“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)

Firewood (Cordwood) Math Problems

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

Monday, July 13, 1914:  I remember now what I did today, which wasn’t anything unusual.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

Grandma—You remembered. . . so please tell us. . . WHAT did you do?

Did you work in the fields? . . . weed the garden? . . . can green beans? . . . stack fire wood for next winter? (Oh, never mind. . . Maybe this is the wrong time of year for stacking wood.)


Several days ago a reader commented that he’d enjoy a post about stacking firewood. Well, here goes-

I haven’t seen any old articles about how to stack firewood, but I have seen cordwood problems in a hundred-year-old arithmetic book:


Cordwood is 4 ft. long.

A cord of wood is a pile 8 ft. long and 4 ft. high.

A cord of stove wood is a pile of wood 8 ft. long, 4 ft. high, and of any length that will fit a stove.

Rule: To find the number of cords of wood in a pile, multiply the length of the pile by the height in feet and divide by 32.


1. How many cords of wood are there in a pile 18 ft. long and 4 ft. high?

2. At $6 per cord, what is the value of a pile of oak cordwood 40 ft. long and 6 ft. high?

3. Which is cheaper for a man living in town: to buy stove wood 16 in. long at $3 per cord, or to pay $6 per cord for cordwood and give a man $2 to saw and split it into stove wood?

4. How many cords of wood 16 in. long can be placed cross-wise in a wagon bed 10 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, and 14 in. deep?

5. Make an estimate of the number of cords of wood in the fallen trees that are wasting on your father’s farm. What is the value of this wood at $2 per cord?

Rural Arithmetic (1913) by John E. Calfee

You may also enjoy these previous posts with other hundred-year-old math problems:

Hundred-Year-Old Rural Math Problems

Unusual, Odd, and Strange Math Problems

More Unusual, Odd, and Strange Math Problems

Old Math Problems

Cube Root Word Problems

1911 Algebra Problems: The Lusitania and Molasses

“Move to Montana” Advertisement

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

Tuesday, February 10, 1914:  Nothing doing.

Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1914)
Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (February 1, 1914)

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a fun ad that encouraged families to homestead  to Montana.

Whew, it’s hard to believe that there still was “unbroken” land a hundred years ago that could be had for very little money. At least the people were able to get there in relative comfort via train, and didn’t need the covered wagons that were used in prior years.

Book Review: The Woman Thou Gavest Me

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

Tuesday, December 30, 1913:  There’s nothing much to write about for today. Am interested in reading a book that I once tried several years ago and though it too dry.


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

Curling up with a good book is the perfect way to spend a cold winter day.

It’s obviously not what Grandma was considering reading because it was published in 1913, but I just finished reading The Woman Thou Gavest Me by Hall Caine. It was #7 on the Publisher’s Weekly bestseller list for 1913.

This book tells the story of a young woman, Mary O’Neill, who loved an Antarctica explorer, but was forced by her father to marry another man. Her wealthy father wanted to get control of some land, so he insisted that she marry a financially-struggling nobleman who owned an estate.

(Tip to the wise:  If you’ve never consummated your marriage, but instead decide to have an affair with an Antarctica explorer, be sure to use birth control if you sleep with him the night before he leaves for Antarctica.)

The Woman Thou Gavest Me touched on a lot of complex social and moral issues that people were grappling with in 1913—

  • Should marriages be based upon family and business relationships, or should they be based on love?
  • Should women be allowed to divorce? . . . and if they are allowed to divorce should they be allowed to remarry?
  • What role should the Catholic church have in determining what is acceptable in regards to marriage and divorce?
  • Is it sometimes acceptable to have an affair?
  • How should illegitimate children (and their mothers) be treated by society?

This book is worthwhile reading from a historical perspective. The themes addressed by this book reminded me of the themes that Edith Wharton, another author from this era, often explored.  The Woman Thou Gavest Me was a slow read—and felt very dated; but there was something about it that kept pulling me back to it over the course of several months.

Left with All the Milking

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

Monday, December 15, 1913:  Ruthie left for Sunbury this morning, also left me all the milking, but I’m pretty hardened to that.

Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

Row 1: Rachel Oakes (middle), Blanche Bryson (right). Row 2: Ruth Muffly (left) Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

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

Grandma and her sister Ruth typically shared the milking chore—and when one of the sister’s went somewhere, the other had to do all of the work.

Is there a bit of annoyance in this diary entry? . . perhaps  Ruth missed milkings more frequently than Grandma.

Ruth was a teacher at a nearby one-room school house.  I think that she went to Sunbury to attend a teacher’s meeting.

Schools had longer Christmas breaks back then –and teachers sometimes attended trainings during part of the break. Sunbury is the county seat of Northumberland County, and is located about 15 miles from McEwensville.

Ruth had also  gone to Sunbury in December of the previous year:

Our dearest Ruth left for Sunbury this morning and my heart is rather sad.

December 16, 1912

There is a photo in The History of the McEwensville Schools 1800-1958 of Ruth and the other 11 women who attended a teachers’ meeting in Sunbury in 1913. I’m not sure whether the photo was taken at the December meeting or whether it was taken at an earlier teacher’s meeting in Sunbury that took place in May.

The other two women identified in the photo were Rachel Oakes and Blanche Bryson. Both are mentioned in the diary. They were friends of Grandma and Ruth—as well as teachers.  You may enjoy these previous posts about Blanche Bryson:

Blanche and Margaret Bryson

My Memories of Blanche Bryson Kramm

Baby Caps and Bonnets a Hundred Years Ago

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

Wednesday, December 10, 1913: Nothing of importance.


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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share some adorable pictures of baby caps and bonnets that were in the December, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal. According to the magazine:

Something pretty for the baby’s Christmas gift usually means a piece of dainty hand work.  Illustrated are two lovely crocheted caps lined with soft silk, and two others which are made of handkerchiefs.




1913 Royal Baking Powder Advertisement

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

Wednesday, November 26, 1913: Ditto

Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1913)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1913)

Woman’s Work in preparing appetizing and wholesome food is lightened by this famous baking powder.

Light Biscuit

Delicious Cake

Dainty Pastries

Fine Puddings

It adds healthful qualities to food.

ROYAL Baking Powder

Made from pure, grape cream of tartar

Do not use alum baking powders. They may not always be distinguished by their price; but generally, powders that are sold for ten to twenty-five cents a pound, or a cent an ounce, are made from alum. Use in your food only a baking powder whose label shows it is made from cream of tartar.

Royal Baking Powder Co., New York

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

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a hundred-year-old advertisement for Royal Baking Powder.

On this date, both a hundred years ago and now, kitchens are filled with people baking awesome desserts in preparation for Thanksgiving Day.

I’m on the final countdown getting ready for Thanksgiving. I’m worrying about a lot of things (reminder to self: remember to dust the top shelf of the book-case; some of the guests will be tall)—Do I need to add baking powder to my list of worries?

The line about “women’s work” also grates on me–though I know that women did most of the cooking a hundred years ago.