Book Recommendation- Our Only May Amelia

Author: Jennifer L. Holm

One of my favorite childhood books, Our Only May Amelia, gives readers an insight on the life of a young girl and her family who were Finnish immigrants in 1899 Washington State. Besides being the youngest (and only) girl in a family of seven boys, May Amelia also has the misfortune to be the only girl born in the entire Nasel River settlement. Despite her family’s insistence that she behave like a proper young lady, May Amelia is more interested in exploring the forest or swimming in the river than in learning household chores. Although this book is lesser known than other examples of historical fiction, it is written in prose that brings the personality of the title character to life.  This book is a surprisingly emotional and impactful experience.  The journey continues in a sequel, The Trouble With May Amelia, creating a portrait of a young pioneer girl that is at turns heartbreaking, funny, and hopeful.

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Pioneer Cooking: Fried Apples’N’Onions

 

ingredientsThis is the recipe that Molly and I were anxiously awaiting. It sounds like an odd combination, as most of these pioneer recipes do, but Almanzo spoke so highly of it that we wanted to try it for ourselves. Fried Apples’N’Onions is mentioned in Farmer Boy as Almanzo’s favorite food:

… Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples’n’onions.

When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best and she cooked it for him.

Almanzo ate four large helpings of apples’n’onions fried together. (73)

This recipe is on page 127 and 128 in the Little House Cookbook. Since the recipe is for six servings, we decided to cut it in half, as we were not serving that many people and we were not sure if we were going to love it as much as Almanzo. The recipe calls for bacon or salt pork and we used bacon as it was readily available to us. Then we used three tart apples and three yellow onions since we cut the recipe in half.

bread tipOnce you have all your ingredients ready, the recipe says to start frying the bacon. If multitasking is not your thing, you can start with the apples and onions like we did. When cutting the onions, the cookbook suggests holding a slice of bread in your mouth between your teeth to prevent you from crying. Molly tried it and did not find it helpful. I also would not recommend cutting the apples next to the onions like we did because by the end of it Molly and I were both crying.

chopping apples and onionsFor cutting that apples the recipe calls for a corer to core the apple and then cut it crosswise in circles. We had an apple corer that cut the apple into wedges, so we used that and then cut the apples into thinner slices. Once all the apples and onions were cut we fried the bacon, but again the cookbook says to fry the bacon and while doing that to start cutting the apples and onions. Either way will work, just do whatever you feel comfortable with.

After the meat is fried, keep a tablespoon of grease and pour out the rest. Then fry the onions in it for about three minutes. Once that is done add the apples and sprinkle some brown sugar over top. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the apples until they are tender, stirring periodically to prevent scorching.

 

Once the apples and onions are ready spread the mixture over the bacon or pork slices, which we broke into smaller pieces, and serve warm.

Molly and I were once again surprised, not necessarily that it was good, but that it lived up to all of Almanzo’s praises. If you are not an onion fan I would still recommend trying it as I do not like onions but did like this recipe and would eat it again!finished product

TV Show Truths: Laura Teaching

A favorite part of the books and TV show for many fans is the start of Laura and Almanzo’s relationship. The start of their relationship relates back to Laura’s teaching job in the books, TV show, and in her real life.

In the books and TV show Laura gets her teaching certificate at age fifteen, even though she is supposed to be sixteen before she can take the teacher examination.

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Laura at age 17, shortly after she started teaching. (Picture Credit: Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association)

In both situations, the school district is desperate for a teacher that they do not mind that Laura is fifteen. There is a slight variation between the two though in the fact that in the book, Little Town on the Prairie, Laura does not tell the superintendent that she is fifteen because he does not ask her age (306). However, in the episode “Sweet Sixteen” it is made known to the superintendent that Laura is not yet sixteen, but she will be in two weeks. The superintendent then said that they could make the exception for her since she did pass her examination. Also, the timing between the book and TV show are slightly off as in Little Town on the Prairie Laura receives her teacher’s certificate on December 24, 1882 (306). The TV show is slightly off from this as Laura receives her teacher’s certificate roughly two weeks before her 16th birthday, which would have been around January 24, 1883. Despite the few discrepancies on the dates the TV show and book stay close to each other.

