Twelve Greatest Things Series–Toil

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

The Greatest Twelve concerning which Doctor Holland writes from month to month, although numbered, are not meant to be presented in any order suggesting the importance of one over another. Each lead in its own place—Love, Struggle, Money, Play, Toil, and the seven yet to come.

–The Editors of The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women

Hello, again History Lovers,

I would like to dedicate today’s post on Toil to one of the hardest working women in my life, my maternal grandmother. She not only instilled in me the desire to work hard but also to do the very best job possible.



Man once believed that I came into the world as a curse upon him for their sin; now he knows that the Garden was given to him for his home, his task was to dress and care for it.

Though called by many names, Toil is the one I prefer. Did not an earth’s great poet sing of me,

“Toil makes the soul of man to shine
And makes rest fragrant and benign.”

I am the fulfiller of every noble ambition and hold in my hands the key to every palace that men would enter. I point the way to every path where Hope beckons. If youths will only follow me, I will give to them every excellence and teach them to conquer everywhere.

The earth is full of foolish people, foolish enough to think that they may succeed without toil. All such die no better than they were born. Their last cry is more worthless than their first.

I will put a crown of honor upon the brow of everyone who works, for God has put no distinctions between tasks. The blacksmith and the senator are equally my favorites the artist and the artisan I equally love. I give no man who does not toil any chance of being a real man or of blessing the race. My beatitude is, “Blessed is he who loves his work.”

I am one of the chief solacers of those who have sorrows to forget. The broken-hearted turn ever to me for relief. When bereft mothers wring their hands, I fill them with tasks and make their slumber sweet. Millions of tears I have prevented by putting new burdens upon tired backs. This is a secret of help I have from the Creator.

I am set as one of the joy makers of the heart. I sweeten the bread in the mouth of the toiler. I hide gold in the mountains and pearls in the depths of the sea and make men happy while they toil for their treasures.

The idles, the lazy, the gourmands, the sensualist seek me not. With folded hands and withered dreams, they pass in nothingness to the grave.

Blessed are all who toil: the lover for his beloved; the lady for her liege; parents for their little ones; the artist for his dreams; the scholar for his knowledge, the sinner for his goodness; the farmer for his grain; the shepherd for his flock.

The stars in their courses work on the side of those who are alive with work.


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, May 1926, Page 275; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series–Play

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Hello, again History Lovers,

We have come to the fourth article in the Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series. This month’s topic is Play and it speaks powerfully of mental health.

While enduring two years of varying levels of Covid lockdown I have certainly noticed the effect that isolation has had on the elderly. No longer being able to be as physically and emotionally involved in activities, hobbies, friends, family, and life has caused folks depression, anxiety, and diminished cognitive abilities. It could be argued that the Covid lockdown took away their opportunity to Play with a serious cost to mental health. As life moves back toward “normal” I hope that Play will serve to improve the mental health of everyone but especially the elderly.



As ancient as Work and Struggle am I. It has been given to me to keep men from growing stale or going insane. They call me Play.

All animate life feels the thrill of gaiety that I inspire. The young things of all creatures I tickle till they leap and frolic.

Little children are filled with the instincts of action which I give them. If men and women were only wise enough to play more and let their little ones play, most children would be good. If I can have my way, I make the bodies of children clean and healthy while they run in their games.

Long-faced people who are dead but not yet buried look with pain upon the recreations of young people. It is because they have grown unnatural and warped.

Without me, Play, people grow old at forty and are octogenarians at fifty.

As for me, I shall never be content till I am a part of all the existence of men and women. They all need me.

The principle of inner growth is in my hands. When people cease to play, they begin to shrivel and die. The great discovery of working folk is that they ought to mingle Play with their toil. I will keep them young, and keep them growing.

Often, I have been perverted when weak men have tried to make me the whole of their lives. Such people, I destroy, for they curse the earth. The Creator at first made all pleasures innocent, all passions pure. Because some foolish ones are destroyed by pleasure is proof of my power, but I wish only to bless and never hurt anyone. My mission is daily to re-create man for his noblest task.

Whenever I am crowded from a palace or humble home, the physician enters. It is a law of Nature that they who despise me must pay the Doctor. If you would digest your food, laugh, and be jolly. Dyspepsia reaps his harvest from play-less bodies.

As the master loosens the tension of the violin strings, so I relax the tautness of human nerves and give them rest through change.

If I could persuade men and women to come out of doors with me, they could close half of their hospitals and prisons in a generation. I am the balance wheel, the “governor” of the human soul. Religious people are not made better through a lack of diversion. Rather are they made to grow unnatural. I could again paint upon their cheeks the roses of health and give real life to their soul. Prayer is not more necessary to life than I. Really he prays best who plays best.

