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  • Linda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #58


[Polly Milton has ventured into the city from her country home to earn money giving music lessons.  Miss Mills is her landlady and a helper of the poor.  Fanny is her friend from a wealthy family.]     Then, as her butterfly acquaintances deserted her, she found her way into a hive of friendly bees who welcomed her and showed her how to find the honey that keeps life sweet and wholesome.  Through Miss Mills, who was the counselor and comforter of several, Polly came to know a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent girls who each had a purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage.  Here Polly found her place at once, for in this little world love and liberty prevailed; talent, energy and character took the first rank; money, fashion and position were literally nowhere, for here, as in the big world outside, genius seemed to blossom best when poverty was head gardener.  Young teachers, doing much work for little pay; young artists, trying to pencil, paint, or carve their way to Rome; young writers, burning to distinguish themselves; young singers, dreaming of triumphs, great as those of Jenny Lind; and some who tried to conquer independence, armed only with a needle, like poor Jane.      […]     Fanny had been to many elegant lunches, but never enjoyed one more than that droll picnic in the studio, for there was a freedom about it which was charming, an artistic flavor to everything, and such a spirit of goodwill and gaiety that she felt at home at once.  As they ate the others talked and she listened, finding it as interesting as any romance to hear these young women discuss their plans, ambitions, successes, and defeats. [...] They were girls still, full of spirits, fun, and youth, but below the lightheartedness each cherished a purpose, which seemed to ennoble her womanhood, to give her a certain power, a sustaining satisfaction, a daily stimulus that led her on to daily effort and in time to some success in circumstance or character, which was worth all the patience, hope, and labor of her life.   -Louisa May Alcott, An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), p. 208, pp. 243-244


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