laugh, mischief darting from her eyes.

Jessie, nine comes next. All the babies love her. She's a good scout and a born little mother.

Marian, eight, is a dyed-in-the-wool flapper.” At which Marian looked up all smiles and dimples.

Next came seven-year-old Evelyn, the Brownie, brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin, a real nut-brown maid.

Little Miss I-Don't-Care,” said her mother.

Then Cecil, the five-year-old beauty, with a turned-up nose and wonderful golden hair with a permanent wave.

Next is Farmer John, my pride and joy. This boy was born under the worst possible circumstances. I had whooping cough together with seven of the children when he was born. He weighed only four and a half pounds at first; was raised in a market basket till he was seven months old. The first few years he was very delicate. Our doctor took such an interest in him that he said: 'When you call me, tell if it's John and I'll burn up my little old car to get to him.' Now, at four, John’s quite a boy.

And so he is. A sturdy, square-shouldered little fellow with a sweet serious face.

Frances, two years old, is 'Pa's baby.' Though for the matter of that, they're all father's babies. They're all crazy about him. Elwyn, my Husband” (we capitalize Husband because that's what Sally Sod did with her voice) “says it's my fault because I tell the children 'how nice Pa is.'

Our little 'Ma-Ma Doll,' the baby, is Laura Nadine—sweetest of the bunch.”

Then hastily, lest some one should be hurt: “Of course, they've all had their turns at being 'the sweetest.' But their turns have been rather short.

You can see that all I've ever had a chance to do is to raise children. I have six in school and four at home. What I told you in 'One Month Out of My Life' is absolutely true and is a sample of what's happening here all the time.

Of course, my work runs largely to 'eats.' I'm keeping house for twelve healthy, hearty people. And every one of them has a good out-of-door appetite to be appeased three times a day. My cake-baking averages around five cakes a week; I peel an average of a peck of potatoes daily and everything goes in the same proportion.

My 'daily dozen' and forearm developer is mixing up 14 loaves of bread.

Our weekly washing usually consists of one big family wash and three smaller ones. One week there were 42 dresses and in one single wash there were 22. I put them on the line and looked them over. Nineteen I had made myself.

“I suppose you are wondering, 'What about the ironing?' I do my ironing as some people can fruit. The cold pack method for mine. Lots of the washing is folded at the line and put away. I iron only the best clothes, school dresses, shirts and table cloths. My little girls are learning to iron their everyday clothes.

“Then there are trips that I make. Some to town; some to mill; some on errands; some to get milk cans. I figure that these save my husband's time as I take the car and make them all during his working hours.

“Now that my children are growing older they can do lots of the smaller jobs which leaves me more time for the big ones. And I think you will agree with me that it is time I need. Mervin, here, is quite a cook. O, but you should hear 'the bunch' sing at their work!”

“Yes,” piped up Gladys-with-the-joke. “And Ma always says, 'Stop that groaning.'”

When the laugh subsided Sally Sod went on unperturbed. “I don't want this to sound like a long drawn out wail of misery, because life always has its own compensations. When I work my hardest, my little ones smile their sweetest. And it's many a laugh we have over their queer sayings.

“The other night when I put my little two-year-old to bed, I said, 'Good night, Darling.' And she answered, 'Good night, Sauer Kraut.'

Monday, September 3, 2012


 Loretto Green aka Sally Sod
Sally Sod sailed under no false pretenses. She told us all frankly, "Ours is not a Success Story. We still live on a rented farm with positively no modern conveniences, either in barn or house."

So I was not surprised, that Sunday afternoon, when there loomed up out of level, bare, March fields, a modest shingled house. It stood plain, straight, uncompromising, humble and proud of it. But it had one beauty. It was bursting with bloom at every window, the bloom of childhood. In another moment they were around me, a bevy of little children; modest, but friendly, smiling, unafraid; fairly prancing with eagerness and high spirits. I had a "guard of honor" through the mud and up to the back steps where Mr. and Mrs. Green awaited me.

"Is this Sally Sod?"

Not one breathing second was she the disconcerted hostess, surprised and caught off guard. A warm grip, an eager flow of words, a torrent of laughter. And I was fairly swept into the house on the wave of it; through the dining-room with its long table, a regular harvest-hand table; into the little parlor. And when we were seated, with most of the little folks standing, the room was furnished as no interior decorator could do it, damask of pink-and-white cheeks with the roses of red blood in them, jewels in sparkling eyes.

And how we laughed! I never laughed so much to the square inch in all my life. Just why? I've tried to recall. But the little jokes melt away into thin air,--too fine to be caught in the mesh of words. You see, Sally Sod is Irish on both sides. "Grandparents right from the bogs," she said. It is impossible for her to speak without giving a quizzical twist to her words. And the children, born and bred to humor, are always ready with a come-back. Their father, Yankee by birth, has a merry twinkle in his blue eyes,--born there and kept always busy.

