Lydia Maria Child, “sustainable” Unitarian

I read a number of blogs that help me live better in the details and in meta-narrative. Some of these are about money; PeaceBang is correct that I meld bits of soap together, even if the results aren’t pretty.

Insofar as in me lies, I intend to be content and happy if neither famous nor rich. So I read J.D. at Get Rich Slowly not for its eponymous promise, but in hopes of keeping my head above water and putting back a little for a rainy day. Yesterday, J.D. wrote about the 1832 title, The American Frugal Housewife citing tidbits that might interest the readership. But where did I know the author, Lydia Maria Child? A Universalist. No, a Unitarian as it turns out, and of radical Free Religious sympathies to boot. But she was from the First Parish, Medford, Massachusetts, now a part of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, where my friend the Rev. Hank Peirce is the minister. This is the same Hank Peirce who preached at Eliot Church the day Tierney-Eliot Son #3 was baptized, about which the Rev. (and Papa) Adam Tierney-Eliot wrote yesterday. So we’re full circle, no? Where was I?

Oh, thrift. While Child’s remedies for a sore ear and bedbugs would bring down the wrath of the DEA and EPA (in hazmat suits, to clean up the mercury-egg white mix) today, her advice against luxury rings true. I like this bit.

Buy merely enough to get along with at first. It is only by experience that you can tell what will be the wants of your family. If you spend all your money, you will find you have purchased many things you do not want, and have no means left to get many things which you do want. If you have enough, and more than enough, to get everything suitable to your situation, do not think you must spend it all, merely because you happen to have it. Begin humbly. As riches increase, it is easy and pleasant to increase in hospitality and splendour; but it is always painful and inconvenient to decrease. After all, these things are viewed in their proper light by the truly judicious and respectable.

Luxury, once a byword for excess and vice, has become a reward for those convinced by marketers that former extravagnces are now necessities. Whose choice was it that these essentials — cell phones, or automobiles? — are such. What happened to esteem-building accomplishments that you didn’t have to buy?

Download The American Frugal Housewife here.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Lydia Maria Child, “sustainable” Unitarian

  1. Ok, even more of a circle can be made as Lydia lived two doors down from the Eliot Church parsonage here in Natick, just long enough to describe my church and one of my predecessors (sp?) as “Spiritually Dead”…heartwarming.

    I have been struggling a bit with this luxury issue and the prompt for me was actually bottled water. I wrote a post about it so I won’t get in to it too much here. But it does seem to be just the sort of thing you are talking about. I am thinking about all the time we just plain “need” that bottle and what the impact of this luxury-turned necessity has on our (and other) communities…

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