An Awakening (part 1)

April 12, 2018

Before the nineteenth century, scarlet fever was considered to be a benign childhood illness, but between 1824 and 1885 America and England experienced cycles of pandemic scarlet fever, and the United States suffered numerous waves of scarlet fever from 1820 to 1880. First published in Lydia Maria Child’s Juvenile Miscellany in 1829, “Blind Susan, or, The Affectionate Family” told the true story of Susan Mordant who bravely underwent brutal corrective surgery after an illness. Susan appeared to be on the mend, but then died in the story’s conclusion.


“Bah, bah, bah!” The sheep asserted as he wrapped Fanny’s shall around him and took a piece of torn carpet for a cap. Design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

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In a story called “Fanny’s Menagerie,” edited by Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888) for Rainbows for Children (1847), a young, entitled girl named Fanny has nothing pleasant to do on a rainy, because her wax doll is sick in bed with a scarlet fever. Fanny wishes that she were poor so she could “run about barefoot” in the rain. Frustrated, she throws herself onto her bed and watches the raindrops trickle down the windowpanes with her eyes half shut.

Soon Fanny sees six geese fly into her room. Her first thought is that the geese may have a couple of large quills that she can use for pens. However the geese are angry and they are there for something else. The geese swoop over Fanny’s head and pounced upon her pillow, ripping it to pieces and carrying off as many of the feathers as they can carry and leaving the others scattered around her room.

Fanny next hears a patter, patter, patter at the door and then a big sheep comes in demanding, “Bah, bah, bah! Where is the wool they cut from my back?” The sheep grabs Fanny’s shawl and wraps it around him, the rips her rug to bits and throws a piece over his head. Fanny starts to laugh, but he is not amused and stomps out.

Fanny composes herself as another sound approaches, “Buzz, buzz, buzz!” A swarm of bees appears and the queen bee demands, “Where is our wax?”

“Hum, Hum, Hum! Who stole our wax!” The other bees swarm about the room angrily sticking their stingers into everything until they reach Fanny’s wax doll, then they started nibbling away at the wax on her doll’s face. Fanny gets upset because she loves that doll.

To be continued…

Source: Lydia Maria Child. 1847. “Fanny’s Menagerie,” Rainbows for Children. Boston: Ticknor and Fields: 119-131.

An Awakening (part 2)

April 11, 2018

whale neptune

Image of Neptune-Whale was inspired by a nineteenth-century Native American textile design, drawing by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Reversing the positions of humans and animals in imaginary depictions was a tactic used to teach children that human and animals suffering was comparable. More than twenty years before the establishment of the San Francisco SPCA in 1868, Lydia Maria Child (1802-1888) selected a story for her Rainbows for Children book that employed rhetoric related to humane treatment of animals in her children’s stories: if you don’t like this treatment yourselves, then don’t do it to us. This logic still can be applied to all minority groups today.

As the story, “Fanny’s Menagerie,” edited by Child, continues, an elephant stomps into the room, shouting, “I want my ivory back! Who carried off my tusks?” The elephant seizes Fanny’s treasured little ivory basket and he quips as he exits with the basket, “It is of no use to me now, but I should like to carry it home to show my little elephants.”

Soon little yellow canary flies into Fanny’s bedroom and she is very sad, the maple tree that has been her home was cut down to make Fanny’s wooden chair. Fanny realizes that she is using products made at the expense of other living creatures and this makes her very sad.

Neptune floats into Fanny’s room on the back of a whale demanding, “Who stole the oil from my favorite whale!” Neptune lifts Fanny’s oil lamp and sails out of the room with it.

Then a fluffy gray squirrel enters, demanding to know, “Who took my nuts?” Fanny feels most awkward since she just took the nuts for her cat to play with, not realizing that they were a food source other animals. When the squirrel realizes that his dinner was a toy for Fanny’s cat, he started pelting her with the stolen nuts.

Poor Fanny wonders what will come next until a great horse enters her room in a fury and rips up her mattress made his hair to shreds before trotting off.

Fanny awakens and realizes that she has only been dreaming. Will she change her ways?

Source: Lydia Maria Child. 1847. “Fanny’s Menagerie,” Rainbows for Children. Boston: Ticknor and Fields: 119-131.