In 1947, the Northfield News began a new column titled “For Women Only,” written by Maggie Lee. In this chatty feature, Maggie wrote about a wide variety of subjects, including personal anecdotes, local observations, and newsworthy events (which probably interested both men and women). Maggie started at the newspaper as a reporter and bookkeeper in 1944, and partly due to the popularity of this column and also to her tireless commitment to telling the stories of Northfield, she moved through the editorial ranks until she was named managing editor in 1967.
For one early column published February 6, 1947, Maggie included a description of historic Valentine’s Day cards on view at the Minnesota Historical Society behind a discussion on bothersome squirrels and a list of the contents of her father’s dresser drawer and her own purse. She wrote:
“A Minnesota Historical Society news release for February gives a timely description of the exhibit of valentines now on display at the society’s building in St. Paul proving that Minnesota pioneers continued on the frontier some of the holiday customs of Europe and the East.”
She described a few of these “pioneer valentines” on view, including “a home-made valentine of cloth flowers, a bit of lace, and a lock of hair woven into a pattern,” created approximately in 1860. Since MNHS has digitized many of their paper artifacts, I wondered if I could find this particular one on their Online Collections web page. And there it was!
Now we can see the remainder of the poem quoted by Maggie, written by the Valentine sender:
This lock of hair you’ve seen me wear
But now present it to your care
If you ever should wish to see this
Remember me, remember this.
Amusingly, Maggie thought that the valentines being exchanged by children in 1947 paled in comparison to these early love letters. “Those early romanticists,” she wrote, “would flop in their graves if they could see the contents of those heart-covered boxes in Washington and Longfellow grade schools next week.” She goes on to describe a number of Valentine’s Day cards of her day, in great detail.
But now those 1947 valentines, with language such as “Yep, Toots, you’re my Valentine,” and “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m a nice squirrel, and nuts to you,” seem nostalgic and charming to our 2016 eyes, compared to some of those floating around today. Who knew how much Valentine’s Day cards can reflect the spirit, language, and pop culture of their day?
The NHC has uploaded quite a few of Maggie’s early “For Women Only” articles from 1947, and more of the originals are saved on site at the Northfield Historical Society. Feel free to browse around and see what else was on Maggie’s mind!