Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » She Had a Question, 1912 (4)

She Had a Question, 1912 (4)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 29, 2011

More candid answers from Catherine Hurst, the Dear Abby, Miss Manners, Martha Stewart, and Webster’s Dictionary of the Young Woman’s Journal in the early years of the 20th century —


When I receive an invitation from a young man, would it be considered over-modest to tell him I must ask mother’s permission? – Ruth.

No young man, if he be the right sort, would think any less of you for not wishing to do a thing without your mother’s permission. Should you have to decline the invitation, it would be much easier for you. It also indicates that your mother’s ideas govern your conduct.


Will you kindly give the pronunciation of “chauffeur” and something of its origin? – H.J.S.

The pronunciation is represented as “sho-fur.” The accent being on the second syllable. The pronunciation show’fer is frequently used although the latest dictionaries – the supplement of the century and the new Webster – do not recognize it.

The word is taken from the French, and means literally a “fireman” or “stoker,” being derived from the verb chauffer, to heat, to warm. The idea is not one who drives an automobile, but one who has charge of the engine that propels the car.


“L.R.” – (1) I could not recommend anything to change the color of your hair without probable injury. Whatever color your hair may be, that is the most becoming to you. (2) Explain the conditions to your mother and be guided by her advice. (3) No. (4) If your sister does not object, there would be no harm.


Is it good form to have one finger bowl for several persons?

No, unless you can have individual bowls do not use them.


(1) Is it right for a girl to correspond with a boy she has never seen? (2) Is there such a thing as witchcraft existing at the present time? – S.C.E.

(1) Unless there are circumstances that warrant it, which I do not understand, it would be exceedingly improper. (2) Not that I know of.


“Afton.” – Goitre can usually be cured in young people. There are remedies which can be applied to diminish or arrest the growth of the tumor, but these should be used under the direction of a reputable physician. I do not think the wearing of Amber beads will help. If the tumor is large or painful I would advise you to seek medical aid at once. (2) The use of much alum in drinking water is certainly injurious.


Which is the proper side for a gentleman to walk, when escorting a lady on the street? (2) On which side of the lady should the gentleman be when riding horse back? – Nellie.

(1) When walking on the street the gentleman should be on the outer side, or side nearest the street. (2) When riding horseback he should ride on the left.


I was at a fashionable dinner a short time ago and noticed some of the guests take the soup from the tip of the spoon. Was that good etiquette? How should corn on the cob be eaten? – Margaret.

(1) No. All liquids should be sipped form the side of the spoon, without noise or suction. Those “guests” evidently were not “etiquette” students. (2) Green corn may be eaten daintily from the cob with propriety if one has a good set of natural teeth.


Do you believe in going to “bargain sales”? – Ruth.

It all depends on whether you need anything or not. Many women go to “bargain sales” and buy articles because they are cheap, whether they need them or not. Of course, that is a waste of money. “Bargain counters” often represent the cheap labor and hard-earned pennies of over-worked women and children. A good motto to paste in your purse is the following: “Never go out in search of your wants. Your real wants will come home to you.”


Should I receive attentions from a man thirty-four years of age? I am eighteen. He is a widower, his wife having been dead about one and one-half years. – D.V.

If the gentleman in question is agreeable to you, and you feel inclined to receive his attentions, the difference in your ages should form no serious objection. Are your ideals similar?


What books must I read and study to get an education at home? I have household duties to attend to so that I cannot go to school. – M.T.

If you have the time to study I would advise you to take a correspondence course. There are two schools in Salt Lake City that can be highly recommended – The International School of Correspondence and Brown’s School of Correspondence. You might communicate with one or both of them and then determine what you would like to study best. Should you not wish to take the course suggested, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and I will mail you an outline of study that will be helpful to you. We have published in the Journal and also in book form a list of some of the best books, both religious and secular, for our girls to read.


In the Young Woman’s Journal and other Church publications, Koffee-et is advertised. Does the Church approve of drinking it? – Anne.

There is no serious objection to Koffee-et. It is not well, however, to form the habit of taking hot drinks regularly.


What would be a suitable gift for a sick person at Christmas time? – Jane.

