100 Best Books for Children ~ Starrett

Two titles from Helen Ekin Starrett are Numbers 75 and 76 on The Hundred Best Books for Children.

Helen Ekin Starrett was known for her advocacy of education for women and their right to vote.

Her father was a Presbyterian minister and the father of five daughters. Starrett herself became a pastor’s wife with two daughters in the early days of Kansas history. She was an educator and principal; she also taught music, was a newspaper editor, and became a prominent leader in the women’s suffrage movement in Kansas.1

After her husband’s death she started a small classical school in Chicago in the late 1800s. The school grew in reputation until she retired at age 75.

Starrett wrote books that continued her teaching through the written word. Letters to a Daughter and Letters to Elder Daughters were written after her books covering what to do after college and The Future of Educated Women.

Letters to a Daughter

In Letters to a Daughter, Starrett focuses on developing the foundation of good personal habits:

My Dear Daughter:—One of the greatest blessings I could wish for you, as you pass out from the guardianship of home into life with its duties and trials, is that you should possess the power of winning love and friends. With this power, the poor girl is rich; without it, the richest girl is poor. In the main, this power of winning friends and love depends upon two things: behavior and manners. Between these there is an important distinction, but one is the outgrowth of the other. The root of good manners is good behavior. Consider with me for a little what each implies.

Behavior is a revealer of real character.

The subjects include the everyday topics of manners, tact, self-control, and making future plans, along with the more important role of religion. In this realm she emphasizes Bible reading and building on the foundation of God’s Word:

What is the universal testimony of those whose lives are really governed by the fear and love of a divine Creator? It is that in the consciousness of a desire to obey God and live in harmony with His laws they find their highest happiness.

Letters to a Daughter
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Letters to Elder Daughters

Letters to Elder Daughters, subtitled Married and Unmarried, focuses more on the responsibility of young ladies to influence future generations, no matter their situation. This is accomplished by personal character and example more than any other way.

As an early advocate for women, Starrett’s admonishments regarding housekeeping, home keeping, and being a mother are extremely interesting.

THE mother is the heart of the home. She it is who determines its characteristics and diffuses through it that subtle atmosphere which every sensitive person can feel when introduced into the home circle, and from which can quickly be inferred the ruling spirit of the home. It makes no difference whether it be the home of wealth or of poverty; whether the mother be a woman of education or comparatively unlettered; that which determines the mother’s place in it transcends schools and circumstances. It is the spiritual plane on which she lives, it is the motives which influence her life, that determine her influence and measure her power in moulding the character of her children. That which will place the mother in the highest relation in the home is the conviction, on the part of her children, that unselfish love for them and a desire to do right towards them and others will always guide her actions; that their mother may be depended upon for justice and generosity and truth and kindness toward every one. She will love her children with deep devotion and yet not wholly selfishly. Her mother-heart can take in the needs of children who are not hers, and devise kind and loving things for them. What lesson in kindness and care for others so effective to children as to see their mother taking thoughtful care for those who need it and whom it is in her power to help? What lesson in every moral and religious truth so effective to children as the knowledge that their mother is in all her actions guided by these high precepts?

Letters to Elder Daughters

This title was published in 1888. There are certainly elements not many of us will be able to relate to, but many of the precepts can be pulled out and applied in our modern-day context.

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  • Young ladies can work through the first title one chapter at a time and provide narrations.
  • The first book is similar in nature to Beautiful Girlhood, which may be another option familiar to some.
  • Older students can read the second title as part of their senior reading list.
  • The second book is also a great option for homeschool moms. (An alternative would be Home-making by J. R. Miller.)
  • Create an author page for Helen Ekin Starrett (along with the other authors in our series).

Additional Resources

Character Study {Free Download}
“Building Character: A Bible Study for Adolescents and Teens” is a free character study download from the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

1 Helen Ekin Starrett obituary. Died December 16, 1920, Portland, Oregon. The Oregon Daily Journal. 17 December 1920. p. 2.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

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