The American Needlewoman started its life as The American Woman. This magazine came from Augusta, Maine. The Maine magazines publishers produced magazines primarily so they could sell a product. Many of these magazines cost nothing, or next to nothing. Their point was advertising. The American Needlewoman only lasted from 1923 to 1927. Today I introduce one of this magazine’s unique features: The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar.
First, a little more about the magazine. This magazine was cheap. Its paper is so bad that it makes old newsprint look good. The cover is made from paper the publisher used for the interior pages of its more expensive and popular magazine. If not the same paper grade, it is very close. The covers of this magazine show rather plain illustrations. A large portion of the December 1924 cover appears as the photo for this post. I couldn’t include the entire thing because the copy I received has a badly water stained cover.
A rural magazine
The American Needlewoman was designed to sell to rural housewives. It contained some needlework, not a lot. Readers found several stories and a few regular departments as well. Although the stated subscription price was $0.50 per year, subscription “deals” brought the price closer to $0.25. For the last half of the magazine, advertisements fill at least half of every page.
This gives you a bit of background into the magazine. While paging through I found a section called the December Calendar. The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar was not really a horoscope. Sometimes those appeared in magazine pages. Other magazine monthly calendars specified a particular meal or food to serve each day. This served as a meal planning calendar. It was designed to help the busy home manager.
The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar did neither of these. It was more like a calendar of encouragement. Sometimes they appeared in poetry, other times prose. Here are some excerpts.
December 1, Monday
There’ll be plenty of good things to see to-day,
Plenty of chances to smile and be gay;
Let us all keep so busy these blessings to spy
That the glooms and the grouches will all pass us by.
December 4, Thursday
Thought is creative. I do not mean to say that
what you wish for timidly and doubtingly you will
always get; but what you will, what you strive for,
what you aim at, will certainly lead to the goal as
surely as a rifle-bullet seeks the target it is aimed
December 5, Friday
A blot upon the paper
Is surely out of place,
But it isn’t half so ugly
As a frown upon the face.
December 8, Monday
Keep busy; there is always something that
needs you. No matter though it does seem
insignificant and “not worth the powder” ––
do it, and to the very best of your ability. Then
take the next thing in line; you will find every
duty a stepping-stone if you put love into
December 11, Thursday
It matters not though you plod along
And cannot keep abreast
Of those who lead––if you sing a song,
And sincerely do your best.
December 18, Thursday
Bear in mind that you draw to yourself the conditions
that you persist in talking about, and that you have
the power to make your conversation what you will.
You can talk about prosperity or poverty, health or
sickness, happiness or sorrow. The choice is yours.
December 24, Wednesday
The very best gift you can bestow upon your friend
is the resolution that henceforth you will see only the
good qualities in him, closing your mental vision to
all others. For thus you bring the good more and more
into expression, and that which is not good falls away.
December 25, Friday
All trees are Christmas-trees that bear
The care of love and love of care.
To cultivate a Christmas-tree
Plant it in love and let it be.
Gold for misfortune it will keep,
Light in the darkness it will give:
Its truth will blossom while you sleep,
Its happy kindness while you live.
December 29, Monday
The little tasks that throw their shade across each working day
Are like the darning we must do before our hands can lay
The gentle stitches in a bit of fragile, whisplike lace––
For each task has its bit of life––each fragment has its place!
While these seem to be encouraging, many of them contain the positive platitudes common in the Twenties. The you can do it attitude stood in stark contrast to actual happenings in the cities and villages of the nation.
- Don’t worry about the rising prices of everything! — If you simply think about peace, there will be peace.
- Be not concerned that you can’t sell your wheat and make ends meet! — Think of yourself as a world-creator.
- Losing the farm because you can’t make this year’s payment? — Believe in joy until it comes.
The italicized comments are drawn from this month’s inspirational calendar.
Not a new invention, the magazine’s calendar carried over from its time as The American Woman. Issues from the early Twenties show the same type of upbeat, inspirational, get-it-done type of daily readings. I can imagine a farm wife turning to these writings day after day, and wondering why she feels depressed.
I think these were designed to truly bring inspiration to readers. And maybe they did. However, I wonder if the publishers Vickery and Hill took their knowledge of Maine farms and tried to apply it to others. Like farmers who lived through the Dust Bowl experience.
The American Needlewoman was renamed once again in 1927, to Modern Homemaking. The editors reduced needlework to two articles and filled the pages with stories, fashions, and miscellaneous articles. The monthly calendar survived the name change once again.
See it for yourself
If you would like to see a copy for yourself, The April, 1926 issue of The American Needlewoman lives at The Internet Archive. Download it and see what you think.