Thanksgiving Day and the Power of Gratitude

Thanksgiving day is coming up soon so I decided to look up where the idea of Thanksgiving came from. Despite the fact that it is called “turkey day” by some—a custom that makes me rather sad, but we’ll get to that later—Thanksgiving did not originate as a way of ridding the world of its excess turkey population, or keeping turkey growers in business. Thanksgiving and the power of gratitude-enjoyingwomanhood.com

As a matter of fact, thanksgiving, or gratitude, has been celebrated by peoples all over the world, for as long as people have been around. The Jewish feast of Passover is a kind of thanksgiving festival, giving thanks for their rescue from captivity in Egypt. Harvest festivals in many cultures also often have an element of giving thanks for the good harvest. The American history of thanksgiving, however, is deeply rooted in the country’s Christian heritage.

History of Thanksgiving

The first recorded celebration of thanksgiving in America was in 1565. Yes, 1565, and it was celebrated in Florida. The Spanish explorers under Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés were grateful for having survived their long journey across the Atlantic Ocean and celebrated by having a Catholic Mass offered, and eating a meal, which they invited the curious natives to join them in. See more about all of this at this History channel.

While the Spanish (and some French explorers as well) beat the Pilgrims to the mark, the most famous early American celebration of Thanksgiving was in Plymouth in 1621. And it is this celebration which can be considered the foundation of the modern American holiday. Their Thanksgiving festival was a three day feast of eating, hunting and entertainment, and the main course of their meal was… you guessed it… Venison! (Okay, they might have eaten turkey too—the pilgrims did eat turkeys)But the main entree was five deer the local Native Americans shot for the pilgrims when they celebrated their first successful harvest with them. The Pilgrims never repeated this festival. (But shooting was still a popular part of the Thanksgiving festival when it was reintroduced.)

The next instance of a Thanksgiving Holiday in America, and the first time it was a national holiday, was in 1789. In response to a request from congress “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” George Washington wrote,

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be –That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks –for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation –for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed –for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.” Read the full text here.

In other words, “we Americans want to thank God for all the wonderful things that have happened to us as a country, and for the fact that we are a country.” He went on to ask that all Americans take this day to pray that God would forgive the country for any wrong it had done, and ask for his continued protection.

This celebration was also not repeated on a regular basis. Some presidents called for days of thanksgiving in November, others at other times, and some presidents called for days of fasting and prayer instead… So when did Thanksgiving as we know it today start?

Thanksgiving finally became a recurring national holiday in the 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln in response to a request to unify the Union celebration of the Thanksgiving (and possibly an attempt to rally support for the cause of union) wrote,

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

This proclamation, like everything Lincoln wrote, is a wonderful example of nineteenth century prose and propaganda, and also the expression of a profound and beautiful sentiment.

Later, in 1941, just a few days after the United States entered World War II, the fourth Thursday of November was declared the official day of Thanksgiving, as a political compromise between Democrats, who wanted Thanksgiving to be the second to last Thursday of November, and Republicans, who wanted it to be the last Thursday. Here too, the setting of the official day for Thanksgiving was an attempt by the government to unite Americans about to face a challenging war.

aren't you glad we have an eagle and not a turkey for a national bird-enjoyingwomanhood.com
Now, imagine a turkey instead.

But why Do We Eat Turkeys on Thanksgiving?

But even here, Thanksgiving was still not necessarily “turkey day,” though it was a popular dish for the day, possibly because they were so often given as prizes at the shooting matches which were a traditional part of the New England Thanksgiving celebration. According to Mental Floss, Alexander Hamilton, who died in 1804, commented that, “No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.”

It is also theorized that turkey became the meat of choice for Thanksgiving, the specially American holiday, because turkeys are an especially American bird. They are so American that Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, wanted to make the turkey the national bird, saying that it was a nobler bird than the Bald Eagle, which is also American, but has the shameful habit of being a scavenger. I guess he didn’t think that looks were important—he was known to be remarkably slovenly in his own appearance.

Giving Thanks

Regardless of how turkeys became the Thanksgiving favorite, they are not the most important part of Thanksgiving. No, they really aren’t. The most important thing about thanksgiving is….Mashed Potatoes! No really, mashed potatoes are awesome! If you don’t agree, try this recipe, from Pioneer Woman. It’s the best! (Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is cream cheese.)

In all seriousness, though, the important thing about Thanksgiving is, well, giving thanks. (And that’s why I don’t think we should call it “turkey day.”)

Gratitude is one of the most overlooked virtues, which is tragic, considering its benefits for our own psychological health, as well as the health of our relationships.

Just thinking of three things to be grateful for each day is proven to be linked to lower levels of stress hormones, less depression, higher productivity, and other positive outcomes.

And if you’ve ever done something for someone, and your kindness was ignored, you know from experience how important gratitude is for your relationship. If you’re trying to maintain the 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in your relationships (this is the recommended level) gratitude is a great place to start. Thanking your husband or child or friend for what they do right will make it easier for them to accept it when you tell them what they are doing wrong, as you are sure to want to do at some point.

So, this Thanksgiving, consider one of the following options, along with your turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and if you live in Minnesota, jello salad.

Try making a gratitude journal.

Write down three things you are grateful for each day. The observe as your attitude toward life and everything in it becomes more positive, and you become productive. A pretty blank book like this,

or this,

(Both Amazon links) would make a great choice for a gratitude journal. I personally find it much more fun to write on something pretty than on something blah.

Or you could get an actual gratitude journal, like this, complete with inspiring quotes.

Start a gratitude board for your household.

This could be as simple as a bulletin board with scraps of paper and a pen, or as fancy as a “gratitude tree” where you have leaves where people can write what they are thankful for, and then stick them on the tree. There’s some nice kits for this, or you can make your own.

Send a Thank You Card

Everyone likes to be thanked, and not everyone who you are grateful to can make it to Thanksgiving celebrations each year. Sending a thank you note to parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, or just random people who did something nice for you. Bringing back hte memory of the good thing they did for you will warm your heart as well as theirs. Click on the picture below to find some really classy thank you notes for any occasion.

Exchange thanks at Thanksgiving dinner

Everyone you have at your Thanksgiving dinner deserves to be thanked for something. Whether it’s the breadwinner for making the money with which dinner was bought, or the cook(s) for making the meal nice, or the guests for coming, your in-laws for raising such a nice son or daughter, or your child for sweeping the floor–everyone has done something that they could be thanked for. You can also have everyone say what they thank God for this year. This would make a wonderful family tradition.

Hopefully, if the focus is put back on gratitude, the stress many people associate with the holidays—will my relatives fight? Will I gain weight? Will the turkey come out right?–will dissipate, and you will be able to enjoy the holiday as it should be celebrated, as a time of peace, gratitude and fellowship.

Check out a whole bunch of other cool ideas, and share your ideas too at LindasLunacy right here.

