Homemaking Storytime with the “Papa’s Wife” Books



Several years ago I came across the book Papa’s Wife in my favorite used bookstore.  I was so excited to find the book because it looked like the kind of story I’m always searching for but didn’t think really existed:  A positive story about the joys of being a homemaker, without any melancholy drama.  And I was right!  I was so pleased to finally find the type of book I had always wanted to read, and it was a series!  It was so popular with homemakers that it had 11 printings in 3 years (1955-1958).  I’m pleased to have found all of them so that I can re-read them and write notes in the margins.  I had started to write about them on The Wise and Provident Wife, but I quickly realized they would need their own post.  So that is what I’m offering up to you today – a synopsis of each of these 9 wonderful books by Thyra Ferre Bjorn (affiliated links). 

Papa’s Wife, Papa’s Daughter, Mama’s Way, Dear Papa, Once Upon a Christmas Time, This is My Life, and The Home Has a Heart.  She also has two fiction books: Then There Grew Up a Generation, and The Golden Acre.

These books are so popular and rare that, unless you are the first to get to the good deals after reading this post, you’ll have to check several websites, or your library.  The books do stand alone, but if you read them in order you may enjoy the storyline a bit more. 

In Papa’s Wife: A chronicle of happy family life lit by love and a limitless trust in God, the author tells the interesting story of growing up in a parsonage in a tiny Swedish Lapland town and what an amazing woman her mother was. Towards the end, she chronicles why and how they decided to move to America’s New England, and how it changed their life. It’s a true story, but she used different names for the people in her family. I do believe that when Thyra wrote Papa’s Wife she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to admit that the mischievous daughter always getting into trouble was herself! The public loved it! She held book signings and the women begged her to tell more about Charlotta “Button” and write a sequel. Thus, the story of Papa’s Daughter was told.

In Papa’s Daughter, Button resolved that “she would not just get married and clean and sew and cook and sweep, wash dishes or have children.  She would grow up to write books!  She would dress in pretty clothes, sit in a lovely room and write stories…” (pg 26). Now, her mother was a Swedish woman with 8 children, and a minister’s wife, so when this dream was posed to her, she wisely replied on page 30, “I do hope you will be able to write books some day, but right now you shouldn’t live in a dream.  You have more important things to think of.  First, you must learn to keep house well, for you owe that to the man you will marry someday. There is much to learn about sewing, cleaning and cooking, as well as the art of being a good mother.  Do you know, for instance, my little girl, that babies are like tiny, delicate plants on which you have to bestow love and tender care in order for them to grow strong and be strong?” If only more mothers talked this plainly to young women today!

Later (pages 50-56), after she was caught sweeping toys, a soiled apron, bib, and a stale crust of bread under the sofa, and not cleaning the kitchen thoroughly like she’d been taught (her mother used the glove test), her mother admonished her and told her she was giving her a second chance to clean every bit of the kitchen over again, even the clean spots, before bedtime. Button was raging inside, and was sure that this proved she was adopted, as “a real mama wouldn’t be so cruel to her own flesh and blood.” The next day was a good day, and later she and her mama took a walk. Her mama told her about the day she was born, and ended with, “Believe me, Button, although I do have to scold you at times, you are still very precious to me.” Button laughed and apologized. Her mama said, “…when you do things like that it reflects back on me, for I am the one who taught you to keep house.  People who only keep a clean house on the surface are apt to be deceivers, hiding things in their own lives that they don’t want others to discover.  You see now why I was so cross finding you doing this very thing?” Lots of wisdom is in these books!

Soon Button gets married, and her mother helps her in becoming a good housekeeper and how to handle a husband the right way. She says many things, including, on page 123, “God made him that way so never blame him for it. When you promised in your marriage vow to reverence your husband, it did not mean that you would gaze at him adoringly night and day…  No, it meant that you would darn his socks, wash and starch his shirts, have his meals ready and give him plenty to eat. Also it meant that you would keep yourself clean and pleasant-smelling, using a little touch of perfume behind the ear on the side of the face you turn toward him to kiss.” And many other bits of advice that would put me to shame, so I won’t list them!

After reading these books I’ve come to the conclusion that Swedish women keep house much better than American women.  But then, it seems like we might have more fun.  The author also mentioned that her mom judged character by how well a woman cleaned her stove!  I was convicted and put on my favorite videos to clean to, Homemaker’s Radio by Lydia over at HomeLiving.blogspot.com and scrubbed my stove. It does look much better now!

The third book is Mama’s Way. The comment I wrote in the front of my book upon finishing was, “Wow! What a great book. This series is my new favorite, and this one was even better than the first two, which were both excellent!”  I have a small bookcase where I keep my absolute favorite books, and this series is in it, I loved it so much. 

This one focuses on the power of prayer that she learned from her mother, as well as how to raise children well, so you won’t find your child on the wrong side of the law.  She reiterates a short story her dad used to tell (page 158-9): In a small town the ringing of a certain bell would mean a prisoner was about to be executed.  The bell-ringer pulled with all his might, but the bell wouldn’t gong.  In the belfry, the warden found the gray, little mother clutching the bell clapper, her hands bleeding and bruised, forestalling the sound that would mean death for her only boy.  The warden was moved by this mother’s love and the sentence was commuted to life in prison.  Thyra writes: “My heart almost breaks when I read in the newspaper about mothers who have lost their calling…who have fallen from grace…oh that they would wake up to the fact that God’s greatest gift was bestowed on them.”  The privilege of becoming a mother.  Don’t fritter away that gift by thinking you have plenty of time and leaving your children to the care of others or their own devices.  Without your care and guidance, too many will make bad choices.

