“Child-wife” or “child-bride” was a term used in the late 1800s to describe a young bride in her late teens or early twenties who had little experience in the ways of the world. A child-wife was an innocent, unsure of her footing, and sometimes easily influenced.
Isabella used the term a couple of times in describing some of her characters, but Mrs. Harry Harper is probably her most winning example of a child-wife.
“Mrs. Harry Harper’s Awakening” was a short story Isabella published in 1881. It’s a quick read and on the surface, it’s a simple story of a young woman who blossoms after she unintentionally becomes involved with a ladies’ Christian mission society.
But what makes the story unique is the heroine’s progression from a “child-bride” with no life purpose to a woman who is strong in her faith and determined to live her convictions.
She is introduced to us simply as “Mrs. Harry Harper.” She has no identity of her own outside of her husband’s. In fact, we never learn her Christian name; and even her husband calls her “wife” or “wifey.” Although he says those words with affection, he—like everyone else—doesn’t see her as anything more than an extension of himself.
He leaves her alone every day while he works, and expects her to simply fend for herself in some ladylike way while he takes care of the important business of earning a living. How Mrs. Harry elects to spend her days and how her involvement with a ladies’ mission society impacts all areas of her life illustrates Mrs. Harry’s progression from child-wife to confident worker for Christ.
As with all of Isabella’s stories, “Mrs. Harry Harper’s Awakening” is an allegory that illustrates Christian duty. Mrs. Harry Harper considered herself a Christian and she attended church, but it wasn’t until she began actually working for the Lord that she received the blessings and fulfillment of living the Christian life.
You can read “Mrs. Harry Harper’s Awakening” for free. Just click on the book cover to begin reading now.
6 thoughts on “The Child-Wife; and a New Free Read”
Thanks for the free read. I enjoyed the story but I really really want to know what W.P.B.F.M. means! I’m thinking the FM is for Foreign Missions. I Googled to no avail. Any ideas?
Isabella Alden was a little mysterious about those initials, wasn’t she? It almost seems as if she purposefully kept their meaning hidden when she wrote: “Little Mrs. Harper went over, heart and soul and strength, to the W.P.B.F.M., whatever those letters in their fullness might mean.” I can’t be 100% certain, but based on my research of Isabella’s life, I think the initials stood for Women’s Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Isabella’s husband was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and she was very involved in Presbyterian home and foreign missions. The Women’s Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions of Northern New York was organized in 1871 (ten years before the story was written) and had societies in four northern New York Presbyteries: Troy, Champlain, Albany, and Columbia. From those societies were 101 Auxiliaries and 119 Bands, which probably had representation in the Johnstown/Gloversville area where Isabella was raised. After her marriage, Isabella and her husband lived in New Hartford, which was also in the same area, before Reverend Alden was assigned a Presbyterian church in Ohio. Although she mentions her mission work only briefly in her memoirs, my guess, based on her novels and stories, is that she was very active in mission work in every city in which she lived.
Thank you for the info, Jenny. I haven’t read as many Isabella Alden books as I have Grace Livingston Hill but the ones I’ve read do mention missions more than GLH’s do.
I just read this delightful story and wondered the same about the initials. I had just come to my conclusion about what they meant (knowing the family’s involvement with the Presbyterian Church) when I read your reply to the previous comment and was glad that I did not have to remain in suspense very long. I love your site, the free reads, and the books you have published for the Kindle reader. I have purchased every one. It is rather amazing that neither she nor her niece Grace Livingston Hill talked much in detail about missions. Though now I think about it, I remember the avid reading of the missions and home missions magazines in “In the Way” and “Man of the Desert.” And in “Found Treasure,” the young hero of the story was returning from serving on a mission field as a Bible teacher.
How did I miss this one? What a delightful story and so heartfelt. I was worried that MR. wouldn’t support her, but so pleased that they both got on board the Mission Train. I just loved this. Thanks again for taking the time to present these to us! Warmly, Karen
I really enjoyed this story, too. I especially liked watching Mrs. Harper grow as a person and in her faith. So well written! —Jenny