Successful Woman: Mary Carpenter

This is the second post in our Successful Women series. For the introduction, click here.

The style and some of the sentiments in this sketch, which was written in the late 1800s, may seem a little quaint in the twenty-first century, but the story should still be able to inspire us, despite the difference in literary style and social conditions.

On the other hand, many of the problems that Mary Carpenter dealt with in 19th century England still exist in America today, and her example will hopefully serve to inspire similar selfless work on the part of Americans, both men and women, in the 21st century.

(She looks kind of scary, but by all accounts she was very nice in person)

“That it may please Thee… to show Thy pity upon all prisoners and captives.”

Mary Carpenter was thirty-eight years old when Mrs. Fry died in 1845. We do not hear, in reading the lives of either, that the two women ever met, or that the elder directly stimulated the activity of the younger. Yet the one most surely prepared the way for the other; their work was upon the same lines, and Miss Carpenter, the Unitarian, of Bristol, was the spiritual heir and successor of Mrs. Fry, the Quaker, of Norwich.

There is, it is true, a contrast in the manner in which the two women approached their work in life. The aim of both was the rescue of what Mary Carpenter called ” the perishing and dangerous classes.” But while Mrs. Fry was led, through her efforts on behalf of convicts, to establish schools for them and their children, Mary Carpenter’s first object was the school for neglected children, and through the knowledge gained there she was led to form schemes for the reformation of criminals and for a new system of prison discipline. Mrs. Fry worked through convicts to schools ; Mary Carpenter through schools to convicts.

It will not therefore be imagined that there is any want of appreciation of Mrs. Fry when it is said that Mary Carpenter’s labours were more effective, inasmuch as they were directed to the cause of the evil, rather than to its results. By establishing reformatory and industrial schools, and by obtaining, after long years of patient effort, the sanction and support of Parliament for them, she virtually did more than had up to that time ever been done in England to stop the supply of criminals. Children who were on the brink of crime, and those who had actually fallen into criminal courses, were, through her efforts, snatched away from their evil surroundings, and helped to become respectable and industrious men and women.

Before her time, magistrates and judges had no choice, when a child criminal stood convicted before them, but to sentence him to prison, whence he would probably come out hopelessly corrupted and condemned for life to the existence of a beast of prey. She says, in one of her letters, dated 1850: “A Bristol magistrate told me that for twenty years he had felt quite unhappy at going on committing these young culprits. And yet he had done nothing!” The worse than uselessness of prisons for juvenile offenders was a fact that was burnt into Mary Carpenter’s mind and heart by the experience of her life. She was absolutely incapable of recognising the evil and at the same time calmly acquiescing in it. Her magisterial friend is the type of the common run of humanity, who satisfy their consciences by saying, “Very grievous! very wrong! ” and who do nothing to remove the grievance and the wrong; she is the type of the knights-errant of humanity, who never see a wrong without assailing it, and endeavouring to remove the causes which produce it.

Mary Carpenter was born at Exeter in 1807, the eldest of five children, several of whom have left their mark on the intellectual and moral history of this century. There was all through her life a great deal of the elder sister one may almost say, of the mother in Mary Carpenter. She never shrank from responsibility, and she had a special capacity for protecting love, a capacity that stood her in good stead in reclaiming the little waifs and strays to whom she afterwards devoted herself. Her motherliness comes out in a hundred ways in the story of her life.

Her endless patience with the truant and naughty children was such as many a real mother might envy. She was especially proud of the title of “the old mother” which the Indian women, whom she visited towards the close of her life, gave her. In writing to a friend, she once said: “There is a verse in the prophecies, ‘I have given thee children whom thou hast not borne,’ and the motherly love of my heart has been given to many who have never known before a mother’s love.” She adopted a child in 1858 to be a daughter to her, and writes gleefully : ” Just think of me with a little girl of my own I about five years old, readymade to my hand, without the trouble of marrying. A darling little thing, an orphan..” Her friends spoke of her eager delight in buying the baby’s outfit.

It was her motherliness that made her so successful with the children in the reformatories and industrial schools; moreover, the children believed in her love for them. One little ragged urchin told a clergyman that Miss Carpenter was a lady who gave away all her money for naughty boys, and only kept enough to make herself clean and decent On one occasion she heard that two of her ex-pupils had “got into trouble,” and were in prison at Winchester. She quickly found an opportunity of visiting them, and one of them exclaimed, directly he saw her, ” Oh! Miss Carpenter, I knew you would not desert us!”

Another secret of her power, and also of her elasticity of spirit, was her sense of humour. It was like a silver thread running through her laborious life, saving her from dullness and despondency. In one of her reports, which has to record the return of a runaway, she said: “He came back resembling the prodigal in everything except his repentance! ”

The motto which she especially made her own was Dum doceo disco: While I teach, I learn. She was indeed very proficient in many branches of knowledge. Her education, which took place at her father’s school for boys, included Latin, Greek, mathematics, and natural history; and the exactness which her father and the nature of her studies demanded of her formed a most invaluable training for her after career.

For many years the acquisition of knowledge, for its own sake, was the chief joy of her life; but a time came when it ceased to satisfy her. She was rudely awakened from the delightful dreams of a student’s life by a severe visitation of cholera at Bristol in 1832. From this period, and indeed from a special day that set apart as a fastday in consequence of the cholera dates a solemn dedication of herself to the service of her fellow-creatures. She wrote in her journal 31st March 1832, what her resolution was, and concluded: “These things I have written to be a witness against me, if ever I should forget what ought to be the object of all my active exertions in life.” These solemn self-dedications are seldom or never spoken of by those who make them. Records of them are found sometimes in journals long after the hand that has written them is cold. But, either written or unwritten, they are probably the rule rather than the exception on the part of those who devote themselves to the good of others. There is a time when the knight-errant consciously enrolls himself a member of the noble band of warriors against wrong and oppression, and takes upon himself his baptismal vow manfully to fight against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant to his life’s end.

When Mary Carpenter first began to exert herself for the benefit of neglected children, there were no reformatory or industrial schools, except those which had been established by the voluntary efforts of philanthropists like herself. Aided by a band of fellow-workers and wise advisers, Mary Carpenter set to work to establish a voluntary reformatory school at Kingswood, near Bristol. Her principle was that by surrounding children, who would otherwise be criminals, with all the influences of a wholesome home life, there was a better chance than by any other course, of reclaiming these children, and making them useful members of society.

To herd children together in large, unhomelike institutions, was always, in Mary Carpenter’s view, undesirable; the effect on character is bad; the more perfectly such places are managed, the more nearly do the children in them become part of a huge machine, and the less are their faculties, as responsible human beings, developed. Over and over again, in books, in addresses, and by the example of the institutions which she managed herself, Mary Carpenter reiterated the lesson that if a child is to be rescued and reformed, he must be placed in a family; and that where it is necessary, for the good of society, to separate children on account of their own viciousness, or that of their parents, from their own homes, the institutions receiving them should be based on the family ideal so far as possible.