Sally Sod's Ten Children, and counting (She had more!)

So they laugh,--the Sally Sod household. And the house is full of their laughter. If you ask me, I think this is the secret and heart of the whole story of their success.

"Laugh a lot?" Sally Sod repeated when we caught our respective breaths. "I'll say so. I wish you could hear and see these children of mine when they are shut in for a time. You surely would hear some rib-crackers."

"Ma, she's writing it down, "shouted nine-year-old Jessie from the other end of the table." She was reading upside down as fast as I (Grace Gray, the interviewer) could write. 

"O, we have a circus here all the time," Sally Sod went on. "I suppose I could make something of it if only I had the sense to appreciate it. I've just finished writing 'The Diary of a Distracted Mother.' I bought a big tablet and wrote it full. And I still have more to say.

"And here are my ten. Robert, 14, is my chief executive. He has just taken a prize in a declamation (speech) contest and won a gold medal. But he's so dignified he doesn't like to have me speak about it. He's planning to be an electrical engineer.

Mervin, 12, is our joke-smith, our clown, the cause of our greatest laughs. He's the boy who is going to rubberize his Father's milk checks. His ambition is to drive a truck. He has just won the seventh grade spell-down which made him grade champion and brought him a fine modern dictionary.

"Gladys is eleven and mothers all of the children. She is a prize-winner, too. She spelled down the fifth grade last year and won a dictionary with a 'G' in gold letters...

More introductions in my next post. To read Sally's "Diary of a Distracted Mother," type that title into the "Search This Blog" box on the left side of my blog. She was such a clever and funny writer.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


When The Farmer's Wife printed Sally's first letter (my August 24th post) at the same time they also printed the magazine's response and then a second response by Sally. They are both rather long, and sometimes not terribly interesting, (although Sally's was much more), so I will just quote a bit from each letter.

The magazine's response, January 1927: "In regard to your being 'ungainfully employed,' we believe that this is a mistake and a very serious one. You are what is called in the world of business 'a working partner' in a productive enterprise. This makes you 'indirectly productive' and gives you part credit for every dollar the farm produces. The fact that you do 'no outside work' has nothing to do with the matter, providing that you are 'a working partner.'

We congratulate you on your fine family and, in earnest admiration, say that the raising of ten splendid American citizens is success enough for one woman."

Sally response in part: "Your reply is received with a feeling of mingled pride and shame. Why I wrote that first letter is more than I can say. I sat down and wrote it on the impulse of the moment. Such a mean, selfish, one-sided letter, I know it must have sounded to you and am heartily sorry for it." (In truth, The Farmer's Wife enjoyed Sally's letter and were not offended at all.)

Sally continues, "Your letter came as a great blessing to me. I saw the world only from my own very narrow viewpoint and that day I certainly had a acute attack of self-pity. I felt that, like Atlas, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I never stopped to consider the fact that I have a fine husband to share it all with me and that it is his sense and foresight that has kept us even--as we are..."

"I asked you, 'Do we get even honorable mention' and you answered, 'Yes, and more.' Well, to tell the truth, I felt as if I had received first prize when you wrote to ask me if you could come to my place and write my story of Success. I certainly consider this a great honor and appreciate it very much but I must answer, 'No, not yet.'"

Because she writes, "We still live on a rented farm, with positively no modern conveniences, either in barn or house. We have had very good luck in raising our family and success in measure. Everything we have, has come by hard work. I believe now you will see how we are situated. Ours is not a Success Story."

The Farmer's Wife, however, disagreed with her, and talked Sally into visiting her place and writing a Success Story about her. Her story was published in the June 1927 issue, and I will print the beginning of this interview below.

By Grace Farrington Gray

I have seen Sally Sod.

"Then there is a Sally Sod?"

"Who is she?"

"What is she like?"

"Is she as jolly as she writes?"

"Is she a Success?"

Not so fast---please. You shall "know all" as quickly as it can be told.

Sally Sod is as real as you yourself. Her every-day name is Mrs. Elwyn Green or to use her personal signature, Lorretto (yes "o," not "a") Hughes Green. And she lives in Wayne County, Michigan. She is just as full of sprightly good-nature as you would guess from her story and is ten times a success as the mother of ten sturdy, wholesome, delightful children who are bubbling over with rollicking fun and who are nevertheless making good in school.

Success? Why, you feel it as far as you can see and "feel" the house. But it is success of a definite and specific kind...It is a family success--home success--success of the very best sort.

