craft, Mary Frances sewing

Mary Frances; preface

Easy Steps In Sewing for Big and Little Girls or Mary Frances Among the Thimble People.

Jane Eayre Fryer wrote a series of Mary Frances books in the early 1900’s, seven to be exact, as a way to teach young girls a complete course in home economics. The Adventures Among the Thimble People is her second book, following the Mary Frances Cook Book or Adventures Among The Kitchen people.

It’s always an adventure with Mary, a strangely plotted adventure with a group of anthropomorphic characters or dolls…and probably some racist and problematic extras.

Kitchen People.

Thimble People: Who we shall meet later.

The Paper Doll People: General house keeping. I’m not including the pictures here because Lucinda the maid is a racist caricature who seems to have a white baby to take care of as an accessory. Here’s an unapologetic post celebrating the 100th anniversary edition that should never have happened.
The Garden People.

mary frances garden 1.jpg
The Brave Family : “Mary Frances and her dolls convey first aid remedies for accidents and emergencies with humor and the best contemporary advise” for those who’d like to time travel to home remedies from 1916. I’m sure that aged well. You can check it out here. You can check them all out online as their copy write protections have expired and they are not part of the public domain.

mary frances first aid

First Aid to the Injured

They attended the most dangerously injured first, stopping the bleeding (hemorrhage) of Mr. Brave’s head and bandaging a dressing in place. They applied soothing carron oil* to the burns on little Soami’s arms and legs.

*Carron Oil : a lotion of equal parts of linseed oil and limewater formerly applied to burns and scalds called also lime liniment

The Knitting People.


As I mentioned before, all of these can be legally found on-line. They have also all been re-released in 100th anniversary editions…some less deservingly than others.

The Knitting People and Thimble People have had their outfits resized for American Girl Dolls in the latest editions. Those things creep me out. I had a friend who worked for the company. I am not sure if there really is a room where he worked that lined the tops of the walls with Those Dolls Heads…but I choose to believe that was a correct and true memory.

I am not surprised I never learned about these books  My parents have a great love of books and each read to me nightly when I was a child. They didn’t subject me to so-so stories.

My father introduced me to the Oz series, which debuted a few years before Mary Frances, and Alice in Wonderland, which was published a few decades earlier. These stories set the bar high. In Mary Frances books the fantasy aspects and the writing style are sub-par at best. The Illustrations are cute…sometimes odd but generally cute.

The MF books served to instruct in a whimsical manner with odd rhymes and lessons of the sort that Alice in Wonderland often satirized and mocked.

My mother, who simply yells back “Scales aren’t feminist!” each time I visit home and (after I’ve bought too much stuff and am pondering if my luggage is overweight) ask her if she has a scale I can use, wouldn’t have dreamed of buying me a set of outdated books about housekeeping for little girls. It wasn’t on the shelves of Room of One’s Own Feminist Bookstore in Madison and it wouldn’t have come into our house. If it somehow found it’s way into the home it would have served as a teaching tool of NOT.

If my mother had found The Paper Doll People and their racist depictions of a black maid in my elementary school’s library she would have had yet another fight with the school about what outdated crap they had shelved… as she had for “The Red Indian Fairy Book” (Mom, correct me if I’ve misremembered which outdated book involving “Little Red Indians” Thoreau ES had stocked and whined about removing).

So…the world of The Thimble People was 100% new to me.

The preface of the Thimble People sets the scene and presents us with our first warning:

“The Thimble People, Like the Kitchen People, are peculiar in that they can be of little help to those who dislike them; so that, unless you are prepared to be fond of them, it is best not to seek their acquaintance.”

Following the preface is a list of chapters, a list of patterns (as the patterns are contained within the book), a list of instruction pages and an illustrated introduction to the Thimble People.


Know these Thimble People, your lives may depend on it. As the weeks follow, and I stitch, I shall open up their world to you….or as a man I once worked for would have written:

Secrets the Thimble People Don’t Want you to KNOW: And how they can unlock your Learning Potential.



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