Page 108 she writes, “Mama lives on a very small monthly income, but she gives as though there always was an abundance to take from.  First of all, she gave her own life to God, promising to do His will.  When she married a minister, she gave to him her very best; nothing was too hard, his work became her work.  As the children came, one by one, she gave all eight of us to God.  ‘They are yours, Father, you have just loaned them to me.  Help me never to stand in the way so that Your will can be done in their lives.’”

Page 182-3:  “To create a home, I believe is the calling and the destiny of a woman.  God gave her all the ingredients for it, but it is the mixing of them that is important if the result is to come out successfully.  You know, the home is the making of a nation.  When the home fails, the nation fails.”  Is our nation failing?

She continues farther down the page, “…but the wife and the mother is the one who makes a home what it is.  It can be a warm, dear place to live in, or just an empty shell where people spend their years together.  As you’ve said, my Mama knew how to create a happy home.  I learned the secret from her.  She always said it is the little things, the small ingredients that are the most important.”  She talks about the children, and the husband, page 184“…If his home is right it becomes his palace…A man like that does not roam. He has all that he wishes for.  During the day, his thoughts wander back to his dear family.  It is for them that he works so hard and it is more than worth while.  He remembers…”

If you can find a good price elsewhere, the first three books are also available in a combined trilogy.

Book four is Dear Papa and it is full of more family stories and insights. The Prologue begins with how mama had been papa’s housekeeper, and to get him to finally propose she ran off to America so he would miss her.  He chased her, but was so tongue-tied, he still didn’t propose, so she did!  The book then begins with the children all grown up, and papa is now in heaven, so mama decides to write him a nice long letter describing all that has happened in the family since his graduation.  She also recalls the impish deeds that his children had committed in their youth – which she had been planning to reveal to him during their retirement years, when he’d be able to laugh about it! 

The fifth book is Once Upon a Christmas Time and talks a lot about what Christmas was like in Sweden. Page 25: “There would be one of every cooky, regardless of how many kinds had been baked. The mothers made the piles before going to church early on Christmas morning, and afterwards each child could eat to his heart’s content. To make the family feel happy and important was the duty and responsibility of each housewife. It was her task! It was her joy! That was what she lived for. And most important was pleasing her husband who, after all, was the head of the household.” Whew, now no feminist will want to buy this book and there will be plenty for those who know this joy and enjoy reading about other wise and provident women.

This is her shortest book with only 92 pages. On the last page she quotes John 3:16, and I wish I could quote the whole page for you.  Here’s a sample: “And as long as there is a Christmas, no matter what people of ill will try to do, they will not be able to put out the light that was lit 2,000 years ago and that outshines all other lights in the world. Christmas is ours – all of us together – no matter what country we come from, when we accept God’s gift of the Little Child, who was, Himself, the light of the very first once-upon-a-Christmas-time.”

Book six is This is My Life (there are several books available of this one!), and she recounts how, when visiting Sweden, she managed to visit Queen Louise. I especially liked this book because she talks so much about faith, fear, and her answers to her prayers, including how she escaped from a man who tried to carjack her. She quotes from a fireplace engraving in England, “Fear knocked at the door. Faith opened it. And there was no one there.” On page 87 she says, “Religion, to Papa, was an expensive item, something to be respected, glorified, and held high. I was, indeed, a very blessed child to have parents like that, and because of this richer life within me, I have found the secret of true happiness.” You can start today to become this type of parent.

Book seven is The Home Has a Heart.  This 12 chapter book is different in that she includes recipes, tips, and prayers for each month of the year.  I’ve got lots of notes in this book!  From page 20: “Strictness,” said Mama, “is love turned inside out, and you have to learn to be strict even with yourself.  When a small inner voice tells you not to do a thing, listen to it.  For if you don’t listen, the next time the voice will be much softer, so that you can hardly hear it.  And if you keep on ignoring it, someday it will not whisper at all.”

Page 21:  “‘First, let us thank God!’ (said her grandma).  Then she prayed a beautiful prayer which I remember so well.  With her hand resting on the loaf of bread, she lifted her face toward heaven.  She was radiantly beautiful and it seemed as if a ring of glory surrounded her: ‘We thank Thee Lord for this good gift.  Our hearts are light; our heads we lift To praise Thy name forever more That hunger does not reach our door.’ So from my parents and grandparents, I learned both obedience and gratefulness.”  Mothers, your children are watching you.  They remember what you do and say, how you act, and your tone of voice. 

Book seven ends the autobiographies, and books eight and nine are fiction novels.

This illustration is called “Autumn” by Haddon Sundblom

Book eight is Then There Grew Up a Generation.  My note says, “Surprisingly good!”  I wasn’t sure if she could pull off fiction, but she did.  It’s about the generation gap and a church pastor who is disillusioned.  Even his children are losing their faith.  Is the strife in his congregation his fault?  Has he brought God’s Word to his people?  Her characters live.  It is very well written!

Her last book, The Golden Acre, was so good I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day (191 pages).  (Don’t let the cover turn you off.) It is a love story about a doctor and his wife, and their search for peace and security as they age, while their child is desiring independence and longing for her own life and marriage.  Page 150:  “People need to be taught to think.  Most people don’t really think; they just follow the crowd.  If one demonstrates, half the followers don’t really know what they are agitating for or against – they just follow.  This is a mad world, and we can’t let this insanity take over.  Christ says we should ‘overcome evil with good,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do.  And it works, Gail; it really works!” 

I just love the last page of this book as well, but I will only quote one line: “Then she realized that something had taken place in her soul – a transformation, a holy reverence, a rebirth that she knew would change her life from now on…”

I hope you will be able to find some of these books and enjoy them. There are still a few books left at a reasonable price for some of them.

May God bless you as you care for your home and family.




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