Books were my first love. As a young girl, my mom gave me Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, Caddie Woodlawn, and Elsie Dinsmore which led me to love literature and the ideas the authors took the time to embed in their works. I still read compulsively, but the ideas my mom taught me through the books she gave me laid the groundwork for the worldview I embraced.
There are three books I hope will inspire younger women with the stories of real women, give them timeless wisdom, and encourage their femininity in a modern era. I blame Beautiful Girlhood and Daughters of Destiny for my Old World charm and Created for Work for my work ethic and gravitation towards the outdoors.
This book was written in 1922 by Mabel Hale and revised by Karen Andreola in 1993. There are thirty three lessons ranging from word choices and honesty to cultivating a pure heart and consecrated life. Together these women have compiled a guideline for living that is both charming and filled with truth. The book starts at the beginning of a girl’s awakening comparing her to a rosebud blossoming and these wise women encourage girls not to blossom too quickly. As the book progresses character development is encouraged at all stages of blooming. Adolescence, courtship, Christianity, life work, purpose, and their end in womanhood and motherhood are explained and the struggles at each stage are discussed.
My mom read this book to me when I was younger, my best friend and I read it together when we wanted to hold each other accountable, and now my sisters are listening to this and talking to me about it. Mrs Hale helps to give each reader a sense of true beauty in proper care, virtue, and purpose. She encourages care for others and the proper nurturing of every relationship. She carefully differentiates between character and attributes that have come to pass as character like cutting remarks passing as frankness and sincerity. Her closing words were both encouraging and pleading, “ Oh girls! life is so great, so wonderful, so full of possibilities, that none of us can afford to be anything but what is good and pure and true! Let us make the perfect rose an emblem of our womanhood and strive that its fragrance shall bless all who come in contact with it.” Her heart was to remind girls what life could be, the potential each person has, and the way to live up to that potential.
Daughters of Destiny
I’ve had so many adventures with this book. When I was eleven I remember crawling up in a tree to read about my favorite women, the ones I wanted to be like, and the ones I knew who would be my best friends. Lady Jane Grey was known as the nine day queen forced into a marriage and throne which killed her, but her mind was incredible and her consideration for others transcended her circumstances. Tennyson said this of her,
“Seventeen – and knew eight languages
in music fearless – her needle perfect,
and her learning was beyond Churchman;
yet so meek, so modest, so wife-like humble
to the trivial boy mismatched with her for policy! I have heard
She would not take a last farewell of him;
She feared it might unman him for his end.
She could not be unmanned — no, nor outwoman’d.
Seventeen — a rose of grace!
Girl never breathed to rival such a rose;
Rose never blew that equalled such a bud.”
This is the type of woman every girl should strive to be and this book has the biographies of seventy five other women who lived well, whose lives honored God and who we should try to emulate. While Lady Jane is the woman I would most like to know and befriend, there are wives, mothers, princesses, queens, peasants, writers, and first ladies who go above and beyond what anyone would expect of them. My other favorites are Catherine Von Bora, Edith of Scotland, Queen Victoria, Mrs Merrill, and Mrs Parker. The last two were Pioneer women who fought Indians for their families and forged through the wilderness to keep them alive. This book does not finish a story, but encourages the reader to live lives that are honoring to God, faithful in all things, and true to the purpose God has for them. Every story encouraged me to look deeper into the lives of the women who lived them and sparked part of my love of history and biography.
This book was written for boys, but I never let that bother me because I genuinely enjoy G.A. Henty and Jeff Shaara. Bob Schultz, the author, understands the purpose of God’s creation. He taught being faithful in the details by telling the story of building a house and leveling each board, finishing well through winterizing, and taking care of those around you through the escapades of his sheep dog. He taught work principles through logging.
I still remember my dad reading the last chapter around the same time of the last Presidential election. The final thought was that we are responsible for the work that is given to us and God will take care of the rest. It is difficult to trust Him, but part of the work we are given is to be faithful to the task at hand and not be anxious about those things God has other people handling.
These three books communicate simply what it is to be a woman because the principles are timeless. In the words of Mrs Hale, “We are all provided with means by which we may become acquainted with with those who have moved earth’s masses most, whose lives have influenced most people for good, knowing the very motives and desires of their hearts, and learning exactly what their opinions were or are. The medium for all this wonderful knowledge is the printed page.”