You did not state age or sex. However, do not give any of the usual gifts. Get a number of the invalid’s friends to send you some clever, original short poems or sentiments. Have them typewritten and tied with ribbon, the outside page being inscribed and lettered prettily, and give this to the patient on Christmas morning. An acceptable present is to fold a new bill in such a way that the portrait only will show. Put it into a pretty little frame that can be had at any department store. Decorate the sick room with pretty green or holly. In serving meals, change the manner: that is, substitute for the tray a small table, covered with a dainty white cloth, a vase of green in the center, some smilax or other pretty green around the edge. Use prettier dishes than on other days. Have a place card for each meal, the design being a gilded wishbone, Santa Claus, or holly berries; at the side put a small Christmas basket filled with after-dinner mints. Get some odd little dishes to put the food in, and cover with tissue paper to surprise your invalid. Place paper lace doilies, on which you have written some witty rhyme, beneath the dishes. Invite a friend to eat luncheon with the invalid, or have father, brother, or sister do the same thing. In the evening brighten the room with some Christmas candles, shaded with red and green paper. For a young person a microscope is a useful gift, that would unfold wonders, which are close at hand, and never to be forgotten. Flowers, plants, cereals, small insects, fabrics, etc., each have their peculiar value.


“Mabel.” – (1) State the circumstances and ask him to accompany you. (2) Hardly.


Is it proper for girl clerks and stenographers, working under a married man, to receive Christmas gifts from him? – Julia.

If your employer wishes to give each of the girls in his employ a gift or sum of money at Christmas time, and all are treated alike, or according to the length of time employed, there would be nothing improper. His wife would certainly be agreeable to such a proposition.


“May.” – Treat the young man as a friend. By his actions, he indicates to you that his “calls” are merely friendly.



  1. (2) Hardly

    The randomness of this just made me laugh out loud. As ever, Ms Hurst’s fount of wisdom and fund of useful(?) information is impressive.

    Comment by Alison — July 29, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  2. I think asking for mothers permission would be an easy way to put off dating a young man if asked. Course, it could get wierd if he tries to get to you through your mother . . .

    Its so cool to see these old bits of advice, and see how many of them are still applicable today. :)

    Comment by Frank Pellett — July 29, 2011 @ 8:59 am

  3. Koffe-et!

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 29, 2011 @ 9:38 am

  4. Didja notice that the linked ad for Koffee-et was published in the very year of this query?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 29, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  5. In my minds eye, I like to think that there is a Jewish publication somewhere, where someone has written in asking whether krab is kosher.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 29, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  6. Ha!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 29, 2011 @ 10:13 am

  7. ‘Without noise or suction’. Love it!

    Comment by Anne (U.K.) — July 29, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  8. Ms. Hurst got these two questions wrong:

    (1) Is it right for a girl to correspond with a boy she has never seen?
    (2) Is there such a thing as witchcraft existing at the present time? – S.C.E.

    The correct answer is, strangely the same:
    (1) See “Internet” entry in Wikipedia
    (2) See “Internet” entry in Wikipedia

    Comment by kevinf — July 29, 2011 @ 11:04 am

  9. Ardis, do these continue for the length of the YWJ’s run? Is there anything similar in the other Church publications?

    I wonder if the advice changed much over time. You would think there would be some change over the 32-year span of the YWJ.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — July 29, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  10. The 2nd response to “Mabel” — ‘Hardly’. The sheer, cool mystery of that single word is endlessly intriguing.

    Comment by jk — July 29, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  11. Kent, Catherine Hurst ran this column from 1909 through 1921. There are other Q&A columns in the YWJ and in other church periodicals — Joseph Fielding Smith’s “Answers to Gospel Questions” in the Improvement Era, for instance — but none of them have the charm and plain common sense of Catherine Hurst. The columns from 1897, for instance, sounds didactic and flowery and even patronizing, to my ears.

    One of these days Real Soon Now I need to write up a short biography of the real woman behind the Catherine Hurst pseudonym.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 29, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  12. What? Catherine Hurst wasn’t real. I’m shattered.

    BTW, the best line in this post is “…if one has a good set of natural teeth…”

    Comment by The Other Clark — July 31, 2011 @ 4:52 pm