“How I Knew When the Right Man Came Along”

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

Saturday, September 19, 1914: <<no entry>>

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

Source: McCalls (November, 1913)

I often use material from hundred-year-old issues of Ladies Home Journal. I was surprised to discover this “pot boiler” ad for Ladies Home Journal in the November, 1913 issue of McCall’s. Of course, I had to immediately find one of the article it referred to.

Why didn’t Grandma write anything a hundred years ago today? Back in July there was a diary entry or two which suggested that Grandma liked a guy. I keep wanting to think that she was having too much fun to have time to write in the diary—but who knows—maybe she was just working hard on the farm.

But, here are some quotes from an article in Ladies Home Journal that Grandma might have found useful if she had a beau.

How I Knew When the Right Man Came Along

. . . The following year I went away to college and during my Senior year I met a young physician, an alumnus of a nearby university, who had established a practice in the college town. He possessed the qualities I had so long for: education culture, self-possession, decision in every move. But, strangely enough I seemed to shrink from his physical presence. I tried to argue that it was but a natural modesty, but it set me thinking. Could I trust him? Was he clean? Were his eyes honest. Why did these thoughts come to me over and over? What was wrong? I called myself foolish and tried to reason them away-without success.

At last I determined to do what I should advise any girl to do whom there comes one moment’s questioning of a man’s morality. I went to a friend, an older physician, and hard though it was, asked him to tell me plainly if he knew anything about Doctor Powell that would cause him to withhold his consent to his own daughter’s marriage with him. The kindly talk that he gave me will live forever in my memory.

Doctor Powell and I were never engaged. It were better for me to have lived on bread and water than to have risked my mental and physical happiness with the attractive physician. . .

My disappointment at college had shown me the futility of romantic love. Now I had the opportunity to marry either my dashing attorney or the somewhat prosaic friend that I had known so long. Would marriage with either of them be what it should be? I determined to be in no hurry to make this momentous decision, and meantime to become as well acquainted as possible with both of my suitors.

I began to observe my married friends and to analyze the cause of their happiness or unhappiness. I soon decided that there was just one general rule that seemed to prevail throughout, and this was that an abiding respect and a deep unity of tastes and interests were to be found in every marriage worthy of the name.

Another thing was to be considered, something which in my girlhood I would never have allowed myself to think about, and that was the question of the children I might have. If I had not seen the necessity of putting aside for my own sake all petty considerations and all fleeting ambitions, the duty laid upon me of securing the best possible heritage for those whose lives I would be responsible for would surely have compelled me to do so. . .

Ladies Home Journal (December 1913)

25 thoughts on ““How I Knew When the Right Man Came Along”

  1. This is sooo interesting. I am an old lady and read every word. :)Now I want to know what the older doctor told the inquiring girl about the young physician’s moral character! If Helena had read such an article I suspect she would have been just as confused as I am 100 years later.

    1. I agree! Maybe the author was trying to be mysterious about what was problematic with the doctor, so that a reader could use her imagination to make it fit her own situation. 🙂

  2. I married my best friend. Seventeen years later, he still is. Yes, there are highs and lows, but there is respect, and a ‘deep unity of tastes’. And the children – we have children we love, and like, and he was willing to trust me to take a very non-traditional route in their upbringing that has led to deep peace and much laughter as they enter and approach their teen years.

    I’ve always trusted the instinct that had me cringing away from someone…no matter how well-suited they seemed on a logical level.

  3. This was an interesting post for a day when you grandmother didn’t write anything, Sheryl. On the days she didn’t write or wrote little, I find I’m disappointed, especially after reading her beautiful entries while she was on her trip to Niagara Falls. It’s good she kept a journal. I just find myself sometimes wanting to know more about her life in 1914. Thanks for posting entries every day.

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