A Slice of Life: The Helen Cline Papers

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Who is Helen Cline? In the grand scheme of things, she’s not an important person from our nation’s past, but in a way she is: she is an example of the millions of “ordinary” people who make the world go ’round.

The 69 letters sent to Cline from her mother detail the kinds of concerns women had in the late 1940s. Mrs. Lewis’s handwriting can be a bit challenging, but the benefit of reading through a cohesive collection like this is you begin to learn the writers’ individual styles.

A sample letter is transcribed below, from Mrs. Lewis, living in the big city of Los Angeles, to her daughter Helen in Evanston, a moderate-sized town north of Chicago on Lake Michigan:

letter page 1

Friday Afternoon
June 9 1948

My dear Helen

The clouds have been
heavy all day — but its
good for us and all
the growing things

I baked cookies
this morning — just the
Old Fashioned cookies
I always make — I have
not tried your recipe yet
will next time thank
you for sending it

I have been and am
feeling miserable — Tis said
that people who are always

letter page 2

well hollow the loudest
when they get something
the matter with them but
I feel like going up stairs
locking the door, getting
into bed & staying there

When I have finished
this I am getting dressed
& taking Miss West a box
of cookies — thats not a
bait — I really like her
and find her quite
interesting — and she
is good for what ails
me — lonesomeness —
she calls for me in her
Cadalac limozine with

letter page 3

a very dignified negro
man at the wheel —
she tucks the robe
around me as if I were
her mother — and God knows
I need a little such
attention — & get very little
of it these days —

Every one says she
deserves a great deal
of credit — as does
Joan Crawford — both
came from nowhere
both have succeeded
beyond their own expectations

I read not so long
ago — that when Joan went
to a party — when she entered

letter page 4

it was likened to
turning on a great
chandileir — she has
studied & studied — always
trying to make herself
more better

Right here [near?] should
to find out just what they
would take for the house
we looked at day before
yesterday — How well I
know that question does
not make a sale — But this
is the nearest I have ever
to a deal with her

Well I suppose I had better
not say more — I suppose it
has already put me on
the black list — but if
Stalin or Al Capone or Joe Louis

letter page 5

would call on him Ask
him if he could do
[?] with them or
gather his raiment tight
around him for fear he
would be contaminated
I would even close
a deal with Henry Wallace

I have not yet heard
from your friend Margot.
I will try and call her
some day soon —

I hope you are well
and that the [?] did
not (get you down / do you in)

Write whenever you can

From your Mother

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