Monday, June 16, 2008

Gleanings from Catherine Marshall's "Christy"

I read the original copy of Catherine Marshall's Christy last year while working third shift as an in-home caregiver. It was a short-term employment (Thank you, Lord!), but a time well spent in catching up on my reading and research. Here are a few things with which I came away:


In this conversation, Christy is trying to convince a wealthy, older gentleman, Mr. Smith, to donate funds for the school:

“‘Did I understand you to say,’ Mr. Smith asked, ‘that you are trying to handle sixty-seven children all by yourself in one room?’

‘That’s right, Mr. Smith, don’t feel sorry for me. Lots of one-room country schools have more than that. Odd thing too – I’d always thought that lumping all grades together in one room would slow everybody down. It works the other way. The children finish their own work, then listen to the recitations of the older ones. They retain a surprising amount. Gives them a sense of direction, too.’” [1]

Now, isn't that interesting? That's how home schools work. In our own experience, I really don't know how or when Lydia learned to read. I had my "burn-out year" at just the time she was ready to begin reading instruction. She says she remembers me working with her and playing the phonics games and such, but I have a total mental block concerning that year. However, I have a suspicion that Lydia had been listening and learning all the while her two older brothers were learning to read. I know it had a lot to do with her quickly picking it up. Andrew was three years behind Lydia, so he didn't have that edge, and it took him much longer to learn to read. I just wonder if that had something to do with it.


In this section, Christy is explaining to her friend, Fairlight, how easy it will be for her to learn to read. This was what teachers used to know before they became "professionals:" anyone who can read can teach anyone else to read. It doesn't take a certified teacher to do it. Mothers in home schools across the nation and around the world are doing it every day, and don't need $20,000+ a year from the good tax payers of their communities to do so.

“I picked up the Bible.

‘There are lots of words in this book.’

‘How soon will I be able to read it, Miz Christy?’

‘In no time! And I will tell you why. Every single word in this book and all the words together use only twenty-six English letters – these here. So after you’ve learned just twenty-six and know how to put the letters together to form different words, then you can read. Easy!’” [2]

I really have to wonder what was going on in Catherine Marshall's heart and head when she penned this conversation in the late 60s. She is advocating higher education for women in addition to their roles as mothers and homemakers through her mother's fictional character. This attitude was considered feminist in Mrs. Marshall's mother's day. However, Christian women back then didn't recognize where it would all lead. By denigrating homemaking and motherhood and exalting higher education for women, they little realized that they were actually planting the seeds of the destruction of the foundations of our national homes.

“The eyes behind the glasses smiled. ‘I think the president would like your vehemence on behalf of higher education.’

‘For girls too? What’s the right thing for positively brilliant girls like Lizette Holcombe and Bessie? It is enough that they end up just having babies, cooking corn pone, and churning?’

‘You are a feminist already, Miss Huddleston?’

“...I answered seriously, ‘No, Mr. Smith, I don’t think so. Not really. Because there is always the danger that the extreme feminist will end up quite unfulfilled as a girl.’” (Emphasis mine.) [3]

I believe that last phrase was inserted by Mrs. Marshall after she had seen the direction the extreme feminists of her day were taking at the time this book was first published (1967). I doubt very much if she fully understood then that it was the thinking like her character had at the turn of the nineteenth century which laid the foundation for the restlessness of the extreme feminists of Mrs. Marshall's day.

Just my thoughts.

1. Catherine Marshall, Christy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), 176.
2. Ibid., 155.
3. Ibid., 177.