The author's name is actually Mary Theresa Hemmeter, though it is only printed as "Mrs. George Hemmeter". She died before I was born, but I know from my father and his siblings that she was a very devout Catholic. I suppose I didn't see the full extent of that until my cousin sent me the scrap book that contained this article.
Really I'm posting this to give you guys a laugh, I was highly entertained by the article myself. But it contains a snapshot of a time in women's history when the beliefs expressed in this article would not be uncommon, and although I know she would never mean any harm, that does not mean that none was caused.
In this article she cautions against divorce- that a divorced woman, "bound by vows, must give up all hope of married happiness". About 20 years after this was published my aunt Terri got married, very young, and a few months later wanted out. But her mother would not allow her to get divorced. Instead, she left and although the two were separated, were never legally divorced to the day of her death more than 40 years later. She never remarried, although I don't think she would have wanted to. In fact neither she nor any of my aunts had children, and only one got married, in her late 40s. Watching what had happened to Terri turned them away from the kind of life their mother describes in this article.
I've stuck as close as possible to the text in the old newsletter, bolding and italicizing what was the same in the printed paper. However some was cut off, for whatever reason.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy the old-school Catholicism in its purest form!
An expert on marriage, love and happiness? An authority, maybe?
Mrs. George Hemmeter, young wife and mother, would be the last to claim such distinction. In her talk to more than 500 young women attending the Preparation for Marriage course, she applied a brand new treatment to an old, old subject. Here, she talks about marriage as a vocation. Next week, Mrs. Hemmeter tells young women how to size up a man as a prospective husband, and the following week she will discuss love and happiness.
By Mrs. George Hemmeter
I warmly appreciate this opportunity to take part in your Marriage Preparation Course. Every happily married woman is at heart a matchmaker. Now I must not promise too much. I just don’t know enough fine boys to find the perfect partner for each of you.
But if I could, it would be a labor of love, as it was in other days to conscientious parents who chose husbands and wives for their children, and often chose well, laying firm foundations for happy homes. They would entrust this choice to none but wise and experienced minds, for they regarded it as vital- in its deepest sense, a life and death matter.
A wise choice leads to a happy marriage, increased spirituality on earth, an eternal life hereafter. An unwise choice exposes you to frustrations, compromises, at least; over a whole lifetime these may so accumulate and overbear you, as to cause despair of happiness and surrender- that is, death to your soul.
We do start building our heaven here on earth. In our social pattern this choice is left all to you- young and courageous, but limited in experience. Yet it well may be that you yourself may make the best choice, if you will BUT TAKE TIME AND TAKE COUNSEL.
After all, it is your life, and who should be more careful of it? And when you reflect on those children you hope to have, and whom you can almost love already, you will choose a husband who can grow into a good father. You would not dare to endanger their welfare by a careless or selfish decision.
You have come here to take counsel under the guidance of the Church, whose ancient wisdom is always available to you. You will be presented many considerations on marriage- propositions true of all marriage, and of your marriage. You will have to reflect on them, master the principles, and apply them to the one marriage you plan.
When you doubt that you are applying the right principle in judging a possible husband, talk it over with YOUR PASTOR for more specific help. His counsel will light up your thinking with the spiritual insight gained by constantly applying God’s truth to marriages happy and unhappy.
Another source of guidance will be YOUR PARENTS. Most of you no doubt are blessed with good Christian parents. What better models for marriage and parenthood? What better counsellors than these who have your best interest so close to their heart? I sometimes think that if we have fewer successful marriages now than formerly, it may be partly due to our neglect of the fourth commandment.
We owe our parents honor- not only in the dependent obedience of our childhood, but in the reverence of our more mature years, when surely we should have the understanding to see the love, the humility, the patience, the magnanimity that shine through their life-long devotion. Virtue is quiet, unassuming- it’s true. It is easier to follow the glittering sophisticates of the world, to listen to the ever-ready lecturers who gain prestige by novel theories of marriage and human relations. EASIER- BUT DANGEROUS! And you may be overlooking a gold mine in your own back yard.
Look to your parents, then, for edification; cultivate a more understanding friendship with them, and check your ripening knowledge with their experience. Don’t ever think your mother doesn’t remember about choosing a husband! She’ll recall it as though it were yesterday.
We have our sources of counsel- now let’s consider how to use the time in choosing a husband. Do take time, plenty of it. The amount depends on the individual. The right time for you is when you have clearly established your right aims in marriage, strengthened your character to achieve them, and are attracted to a young man similarly prepared and able to take on the duties of marriage.
Many girls are mature enough in their early twenties, many young men are not. Ordinarily, girls reach maturity earlier than boys, so that some few years’ seniority in the husband may be desirable. But it is your own spiritual ripening- not your age in years- which indicates the time for marriage.
You are choosing a vocation, not competing with Jo Ann, Alice and Betty to see which of your crowd shall marry first. Did you see some of that competition in marriage and didn’t you have an unhappy, secret feeling that some of those girls were rushing their plans just a little bit too fast to be sure of where they were going?
But suppose you are ready for the responsibilities of marriage and still the One Important Man has not made his appearance? No cause for panic, and no reason to lower your standards. If Divine Providence designed marriage and motherhood for your sanctification, Divine Providence will not withhold the means. Entrust the matter in prayer to your favorite saint (St. Joseph is understanding, you know) and then make your time of waiting a refinement of preparation.
You just can’t learn too much to use in married life. Your life in the business world can train you to competence in management, right order in financial affairs, and attention to details of ceremony. These will transplant readily to the home economy, where your good management may furnish the means to educate your children.