With this end in view, the children at Kingswood were surrounded by as many home influences as possible. Miss Carpenter at one time thought of living there herself, but this scheme was given up in deference to her mother’s wishes. She was, however, a constant visitor. She taught the children herself, and provided them with rabbits, fowls, and pigs, the care of which she felt would exercise a humanising influence upon them.

The whole discipline of the place was directed by her; one of her chief difficulties was to get a staff of assistants with sufficient faith in her methods to give them an honest trial. She did not believe in a physical force morality. ” We must not attempt,” she wrote, “to break the will, but to train it to govern itself wisely; and it must be our great aim to call out the good, which exists even in the most degraded, and make it conquer the bad.” After a year’s work at Kingswood in this spirit, she writes very hopefully of the improvement already visible in the sixteen boys and thirteen girls in her charge. The boys could be trusted to go into Bristol on messages, and even ” thievish girls ” could be sent out to shops with money, which they never thought of appropriating.

But although the success of the institution was so gratifying, it had no legal sanction; it had consequently no power to deal with runaways, and the great mass of juvenile delinquents were still sentenced to prisons, from which they emerged, like the man into whom seven devils entered, in a state far worse than their first. Mary Carpenter’s work was not only to prove the success of her methods of dealing with young criminals, but, secondly, to convince the Government that the established system was a bad one, and thirdly, and most difficult of all, to get them to legislate on the subject. At last, in 1854, her efforts were crowned with success, and the Royal Assent was given to the Youthful Offenders Bill, which authorised the establishment of reformatory schools, under the sanction of the Home Secretary.

It is a striking proof of the change that has taken place in the sphere and social status of women, that Mary Carpenter, in the first half of her active life, suffered what can be called nothing less than anguish from any effort which demanded from herself the least departure from absolute privacy. When she was called upon to give evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1852, her profound personal timidity made the occasion a painful ordeal to her, which she was only enabled to support by the consciousness of the needs of the children. Surely this excessive timidity arises from morbid self-consciousness, rather than from true womanly modesty. Mary Carpenter was enabled, by increasing absorption in her work, to throw it off, and for her work’s sake she became able to speak in public with ease and self-possession.

As years passed by, her work and responsibilities rapidly increased. It is astonishing to read of the number of institutions, from ragged schools upwards, of which she was practically the head and chief. Her thoroughly practical and business-like methods of work, as well as her obvious self-devotion and earnestness, ensured to her a large share of public confidence and esteem. The extraordinary energy and vitality of Mary Carpenter never declined.

When she was over sixty years of age she made four successive visits to India, with the double object of arousing public opinion there about the education of women, and the condition of convicts, especially of female convicts. At the ago of sixty-six she visited America. She had long been deeply interested in the social and juridical condition of the United States, and had many warm personal friends there. Her first impulse to reformatory work had come from an American citizen, Dr. Tuckerman; her sympathy and help had been abundantly bestowed upon the Abolitionist party, and she was of course deeply thankful when the Civil War in America ended as it did in the victory of the North, and in the complete abolition of slavery in the United States.

Her mind remained vigorous and susceptible to new impressions and new enthusiasms to the last. In 1877, within a month of her death, she signed the memorial to the Senate of the London University in favour of the admission of women to medical degrees. She passed away peacefully in her sleep, without previous illness or decline of mental powers, in June 1877, leaving an honoured name and a network of institutions for the reform of young criminals and the prevention of crime, of which our country will for many years to come reap the benefit.

Adapted from Some Eminent Women of Our Time by Elizabeth Garret Fawcett

Super Simple Nursing Top Fix

If any of you are breastfeeding moms, you know how challenging it can be to find tops for nursing. Sometimes it feels like the only options are either to never leave your room, or to wear baggy tee shirts all the time that you can pull up for access.

Fortunately, as breastfeeding becomes more widespread, there are more and more specially designed nursing tops made. They have various systems that give access without requiring you to pull your shirt up. A lot of them are really cute, too. Here’s a few links to lovely nursing tops you can buy.

This one comes if a wide variety of colors, is under $30, and has great reviews. I think it looks pretty nice too. (Click on the picture to go to Amazon and see what it looks like when being worn normally.)

This hoodie is great for if you want a more casual look. I like the charcoal gray here, but you can find other colors, too. It also has good reviews. Under $25.

I like the cute styling on this one, and it looks like access is very easy and fuss-free. Under $20.

Here’s one with a pattern if you’re more into patterns. It is a cool summery fabric. Under $25.

 

Now, as cool as all these tops are, you just had a baby, so there’s medical bills and other new expenses, and you probably can’t afford a whole new wardrobe, sadly.

But don’t worry. There’s still hope for you. You are not doomed to baggy tee-shirts for the next six months. There’s a quick easy way to turn any low enough v-neck shirt into a nursing top that will give you easy access.

 

This would be a perfect top to do this with. And isn’t it a lovely color? (Under $20)

Nursing Top Tutorial

Now, you could just wear this shirt and pull it down to give you access for your baby or your pump, but then half your chest would be bare, and I’m just not comfortable with that. (Besides, now that it’s definitely fall, it’s getting a bit chilly for low-necklines.)

Before I had my baby, I often wore shirts of this sort with a tank underneath to give a bit more coverage, but this became inconvenient when I started nursing. So here’s the super simple solution I came up with:

You will need:

  • A relatively tight, stretchy tee shirt with a neckline you like.
  • A pair of scissors
  • A safety pin, marker, or piece of chalk.

Step 1: Put on your shirt and mark two inches below your bust.

Step 2: Take it off, and cut the bottom half off where you marked it. ready to make your nursing top

Step 3: Cut off the sleeves. Make sure to leave about half an inch of sleeve beyond the shoulder seam.

your nursing top is almost ready

And that’s it! You could hem it, if you wanted to, but it’s not necessary as knit fabrics don’t fray and no one will ever know.

Here’s a couple pictures of what it looks like done. You’d never guess it was for nursing, and I can tell you from experience that it’s super easy to use.

Hope this helps you make your wardrobe more functional.

As a bonus of this project, you can make a cute little baby skirt from the part of your shirt you cut off. (I don’t usually put my daughter in black, but we had to go to a funeral.)

Cooperation: the Engine of Success in Marriage

This is the third article in our series about feminine virtues. See the introduction here.

cooperation for success in marriage: enjoyingwomanhood.com

The proper role of woman has been the great social question of the last hundred and fifty years. In particular, what is appropriate for a married woman? She is said to have the duty to obey, to submit, to inspire, to respect, to give life, to make the home, to be interesting and charming, to communicate, to demand her rights. But many of these activities are difficult to reconcile to one another, if they are not downright contradictory. If she is a passive, submissive piece of furniture, how is she supposed to make the home, or inspire her spouse? If she is demanding her rights constantly, how is she supposed to be loving and respectful?

