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She Had a Question, 1912

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 11, 2009

Girls and young women could receive personal advice on just about any subject by writing to the Question Box of the Young Woman’s Journal. Some queries were answered in the pages of the Journal while others received personal answers by mail – as long as the questioner provided a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Sometimes the most intriguing responses were the ones to queries that were not themselves printed. Here’s a sample of what was on the minds of young Mormon women in 1912:

When traveling lately I met a man friend. We took dinner together in the dining car. Should I have allowed him to pay my bill with his? – Gertrude.

Certainly not. he was not your escort. You met him by chance. You should have paid for your own dinner.

Is it good taste to say a boy and girl “are keeping company”? If not, what is the correct expression for what this implies? – Bernice.

This expression is never used in good society. The more correct way is “Mr. Jones is very attentive to Miss Strong,” or “he seems very devoted to her,” conveys the idea that two young people are seen together very often, she accepting his escort, etc., although they may not be engaged.

Please tell me how to clean white furs, also a white ostrich plume. – Gertrude.

To clean your furs, put some gasoline in a pan, set in another pan of hot water to get moderately warm. Do not go near a fire or lighted lamp. With your hand, wash the furs with the warm gasoline, not getting the skin wet if you can avoid it. have some flour and cornmeal (equal parts) heating in the oven. After the fur is thoroughly washed with gasoline, sprinkle the cornmeal ad flour thickly through it, rubbing it well. Shake out and your furs will look like new. Treat your ostrich plume in the same way, only dipping it in the gasoline, and shaking in the sunlight. It will be curly and white.

“Twenty-one” – The law of tithing requires each individual to pay one-tenth of his interest annually. The tithing paid by the boy you mention, on the original amount is the correct and “sufficient” tithing. We are very grateful for the encouraging words you sent us.

Can you tell me how to keep water hot at night without keeping the fire going? – A Young Mother.

Put a large hook securely in the wall over a table, and suspend a small teakettle or covered bucket, on the hook directly over a lighted lamp. In this way hot water may be ready for immediate use. Have the kettle about two feet above the lamp.

Della and Augusta. – Simply tell the young men very kindly that you prefer that they do not call again.

When traveling and wishing to take a light breakfast in the diner, what and how do you order? – Minnie.

When you go in the diner a waiter will indicate to you the table, and will hand you a menu card, with the dishes served and prices; also a pencil to write your order. You order what you want. Oranges or grape fruit and cracked wheat or some other cereal you might choose, would be a light breakfast. If you order bread and butter with this, you must pay extra, as that is only served with fish, meat, or egg orders.

Should a girl call for, or escort a boy home from a leap-year dance? – Anxious.

When inviting a young man to a leap-year dance, request him to call for you and permit him to kindly escort you home. Although it is leap-year and you may do the inviting sometimes, and combine fun, and be merry in exchanging places in other ways with the young men, you must not forget that you are a woman and certain womanly charms must not be relaxed, which will be remembered in your favor long after leap-year is past.

“Marion” – You should not associate with such a boy. He is unworthy your friendship.

Please give me a remedy for excessive perspiration. – Maud.

After thorough bathing, dust the parts that perspire freely with the following powder. Orris powder one ounce; zinc oxide, one ounce; talcum powder, six ounces. Mix well.

When a girl is moving from a place, could she with propriety ask a boy friend to write? — Beth.

Much depends on the boy, your age, acquaintance with him, etc. Your mother could answer that for you, better than I.

“Martha” – If you will read the Word of Wisdom carefully, you will find that “all grain is ordained for the use of man,” etc. to your second query, rub the eyelashes with pure yellow vaseline, to which you may add a few drops of glycerine; being very careful not to get any in the eye. to have a “good complexion” keep good hours, eat nourishing food – do not overeat – avoiding much meat, rich pastries, and condiments. Take proper exercise, see that your digestive organs are in good condition, and do not allow yourself to become constipated. Washing the face occasionally with hot sweet milk or buttermilk is good.

How many times should a girl dance with a boy who has escorted her to a dance? – J.P.R.

Generally the first and last and one other, there being nothing improper, however in more dances together, only it indicates exclusiveness, which is bad form in social gatherings.

“J.W.” – I cannot answer personal letters unless the writer sends stamped addressed envelopes. You are entirely too young to receive attentions from young men.

“Dottie” – If you will clip the ends of your hair every two or three weeks it will improve the condition you speak of. Send a stamped envelope and I will mail you full directions on the care of the hair.

“Deloras” – Warts are generally caused by some constitutional disorder. They will often disappear of themselves in time. Touching with coal oil, castor oil, the juice from crushed leaves of the common bean, rasping with a file and touching with nitrate of silver, all are effective in removing them. (2) if you wish to, do so. (3) It is much better for Mormon girls not to allow themselves to become attached to non-Mormon boys. You or your parents should certainly tell the young man what your religion is, and our “Mormon” viewpoint on marriage.

“Mattie” – The game you mention may be amusing, but is not uplifting or intellectual. Any game which is a burlesque on religious rites or ceremonies is harmful, and destroys within the mind of the young, the proper reverence for sacred things.

When a young man buys his sweetheart a box of chocolates on the way to a theatre, is it proper to open the box before entering the theatre? – A Journal Reader.

The general custom is to open the box of chocolates after the first act.

To “N.B.K.” – The authorities of the Church do not favor card-playing.

