Women’s columnist Marjorie March wrote for her readers exactly a century ago today.
Her peaceful wishes now echo into our modern world filled with texting, selfies, blogging and all else. What will people think about our words 100 years from now?
A century is not such a long time.
While I visited an elderly friend in a nursing facility recently, a staff member told me about a woman named Elizabeth who was about to turn 104 years old. The staffer was concerned because the lady was unusually distraught and had tried to communicate, but no one could make sense of what she was trying to say. So, before I left, I quietly slipped into Elizabeth’s room.
“Merry Christmas, Elizabeth, and Happy New Year,” I said to her softly.
Barely awake, her reply was a rather pitiful whimper. Trying to be pleasant, I didn’t expect an answer when I whispered if she remembered her favorite Christmas present from when she was a little girl. After a moment or two without a response, I started to put on my coat to leave.
Her voice called out then, clear and loud.
“My china doll! Please! I want my china doll!”
I felt mildly panicked, realizing that I had unintentionally agitated her. Not knowing quite what to do, I hoped that I had nothing to lose when I hurried back to her bedside and whispered softly in her ear, “Elizabeth? Can you see the Christmas tree behind the doors in the parlor? The candles are lit and your doll is waiting for you there! Right there…see? She is on the floor under the tree!”
I waited for her reaction.
Silence. Her tiny body and expressionless face were coiled up in the bed.
I barely breathed and waited nervously. When all of a sudden, Elizabeth’s face twitched and her wrinkles spread into a wide smile. She sighed sweetly and pulled her blankets close to her chest, gathered in such a way like when a child does while holding her most precious toy.
For that brief moment, I watched Elizabeth live again as she did 100 years ago. Beyond the aged body, she was 3 or 4 years old and standing in the twinkling light of a Christmas tree with her family, holding her little china head doll close to her heart.
No, a century is not such a long time.
The publication The Modern Priscilla from 1915 was very much like our contemporary magazines that we subscribe to today by iPhone or at least peruse while standing in checkout lines. Similar to Martha Stewart Living and other current publications, The Modern Priscilla offered recipes, personal finance tips and elaborate directions for home made fashion and household accessories.
Elizabeth’s mother likely read from her own copy of this popular January 1915 women’s magazine. Perhaps she tried her hand at making the “correspondence cards” or visiting cards that were described in Marjorie March’s column. She might have also decorated their family dining table using Marjorie’s advice on how to create the centerpiece with “a little ship piled with bonbons and goodies…the white sail bearing the sign ” All Aboard for 1915!”
The year 1915 would prove to have significant historic moments. After The House of Representatives rejected the proposal to give women the right to vote on January 12, the news in February focused on the opening of the World’s Fair in San Francisco.
As the First World War continued to rage, many hundreds of lives were lost in the United States due to some of the worst weather conditions ever recorded. During August, a hurricane killed 275 people in Galveston, Texas and another 275 lives were lost during a similar catastrophe in the Mississippi Delta region that September. In Nevada, a 7.8 earthquake was recorded and remains one of the most historic to date.
On a more innocent note…. Quite unlike the china dolls that Elizabeth once had, the cloth Raggedy Ann was introduced to the world that year when writer and illustrator Johnny Gruelle achieved a patent for her. Babe Ruth hit his first home run. According to most biographies, Muddy Waters was born in the spring. Then Orson Welles came into the world about a month later. Charlie Chaplin released several silent films, including The Tramp (Le Vagabond) while Claude Monet painted in his garden.
Marjorie March’s simple column about entertaining in the home expressed the best advice for the New Year. A century ago today, she advised her readers to not underestimate “the measureless value of time spent unselfishly for another.”
Like all the years before us and for all the years to come, dramatic events in our lives will create change. It is up to us to pay heed to our past and learn from our mistakes. Yet, and perhaps most important of all, is to remember and learn from the goodness as well as the greatness we’ve achieved.
May we take the world’s news during 2015 in stride and with confidence that we can surmount the greatest challenges, and with the faith that we can continue to make goodness no matter how seemingly small the gesture…because a century is not a very long time at all.