The answer is that you must break free from the false choice between submission and independence. The rational woman does not yield silently to her husband’s every whim, nor does she demand to control every aspect of his life or angrily resent anything she did not initiate. She instead builds a relationship of cooperation–and not a servile, pragmatic, or manipulative cooperation, but a cooperation founded on respect.

Respect: The Foundation for Cooperation

To respect someone is simply to recognize their worth as a human being. It is possibly the one most important predictor of success in any relationship. It is impossible to treat others well, to communicate with them properly, or to love them, if you are thinking of them as being less than yourself. Stated this way, it seems fairly obvious. But it is often lacking in relationships.

While all relationships require respect, there is a special kind of respect in the relationship between a husband and wife. The husband and wife are partners in the foundation of a family, a fantastic and unique institution in which new people sometimes come into existence and must be inducted into the mysteries of the world. While other institutions, like hospitals and fire departments, save lives, only a partnership between a man and a woman can create lives. Thus the family is the most important institution, the foundation of all other institutions, the institution that all others depend on for their existence.

If you were going to found a hospital, a fire department, or even a clothing company with a partner, you would certainly make sure that your partner was someone you respected. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a good example of this. He has such a high opinion of his company that he wants to ensure that each employee matches certain requirements. The person in charge of hiring people is supposed to ask himself three questions about new applicants, the first of which is, “Will you admire this person?” He wants to make sure that all his employees can respect each other, and thus cooperate at a higher level.

Cooperation: The Engine of Success

What would happen to a business venture that was missing the mutual admiration so important to Mr. Bezos, if the partners did not trust each other’s abilities? Clearly, there would be problems.

So the relationship between partners in a business venture needs to be one of respectful cooperation. If one partner always runs around behind the other’s back, spending money, making hiring decisions, and changing company policy without discussing it with the other, the company will quickly disintegrate.While they might cooperate for a time–perhaps they might defer to the largest shareholder, or the one with the biggest mouth—eventually, productivity-killing conflicts and a toxic work environment would undermine the company and it would fail.

A marriage will similarly fail if cooperation is missing. So, how can a woman practice cooperation in her marriage?

People form partnerships because one person has certain resources or talents that the other lacks, and together they make a good team. Perhaps one partner is good at coming up with new ideas for products, while the other is good at creating a business plan. Both are equally necessary for a successful business. A marriage should be similar. There will be a difference in the talents and resources of the husband and wife. Perhaps your husband is good at home repair and you are good at accounting. Both of these are important aspects of home life. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you’re a DIY queen, and your husband is better at keeping track of money.

A cooperative wife, unlike a merely submissive one, will actively work with her husband on an equitable and mutually supportive division of labor. It may well happen that the woman will end up bearing the brunt of housework and childcare while the husband works at a job outside the home. When children are infants, this is almost definitely going to be the case. The feminine virtue of cooperation will help the woman to realize that this she is not “relegated to the home” or somehow less than her husband because of this division of labor. She will realize instead that she and her husband are working together at the most important work in the world, and that they are in partnership, each using their talents to contribute what they can.

The virtue of cooperation will also help her to objectively and respectfully discuss with her husband what the best division of labor will be. Will she do the accounting and shopping, or will he? Who will plan the family vacations? There is no right answer. There is only what is right for your family.

Other tasks must be done together if they are to be successful. Educating and disciplining children must always be done by both parents (if both are present) in order to succeed. Decision on these matters will also require the virtue of cooperation, which will allow the wife to discuss options with her husband. Her respect for him and his respect for her will allow them to value each other’s insights and opinions, and to come to a decision they can both agree with.

The virtue of cooperation will further help the woman in living with the decision that has been made in this way. If she finds it does not work, rather than changing it unilaterally, she will work together with her husband to find a new solution.

The woman who possesses the virtue of cooperation will be far more effective in building a marriage than either a merely submissive woman who adds little of her own ideas and talents to the relationship, or an aggressive woman who refuses to allow anyone else to contribute.

 

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Classy Alternatives for Halloween

It’s getting to be the season where some of your neighbor’s yards have probably sprouted zombie graveyards, skeletons, ghosts, cauldrons, or other potentially frightening things. Sometimes you see something really cool, like one of my neighbors this year has a homemade spider web in their tree. I’m not sure how they did it, but it’s pretty cool. And then there’s the other yards, where there’s just too much going on… Zombies, witches, ghosts, spiders, bats scary pumpkins… Sometimes less really is more.

Now, there are a lot of different attitudes toward Halloween. When I was a kid my parents weren’t fans of the holiday, so we would turn off all the lights and pretend we weren’t home so the kids wouldn’t stop and ask for candy. (I remember once a kid did stop, and my parents did actually give him candy, so it wasn’t that they were mean or anything.)

This last year, I and my husband actually wanted to hand out candy because we thought we might meet the neighborhood kids that way, but all they would say was “trick-or-treat” and be on their way. But that’s another story.

Anyway, while there’s a lot of ideas about Halloween, as a woman with a sense of beauty among her many fabulous qualities, have you ever wondered if there were any alternatives to horror movies, haunted houses, and zombies in the yard for late October enjoyment?

Catholics have had “All Saints parties” for decades, where the kids get to dress up as saints, and yes, get candy… but that’s just one option. (By the way, if you think dressing as saints sounds boring, you should see the Saint George costumes. You get armor and a sword.)

Here’s a few alternative fun and maybe even scary things to do around this season, which will actually help you develop your skills and virtues.

Try Out an Escape Room

Escape rooms have become very popular lately. If you’ve never done one, the basic idea is that you, and a group of friends get locked in a room, usually for an hour, and you have to get out before the timer goes off. Escaping from the room is quite challenging though, as there are puzzles and riddles and clues that you have to sort out to figure out how to unlock the door. There is a story to go with it, to explain why you are there and to give you a little background and provides the theme of the room and clues.

While escape rooms can sometimes be pricey, costing perhaps the same amount as a trip to an amusement park, they are a lot of fun. It’s also great exercise in cooperation, creativity, and tenacity. It can be a good bonding experience to do with friends or family, and is a great choice for bachelorette parties.

Host a Murder Mystery Party

There are murder mystery kits available either for free download, or in a boxed set. They can be for as few as 7 people or as many as 200.

There are a few different kinds of murder parties. Some, like this one, are played over dinner in rounds, and others are fully interactive, but all of them involve playing parts, asking questions, and trying to solve the crime. In the interactive versions, you have to wander around and find people and solve problems, all while either trying to discover the murderer, or if you are the murderer, trying to conceal your identity. This website offers some family friendly options, has practical suggestions to help you run them, and explains how they work.

If you’re really ambitious you could even write your own, but you’d probably want to try at least one out first.

Decorate Your House

There are classy ways to decorate your house. Just putting pumpkins on the doorstep is always a classy (and easy) way of bringing a little color to your yard. Some people like to put a collection of pumpkins and orange mums for a very elegant and low effort Halloween look.