The problem arises when looking at Laura’s real life; there are actually a lot of conflicting information between Laura’s accounts in her books of her first teaching experience and what happened in her real life. Laura was still underage at the time she got her teaching certificate; however, it was a different situation. According to Laura’s teaching certificate she received it on December 10, 1883, therefore at this point Laura was already sixteen (Pioneer Girl 261). One might think that she was then of age to be a teacher, but that was not the case. Prior to 1883 the Dakota Territory had no age restrictions on school teachers. That changed in 1883 when the Dakota Territory made it mandatory for the superintendents to hold public teacher examinations for anyone over the age of eighteen. This meant that the legal teaching age was eighteen and not sixteen, as Laura writes about in her books (Pioneer Girl 260-61). There is some uncertainty as to if Laura deliberately made this change or if she had just forgotten and had the dates confused in her head.

There is one aspect that the TV show and books were correct on in relation to Laura’s real life. That aspect is the name of the superintendent who gave Laura her teacher’s certificate. All three say his name was Mr. Williams.

Even though the TV show and books did not follow Laura’s real life, they still kept the aspect of Laura being an underage teacher when she had her first teaching job. Stay tuned to the next post to hear about Laura and Almanzo’s courtship.

 

 

Book Recommendation- Young Pioneers

Author: Rose Wilder Lane

Many readers may not know that Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was also an author of some renown. Although Rose mostly focused on newspaper articles and serial stories, she also wrote short novels based on her mother’s pioneer stories. One of these, Young Pioneers, is perfect for readers hoping for another inspiring story of settlers beating the odds to make a life for themselves on the prairie. Newlyweds Molly and David are still teenagers when they make the journey west to the open prairie in search of free land. Over the course of the year, Molly, David, and their newborn son endure harsh blizzards, mounting debt, and grasshopper plagues to make their dreams come true. Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will find that much of Rose’s message of resilience and self-reliance will resonate with them.

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Clara Barton- Pioneer for Women and Aid Agencies

The Battle of Antietam had been raging for what seemed like days. The battlefield was loud, chaotic, dirty, and filled with the sounds of suffering from wounded soldiers. Through the haze of musket fire and smoke, a young woman in a red bonnet called Clara made her way to every injured man she could find, providing care and supplies. While offering a dying man a drink of water, Clara felt a tug in the sleeve of her dark dress. When she looked down to see what it was, she found a perfectly formed hole in the fabric near her elbow. A musket ball had gone through her dress and hit the man lying beside her, killing him instantly. Clara could afford herself only a moment to grieve before moving on to the next person in need of her help.

Clara was born Clarissa Harlow Barton on Christmas Day, 1821, in the central Clara-Barton-181468210a-56aa233b3df78cf772ac870cMassachusetts town of North Oxford. The youngest of four siblings by at least ten years, Clara grew up as a tomboy, learning “unladylike” activities and games from her older brothers and preferring school to domestic chores. She also grew up painfully shy, sometimes getting so anxious and overwrought that she refused to eat. However, in a pattern that would continue for the rest of her life, Clara was able to overcome her shyness completely whenever someone was in need. When her brother became ill, she stayed by his side and learned to administer his medication, including what she thought of as “great, loathsome, crawling leeches.”

Despite this early inclination towards nursing, Clara’s inner drive to help first lead her towards being a schoolteacher. She taught for several years in her hometown before moving to New Jersey, where she taught at a so-called “subscription” school. Such schools operated on fees paid by student’s parents, and there were many children denied from receiving an education because their parents couldn’t pay the fees. Clara believed this was wrong, and offered to teach school for free if the town would provide her a building. During her first week of running the first free public school in New Jersey, six students showed up; by the end of the year, there were over a hundred. Despite capably founding and leading the school for over a year, Clara was let go in favor of a male candidate. Undeterred, she moved to Washington D.C, where she worked as a clerk in the U.S Patent Office, during a time when it was rare for women to have government jobs. Soon after, the civil war broke out, and Clara’s life changed forever.

As wounded soldiers began appearing in the capital in droves, Clara saw firsthand the desperate need for supplies. She petitioned the army for the right to bring her own supplies to the battlefield. As a woman, it would be easier for her to bring relief working from outside the system then from the inside. In 1862 her pleas found a sympathetic senator, and Clara received permission to bring wagons of supplies to doctors and generals in battle. Clara and her volunteer service were at the front lines of some of the worst battles seen during the Civil War, including Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, and Antietam.

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Those who might’ve known Clara as an anxious and shy young girl likely wouldn’t have recognized the single minded, confident woman dodging gunfire as she brought relief to hundreds of soldiers. Her toughness, spirit, grace, and timeliness on the front lines earned her the nickname “angel of the battlefield.” After the war was over, Clara lent her extensive knowledge of the soldiers and regiments she treated to help identify some 30,000 soldiers graves.

