Sara's Reviews > Molly: An American Girl : 1944

Molly by Valerie Tripp
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Apr 12, 10

really liked it

I used this title to review a book my great-grandmother wrote and had published titled, "Just Molly." Her name was Marguerite Nye Bell and the book was published in 1980. You can actually search for it on Amazon and it will list some places you can buy it used. So, it is a real book, even if Goodreads says it isn't.
I have had a copy of this book in my possession for most of my life, although I never read it in its entirety until about five or six years ago. I just reread it on the heels of Half-Broke Horses, because I saw a few similarities between my great-grandmother, Molly, and Lily. Both raised during the turn of the century, both "trailblazers" in my mind. I needed to read this book again to refresh my memory, and this time take notes on what I think was a pretty interesting life.
Molly was born in 1888 in Minnesota and is my father's mother's mother. She lived into her nineties and I actually went to her 90th birthday, although I was only four, so I don't have any memory of the party. Molly starts her story with her earliest memory ("flying" down a flight of stairs) and continues on with stories about her siblings and parents. She was a red head and was fortunate enough to go to college to become a teacher. She studied under the "famous" Stella Wood who played a part in bringing Kindergarten to The United States. Molly became close friends with Stella Wood and was ultimately asked to write her biography after she (Stella) passed away. "With Banners" is the first book my great-grandmother wrote and it, too, can be found on Amazon. Molly taught just a year or two until she married, Dwight, whom she was married to for 53 years. They started their family and had seven children, though one passed away as a child. My grandmother, Louise, was the second youngest. The story continues in quite an ordinary way until Molly's first grandchild was born. Molly's daughter complained of the baby kicking off her blankets at night and Molly decided to "invent" something to keep the baby covered. It is hard to picture exactly what she came up with, but it involved snaps and clips for the diapers. Molly continued making the "Nap-Jac" for family and friends and was eventually encouraged to sell it publicly and filled many orders from department stores. She was very careful to research the safety of the product herself and visited many pediatricians and hospitals to show it to professionals and get their approval. She even secured a patent for the invention (I need to do some research on this.) Unfortunately, due to WWII, the factory that was producing the Nap-Jac had to be used for the war effort, and it never saw as much success as it may have had.
Molly's family grew and her children moved out, and some back in, over the years. Her eldest daughter's husband was struck with polio at one point and Molly was actually his main care taker. She worked with him for hours daily, for many months until he regained some use of his legs and he eventually moved to California.
At the age of 67, Molly decided to enter the work force as a secretary. She persevered and was eventually hired by a music company. The owners loved her and she worked there for many years.
When Dwight died in 1964, Molly was worried her children would see her as a burden, so she booked an indefinite trip to Europe. Alone. She booked passage on a Norwegian cargo ship, which welcomed a limited amount of passengers. Molly spent time in Amsterdam and England during her four month stay abroad. She was 76.
On another solo trip to Florida several years later, Molly asked each of her children to write her with some of their childhood memories. Both Molly and Dwight often kept diaries and both kept carbon copies of all of they letters they sent! She had a wonderful written history of her family and decided it was time to organize it all. She was disappointed by the lack of content in the letters her children returned to her with their memories, but she started writing anyway. What it turned into was the story of "an American life." And in the end, a book about the "celebration of freedom in personal relationships." Of course, reading this passage from the last chapter, left me feeling the book was written for me.
"I wondered, after it was rejected by publisher after publisher, if anyone but my children would really find it interesting. I consoled myself by thinking that it might mean something special to my great grandchildren, as a record of what life was like long before their time....After all, I had lived in that ancient period when there were no automobiles and no airplanes--what could be more historic than that in the eyes of today's children?"
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message 1: by Sally (new)

Sally Brown Sara you were a bright and shining star in our lives...at age 4...so much like Anna, when we went to Molly's 90th birthday party. You were so sweet and kind to her with your little kid energy spilling all over the room...it made her so, so happy to be with you. I forgot she was a red head cause I met her when she had turned white so now we can answer the "who had the red hair in the family?' question. I loved her 'nothing is gonna stop me attitude' with her traveling alone; I'm gonna steal that from her. and the nap-jack? you wore one for a while, Grandma Louise gave it to me...that was when babies slept on their tummies...and why didn't I keep it? I have no idea but I could kick myself for loosing track of it. Anyway I vividly remember, when I read Just Molly, that some day you would read it and re read it and cherish Molly's memory like we all did. She was such a great woman, so brave, so kind, so smart, so giving she was magical to be around....she really turned on her personal power and never gave it up to others. I think she would be proud of what a wonderful mother you are …steal as much as you can from her identity…she lived it for you. “I’m afraid” never was in her vocabulary. By the way Dwight could be a real pill of a man sometimes ahh like all husbands can and those travels alone were what saved her sanity but she would never ever let him know that… I always admired how she handled him with such clever loving care, just like she did with her 8 children.


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