Fall leaf wreaths are also elegant. You can make a wreath from a coat hanger using fall leaf decorations from a craft store, or dollar tree, or a garland like this if you want to make a couple. It would be a great craft to do with kids too. You can also use the garland over your front door for a more impressive look.

Host a Costume Party

Dressing up is always fun, and with a little creativity you can usually throw a costume together for just a few dollars, so it doesn’t have to be a very expensive activity. Your party can be all girls, couples, or random. You can even do it with just family, and see how creative everyone can get with what’s already laying around in the house. As a kid I spent many happy hours with family members writing, directing, and performing skits, and designing and constructing the costumes for them. I remember cutting up the fake fur lining from an old coat, and turning it into a wolf mask for some skit we were performing.

My cousin and I hosted costume party several years later, and we didn’t have enough drinks, so we and a few friends went to the grocery store. The other customers were a bit surprised to see Zorro and his wife, a Norse princess, a lady from the Civil War era, and Maria Von Trapp all wandering the aisles together. If you don’t want to see zombies or other sickening creatures at your party, it is simple enough mention on the invitation that costumes must not be gory or gross.

Making and wearing costumes will help you and your children develop virtues like patience, resourcefulness, and social confidence. Working on costumes as a family or team effort will also help develop skills like cooperation and problem-solving.

Is Minimalism For You?

You hear a lot about minimalism these days. But there seems to be a lot of confusion about what it is. According to Merriam Webster it is “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Wikipedia says that “In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s.” But when most people talk about it nowadays, they have no intention of referring to a school of art. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice. But even here there is confusion. What kind of minimalism are you talking about?

Generally speaking, minimalism means living with less, but as it turns out, there are a lot of ways of doing this, and a lot of different definitions of what “less” is, and why living with less is something you would want to do. It is a choice that can be made for dozens of reasons. Some people become minimalists because they like the way it looks. Some live with less because they want to be able to move easily. Some just find that clutter irritates them and that having less stuff can contribute to productivity or happiness.

Apartment Therapy describes 6 kinds of minimalism in an entertaining, but rather tongue-in-cheek article. But I think that we can narrow it down to three main types, each based on a different principle of action. Then we can determine if this kind of minimalism is for you, and if it is consistent with a full, happy, human life.

The Extreme Minimalist:

The extreme minimalist takes as her mantra: “Less is more!” And tries to live up to it. Anything that is not immediately useful is thrown away. Often this kind of minimalist chooses an arbitrary number, like 100, and decides to have no more than that many things. Her clothes are chosen for their versatility rather than any other feature. She has a “capsule wardrobe.” Her cooking is done with the smallest possible number of utensils. She has as little furniture as she can get by with.

Her house is certainly not cluttered, she probably never loses her keys—there’s nothing for them to hide behind—but is it practical?

Happiness test:

A full human life, by nearly any definition, includes relationships of various kinds with other people. A complete, happy, successful human will generally have a whole collection of ties to other people. Most adults get married, and have an extremely intimate relationship with their spouses. But it is generally agreed by psychologists, social sciences, and common sense, that you need more friends than just your spouse. Now one of the most basic acts of friendship is to invite people over for dinner or for some other occasion. If you only have 100 things, it is unlikely that within that number you have budgeted for extra plates, forks and chairs, not to mention cups, napkins, etc. You could, I suppose, get paper plates for the occasion and then throw them away, but is this really the best option?

Also, back to the part about most adults being married. If you are married, then you will probably have children. Imagine trying to raise a child without extra changes of clothes, for one thing. Anyone who has ever dealt with a baby knows that they make laundry at a truly astonishing rate. Your capsule wardrobe would probably not be up to the strain, and neither would the baby’s.

Also, besides friends, another excellent way to enrich your life is to have a hobby. Hobbies that require hand-eye coordination and mental activity (that is to say, just about any hobby that isn’t Netflix, TV, or Youtube) can protect people from Alzheimer’s, not to mention excessive boredom. But, sadly, hobbies require stuff. I sew, and this means that I have a few boxes of fabric, a bunch of thread, pins, needles, a sewing machine, and a fascinating button collection. Gardening requires shovels and hoes and trowels, not to mention seeds etc.

Extreme minimalism therefore is only practical for a single person living alone with no friends or hobbies. Which is probably not the person you want to be.

The Aesthetic Minimalist

This is the kind of “minimalism” that you see advertised in the really expensive catalogs. Minimalism in this sense, is mostly a look. You’ve all seen it. Everything is gray or white, and simple geometric shapes. It is clean and almost sterile in appearance. Furniture is chosen for its simplicity rather than for its comfort or beauty. Wall art is generally abstract and simple, like a black and white photo of a dew drop, or a few lines or dots on a white background in a white frame, like this overpriced item at Athropologie. Decorations are simple and abstract as well.

Your house looks like a magazine cover, but is it sustainable?

Happiness test:

What is your home for? This is the first question you need to ask before you choose a system for decorating, organizing, or furnishing your home. If your home is supposed to be a display piece, or a background for your instagram life, then this type of minimalism is definitely for you.

But if your home is supposed to serve some other purpose, like being a stimulating and practical environment for raising children, or a welcoming place to invite friends for fun gatherings? Well, let’s think about it.

The first thing that everyone knows about small children is that they make messes. Now having fewer toys is actually good for your children, so the toy mess might be manageable, and you might be able to put all the toys in a perfect storage cube that would effectively hide them out of sight. (You do have to live with the possibility that your child may prefer playing with the storage cube. My baby’s favorite toy seems to be the wastebasket.) But what about your older children and their hobbies? Will they fit in with your décor? Will your white carpet or your pale gray sofa withstand the efforts of marker-wielding toddlers? Or will your magazine-perfect home become a war zone where you side with your house against your children?

So much for practicality. What about other factors? Children need beauty and order and mental stimulation. Children’s books with attractive pictures and such things are good for your children’s development, and while your baby books can probably also go in a storage cube, what about their hobbies when they get older? A home that encourages independent pursuits and hobbies will probably not be ready for a photo-shoot. And that’s okay.

And lastly, even if you don’t have kids with hobbies or dirty diapers, does having an Instagram-ready house actually make you happy? Or does it put you right back in the mainstream of consumerism? Despite the counter-cultural vibe of aesthetic minimalism, it can be just another way of being consumerist and keeping up with the Joneses, or maybe even the Kardashians. If minimalism, rather than liberating you, becomes another source of stress and conflict in your life, then you might want to try something else.

The Practical Minimalist

Now, you are probably getting the idea from all this that I think minimalism is stupid. But I am in favor of a less consumerist way of living, and I really don’t like clutter. I even like Marie Kondo, who a lot of people love to make fun of. But I think there is a balance, and that an anti-consumerist lifestyle should be practical, fun, stimulating, and inexpensive too.

So what would practical minimalism look like?