Her time with the army had taught her the importance of neutrality when it came to field nursing. Clara took what she had learned and traveled to Europe, where she worked with the International Red Cross based in Switzerland. She spent time providing aid during the Franco-Prussian war, and the experience galvanized her to action again. Upon returning to America, Clara began advocating tirelessly for the creation of a Red Cross branch in the United States. It took three presidents, but Clara finally got her wish in 1881. She served as its first president until 1903. During the first twenty years of it’s existence, the American Red Cross was largely devoted to disaster relief. Clara and her volunteers assisted in crises like a forest fire in Michigan and hurricanes in South Carolina and Galveston, Texas.

Clara Barton’s incredible legacy extended even further than the barriers she broke as a female combat nurse. She opened up new paths in the emerging field of volunteer service, and created an agency for service that would outlast her. Despite her accomplishments, she remained humble and committed to the service of others above her own well being. Of her time as a Civil War nurse, Clara wrote “I always tried… to succor the wounded until the medical aid and supplies could come up. I could run the risk; it made no difference to anyone if I were shot or taken prisoner.”

TV Show Truths: Nicknames

In the TV show, “Little House on the Prairie,” there are three big nicknames that are used throughout the series, half-pint and Beth for Laura and then Manly for Almanzo. These nicknames were not just made for Hollywood, they were real nicknames, or terms of endearment, that Laura and Almanzo had in real life.

Half-pint:

Arguably the most famous nickname in the Little House series is Pa’s nickname for Laura, half-pint. This nickname is true in all three aspects: Laura’s books, her real life, and the TV Show. In Laura’s book, Little House in the Big Woods, this nickname makes its’ first appearance after Pa comes back from trapping. He exclaims, “Where’s my little half-pint of sweet cider half drunk up?” (LHBW 34). Laura then adds that Pa called her that because she was small. Throughout the rest of the series Pa normally just shortens it to half-pint. The name stuck with her even into These Happy Golden Years. In the TV show that nickname half-pint first appears in the pilot movie and is Pa’s nickname for Laura throughout the series. Starting in Season Six Laura wants to be treated as an adult. Pa says that when she is an adult he will stop calling her half-pint. In real life Laura’s nickname from Pa was also half-pint. In Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Laura mentions how Pa called her his “little half-pint of cider half drank up” (29). This reference Laura recalls is very similar to her account in Little House in the Big Woods. The only big difference between the three is that according to Laura’s books Pa stops calling her half-pint once she is married and in the TV show Laura and Pa come to an understanding that he can still call her half-pint once she is an adult and he continues to call her that throughout the series.

Manly:

Manly is Laura’s nickname from Almanzo, which has an interesting story behind it. In real life Laura and Almanzo exchange nicknames for each other when Almanzo first takes Laura for a sleigh ride, after her teaching term at the Brewster school.

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Laura and Almanzos Wedding Picture

This exchange is almost identical to exchange of nicknames in the TV show. Pioneer Girl discusses how Laura needed a name to call Almanzo. Almanzo told her that his folks call him “Manzo” but his brother, Royal, calls him “Mannie.” Laura misheard him and said that she would call him “Manly,” like Royal. Almanzo then told her of the mistake but she decided to stick with “Manly” because she liked it the best (Pioneer Girl 277). The TV show has the same encounter in the episode “Back to School,” Laura mishears Almanzo and calls him “Manly,” the only difference is that it occurs when he is picking up Eliza Jane, his sister, from teaching school and not on a sleigh ride. Another intriguing part about this name is that in the book series Laura and Almanzo never exchange nicknames. Laura writes about her and Almanzo’s first sleigh ride in These Happy Golden Years; however, for some reason she decided to omit the part where they exchanged names. The nickname Manly does appear in Laura’s book, The First Four Years and receives no introduction, the reader is just supposed to know that Manly is Almanzo. I think that the reason for this sudden change may be attributed to its’ publication after Laura’s death and that she did not edit the book the same way she did the others. Overall what I found most interesting about the relationship between the books, TV show, and real life in regard to this nickname, is that the TV show is closest to Laura’s real life and not the books.

