Contemporary Wisdom From 1909 in “A Girl of the Limberlost”

“There was no form of suffering with which the girl could not sympathize.”

A Girl of the Limberlost may have been written in 1909, but you don’t want to wait another second to crack the covers or load up your e-reader, because Gene Stratton Porter is an author to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Even if you’re not at all a teenaged girl, this book is still relevant. And fortunately, Porter had written more than one novel. And I’d go so far as to say that this and most of her other books are still relevant.


A Girl of the Limberlost, found at

Why I’m mentioning this today

The following passages recall me most strongly to our current

tendency to allow people to be famous for being famous.

SPOILERS AHEAD: While I realize this book is from another century, this may be the first time you’re even hearing about it, so feel free to skip down to the resource links at the bottom right now.


This is from a conversation between Elnora Comstock and Philip Ammon. Elnora had just inquired about Philip’s fiancee. Bolding is mine.

“In what is she interested?”

“What interests Edith Carr? Let me think! First, I believe she takes pride in being a little handsomer and better dressed than any girl of her set. She is interested in having a beautiful home, fine appointments, in being petted, praised, and the acknowledged leader of society.  She likes to find new things which amuse her, and to always and in all circumstances have her own way about everything.”

“Good gracious!” cried Elnora, staring at him. “But what does she do? How does she spend her time?”

“Spend her time!” repeated Philip. “Well, she would call that a joke. Her days are never long enough. There is endless shopping, to find the pretty things; regular visits to the dressmakers, calls, parties, theatres, entertainments. She is always rushed. I never am able to be with her half as much as I would like.”

“But I mean work,” persisted Elnora. “In what is she interested that is useful to the world?

“Me!” cried Philip promptly.

“I can understand that,” laughed Elnora. “What I can’t understand is how you can be in——” She stopped in confusion, but she saw that he had finished the sentence as she had intended.

“I beg your pardon!” she cried. “I didn’t intend to say that. But I cannot understand these people I hear about who live only for their own amusement. Perhaps it is very great; I’ll never have a chance to know. To me, it seems the only pleasure in this world worth having is the joy we derive from living for those we love, and those we can help.

Much as I didn’t want “the real world” to intrude as I was reading this book for a countless time, I couldn’t help but think about it all the same.

Read it for the above, read it for the lush dive into naturalism, read it to find out both the tragedy and the love, and what happens to this girl from the school of hard knocks. But read it.


Image from a Girl of the Limberlost; this is Katherine.


  • Project Gutenberg has it for free, though the format isn’t the most elegant.
  • Careful, more spoilers: Wikipedia entry here.

4 thoughts on “Contemporary Wisdom From 1909 in “A Girl of the Limberlost”

  1. Pingback: “There’s No Such Thing as Original Music Anymore.” | Erin Harris

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