Well, let’s focus on the practical first. You want a home that’s easy to care for, so that you can spend your time doing things like spending time with friends, reading books to your small children, or engaging in hobbies instead of having to do housework all the time. Not that housework can’t be fulfilling or enjoyable, but there are probably more worthwhile things to do than dusting a fancy collection of glass figurines.

So, to be practical, you wouldn’t have sixteen shelves full of delicate glass figurines. Walls are nice, they don’t need to be hidden behind stuff. Or if you really have to hide your walls, try flat wall art, wall hangings, like this awesome one, or anything that’s not hard to clean. This will also have the benefit of making your home feel less cluttered.

Next, if you have things that are useful, but not attractive, or hard to keep neat, like certain kinds of kitchen tools, or computer accessories, you can put them in boxes or cabinets that organize and conceal them. A lot of craft stores have great sales on pretty storage boxes once or twice a year. This is a great time to stock up. Covering these types of things makes your house feel less cluttered and makes it easier to keep it clean.

Kid’s toys should have places too. A storage cube is a great idea, but you can do other things too. (I just covered a diaper box in white copy paper and colored tape the other day because I needed a box for my baby’s toys and I didn’t want to spend money.) The great thing about having a toy box is that you can make sure your kids’ toy collection doesn’t get out of hand by making sure that it can fit in the box. If it gets too big, you can start weeding out. Then your kids won’t feel overwhelmed by having to clean up their toys, and they will actually be able to play with and appreciate the ones they have. Psychologist John Rosemond has a fantastic chapter on kids’ toys in his Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children, (which I highly recommend).

Now for the minimalist part: The practical minimalist makes it a rule not to buy anything that isn’t necessary, definitely going to be used within a reasonable time frame, or so beautiful (decorative items) informative or interesting (books etc) that it’s worth the money, time and space it will require. She also tries to find items that serve multiple purposes, like storage ottomans, and she tries to prioritize the function of the items she buys. For instance, sofas are for lounging comfortably, so they should be comfortable, and of a color and material that holds up under wear and use. Following these simple rules will make it easier to resist ads for the latest gadget, and incidentally, stay within your budget. It should also prevent the buildup of clutter.

This simplicity has many benefits. It should streamline housework, and I’m a big fan of anything that streamlines housework. It should minimize conflict, as the furniture and other items are meant to be used, not gazed at or photographed, and there will be fewer fragile items laying around to break. And it should liberate the minds and hearts of the people in the home, allowing them to seek beauty, peace and fulfillment without the pressure of having to conform to some advertising ideal.

Clothes for October

As the temperatures start to go down, it’s time to get some of those warmer clothes. Here’s some cute warm neutrals to keep you both cute and cozy this fall.

This is the third of what I hope will be monthly collections of clothing for for women with a sense of their own dignity. I will try to find items that are seasonally appropriate (for the Northern Hemisphere) and I will try to set it up so that you can make one or two outfits from the selections listed.

I think clothes are very important.  You can read about some of my reasons here. I want to promote clothes that are attractive and dignified and to make it easier to find nice clothes without searching through pages of things that are ugly or inappropriate. Please tell me if this is useful, or if you see something I should put up here.

Purchases through these links will benefit the website. However, I only post things that I actually like. I have not tried all of these clothes, so I cannot guarantee that they will fit, suit, or otherwise please anyone. In order to maintain some sort of quality control, I will not post any clothes that have not received an average of at least four stars in their reviews.

 


I have one friend who always starts with the shoes when she plans her outfits, and these boots look practical, comfortable, and easy to wear. Combine with any of these other pieces for a fuss-free look.

The perfect thing to throw on when it’s too chilly for just your shirt, but not cold enough for a coat. Pair with the scarf below for an even cozier feel. This also comes in lots of other colors, but the army green is so wonderfully fallish.

Here’s a nice basic khaki skirt for any casual occasion. This would look great with the boots.

This is a wonderful bottom layer, a bit more sophisticated than a teeshirt, but just as comfortable. Imagine how soft and comfy it would feel under the long cardigan at the top. Also comes in a wonderful variety of colors.

I love scarves. This scarf isn’t just for looks, though it will coordinate nicely with a fall pallette. It is heavy and warm as well and will keep the fall chill away.

Successful Woman: Elizabeth Fry

This is the first of our Successful Women series. For the introduction, click here.

The style and some of the sentiments in this sketch, which was written in the late 1800s may seem a little quaint in the twenty-first century, but the story should still be able to inspire us, despite the difference in literary style and social conditions.

While some aspects of society are vastly different and/or vastly improved today, some of Elizabeth Fry’s ideas for prison reform could still be usefully applied today.

ELIZABETH FRY

 

“Humanity is erroneously considered among the commonplace virtues. If it deserved such a place there would be less urgent need than, alas! there is for its daily exercise among us. In its pale shape of kindly sentiment and bland pity it is common enough, and is always the portion of the cultivated. But humanity armed, aggressive, and alert, never slumbering and never wearying, moving like an ancient hero over the land to slay monsters, is the rarest of virtues.” –-JOHN MORLEY.

THE present century is one that is distinguished by the active part women have taken in careers that were previously closed to them. Some people would have us believe that if women write books, paint pictures, and understand science and ancient languages, they will cease to be true women, and cease to care for those womanly occupations and responsibilities that have always been entrusted to them. This is an essentially false and mistaken notion. True cultivation of the understanding makes a sensible woman value at their real high worth all her womanly duties, and so far from making her neglect them, causes her to appreciate them more highly than she would otherwise have done.

It has always been held, at least in Christian countries, that the most womanly of women’s duties are to be found in works of mercy to those who are desolate and miserable. To be thirsty, hungry, naked, sick, or in prison, is to have a claim for compassion and comfort upon womanly pity and tenderness. And we shall see, if we look back over recent years, that never have these womanly tasks been more zealously fulfilled than they have been in the century which has produced Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale, Josephine Butler, and Octavia Hill.

Mrs. Fry was born before the beginning of this century in 1780 but the great public work with which her memory will always be connected was not begun till about 1813. She was born of the wealthy Quaker family, the Gurneys of Norwich. Her parents were not very strict members of the sect to which they belonged, for they allowed their children to learn music and dancing pursuits that were then considered very worldly even by many who did not belong to the Society of Friends. Mr. and Mrs. Gurney, however, seem to have been very free from such prejudices, as well as from others which were much more universal, for their children not only learned music and dancing, but also girls as well as boys Latin and mathematics.

She had a very strong, innate repugnance to anything which drew public attention upon herself, and when the sphere of public duty first revealed itself to her, she records in her diary what it cost her to enter upon it, and writes of it as ” the humiliating path that has appeared to be opening before me.” It must be noticed, however, that in her case, as always, the steep and difficult path of duty becomes easier to those who do not flinch from it. In a later passage of her diary, the public work which she had at first called a path of humiliation she speaks of as “this great mercy.”

