prairie dogs

In a story featuring a strong Native American female character, Lydia Maria Child suggested that animals have alternative societies. This drawing of prairie dogs, inspired by the story “Willie Wharton,” is by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Lydia Maria Child’s fictional character of young Willie Wharton is sensitized to nature and creatures of the prairie including moles, squirrels, and prairie dogs. Child positioned children as closer to God, therefore, closer to nature. She also perceived that animals had indigenous societies. When Wharton brought a Native American girl home, he asserted, “She’s my girl. I found her.”

Child relied upon moral suasion to foster humanitarian awakening; she sought to reform with inherited literary genres. A family on the prairie sets aside contemporary biases to take in a Native American girl, and not understanding her cultural background, they treat her like a pet until her family came to collect her. While Child’s language seems racist by today’s standards, her logic was actually powerfully progressive for her times suggesting that you treat all living creatures with kindness.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Army’s California Volunteers deployed resources in response to the “General Order, No. 4,” issued on April 9, 1862, which supported a movement to kill adult male California Indians so that women and children could be sold into slavery for profit: “Every Indian captured in this district during the present war who has engaged in hostilities against whites, present or absent, will be hanged on the spot, women and children in all cases being spared.” As late as 1867, even after Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing involuntary servitude, some vigilantes in far northern California continued the murdering, kidnapping and maintenance of an illicit slave trade in California Indians even as the sale of Chinese-American women into slavery continued.

In the story, Child reiterates a theme she earlier explored in The Little Girl’s Own Book, where she discourages children from taking non-domesticated animals in as pets:

“It is a good rule to keep only such animals as are happier for being domesticated; such as kittens, dogs, or pet lambs. I would not keep a robin shut up in a cage, for the price of fifty birds. Do what you can for him, you cannot make him half so happy as he would be abroad among the sunshine and the flowers. Canary birds must be kept in the house; because they came from the warm islands of Canary. And it would kill them to expose hem to our winter; but, kind little reader, if you have any feathered prisoners, which belong to our own climate, I beg of you to open the door and let them fly the first bright day the next spring. I have likewise an objection to keeping rabbits and squirrels; because I am sure they are not so happy as they would be in their native woods.”

Sources: Lydia Maria Child. “Willie Wharton” Atlantic Monthly 11 (March 1863): 324-345 and “On Keeping Animals,” The Little Girl’s Own Book. New York: Edward Kearney 1843: 242.

 

Grizzly Tom

Grizzly Tom inspired by Lydia Maria Child’s story “Pussy Malta and Grizzly Tom,” written specially for Our Dumb Animals 2: 11 (April 1870): 105. Design by Meredith Eliassen.

Grizzly Tom Notecard

This story is an account of two cats that Child encountered while boarding with Joseph and Margaret Carpenter and their Quaker family while her husband David dealt with debts from a lawsuit during the 1830s. The Carpenters operated a farm and interracial household in an isolated area near New Rochelle, New York that was a stop in the Underground Railroad. The family had two cats, a slender, working, female Maltese cat names Pussy Malta and a cantankerous, infirm old cat named Grizzly Tom who had been a fixture on the farm since he was a kitten. The two cats had a fragile relationship because Tom was so disagreeable: “spitting and growling, clawing and scratching whenever he was not asleep.” Pussy Malta conversely was a hunter who was protective of her recent litter of three kittens whose eyes were still unopened. Pussy Malta kept a watchful eye on Tom while they both lapped up milk from the same trough to see what he would be up to next.

One day, Pussy Malta became very sick… and even with care, she only got worse and began convulsing. Tom, who had been asleep on the stoop heard her cries and went to see what was wrong. Tom immediately softened, laying his paw gently on her fur as if to say “I wish I could help you.” However, sadly, Pussy Malta died within the hour leaving her three kitten orphaned curled up on a piece of rug on Tom’s stoop.

Grizzly Tom assessed the situation as the mother cat grew cold and stiff, and returned to the stoop where he steadfastly watched over the brood like a foster father, protecting them until they were old enough to fend for themselves. What’s more, Grizzly Tom proved to be an extraordinarily nurturing parent, never deserting the kittens even though they often teased him, pulling his ragged fur and playing with his tail as he slept, all the while, never striking them a blow.

 

 

lamb

“Little girls should never feed animals with any new food, without asking advice of those who are experienced.” Quote from Lydia Maria Child, “On Keeping Animals,” in The Little Girl’s Own Book (243); design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

In the coming weeks I am going to explore works by a pioneering American author, Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888), who wrote stories about the importance of treating animals humanely. I will explore her logic within the contexts of changing times. Child began her career during the 1820s, and was well established by the 1860s as an activist on many levels. She was invited to author the preface to Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl on 1861, and wrote pioneering pamphlets supporting the abolition of slavery and Native American rights. The designs will stylistically mimic embroidery designs.

