Making Spirits Bright | Dec–Jan 2023

book one

book two

Kindred Spirits
An old one-room schoolhouse, now serving as a quaint antique shop in Reinbeck, Iowa, is where my story begins. This little schoolhouse was arranged just like school was in session, with antique desks all lined up, a black chalkboard, and pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hanging on the wall. Along with the array of vintage school furniture, antiques were available for purchase, and that is where I found my treasure.

Browsing through this unique shop, I came upon an old book, a novel with a picture of a beautiful lady from days gone by on the cover. The book was very old—cloth-covered, yellowed pages, some pages a little loose—but it was the cover with the lovely lady that drew me in. The book was entitled Family Pride. It didn’t have a copyright date, but inside the front cover was an inscription: “Christmas 1912, to Hazel from Ethel,” which made the allure even greater, knowing the book was over 100 years old and had been a Christmas gift between friends. As it was in a delicate condition, rather than reading it, I found a home for it on one of my bookshelves for safekeeping.

In the April–May 2022 issue of MaryJanesFarm, I read your article, “A Kindred Mary Jane,” and it made my heart skip a beat, several beats actually, as you had included photos of the two books by Mary Jane Holmes that you had purchased for the same reason I did—because of the sophisticated, stunning ladies on the covers.

With a typical Nancy Drew mentality, I couldn’t get to my bookshelf fast enough. I had to know the author of my book, and there on the spine was the name Holmes and sure enough, inside was printed Mary J. Holmes. Excited was not a word that came close to how I was feeling.

I debated whether I should write to you with my story, and in the meantime, I decided to carefully start reading the book, fragile as it is. In your article, you stated that Ms. Holmes “tackled the serious issues of gender, class, war, and the injustice of slavery through the eyes of feisty females we can identify with.” Although I am not quite finished reading this wonderful book, I am seeing that Ms. Holmes was a forward-thinking woman in her day. She was not afraid to let her readers know what was in her heart, and I believe it was a tender heart. It would have been a joy to sit down and chat with her over a cup of tea.

Family Pride means so much more to me now that I have read your article. It warms my heart that I can connect you to this other Mary Jane. I would not be surprised at all to learn that you and Mary Jane Holmes were somehow related.

I have been a subscriber to your amazing magazine since the prehistoric days and, up until recently, I have, like many of your other readers, saved every issue. My situation now is that I either have to purchase a larger home with a dedicated room for MaryJanesFarm magazines; rent a storage unit; or as a last resort, give them to my close friends, who will revere these issues as I do. I am pondering. Thank you so very much for enriching our lives with your beautiful magazine. I, for one, am very grateful.

– Carol Hook, e-mail

I love the back-to-basics ideas and simplicity of the magazine. It brings comfort to my life and takes me to places, ideas, and a lifestyle I love.

– Teresa, RaisingJane.org