The first great change in Elizabeth Gurney’s life was caused by the deep impression made upon her by the sermons of William Savery. It is rather strange to find the girl who had such a terror of enthusiasm, weeping passionately while William Savery was preaching. Her sister described what took place. “Betsy astonished us all by the great feeling she showed. She wept most of the way home. . . . What she went through in her own mind I cannot say; but the results were most powerful and most evident.” Her emotion was not of the kind that passes away and leaves no trace behind. The whole course of her life and tenor of her thoughts were changed.

Soon after this, at the age of twenty, she became the wife of Mr. Joseph Fry, and removed to London, where she lived in St Mildred’s Court, in the City. The family into which she married were Quakers, like her own, but of a much more severe and strict kind. Her marriage was, however, in every respect a fortunate one. Her husband sympathised deeply with her in all her efforts for the good of others, and encouraged her in her public work, although many in the Society of Friends did not scruple to protest that a married woman has no duties except to her husband and children. Her journal shows how anxiously she guarded herself against any temptation to neglect her home duties. She was a tender and devoted mother to her twelve children, and it was through her knowledge of the strength of a mother’s love that she was able to reach the hearts of many of the poor prisoners whom she afterwards helped out of the wretchedness into which they had fallen.

Her study of the problem of how to help the poor began in this way. A beggar-woman with a child in her arms stopped her in the street. Mrs. Fry, seeing that the child had whooping-cough and was dangerously ill, offered to go with the woman to her home in order more effectually to assist her. To Mrs. Fry’s surprise, the woman immediately tried to make off; it was evident what she wanted was a gift of money, not any help to the suffering child. Mrs. Fry followed her, and found that her rooms were filled with a crowd of farmed-out children in every stage of sickness and misery; the more pitiable the appearance of one of these poor mites, the more useful an implement was it in the beggar’s stock-in-trade.

From this time onwards the condition of women and children in the lowest and most degraded of the criminal classes became the study of Mrs. Fry’s life. She had the gift of speech on any subject which deeply moved her. From about 1809 she began to speak at the Friends’ meeting-house. This power of speaking, as well as working, enabled her to draw about her an active band of co-workers. When she first began visiting the female prisoners in Newgate it is probable that she could not have supported all that she had to go through if it had not been for the sympathy and companionship of Anna Buxton and other Quaker ladies whom she had roused through her power of speech, just as she had herself been roused when a girl by the preaching of William Savory.

The condition of the women and children in Newgate Prison, when Mrs. Fry first began visiting them in 1813, was more horrible than anything that can be easily imagined. Three hundred poor wretches were herded together in two wards and two cells, with no furniture, no bedding of any kind, and no arrangements for decency or privacy. Cursing and swearing, foul language, and personal filthiness, made the dens in which the women were confined equally offensive to ear, eye, nose, and sense of modesty. The punishment of death at that time existed for 300 different offences, and though there were many mitigations of the sentence in the case of those who had only committed minor breaches of the law, yet the fact that nearly all had by law incurred the penalty of death, gave an apparent justification for herding the prisoners indiscriminately together. It thus happened that many a poor girl who had committed a comparatively trivial offence, became absolutely ruined in body and mind through her contact in prison with the vilest and most degraded of women. No attempt whatever was made to reform or discipline the prisoners, or to teach them any trade whereby, on leaving the jail, they might earn an honest livelihood. Add to this that there were no female warders nor female officers of any kind in the prison, and that the male warders were frequently men of depraved life, and it is not difficult to see that no element of degradation was wanting to make the female wards of Newgate what they were often called a hell on earth.

When Elizabeth Fry and Anna Buxton first visited this Inferno, there was so little pretence at any kind of control over the prisoners that the Governor of Newgate advised the ladies to leave their watches behind them at home. Mrs. Fry, with a wise instinct, felt that the best way of influencing the poor, wild, rough women was to show her care for their children. Many of the prisoners had their children with them in jail, and there were very few even of the worst who could not be reached by care for their little ones. Even those who had no children were often not without the motherly instinct, and could be roused to some measure of self-restraint and decency for the sake of the children who were being corrupted by their example. So Mrs. Fry’s first step towards reforming the women took the form of starting a school for the children in the prison.

As usual in all good work of a novel kind, those who knew nothing about it were quite sure that Mrs. Fry would have been much more usefully employed if she had turned her energies in a different direction. People who have never stirred a finger to lighten the misery of mankind always know, so much better than the workers, what to do and how to do it. They would probably tell a fireman who is entering a burning house at the risk of his life, that he would be more usefully employed in studying the chemical action of fire, or in pondering over the indestructibility of matter. The popular feeling with regard to Mrs. Fry’s work in Newgate was embodied by Thomas Hood in a ballad which is preserved in his collected works, and serves now to show how wrong a good and tender-hearted man may be in passing judgment on a work of the value of which he was entirely unqualified to form an opinion. The refrain of the poem is “Keep your school out of Newgate, Mrs. Fry.”

I like the pity in your full-brimmed eye

I like your carriage and your silken gray,

Your dove-like habits and your silent preaching,

But I don’t like your Newgatory teaching.

 

No, I’ll be your friend, and like a friend

Point out your very worst defect. Nay, never

Start at that word! But I must ask you why

You keep your school in Newgate, Mrs. Fry.

Elizabeth Fry teaching in Newgate Prison

Mrs. Fry’s philanthropy was not of a kind to be checked by a ballad, and she went on perseveringly with her work; the school was formed, and a prisoner named Mary Connor, became the first schoolmistress. A wonderful change gradually became apparent in the demeanour, language, and appearance of the women in prison. In 1817 an association was formed for carrying on the work Mrs. Fry had begun. It was called ” An Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.”

Public attention was now alive to the importance of the work; and in the following year a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire and report upon the condition of the London prisons. Mrs. Fry was examined before this committee. Her chief recommendations were that the prisoners should be employed in some industry, and be paid for their work, and that good conduct should be encouraged by rewards; she was also most urgent that the women prisoners should be in the charge of women warders.

Mrs. Fry did not confine her efforts to the poor and wretched of her own country. She visited foreign countries in order thoroughly to study various methods of prison work and discipline. On one occasion she found in Paris a congenial task in bringing the force of public opinion to bear on the treatment of children in the Foundling Hospital there. The poor babies were done up in swaddling clothes that were only unwrapped once in twelve hours. There was no healthy screaming in the wards, only a sound that a hearer compared to the faint and pitiful bleating of lambs. A lady who visited the hospital said she never made the round of the spotlessly clean white cots, without finding at least one dead baby! Everything in the hospital was regulated by clockwork; its outward appearance was clean and orderly in the extreme, but the babies died like flies!

There were many other classes of neglected or unfortunate people whose circumstances were improved by Mrs. Fry’s exertions. The lonely shepherds of Salisbury Plain were provided with a library after she had visited the desolate region where they lived. She also organised a lending library for coastguardsmen and for domestic servants. There was no end to her active exertions for the good of others except that of her life. She died at Kamsgate in 1845, and was buried at Barking.