You can turn your attention to household skills. How much cooking and sewing instruction has your mother been able to get into your busy school days? Your husband will expect you to organize and run the house, you know. You can learn to get meals in those busy days right after the honeymoon if you have to, and indeed you will have to, if you haven’t started earlier- but it’s a mighty strain on your self-confidence. You will be much happier service a well-cooked meal, without apologies. A trained hand with a needle will always be your friend. Get well introduced to these skills before marriage if you possibly can.
Have you served your apprenticeship at canning and preserving? It’s work, but solidly satisfying in results. I’ve never yet learned to relish tomatoes and peaches in the tin, and I shan’t as long as I can fill shelves and cartons with a solid pack of new fruits and vegetables each harvest time. It’s a big pack at our house (so big I must call on my husband to help), for if there’s one thing certain about children, it is that they’ll always be needing feeding.
You know, I get a fellow-feeling with the Mother Robin in the spring, when she’s running fresh food supplies into the next. You’ve seen her, haven’t you- darting at tidbits on lawn or leaf, dashing to drop them into expectant beaks, rushing right back for more? And after a dozen trips she comes back to the nest to find every mouth still up-turned, waiting for food. Understudy your mother next canning time. You will want to be a provident mother yourself.
This is the second installment of a talk given by Mrs. George Hemmeter at the Marriage Forum for young women sponsored by the Toledo Council of Catholic Women.
By Mrs. George Hemmeter
You Can Afford Casual Friendship, But Don’t Pick a Casual Husband
Do you think we have wandered far from choosing a husband? Well, you can judge a husband better when you have judged correctly the wife you will make. And having sharpened your own tools for a workmanlike job, you will more readily attract and impress a young man who is shrewd enough to get ready for his side of the job.
You want him to be competent in his trade or profession so you’ll be sure of support and an honorable place in your community. Like calls to like. In intellectual and cultural background, also, it is well for husband and wife to be similar, for a readier understanding and more perfect agreement.
Early in your acquaintance you will appraise a man’s appearance. If he looks good to you, that’s enough for beauty, strictly speaking. A great deal of manly attractiveness comes from good health, though, and you’ll want to be sure of this.
Only a normally healthy man can provide for a family and beget sturdy children. We might consider here the moral defects that may also influence health- drinking, impurity, gambling.
You cannot achieve spiritual union with a man whose mind is paralyzed with drink, enslaved by the flesh, or burnt out with the fever of gambling. If such vices have only a slight influence on a man you care for, you may join your encouragement to his resolution to battle them.
But be sure he knows the brunt of the battle is his, that he does an immediate about-face and serves a probationary period- without lapse- long enough to prove that he is a new man.
It’s a frightening thought that you could care for a man with such defects, isn’t it? Study him well, then, and observe him in his own home. That is where he is most natural; that is what formed his moral character. Frequent visits there will give a picture of him as he’ll be in the new home he helps to make.
Be happy and reassured if he has a spontaneous respect and affection for his mother. He’ll value his wife the more. His ideal of marriage will be largely formed from his parents’ marriage; and it is necessary for him to have the same ideal of Christian marriage as you have, to co-operate with you to your mutual happiness.
The habits of affection will be home-grown, too. If your own home life was effervescent with gestures and words of endearment, you will pair uneasily with a man whose parents take family attachments for granted and grow self-conscious at any display of … [page cuts off]
[...] casual friendship, but you cannot afford a casual husband. You cannot pen up in yourself your highest aspirations, secret from the husband with whom you should share everything. What if his secret heart holds entirely opposite aspirations?
What will he teach your children, or to what ends will he guide them, if he does not share your belief in the spiritual end of living? You’ll be lonely in the practice of your faith, that may weaken it. What if your lack of unity leads to divorce, and you, bound by vows, must give up all hope of married happiness?
This last may have the effect of a negative argument, but it has a powerful practical impact, and I’ll admit it stopped me cold long before I realized the full spiritual meaning of marriage. Self-preservation is not just the highest motive but in hard fact … [page cuts off]
[...] When a man’s family welcomes you frequently into their circle, I think your friendship is getting down to a specific interest, don’t you? If you have gone this far with a non-Catholic boy, it is time to take stock. Maybe you’ve been having such fun you had not noticed he was absorbing more and more of your interest. If you want to continue the interest it is time to talk religion.
He thinks he knows you well- he knows you are Catholic, of course, but he may think that’s rather incidental, just a service you attend once a week. Show him that it is the key to your personality and the deep well-spring of your living. If he’s seriously interested, he will show it in pursuing a study of this new light on your thinking.
A really energetic suitor will pursue it right into the parish house for religious instruction, if you would direct him skillfully. If you have not the skill, nor the will, to direct him now, better stick to dating Catholic boys. Don’t drift along with him until he had monopolized you; then you will be in imminent danger of mixed marriage.
And you would not willingly choose that, for mixed marriage is incomplete marriage. Just as your friendship has so far ignored the highest level, so would your marriage ignore it. You may afford a … [page cuts off]
[...] For a permanent union, for the fullest marriage, choose a Catholic partner. Look for signs of a lively faith. If he frequently receives the sacraments, you may be reassured. A man may not always be so outwardly pious as a girl, but he must be as insistent on maintaining his soul in a state of grace. It’s a natural custom for a young couple to meet for Sunday Mass, and receive Communion together, and it’s a promise of the unity in prayer that will join them their life-long in their home.
For this marriage is a supernatural vocation. That is its great promise- that you will work together for heaven; powerfully aided by the graces of matrimony.