Beth:

The nickname Beth is Almanzo’s nickname for Laura in the TV show. In real life Almanzo actually called Laura “Bessie.” Both of these nicknames originate from Laura’s middle name, Elizabeth. In real life Almanzo did not want to call Laura by her name because he had an older sister named Laura and did not really like the name (Pioneer Girl 277). This nickname exchange happened during the same sleigh ride where Laura decided to call Almanzo “Manly.” The TV show has the exchange happen slightly different and it does not occur at the same time Laura gives Almanzo the nickname “Manly.” This does occur in the same episode, “Back to School” however, it happens the next morning when Laura is walking back home because she “forgot” something. During Laura and Almanzo’s second meeting is when Almanzo mentions that Laura has a nickname for him, so he needs a nickname for her. He asks if she has any nicknames, which she responds saying that her Pa calls her half-pint. Almanzo says that will not work and asks her full given name, in which he chooses Beth from Elizabeth. In Laura’s book series, she never mentions Almanzo having a nickname for her and always refers to herself as Laura, even in The First Four Years. As for the change from “Bessie” to “Beth” there is no documented reason for the change; however, it is most likely that the change was made to better fit the time period in which the show was airing.

Dorothea Lange- Pioneer for Documentary Photography

In 1933 San Francisco, a portrait photographer named Dorothea was starting to get restless. The neat, orderly world she saw inside her studio and her camera lens was not reflected outside the windows, where hundreds of unemployed men and women were filling the streets. As a woman, it was not guaranteed that Dorothea could gain their trust enough to photograph them. But one day, she simply couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer. She walked the streets of San Francisco armed with her camera and a deep respect for her subjects, and a new career in documentary photography was born.   

Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1902, when she was seven, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot considerably weakened. She later attributed this experience as the “most important thing” that had ever happened to her, giving her humility and compassion for others. Although she was physically disabled for the rest of her life, it never slowed her down, and many people who met her had no knowledge of her disability.  The ther childhood trauma leaving a profound impact on Lange was the separation of her parents when she was a teenager. She and her brother went with their mother to her maternal grandmother’s house. Dorothea attended six years of public school in New York City.  She would spend the majority of her time walking in the city, observing the way people lived and the differences between rich, middle class, and poor. She later credited this experience with being what taught her to “see” rather than just to look. With such an intense interest in seeing and understanding the world around her, it’s no wonder that Lange felt so drawn to photography.

 

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Lange enjoyed a successful career as a portrait photographer at her studio in SaFrancisco, but in the 1930’s she turned her camera to a darker subject. The Great Depression left thousands of men and women unemployed and/or homeless. Dorothea began traveling through the breadlines, labor demonstrations, and soup kitchens of San Francisco, documenting the suffering and resilience of those affected by the financial hardships. This bold and compassionate approach allowed her to get close to her subjects, and to capture pictures that few other photographers were able to get. Pictured right is her most famous photo of the San Francisco breadlines, titled White Angel Breadline. 

 

 

Her photographs earned her national attention, and in 1935 she began a four-year commission with the Farm Security Agency (FSA). The Great Depression in America coincided with a major agricultural crisis in the Midwest, known as the Dust Bowl. Hundreds of thousands of farmers were forced to leave their land and make their way west in search of migrant work in places like California. These families were usually destitute, often on the verge of starvation. It was this beaten-down and desperate landscape that Lange was sent to document. She stayed in several migrant camps across the lower-midwest, getting to know the families that lived there. It was in one of these camps that Lange took what is arguably her most famous picture, and indeed one of the 201307F03-KC-MigrantMother-Photo-Portrait-thumbnail-1200x1200most famous American photographs, Migrant Mother (pictured left). Migrant Mother profoundly affected the American public. The photograph put a human face on the suffering that thousands of Americans were facing in a part of the country that could sometimes feel very far away from the cities and coasts of America.

After her work with the FSA, Lange was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship. Her experiences working with the marginalized and forgotten people of the country inspired her to eventually reject that fellowship to photograph the realities of Japanese internment. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, anti-Japanese fear and racism in America grew to a fever pitch. In 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that allowed for the internment of thousands of people of Japanese descent, simply for the reason of being Japanese. Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to document the process, but her photographs of confused and frightened Japanese families being rounded into trains or barracks like cattle proved to be too incendiary. The OWI suppressed Lange’s photographs and they Dorothea Lange - Family of Japanese ancestry arrives at assembly center at Tanforan Race Track. 1942weren’t published for the first time until 2006.

Lange has been called a truly democratic photographer. Her work captured the lives of workers all over the country, no matter if they were black, white, Chinese, Mexican, or Japanese. The legacy she left behind didn’t just enrich the photographic world, but the wider world of American public conscious. She continued to work on social justice issues through her photography until her death in 1965 from esophageal cancer.