Grandma’s July Poems, 1911 – 1913

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, July 1, 1913:

The hottest month of the whole year ‘round.

We may surely call July

When the sun shines down and makes us brown.

Then, oh then we often sigh.

(For a day in winter.)

The beginning of this month finds me at the same things I was doing yesterday.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

In the diary Grandma began each month with a poem. I’ve periodically pondered whether she wrote the poems herself—or got them from some other source.

Over time, I’ve gradually (with the help of some blog readers) come to the conclusion that she wrote them herself. This poem provides even stronger evidence that she wrote them herself.

The previous day she complained about getting a tan and this poem continues along the same vein.

 I’m getting a liberal covering of tan on my arms. As for my hands they experienced that some time ago.

Diary entry on June 30, 1913

I decided to see how Grandma’s  poems have changed across the years. Surprisingly (at least to me) the poems she wrote in July, 1911 and July, 1912 had similar themes to this one.

July 1, 1911 Poem

A whole half year has just leaped by,

And all can now witness the approach of July.

With all its plenty of frolic and fuss,

But beware and be cautious of the sun.

July 1, 1912 Poem

In the shadow of a shade tree,

There the weary often be,

After they have been well roasted,

In the hot sun of July.

25 thoughts on “Grandma’s July Poems, 1911 – 1913

  1. I like her July poems but it does sound as though she was not too fond of the sun. She cautions about it, which I found interesting, given that the dangers of prolonged sun exposure would not have been as widely known then as today. Perhaps, as a previous reader has already noted, what she was cautioning against was that tanning was not for a lady.

    1. Yes, it is also my understanding that it was not considered ladylike. I think a tan suggested that the family was too poor to afford hired labor–and that the wife or daughters needed to help with field work.

  2. Saving the complexion was probably the goal in the days before recognition of melanomas. Your grandma was undoubtedly afraid of too much sun for fear it would make her look old and leathery.

  3. All of the poems are very evocative of this month. Even though I never knew your Grandma, I just always felt that it was the same voice coming through the poems as through her diary. 🙂

    1. This was the first time that I thought about comparing poems across several different months–and I was surprised how strongly her voice came through when looking at several poems at once.

  4. I like the July 1912 poem. In the days before air conditioned tractors and homes, the hot, tired worker tries to cool off under the shade of a tree.

  5. it’s a bit odd that she doesn’t mention that a tan is particularly desirable or undesirable. Maybe in her farming community a pale skin was a sign of sickness or laziness. In Japan where i have spent some time a white skin is a sign of beauty and elegance; Women still take great pains to shade their faces – some have such white skin it seems that it must be painted pale, but is not. And as a side benefit, their faces stay wrinkle-free well past middle age. (Wish I had learned about this sooner!)

    1. Based on several diary entries she made in 1912, I think that she considered a tan to be undesirable. I think that she thought that it made her look like a field hand.

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