I call men to give the right amount of time to pleasures, relaxation, sports. While they frolic, I will make them “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and send them back to the great tasks of life with a zest for those who have been reborn.


The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Money

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

The first of the Great Twelve discussed by Doctor Holland was Love. In February he showed us the value of Struggle. This month he shows us the two faces of Money–its good face and its bad, its smile and its frown.

The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women

Hello, again History Lovers!

Today’s post is the third installment of The Twelve Greatest Things Series published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women 1926. Through Reverend Hollands’ essay, we are reminded of the ability Money has to ennoble a man’s character, as well as the power to expose a man’s ignoble soul.



“I AM the most popular of man’s earthly treasures. Throughout the world, I am called by a thousand names.

Since I was discovered, I have had more power than any other thing or idea.

Americans are positively crazy over me. So restless are they to possess me that they have no peace night or day. Their two leading occupations seem to be to get and spend me. I am the god in whom they trust.

One of my greatest names is Power. At times I have seemed almost Omnipotent. I have put sniveling weaklings upon golden thrones and bought crowns for their worthless heads. Priests and ministers have sold their souls for me. Whole governments have I held in my powerful hand. When fools make war, I sit behind the scenes and pull the wires of human destiny.

I am a magic wand. I erect hospitals where cripples are cured. I build houses of God where men find forgiveness and peace. I buy the jewel which the lover places upon the hand of his beloved. I accompany the pair throughout their journey of life and at last, buy them a winding sheet (shroud).

While I am neither good nor bad in myself, I bless or burn those who use or abuse my power. If any man will love me enough, I absolutely rule him.

If you would see me at my worst, behold the shriveled heart of a miser.

My best use is to make possible the bloom of health upon a baby’s cheek.

Poor fools will lie for me but they always regret their bargain. Often have I been in the pockets of robbers but I never have enriched one thief. I have an eternal quarrel with all who use me dishonestly.

If men were only wise, they would see how cheap I really am compared with the great things of life. True love I never once have purchased, nor have I ever made one home happy where love was not there before I came.

Health is worth many times more than wealth, yet countless men have traded their health for me. All such desire to trade back. Nature does not allow that, for she has put no reverse gears in the human-machine. Though men know this, still I have but to “jingle my guineas” in their ears, and they rush off like hounds after a hare.

Honor is above the price of rubies, yet, here and there, I find men whose honor is purchasable. Even some women sell their virtue for dollars and men have sacrificed lovely daughters on the altar of mammon.

Foolish men! Do they not know that the soul is worth more than all material worlds? I have never saved one soul in all time, nor ever. I can not buy a prayer, nor am I to be compared to one tear of repentance.

What am I? I am a tool, a prop, a temporary comfort. My blessing and my cursing stop at the grave. From there men’s souls go on without me. I have sent many souls to judgment but have accompanied none.

I am only for Time. Men are created for Eternity.”


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1926, page 141; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Struggle

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

First in his list of The Twelve Greatest Things In Human Life, Doctor Holland named Love. This month comes sturdy Struggle. Some of our friends are memorizing the short chapters; others are pasting them up in scrapbooks.

Hello, again History Lovers!

The new year brought with it a new series to The Farmer’s Wife Magazine–the Twelve Greatest Things In Life–written by Reverend John W. Holland. The series was originally published in monthly installments by THE FARMER’S WIFE–A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN. Each month’s article featured a topic regarding the human condition, therefore the topics are as pertinent today as they were in 1926. Installments of this series will be posted on the first Sunday of every month throughout 2022.

My sincerest apologies for posting a week late. Blogging was trumped by a ski weekend with my children and grandchildren. 😉


“I AM almost as ancient as Love. Although called by many names and often cursed by foolish men, I remain unchanged.

I am the guardian of all good, for I test everything. In my furnace fires, all minerals have been burned so that only the best were left.

When Life appeared on the earth, I pounced upon it and beset its pathway with so-many difficulties that only the strong remained.

As the trees sprang from the fertile earth, I whipped them with many storms so that they which endured might have fiber strong enough to stand.

When Man came in innocence from the Creative Hand and fell into wrongdoing, I stood by him and helped him to win strong virtues in the place of his lost innocence.

Men sometimes rebel at me but they can have no great destiny without me. I am rough on the exterior but my hands are lined with velvet. I am the unwelcome trainer of all things that would grow.

I cradled a boy in poverty. I took away his mother and drove him out among rough men to win his lonely way. I denied him the schooling of the cultured and compelled him to labor in sorrow in a wilderness. I broke his heart by stealing from him the sweetheart of his youth. I battered at his brain till he was almost frenzied. I fed him the bread of poverty but through it all, I watched over him, enlarged his sympathies, quickened his brain, till at last, Lincoln, arose like a colossus among the saviors of the race.

