For Sweet Charity’s Sake

This is the first article in February of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on February 7, 1909, and is an article on hosting a St. Valentine chairty fair.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

For Sweet Charity’s Sake

From time immemorial the fancy fair, the benevolent bazar — in fact, eleemosynary entertainments of what-soever kind—have been the favorite butt of the satirical and the stingy! We are told of worthless articles which are sold at big prices; of “no change” systems; of the shameless expenditure of time and labor for that which satisfies nobody; of the humbuggery of the whole business—until a certain unsavoriness clings to the very name of anything done for “sweet charity’s” sake, if it takes the shape of buying and selling.

Therefore, when I intimate that a pleasant “function” may be arranged in anticipation of St. Valentine’s Day that will bring innocent enjoyment to the participants and customers, and net a neat sum for some deserving object, I foresee dissent and demur on the part of those I would interest. Let us reason together a bit concerning the prejudice we cannot ignore. I grant that it would not “pay” in any sense of the word for such a busy woman as, say, myself, to spend evenings in stuffing pincushions and embroidering sofa pillows, and mornings making cakes and pastries, I could better afford to donate ten, twenty, fifty dollars to the “cause” than engage in labors so expensive, in view of money value of time. Men usually condemn fairs and bazars upon this principle. Business and professional husbands and father estimate the worth of women’s work by the value of their own, whereas the hours, bestowed by the average housewife and the daughter at home upon charity work represent neither dollars nor cents. What the things manufactured by their nimble fingers will bring into the church, club or association is so much clear gain.

So much for the pecuniary side of the question. The moral and social advantages of the function are not slightly esteemed, even by those who assist in the church supper or the fair projected by the young people of the neighborhood in behalf of a local charity. It is much, as pastors and pastors’ wives will tell you, to bring all classes of the church together upon an equal footing; to level, for the time, the fences built by folly and lucre between neighborhood cliques, and to unite all in a common interest. It is a step in the direction of the millennium of universal brotherhood.

Am I didactic? Forget all except that I would have those who love their fellow-men engage in the beautiful enterprise of working for others and forgetfulness of the petty claims of personal dignity and fancied self-consequence. It is a good way to begin the year.

“Hearts Are Trumps.”

Now for our valentine party.

It goes without saying that “hearts are trumps,” for this once, at least. Set your lively wits to work to devise novel ways and means of illustrating the idea. Provide a generous supply of what were known in my fancy-fair days as “bachelors’ pincushions.” They are heart-shaped. Cut two pieces of cardboard into the right form; cover each with thin muslin, basted smoothly over the cards; then with silk, velvet, cotton, satin or morocco. Baste or glue upon the shapes; lay a thickness of cotton batting between the two sides of the heart, and bind or stitch the edges neatly together.

If you have skill with the brush or pen, you may decorate the outer covering with devices suitable to the season. Stick pins closely around the whole heart, and the cushion is ready for the bachelor’s pocket or desk or dressing table. They are really useful, being far more convenient for reference in a “hurry call” for a pin than a paper or “book” holding the tiny indispensables to human comfort.

Heart-shaped shaving cases, calendars, matching holders, workbags, fancy shopping bags, needle books and “housewives” (our foremothers called them “huzzifs”), centerpieces and dollies—the line of possibilities for the managers of the fancy tables is limitless.

As to the supper, imagination and ingenuity have here as wide a range. Salads of lettuce and celery hearts may be disposed of in the desired heart-shape upon chilled platters; it is easy to procure heart-shaped moulds for jellies and lees; small tarts are cut in the same form while cookies and crullers lend themselves readily to it.

In the matter of decoration, my young workers need little instruction from me. Wreaths, of evergreen are twisted into hears; chains of smaller hearts depend from the wall garlands. It is even feasible to have the small supper tables set about the hall for the convenience of select parties of feasters, cut into the popular form. They are of cheap deal and any carpenter can hew out the wedge-shaped “nick” and round the double curve to produce the desired effect—a rude semblance of the conventional idea of the all-important organ.

Right thankful am I that this season there is no talk of “leap year” such as vexed my matronly soul last February! I believe in legitimate transactions in hearts, but I would have them constructed in the good old-fashioned way. For four years we are tolerable safe from indecorous invasion of masculine rights in the matter of proposals and the feminine prerogative of acceptance or rejection.

St. Valentine Cookies.

Cream together two cupfuls of fine sugar and one of butter. Beat three eggs light, yolks and whites separately, and add the beaten yolks to the creamed butter and sugar; next, an even teaspoonful of ground mace, and half as much cloves. Sift twice, and together, a pint of flour and an even teaspoonful of baking powder. Add this to the mixture you already have, alternately with the stiffened whites. The dough should be just soft enough to roll into a sheet a quarter of an inch thick. Cut into heart shapes; stick a bit of citron, like a tiny heart, in the middle of each, and bake in a steady, brisk oven.

Almond Cookies.

Warm the butter very slightly. Cream light a cupful of butter with two cupfuls of powdered sugar. Beat two eggs without separating yolks and whites. They should be smooth and light. Whip these into the sugar and butter with half a teaspoonful of grated nutmeg. Sift together twice a heaping pint of flour and a teaspoonful of baking powder. Add to the rest of the ingredients, and lastly, when all are well incorporated, half a cupful of almonds, blanched and minced very fine. Moisten them with rosewater as you chop, to present them from oiling.

Roll out light and quickly into a sheet a quarter-inch thick, cut into hearts, put a split almond on the top of each, and sift coarse granulated sugar over them before they go into the oven.

Ginger Cookies.

Rub a cupful of sugar to a cream with a scant cupful of butter; beat into this a cupful of nice molasses and one of milk. Beat for a whole minute before adding a teaspoonful, each of ground ginger and of cinnamon. Sift an even teaspoonful of baking soda twice with three cupfuls of flour and mix all together, beating with long, upward strokes. The dough should not be too stiff to roll out easily into a thin sheet. Stick a raisin in the center of each cake.

Although there are no eggs in these cookies, they are delicious when properly made.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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