More of Sally's interview in my next post.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

LISTERINE AD, August 1928

I am still working on my next installment of Sally Sod. In the meantime, I thought that I would share this ad with you. If someone were to ask me when the public began to worry about "Halitosis" or "Bad Breath," I would have guessed in the 1950s or 1960s. Not so! Listerine ran this advertisement in August of 1928. The words below "Don't Fool Yourself" read: "Since halitosis never announces itself to the victim, you simply cannot know when you have it." What a great advertising ploy! Not only can you never know when you have it, you are also the poor victim who never gets a date. How funny and sad at the same time!

Friday, August 24, 2012

DEAR EDITOR; from Sally Sod; January 1927

"Curiosity once killed a cat." Well, I am no cat and hope my curiosity will not kill me but it surely has prompted me to ask a question or two.

The Farmer's Wife being the only farm paper I am interested in at present, I am directing my questions to you. All the members of my family enjoy the magazine. The stories are good and clean. I can hand The Farmer's Wife to my little ones without a thought of their running into something I would rather they would not read.

I do not always read the stories myself. I am more interested in the human side: The Contest Letters and the pages devoted to "How Some Farm Women Succeed." These features are really the cause of this letter.

How do you figure success? It is always and only from the financial standpoint?

I know only too well that only a few will go down in the "Hall of Fame" but how about the rest of us, "of the common herd?" I am taking myself for example and know that there are many, many more situated as I am, asking the same question in their own minds. I am in the ranks known as the "ungainfully employed." I can work until I am unable to do anything more. But do I bring in any cash? No, not one cent.

Sometimes I feel like a howling success and again like the flatest failure. The latter is the way I feel today.

I am a farmer's wife and never do a thing out of doors. Lazy? Maybe--but I am trying my hand at a different kind of crop.

It is raising a good American family. We have ten children. It is when I look at them that I figure myself a success for they are all well and generally healthy. I am convinced they never would bring a prize in a beauty contest; but put them up against a family of the same size raised in the city, and I firmly believe that, as far as health goes, they would carry off the blue ribbons.

Not one has every seen the inside of a hospital, nor ever failed to pass with his grade in school. I have six of school age. My oldest boy, just thirteen, is a Junior in High School and an A student; the next two have also won prizes in their classes. Seven of my children are girls and as I do all of my work myself, sewing included, you can see that I find myself quite busy.
But this does not get me anywhere. I mean in the line of money. The only money I really have earned since I was married was the ten dollars I won as first prize in The Farmer's Wife Letter Contest.

Another thing my curiosity has prompted me to do is this: I kept account of my work through the month of August...just the big many times I washed clothes and cleaned floors; the number of articles I sewed; the amount of bread I baked; and how many meals I cooked extra for hired help.

I just stopped to read my letter and some of it already looks foolish, but I shall send it anyway and hope it will be received in the spirit in which it is sent, as I am writing it with fullness of heart and an aching back.

I think my question amounts to just this: Does the average farmer's wife deserve even honorable mention if she does nothing more than raise a family?


From Laurie: Sally's question interested me, probably because I remember the first time that I felt the same way she did. It was after the birth of my fifth child, with my oldest being just ten. I was so overwhelmed with everything I needed to do, plus homeschooling the two oldest children. This was in the mid-1980s when the modern homeschooling movement was very new. Each month I received a homeschooling magazine that had a feature story about a "Perfect" homeschooling mother. I didn't receive the magazine for long, since it depressed me much more than it encouraged me. I just didn't measure up to those "Perfectly Amazing" women with their "Perfectly Amazing" children!

It is a shame that we women can be very hard on ourselves sometimes. We forget to acknowledge and rest in the fact that we are working and trying to do the best that we can. It seems obvious to me (and probably to you, too) that, Sally, as the mother of ten children with the oldest being just thirteen years old, did not need to feel bad about her accomplishments. Just the fact that she had the time, and her wits about her to write a letter to a magazine says a great deal about her success as a woman.

More about Mrs. Green (aka Sally Sod) in my next post.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


If you didn't already know, I am the proud owner of over 300 copies of The Farmer's Wife magazine. Have I read them all? No! Have I even opened them all? No! Do I wish I had the time to read every article in all 300+ copies? You bet!

Not long ago I received an email that said, "My grandmother was Sally Sod." "Oh my goodness!" I said, while my eyes bugged out of my head, "I know Sally Sod!" Even with the limited reading of my magazines, I knew that the name, Sally Sod, was famous in The Farmer's Wife and came up over and over again, particularly in the Letters to the Editor section. I tried to recall what I knew about Sally, but all I could remember was that she was linked to some kind of controversy. (I have previously posted one of Sally's letters in this blog--you will find it in five posts, from June 28, 2010-
July 12, 2010. Please read it if you haven't already. She was a very gifted writer and funny, too.)

I then began the search through my magazines to discover what this controversy was all about. Here is what I found: The Farmer's Wife often published "Success Stories" written about a particular farm wife. They usually were, at least,  full page articles (11" x 17" size pages with rather small type) about the woman and her family, complete with photographs. Sally had made comments about these "Success Stories." (More about what she wrote later.)

With this introduction behind us, I will now quote from the magazine itself. This was written by Field Editor Grace Farrington Gray in January 1927.

"When The Farmer's Wife began its Success Feature three years ago (1924), it started more than a series of stories. It started a train of thought in the minds of our Subscribers and a general discussion of the subject. People began to ask: 'What is Success? What is the unit of measure? Who has a right to be called successful?'

Some people took it for granted that the test was making money. Others believed that nothing except community work should be counted. Still others felt that only the average farm woman who was typical of her class, had any place in such a series.

Meantime we went about the country, wherever we happened to hear of a woman who was called by her neighbors or by state leaders 'successful'; took a camera picture and a word picture of her and of her work; and presented these to our readers strickly on their merits. We left it to our public judge the issue.

Some of our subscribers have written to us on the subject. One actual farm woman who prefers to be known as Sally Sod, brings the whole argument to a head so well that we decided to print the correspondence and give our readers the benefit of the discussion.

Sally Sod's first letter appears on this page together with her criticism; followed by our reply and defense and her answer and summing up. We observe the ancient and honored custom of giving the woman 'the last word.'

Whatever is Your angle in the matter, we feel sure that You will enjoy Sally Sod's sprightly letters. If You--our individual reader--wish to have a voice in the debate we shall be glad to hear from you."

Even though the above paragraphs were written 85 years ago, I think many women still wrestle with the subject of "Success" in their own lives. Next time, I will post Sally Sod's first letter and perhaps you will want to enter the discussion.

Monday, August 20, 2012

DEAR EDITOR: AN UNSPEAKABLE JOY; by "At-last" from South Carolina; 1935

After more than a quarter of a century of housekeeping, my dream of home waterworks has been realized.

Always I had worked and hoped for this, but always the money had to go for something else. There was land to be paid for, the children to be educated and—but it's the same old story. All farm women know it by heart.

I cannot help wondering why our men do not put in a water system first of all, and let other things wait. It is so easy and simple to install, costs little in upkeep, and its value in saving time, strength and health is worth much more than it costs.

The “Old Oaken Bucket,” celebrated in song and story, is picturesque, but right there its desirability ends.

A little money made by following my girlhood hobby—writing, enabled me to have a water system put in at my own expense. An electrical pump brings water by air pressure from the bottom of our ice-cold well on the back porch to my shining kitchen sink.

My tiny bathroom, snow white, is an unspeakable joy. A hot water boiler behind the range gives me quantities of scalding water on tap. My husband revels in the convenience of water piped to the barn.

Now I feel that I have a real home.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Our son, through his own efforts, is well started on the funds necessary for his future education.

He was ten years old in May and will enter the sixth grade this fall. At the age of four, he bought a young heifer for $20, part of which he received from his grandparents at his birth, the rest pennies and nickels that were earned in various ways. The heifer has given him a steer and two heifer calves. At seven, he and his sister bought a baby calf out of their small savings. At two years she had a roan steer. The children decided to dissolve partnership, so the girl took Nellie and Son took the steer. Now he has five head of cattle.

Three summers ago the children spent the summer with an aunt. Of her white flock of chickens they could have half of that year's rooster crop if they fed and watered the flock. From this venture, each realized nine dollars.

Last summer they put some of their money into several good roosters for the home flock and in the fall they received again half of the proceeds from the sale of roosters. They each invested in a small Poland China pig.

This summer the boy runs in and locks up the ducks each night in order to get the eggs in the mornings. For this he will get one duck this fall to sell.

He plans to attend the Montana Agricultural College.

Note: I was impressed with the work ethic of this boy. I'm sure that he grew to be a very responsible, hard working man.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I went through my September 1923 The Farmer's Wife issue, looking for current prices. I know wages have changed and things aren't as cheap as they appear, but I still have to work at not being envious of the farm wives in 1923!

Here they are advertising Congoleum Rugs. Actually these "rugs" are large pieces of linoleum. They range in price from 1.5 x 3 feet for $.60; 3 x 6 feet for $2.50; 6 x 9 feet for $9.00; and 9 x 12 for $18.00.

These chicks would cost about $3.00 each where I live

Note: The Farmer's Wife magazines are large, 11" x 17."  That is why they must be cut down sometimes.

What would you prefer? One car for $525 or...

Two non-electric Victrolas (record players) for $500?

It is bad enough to be Stout, but what about Extra Stout! (bottom left corner)

25 cents a tube

And finally, my all time favorite--a 120 acre farm with all of the trimmings, for only $3,000. We cannot buy one acre of tillable land here in Wisconsin in 2012 for $3,000!