“Nancy K.” – if a girl lives the life that you suggest, she surely is entitled to the celestial glory. All “glory” or reward is predicated on law. Read carefully the seventy-sixth section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

I am going to travel in a sleeping car for the first time, please tell me where to dress and undress. – Jennie.

If you are among the last to retire, you can undress in the toilet room and wear your long kimona back to your berth. If you retire earlier, undress in your berth, placing your folded clothes in the hammock on the side of your berth. In the morning put all your clothing on in your berth excepting your dress. Slip on your kimona and make yourself presentable, since you must pass others on your way to the toilet room, where you will find conveniences for washing, etc. You should show consideration for others by hurrying, as all women must avail themselves of the same room. Much can be learned by observing others, who may have traveled more than you.

I have just been married and feel quite embarrassed about asking my husband for money. Can you help me? – Katherine S.

Every woman has rights in regard to the finances of the home, which the husband should respect as far as his means will allow. In properly regulated households the wife should have a regular allowance to cover home needs and personal expenses. She shares in building up the home, in bearing the burdens and trials, and struggles equally with the husband, if she be a good wife. Often she very materially aids in her husband’s success. Perhaps she has left a good salaried position to become his wife; should she not then be his partner and companion in all things? Have a heart to heart talk with your husband, and a perfect understanding about this all-important matter. Always some something every month from your income.



18 Comments »

  1. I love how practical the questions are – and how blunt the answers are.

    Simply tell the young men very kindly that you prefer that they do not call again.

    Stuff like that is priceless.

    Comment by Ray — March 11, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  2. I loved this, thanks, Ardis.

    Comment by Amira — March 11, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

  3. Great stuff. I need to try that gasoline trick with some bedraggled furs I’ve had lying around.

    Comment by Jami — March 11, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  4. I suspect that your furs may not still be white if you do the gasoline trick too near a fire or lamp. That sounds like a dangerous process under any circumstances. Reminds me of the gas station scene in “Zoolander”.

    I’d love to know some of the stories behind some of the less obvious answers to questions. I’m also impressed that women were concerned about the vagaries of traveling alone, or often had “good salaried positions” when they got married. Perhaps the world of 1912 was not as backward as we assume.

    Comment by kevinf — March 11, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  5. I wish they had this feature in the Ensign.

    Comment by madhousewife — March 11, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  6. “Do not allow yourself to be constipated.” Heh? Does anyone ever allow that? And what does that have to do with complexion? Ha ha.

    Also, that whole thing about the kimona and berth . . . I have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Very interesting and amusing. Thanks!

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — March 11, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  7. I wish they still had that feature too! What a hoot. Thanks for sharing, Ardis.

    Comment by tracy m — March 11, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  8. Actually, that antiperspirant recipe would probably work pretty well.

    Comment by Steve Evans — March 11, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  9. I want to know why I’ve never been invited to a leap-year dance. Great, great stuff Ardis!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  10. great stuff Ardis, thanks!

    I do wonder what today’s equivalent questions- and answers- would be :-)

    Comment by Anne (UK) — March 11, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  11. Yea, the questions are almost as surprising as the answers, and that is saying something.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 11, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  12. When a young man buys his sweetheart a box of chocolates on the way to a theatre, is it proper to open the box before entering the theatre? – A Journal Reader.

    The general custom is to open the box of chocolates after the first act.

    I surely wish I had known this a third of a century ago. No telling how many girls I drove away by opening the chocolates too early.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 11, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  13. This is awesome as usual. I am so glad now I know how to get my ostrich plume snowy white again…!

    Comment by jeans — March 12, 2009 @ 5:26 am

  14. Also, their names are charming. Seldom used these days, some of them.

    Comment by jeans — March 12, 2009 @ 5:27 am

  15. Me, I want to know what Marion’s boyfriend did to be unworthy of her friendship, and what sacrilegious game Mattie was playing!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 12, 2009 @ 5:55 am

  16. What fun! I remember reading my grandmother’s thick etiquette books when I was a teenager… which fork to put where, how to address an ambassador or other high ranking official, how to tip, how to correctly address envelopes and compose letters in every conceivable situation. Very few situations relevant to a modern, middle-class life, but a very strong undercurrent of courtesy and mutual consideration.

    Comment by Researcher — March 12, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  17. It is indeed the questions that were not published that I want to know about. I don’t suppose there is an archive of the original letters, but there ought to be.

    As for the gasoline thing, that is a description of dry cleaning as practiced at the turn of the last century. Today they use less flammable solvents, but the principle is the same. If you are tempted to try it, use coleman fuel and not the gasoline you buy for your car. Sometimes the old ways are best. Just think of how your natural scent will be enhanced by the residual hydrocarbons – ala The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. (But don’t complain too loudly when someone strikes a spark and immolates you as you walk down the street.)

    Comment by Eric Boysen — March 15, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  18. I drive myself crazy trying to remember WHAT modern recipe called for orris root, with the proviso that some people skins are extremely irritated/allergic to it. After an hour with the ingredient playing havoc in backstreets of my mind it finally came to me! Potpourri!

    THEN I goggled to find out the rest of the story. (Doing this in the beginning would have saved me some minor angst, but I am sure the minor puzzle was good for my brain.)

    Yes, orris root is a fixative used in potpourri; yes some peoples skin IS irritated by it, yes it was used in many salves and remedies for skin problems none-the-less.

    But just think of the young lady using this remedy for the first time only to find that it triggered an allergic reaction in her?

    Sometimes you need to get worse to get better?

    Comment by Diane Peel — September 2, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

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