1812 – The New York Tract Society was established.

1814 – The New England Tract Society was established.

1815 – The Hartford Evangelical Tract Society was established.

1817 – The Hartford Evangelical Tract Society, as a result of the Battle for Baltimore in 1814, published Happy Poverty, or, the Story of Poor Ellen. Funds raised from the sale of this tract supported the operations of the Baltimore General Dispensary that aided persons in distress.

1820s and 1830s – Epidemics of small pox, yellow fever, and diphtheria swept the United States.

1821 – The first American high school, established in Boston.

1823 – Clement Clark Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” changes perceptions of Christmas from a German holiday to a gift-giving occasion in the United States.

1825 – The American Tract Society was established.

1826 – German educator Friedrich Fröbel’s The Education of Man, encourages parents to install mobiles in cradles to insure “occupation for the senses and the mind” to foster early child development.

1826-1834 – Child established the Juvenile Miscellany as the first American children’s magazine. Child had to give up editorial control because her reform work with the abolition movement, and her liberal views on Native Americans became too controversial.

1827 – Peter Parley’s Tales of America by Samuel Goodrich (1793-1860) is published. Goodrich created his pseudonym from Hannah More’s tract called “Parley the Porter,” and his innovative benevolent narrator revolutionized the didactic and historic narrative style for children’s literature.

1829 – Child’s The Frugal Housewife published.

1830s – Jacob Abbott (1803-1879), a Congregational minister, begins his “Rollo” series of instructional books and William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) begins his series of “Eclectic Readers.” Both authors shape American consciousness with their packaging or literature that teaches morality.

1830 – Child established and edited M. of Lowell gets her story “Blind Susan, or, The Affectionate Family” published in Juvenile Miscellany. This story graphically describes medical treatments for vision loss resulting from scarlet fever.

1831 – Child’s Mother’s Book is published. It is an early American prescriptive book for rearing children and contains a story about a young mother that is abusive to a cat.

1833 – Girl’s Own Book is published

1832 – Jacob Abbott’s The Young Christian, or, A Familiar Illustration of Principles of Christian Duties is published.

1838 – The American Sunday-School Union publishes their Union Spelling Book.

1845 – Child’s most remembered poem, “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day” is published. It also appears in her Flowers for Children. II. For children from four to six years old. (New York: C.S. Francis & Co., 1845). Flowers for Children was published between 1844 and 1846.

1850 – Child’s translation of the German legend Rose Marian and the Flower Fairies is published. It is a transcendental romance about the death of an orphan.

1851-1852 – Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published in serial form, initially a family story, it was quickly rewritten for children, and like Pilgrim’s Progress was published in “words of one syllable” to be used as a primer.

1853 – Child’s biography of Isaac Tatem Hopper (1771-1852), an American Quaker abolitionist is published. Child devotes a section about his youth utilizing his relationships with animals to show how his consciousness is expanded.

1855 – At the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y., some women wear bloomers to draw attention to artificial distinctions created by restrictive clothing that limit daily physical activities for women.

1861-1865 – The American Civil War. The Little Pilgrim, a Northern Christian magazine for children is published.

1863 – Louisa May Alcott writes Hospital Sketches based upon her experiences as an Army nurse during the Civil War that leads to reform in military hospitals. This success paves the way for her to get Little Women published.

1865 – The United States establishes Christmas as a national holiday. With this shift, Americans begin the practice of exchanging handmade or inexpensive toys and gifts among a wide circle of acquaintances and charities.

1866 – The American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in New York City in 1866

1867 – Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were established in Buffalo, New York, Pennsylvania, and Montgomery, Ohio.

1867 – Horatio Alger Jr. gets Ragged Dick published.

1868 – “An Act for the more effectual prevention of cruelty to animals,” (AB 421) was introduced to the California Legislature on March 28, 1868, and approved. California Governor Haight signed the Act into law on March 30, 1868, and it took effect on June 1, 1868. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals was the sixth humane society to be formed in the United States and the first west of the Mississippi River after Massachusetts.

1870 – “Pansy” (Isabella MacDonald Alden, 1841-1930) publishes her most popular didactic novel for children called Esther Ried. Late in life she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area

1872 – Susan Coolidge (pseudonym for Sarah Chauncy Woolsey) published What Katy Did that became the first popular American children’s novel featuring a character with a spinal cord injury. The American Public Health Association is founded.

