17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Thursday, November 7, 1912: I just finished reading a book a few minutes ago. I have ever so much stuff to read now, but I don’t like to neglect my studies too much. I don’t get them any too well as it is.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Grandma was a member of the recently organized Literary Society at her school.
I recently came across a copy a book published in 1912—Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I wonder if Grandma read it.
Daddy-Long-Legs is a good-old-fashioned story with a happy ending. It was a fun, relaxing read compared to the many depressing modern books; and I couldn’t put it down. But the novel also touched upon important issues—Should women have careers? What role does fate (and hard work) play in success?
The book tells the story of Jerusha, a bright young orphan who wrote humorous stories in her high school English class.
An anonymous trustee of the orphanage where Jerusha lived recognized her brilliance—and offered to pay for her to attend college so that she could become a writer. There was only one requirement—she needed to write him a letter each month to tell him how school was going.
Jerusha did not meet the trustee—but saw his shadow reflected on a wall the evening he agreed to send her to college. The shadow was tall and slender, and looked like a Daddy-Long-Legs spider.
The format of most of the book is letters that Jerusha wrote to her anonymous benefactor—Daddy-Long-Legs.
A developing romance, and Jerusha’s transformation from an orphan into an interesting young woman who went by the name of Judy, kept me turning the pages. The book also gave me a better understanding of the college and career opportunities that women had a hundred years ago.