Her private life was not without deep sorrows and anxieties. She lost a passionately beloved child in 1815; in 1828 her husband was unfortunate in his business affairs. They suffered from a great diminution of fortune, and were obliged to remove to a smaller house and adopt a less expensive style of living. She did not pretend to any indifference she was far from feeling under these trials ; but they were powerless to turn her from the duties which she had marked out for herself. The work which she had undertaken for the good of others probably became, in its turn, her own solace and support in the hour of trial and affliction. In helping others she had unconsciously built up a strong refuge for herself, thus giving a new illustration to the truth of the words: ” He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life, for my sake, shall find it.”

Adapted from Some Eminent Women of Our Time by Elizabeth Garret Fawcett

What Does It Take To Be a Successful Woman?

There are a lot of different definitions of success. The most banal idea of success involves having a great job (or being retired), lots of money, a fancy car of your choice, a perfect house… you get the idea. This is, I think, what most people unconsciously imagine when they think of a successful person.

But is this really success? What if you live in your perfect house alone, and drive your fancy car to the high-paying job that you hate? What if you’re retired and have plenty of money, but are bored? What’s missing from this view of success? You have been successful in your career, but not in life.

Warren Buffet, who certainly would fit the having-lots-of-money definition of success, recently said,

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.

That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.

Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, would have agreed with Warren Buffet, but he also would have gone further. Aristotle points out that no one wants money for its own sake. Everyone who wants money wants it to buy something that they want more than the cash. But even the stuff that money buys is acquired for the sake of something else. Why did you buy that new house? Why did you buy that new car? To be comfortable, to be admired by others… there are many reasons. Aristotle goes through all the things that people want, even friendship and love, and points out that the only thing that is desired for itself, and for no other reason, is happiness. The successful woman will be the happy woman.

Now Aristotle’s idea of happiness is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure is fleeting and can easily be lost. It can become sickening over time. Imagine your favorite dessert: soft, creamy, delicious cheesecake! Yum…. Now imagine eating that dessert all day, every day for a month. Yuck…. And any pleasure can become as old and dreary as your cheesecake would be after thirty days.

Aristotle’s view of happiness is rather the complete fulfillment of the human person. The human person is a rational being, and its greatest joys are those of the mind. But the human is also physical, and the physical needs must also be met. As the people at pursuit-of-happiness.org put it, “happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc.—that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice.”

True happiness requires that all the humans needs and desires be balanced, a state Aristotle calls virtue. Virtue is the state of order within the person in which that person can choose freely to do what is most good, without having an internal battle over it.

Most people agree that they are happiest in the moments when they accomplish some goal, and the higher and worthier that goal is, the greater the happiness is. Virtues are necessary for happiness because they allow the person to achieve his or her goals despite the temptations to do things that would prevent the acquisition of the “all the goods …that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life.”

Virtue also allows us to avoid those things which prevent us from being happy. Drug use, overeating, and alcoholism are all bad choices that can ruin lives and prevent happiness. Virtue makes it easy to make good choices, like saving money, eating healthy food, maintaining important relationships, and avoiding harmful substances.

No woman can be called genuinely successful unless she is happy. They may have achieved notable things, and become rich or famous, but without happiness, this is worthless. While any woman who achieves happiness is successful in living, we like to hear about people who went above and beyond the ordinary. These are the people who inspire us, who make us want to be better, who make us want to be great ourselves.

Over the next few weeks, I want to post the stories of some successful women—women who not only achieved something more than the average, but also seem to have achieved happiness in their lives.

If you want to make sure that you don’t miss any of these inspiring stories, enter your email address and a name in the right-hand column, and hit the subscribe button. We’ll send them right to your inbox.

Here are the first two in our series:

Mary Carpenter

Elizabeth Fry

How to Make a DIY Baby Car Sun Shade for Less Than $10

If you’re anything like me, you forgot to put a sunshade for the car on your baby registry. Being a first time mom can be pretty overwhelming, and there’s so much you don’t expect.

But then I noticed that the sun was shining in my baby’s eyes, which is uncomfortable, and possibly bad for her, what with UV rays and all that. So, I went looking for a DIY pattern for a sunshade, and thought about what would make it easy to use, cute, and effective, and decided to make my own.

 

Here’s a tutorial so you can make one too. It cost me $0.57 because all I had to buy was the dowel. I happened to have everything else lying around already. But you could easily do it for less than $10. And it’s really really easy. Even with taking pictures of every step, it probably took me about an hour and a half. (If I hadn’t been taking pictures, it probably would take about 40 minutes or less)

 

You will need:

  • about ½ yard of lightweight fabric (I used lining fabric leftover from some other project, but there’s all kinds of cute baby prints you could use. I like solids)
  • About 2 yards of matching cloth ribbon
  • Matching thread
  • 2 light Wooden dowels (about 12-14 inches long) (I got a 3/8 inch one from Walmart, and cut it, but you can find short ones that don’t need to be cut. There are a lot more than you need in this package, but they are already cut, and 1/4 inch should be strong enough. You don’t want to use more than 3/8 inches thick, because you don’t want it to be heavy in case it falls on your baby.)
  • A saw, if you need to cut the dowels. (I used this mini hack saw)
  • A pair of scissors
  • A sewing machine (You could hand sew it, but it would take forever)
  • An iron (You could do without, but the iron makes it easier and nicer)

 

To start with, you need to figure out how long you want it to be. I drive a small car, so 36 inches was perfect to reach from the handle over the door to the seat below. I decided to make it 14 inches wide so it would block the sun from the baby, but not take too much room or be too bulky. If you drive a larger vehicle, you might want it a little longer, but it would probably still work.

Once you decide how long you want it to be, add 3 inches to the length, and two inches to the width to make room for your hem. (You will want your fabric to be at least 2 inches wider than your dowels are long.

Measure

Cut your rectangle.

 

Iron about half an inch down on each end, then fold that over and iron about ¾ inch down. This will be your sheath for the dowels.

Next, before you sew the sheath together, you want to cut your ribbons and sew them on to the top. Cut 2 pieces about 16 inches long, and one about 18 inches long. The shorter ones will be to tie your shade to the handle over the door, and the long one will let you tie the shade up when it’s cloudy, or your baby isn’t riding with you. You’ll want to cut them at an angle like you see in the picture, otherwise they can unravel.

Sew the middle of each length of ribbon to the fabric along the line you ironed. The long one should be in the middle, the short ones should be about 3 inches away on either side.

Once those are on, go ahead and sew the sheath shut. Put the dowel inside. Do the same to the bottom.

Hem both sides. You might find that you have to move your needle over to the left side to sew the part near the dowel.

Tie it on.

Enjoy!

Tied up:

See it here as well, along with a whole bunch of other fabulous ideas. Check it out!