1873 – Mary Mapes Dodge becomes the editor of St. Nicholas magazine.

1874 – The Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is established in New York.

1883 – Kate Douglas Wiggin writes the Story of Patsy to raise funds and awareness for the Silver Street Kindergarten in a working-class San Francisco neighborhood.

Monkey camel

Do not try to ape your betters. “The Monkey and the Camel” by Aesop retold and illustrated by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Upon the family’s return, there was a great celebration amongst the animals in honor of King Lion. Mimouka was asked to dance for the assembly and her dancing was very clever indeed. All of the animals were pleased with Mimouka’s grace and lightness so they gathered around her.

Such praise was showered on Mimouka that the Camel became envious. He was very sure that he could dance better than any monkey so he pushed his way into the crowd. The Camel raised himself up on his hind legs and began to dance, but he was so big and hulking that he only looked very ridiculous as he kicked out his knotty legs and twisted his long clumsy neck. The animals scurried about trying to keep from getting crushed under his heavy hoofs.

At last, when one of his huge hoofs came within an inch of King Lion’s nose, the animals were so disgusted that they set upon the Camel in a rage. Shortly afterward, refreshments, consisting mostly of Camel’s roasted hump and ribs, were served.

 

Monkey dolphin

One falsehood leads to another. “Monkey and the Dolphin” by Aesop retold and illustrated by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Greeks traveled with their pet monkeys. At this time, the Dolphins were also very friendly towards humans, especially towards Athenians. A Greek ship bound for Athens was wrecked near the coast of Piraeus and Dolphins came to rescue the Athenians carrying them on their backs to shore. Mimouka spotted a Dolphin approaching, she quickly climbed onto his back, and then the Dolphin swam towards shore.

The Dolphin politely asked, “You are a citizen on illustrious Athens, are you not?”

Mimouka eagerly responded: “Yes, my family is one of the noblest in the city.”

“Indeed,” said the Dolphin. “Then of course you often visit Piraeus.”

“Yes, yes,” replied Mimouka. “Indeed, I do. I am with him constantly. Piraeus is my very best friend.”

This answer took the Dolphin by surprise, and turning his head ever so slightly, he could saw that he was carrying a cheeky monkey. With no more ado, he dived and left Mimouka soaked to fend care for herself while he swam off in search of some human to rescue.

 

 

monkey1

Introducing Mimouka enjoying her favorite pastime at home, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Purchase notecard here. 

Mimouka selected for “Survivors’ Hub” series as No. 11 (2018).

Once upon a time, Mister Cat and a monkey named Mimouka lived as pets in the same household. They were at first great friends and enjoyed in all sorts of mischief together. They were simpatico in that they were both had gourmet tastes and they would seek roasted chestnuts by any means necessary.

One evening Mimouka and Mister Cat were sitting by the fire, watching some chestnuts roasting on the hearth. Mimouka put on her sweetest expression and cooed, “I would gladly get them, but you are much more skillful at such things than I am.” Mister Cat, ever cavalier, hesitated. Mimouka interjected “Pull them out and I’ll divide them between us.”

Mister Cat stretched out his paw very carefully, pushing aside some of the cinders, and drew back his paw very quickly. Then he tried it again, this time pulling a chestnut half out of the fire. A third time and he drew out the chestnut. He performed this feat several times, each time singeing his paw more severely. As fast as he pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, Mimouka let them cool to perfection then ate them up.

Now their human came in, and away chased the rascals away. Mister Cat with a burnt paw and no chestnuts learned his lesson. From that time on, they say, he contented himself with mice and rats and had little to do with Mimouka.

Monkey cat

The flatterer seeks some benefit at your expense. “The Monkey and the Cat” by Aesop retold and illustrated by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Dickenson

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, one clover and one bee, and revery. The revery alone will do, if bees are few.” Words by Emily Dickenson, No. 1755, design with one four-leaf clover by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Catfish

“One catfish does not make a creek make, nor one hero a nation,” words by The Iconoclast, and image by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Catfish Notecard

barley

For Jennifer Golick, Christine Loeber, and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba with the Pathway Home at the Veteran’s Home of California in Yountville, California, and for all of the good people who continue to work with our veterans who need healing after serving. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few…” (Matthew 9:37), drawing by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

 

 

Lax light water

“the-light-is-still-up-on-the-wa-ters-the-sun-is-still-up-on-the-sea” inspired by the words of Robert Lax, design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Light is still notecard