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Friday, August 31, 2018

Taking Care of the Little Things

“It is not the straining for great things that is most effective; it is the doing the little things, the common duties, a little better and better.” – Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Born in Massachusetts on this date in 1844, Phelps was the daughter of one of the nation’s leading theologians, the Rev. Dr. Austin Phelps, and the writer Elizabeth Wooster Stuart Phelps, author of a series of books for girls called The Kitty Brown stories.  Rev. Phelps also was a noted writer, his works becoming standard textbooks for Christian theological education and still in print today.

The younger Elizabeth had a storytelling gift even as a child and by age 13 had had stories published in Youth's Companion and many Sunday school publications.   Prominent literary figures like John Greenleaf Whittier lauded her early writings which put her on the path to author a remarkable 57 volumes of fiction, poetry and essays in her lifetime. 

Her most popular novel, The Gates Ajar – her vision of what Heaven might be like and published right after the Civil War – was a runaway bestseller and established her as a leading writer and a well-known speaker advocating for social reform and women’s rights.     Her 1877 book, The Story of Avis, was way ahead of its time, focusing on issues that would be among the leading feminist causes at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

“Happiness must be cultivated,” she advised shortly before her death in 1911.  “It is like character. It is not a thing to be safely let alone for a moment, or it will run to weeds.”

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