Cowards and weaklings are afraid of me but I know the only things that will make real men of them. Women who are foolish enough to try to shield themselves from me sink into nothingness.

I temper the heart and sinew of the athlete by making him fight and work for his laurels.

I gave to virtue its divine quality by compelling it to fight to the death its sinful enemies.

I make bread sweet in man’s mouth by his very labor for it.

When earth needs prophets, I prepare scorpion whips for the hands of those who scourge the backs of the good.

I make the noblest music of the world from the anguish of suffering.

Would you be well? Then fight the enemies of health. Do you desire to become wise? Dig for the gold of wisdom. Would you be noble? Master every lurking secret weakness within you. Would you be a saint? Annihilate sinning.

Men desire easy paths to glory. I refuse them utterly, for my noblest crown is a Crown of Thorns, and life’s sweetest bliss is the memory of a conquered sorrow.

The angel that you desire to carve I have hidden for you in the hard block of marble.

My name is Struggle!”


The above article was published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1926; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Twelve Greatest Things Series — Love

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Hello History Lovers!

The new year brings with it a new series to The Farmer’s Wife Magazine–the Twelve Greatest Things In Life–written by Reverand John W. Holland. The series was originally published in monthly installments in THE FARMER’S WIFE–A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN. Each month’s article featured a topic regarding the human condition therefore the topics are as pertinent today as they were in 1926. Installments of this series will be posted on the first Sunday of every month throughout 2022.

I hope you enjoy!


THERE are hosts of people who “have something to say”—all they ask is an audience. There are very few who have a message to deliver, something of importance to pass on. Dr. Holland is “a man with a message”. During the months of 1926, he will speak his message through the columns of THE FARMER’S WIFE. It is a queer thing but no matter how wise a man or woman may be, if they know nothing about country life, what they have to say to country people somehow falls short. Dr. Holland is the product of an Iowa farm with which he still is in close touch. He is a minister, serving a large city charge. Between that farm home and young manhood, he worked his way through school.  What Dr. Holland has to say about “The Twelve Greatest Things In Life” is a real message from a real man. Hear him! —Editors.

Twelve Greatest Things in Life — Love

Dr. John W. Holland

I AM Love. I have been called “the greatest thing in the world.” This is true since I make people do the very greatest of things. I have been with men and women since the beginning of creation and shall never desert them unless they try to degrade me into lust.

I cause young lovers to become blind to each other’s faults. For me will a woman leave her father’s house, assume the duties of a wife, crown her life with the sufferings of motherhood, choke her own hunger with a crust that her children may have bread, and wear always a smile won from bitter tears.

I touch the spiring soul of the youth and henceforth he forgets how to live for himself. I put burden after burden upon his shoulders that make him stoop while I sprinkle his head with the snows that never melt. Through long years a man will give his all for Love and call it good.

I cause men and women to love each other, and lo, poetry springs into being.

I incline men to love their country, and they sing of patriotism.

I inspire them with devotions to God, and their hearts break forth into psalms and prayers for courage and purity.

Filled with the holy passion that I am, men always have called me divine, and through hearts purified by Love have called the Deity by my Name.

None can live without me. Kings have left their lonely thrones for one sweet joy which has inspired. Misers have parted with their gold when I kindled my sacred fires in their hearts.

Only through me may men ever understand each other. Whatever wrongs there are which I am not allowed to settle never can be settled by heat and force. Men talk foolishly of making a better earth through the agencies of force or commerce alone. I smile at them for I know that without me there never will be any bond strong enough to bind the nations together.

I teach mankind the sublime secret of inner beauty and for every controlling of their animal natures, I strengthen within their souls the vision of the angelic.

When I am honored in human lives, I build and adorn. When I am driven from the motives of any heart, I become a lurid flame that destroys. Men may fool with me only at their own peril.

Therefore, I call you to Love. Make me the center of your very being. Teach promise to cast out fear, impurity, and hate from their hearts forever. Under my sway, growing youth will become God-like. I swear in honor to sow the flouters of hope and happiness in every home where I am enthroned unto all the years of man’s life upon this earth. I guarantee a peaceable community to every group of neighbors that will receive me.

The highest proof of my heavenly origin I gave from dying lips upon a Cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Verily, I am the greatest Truth for all men and women—LOVE!

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1926; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Article may be edited for length and clarity.

