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!

Monday, August 13, 2012

DEAR EDITOR: LITTLE IRISH ANNIE, by "Ugly Duckling" from Illinois, 1935

Dear Editor:  I was born an ugly duckling, a throw back, no doubt, for my parents were good-looking. Fortunately, for me, I was endowed with plenty of good, common sense, a sense of humor, and a wise, and far-seeing mother.

I was, from a little tot, conscious of my unattractiveness, and can recall quite distinctly an occasion when my mother found me before a mirror, shaking my fists in my homely little face.

Mother did not try to console me by telling me that I wasn't so bad looking, or that "pretty is as pretty does." She did just the opposite: she made me realize then and there that I could never completely separate myself from the ugly little girl in the looking glass. During those formative years she helped to instill in my mind the fact that if you will face the unpleasantness of life squarely and then strive to be "too big" to let it down you, the battle is more than half won. "If you haven't any assets," she used to say, "cash in your liabilities."

The first day of school might have been quite tragic for me had I not had so wise a mother, for certainly my reception was not flattering. One of the older girls was heard to say to the teacher, "Isn't she the homeliest child you ever saw," and the teacher replied, "She is so ugly, she's cute."

Did it squelch me? Nary a bit. I had the time of my life. Skipped the rope as fleet as the fleetest, and giggled with the giggliest and returned home that night a tired, but perfectly happy little girl. By the end of the second week I was friends with all the "kids" and "Teacher" seemed to like me, too.

Years passed, and I entered high school in a town some distance away. There also I stood my ground, and after the first week or two, made friends rapidly and was admitted into the "sacred" portals of the "400." My friends called me "little Irish Annie," for I was just plain Annie, little, homely and Irish.

Well, I weathered high school days splendidly, and later married well and happily. So I assure you who are short on assets that you can "cash in on your liabilities."

What an amazing mother Annie had... LAH

Friday, August 10, 2012


A few weeks ago, I saw a blog post (somewhere ?) about strange vintage ads that used children. I think I should add this one to the list. It might be a little hard to see at first, but the photographers gave the babies knitting needles to play with, not to mention the yarn around the baby's neck! Awfully cute little ones, though. If they are alive, they should be about 78 years old now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

LUELLA FISCHER & "Lightning" from Morton County, North Dakota


I am greatly enjoying the new 1940 census records. The government asked more questions in 1940 than they had ever done before, and it is wonderful to see these little insights into people's lives.

My pony child today is named Luella Fischer. She lived in North Dakota and won her pony "Lightning" when she was about eleven years old. She had such a bright, sunny smile, and I especially love her second picture with her younger sister Helen, and baby sibling. I thought this quote from Luella's letter especially funny. "'Lightning" is so gentle that mamma can trust us to take the baby out riding."' Can you imagine allowing two young girls to take a very young baby out for a buggy ride?? Apparently, Luella's mother thought that it was perfectly fine.

The first name of Luella's parents were John and Emma. John was born in Germany in 1875, and Emma was born in South Dakota in 1881. In the 1940 census, John's occupation is listed as a "clergyman," and his salary was $1,250 a year. Their oldest daughter, Luella, was born in 1903, and younger sister Helen, was born in 1907.
Luella, Baby Verrill, Helen & "Lightning"

The difficulty with tracing girls is that they often get married and, therefore, change their names. Some states follow through with the name change in their records, and some do not. In this case, I could not find any records for Luella or sister Helen past their teenage years.

However, I was able to trace the baby. It was a boy named Verrill, and he was born in 1914. When he grew up, he earned his medical degree in 1937 and married his wife, Ruth, in 1939. In 1944, he jumped with the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day in France. After the war, he returned to North Dakota where he and several physician colleagues founded a Medical Clinic in 1958. Verrill had a long and illustrious career as a physician and surgeon. He delivered over 5,300 babies and performed more than 20,000 surgeries.

Verrill & Ruth Fischer
Verrill and Ruth became the parents of one daughter and three sons, with two of the children becoming doctors like their Dad. Verrill and Ruth lived long lives, he passing away at the age of 88 and she at the age of 90.

Luella had to be an ambitious and hardworking child to earn herself a pony, so it doesn't surprise me that her younger brother was ambitious and hardworking, too. I'm just glad that Luella, Helen and "Lightning" didn't drop Verrill on his head :) or North Dakota would have missed a good citizen and skilled doctor.


It was always my intention to let the works that I print here speak for themselves with very little comment from me. But in doing so, I believe the blog became too impersonal. I have decided to change this a bit. I plan to post more and comment more, and I hope that you will add your comments, too. I also intend to include not just writings from old magazines (mostly The Farmer's Wife), but to include more pictures, advertisements and craft photographs, so that you can get a more complete understanding of what rural life was like in the early 1900s before World War II.  

Although this is probably more than obvious, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Laurie, the author of The Farmer's Wife and Pony Club Quilt books. I am a 56 year old Christian wife and mother to eleven children. My husband and I and the youngest five children live in southwest Wisconsin where I am a homemaker and homeschool mom. Our home is a very old farmhouse on 6.5 acres of pasture and woods. I love it here! I was raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, California, and I hope that I never take for granted the beautiful surroundings that God has blessed me with.

Our chicken coop
Our view to the east

I love the old ways, and am sad (as many people are) that our world has become the way it is. That is why I enjoy posting these old stories. They remind me of my childhood when "right was right" and "wrong was wrong." I don't mean to imply that everyone was obedient to the rules, far from it, but at least everyone "knew" what was acceptable, and what was not. Sadly, that knowledge is fast becoming lost. The Pony Club letters are especially dear to me because even though they were written 40 years before I was born, I can relate so much to the freedom that those children enjoyed. No, I didn't have a pony, but with my bike or my feet, I could travel miles from home and explore completely on my own. I am so sad that children nowadays cannot enjoy this freedom.

Our lilac bush and baby out to dry
Our wintertime path through the woods

So, the point of this blog is to "Remember the Past." I think that it is important to do so...

Monday, August 6, 2012



We live on an eighty-acre farm, only part of which is under cultivation and as the regular income from farm and cream checks barely keeps the family, there is no possible chance to lay aside anything for the future schooling of the children.

I decided it was up to me to start a side line and went to the "head" with my scheme. Husband-fashion, he said, "It can't be done."

I went ahead however and in addition to the regular garden, planted one-fourth acre of cucumbers. The first season I sold direct to the salting station located in our nearest town. I cleared $50 on my green pickles but as my vines were still bearing when the salting station closed, I decided to salt all that I picked during the late fall rains. I did this and then during the early part of the winter the pickles were freshened in a vat made of a hardwood barrel with the head removed and a faucet inserted near the bottom. I used various recipes, put up my product in wooden pails labeled with the variety they contained and sold direct to hotels, club houses and restaurants. Also sold on a commission to butcher shops and grocery stores.

I used pint jars as samplers and gave them to every customer to try before buying.

I had splendid success. This year, I have one acre. The children help pick and are really interested for they know what the money is to be used for. We call it "our school fund."

To guard against borrowing from this sum when crops are poor or things are needed, I have invested it in small real estate loans running five years. We cannot borrow from it so never think about it, and we get along fine and with my boy only four years off from high school I am not worrying.---Mrs. L. B., Minnesota