Take Time To Live

An article in the October 1926 FARMER’S WIFE MAGAZINE advises farm women to “take time” to live – an adage Gladys Taylor remembers from her college days. She advises women to take time to teach and enjoy their children. Take time to read good literature and listen to good music. Take time to keep up on current affairs and to be a responsible voter (a newly won right for women). Take time to care for oneself. Take time for fun family activities. Take time to take photos (a popular new hobby after WW I). Last but not least, take time for spiritual life for these things are not just for time but for eternity.

Old fashioned wisdom that still has relevance today. Happy Sunday!

~ Elaine

“Take Time”

By Gladys E. Taylor

ONE of my professors at college once said that he could preach a sermon on the two little words, “take time.” I do not know what he might have said in such a sermon but I have often thought of this counsel and have tried to adopt it into my own life.

The life of a farm woman is of necessity full. I have learned this from experience and yet my advice to all farm women is, “take time” to live! Learn to work for speed and efficiency in your housework. Drain your dishes instead of wiping a presumably unsanitary towel over them. Use a pretty oilcloth table cover that can be wiped off after every meal. Teach the children to put things away after using them. Do not spend the time to iron common sheets, pillow slips, and other articles which are just as well—and some maintain—better without it. These are but a few of the time-savers which can be used and thus permit us more time to “live.”

Take time to get acquainted with those children of yours. They need your comradeship and sympathy, whatever their ages. Show an interest in the things which interest them. Learn their strong points and help to develop them. Remember that you are their most influential teacher. Give them daily lessons in honor, kindness, and justice.

Teach them to like good books and good music.

Take time to read. As a voter, it not only is your privilege but is your duty to keep posted on current affairs. Do not vote for a certain individual because he runs on the ticket of the party to which your husband or father belongs, but vote for him because he is the best man! Read the classics. Good literature will both rest and uplift you.

Take time to care for yourself. Be as careful to make yourself attractive in the eyes of your husband as you were when he was your lover. Pay especial attention to your hair, your nails and your clothes. Have outside interest which will take you among women who have something else to talk about than their neighbor’s affairs. Active thought stands off old age.

Take time for picnics and pleasure excursions with your family. Take time to get “snaps” of your children as they are growing up. They will mean much to you in later life.

Take time for spiritual life. Your soul needs food even more than your body.

So, I might go on and on saying take time to do these things which, after all, are not for time but for eternity. Think them out for yourself. FWM

The above article was originally published in THE FARMER’S WIFE – A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN October 1926, page 510; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Our Future Citizens

Letters from Our Farm Women” was a long-running column in THE FARMER’S WIFE – A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN.

To encourage submissions, the magazine awarded a prize of ten dollars (a value of over $140 today) for the best letter published each month. All other letters published, about five per issue, earned a three-dollar prize. The topics were as deep as the writers’ insight and as broad as their imaginations. They were all sincere and thought-provoking. This letter from October 1926 addresses loyalty and citizenship at a time when the War To End All Wars–WW I — was part of recent memory. Enjoy!     


Letters From Our Farm Women–October 1926

DEAR Friends: A good citizen must first of all be loyal to God and country; then he will be both good and great at heart, worthy of trust wherever placed in life.

So, I try to go deep in the training of my children. To begin with, we ourselves are obedient to the laws of the land, thus setting them the best example we can. From the first, our little folks are taught right from wrong and that wrongdoing is always followed by its consequences. Love and loyalty to God, parents and home must be established first. Later, obedience, love and honor to teachers and Sunday School teachers and others who may be placed above them; as they develop, they are taught to apply the same principles in relation to County, State and National government.

In order to be successful in teaching citizenship, we have God in our plan; if His teachings are followed, our children will not be lawbreakers.

We observe special days, such as Independence Day and Flag Day, instill in the children’s minds the importance and origin of the day. We have always made a great deal of our own birthdays, so I think that is why every special occasion becomes a birthday to us. Christmas is the Lord’s birthday, not just a time to hang up stockings and eat lots of candy; Independence Day is our Nation’s birthday, not merely a day to shoot firecrackers and make a noise; and so on.

This is my own, my native land!

Sir Walter Scott, Poet (1771-1832)

Public celebrations are good and have their place but it seems to me that sometimes too much stress is placed on outward display. The leaders are very often people who do not hesitate to break the laws in many ways and children do not learn real patriotism from such. So, I feel that if the principles of good citizenship are to be implanted deep in our children’s hearts and souls, it cannot be left to outside teaching—we must instill thoughts of virtue, purity, the nobility of nature, sacredness of marriage and home and family life, the awful consequences of crime, and thus, with the help of Heavenly Father teach them, in cooperation with the church and school, to be good and useful citizens of our dear United States for “This is my own, my native land!” ~Mrs. M. P., Minnesota FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine For Farm Women, October 1926, Page 478; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota