If you talk to women who grew up in conservative Anabaptist circles, you will find that a large number of them were given this book as young girls, often around the age of puberty, or even before, by well-intentioned adults who wanted to see them grow up to be successful women.
Unfortunately, the definition of success as depicted in this book is a little scary.
It looks kinda like this,
but without the color red. (obviously)
The important thing to remember as we dive into this book, is that it is written to princesses.
That is, it is written to depict to young teenage girls how they can grow up to be ideal women in their communities, finding favor with both God and man. (The right kind of man, of course.)
As book pedigrees go, this one is gold standard. It was published by Rod & Staff- an extremely selective publisher.
("Understand that when I say 'selective,' I'm not referring to quality," Father clarified wryly.)
Of course, (as always), Father is right. Writing quality is not the most important aspect that Rod and Staff considers. In fact, writing quality is hardly considered at all, as you shall see.
The premiere quality of Rod & Staff books is ideological purity. Every word, every gesture, every plot point is relentlessly in tune with the party line, and the lessons are driven home with the subtlety of a 20-pound sledgehammer.
You cannot be published by Rod & Staff unless your story, article, or
novel (oops! storybook) is 100% pure of anything problematic.
Any idea or practice that anyone in their conservative setting may even have the smallest question about is ruthlessly expunged. (For example, I once read an article explaining that stories should not include scenes describing things such as a teenager helping himself to a snack in the fridge. In some homes, parents require their children to ask permission before getting a snack, and publishing a story in which a child does not ask could undermine their parental authority. (In the words of the Apostle Paul, "I lie not."))
Being published by Rod & Staff is a ringing endorsement of what you are saying. Let no one think that Dear Princess is some kind of fringe book that only a few crazies out on the edge espouse. These ideas are mainstream. (I mean, radically conservative Mennonite mainstream.)
Furthermore, Dear Princess was written by the wife of the bishop at the church at Crockett. (If you don't know the significance of that, you're probably not my initial target audience, but that's OK. I'll explain. Imagine that the Pope had a wife and she wrote a book about how Catholic girls should act. That's kind of what's going on here.)
You may wonder how a woman can write a book like this, without falling afoul of the Biblical injunctions against women leading.
There are several extenuating circumstances. First, it is written to girls, so it qualifies at "the older women teaching the younger." (I probably shouldn't have read it though, since that allows her to be teaching me.)
Secondly, the acknowledgements make it clear that "faithful brethren...reviewed this manuscript for soundness of doctrine and Biblical applications." So that makes it safe for consumption.
Finally, her husband, the revered Paul M. Landis is acknowledged for (among other things) his "patience, and immeasurable help during the months of preparation and (of course) for his final word in everything." Lest there be any doubt about who wears the pants in that house.
So, at the outset, let's just be clear that everything that this book talks about is indeed the position of the conservative Mennonite church.
Add to this the fact that the book is commonly read, frequently gifted, and usually put in school and church libraries, and you can't doubt that it is considered to be full of "good truth for youngsters."
You will see what it actually contains as we go along.
Till next time!
This post is the first in an ongoing series. To read the next post, click here.
3 thoughts on “Introducing Dear Princess”
Oh but you must not stop there! We are all waiting to hear what you say next!
I’m so glad you started a blog. Your voice needs to be heard.
After reading more about her and Rod and Staff I am beginning to wonder if it was more the situation of ” Dear, you are so good at writing. and we are losing control of the young women in the church. The next book you write should be one that tells girls how to be proper Mennonite women . Now this is what you will write. ” of course what would NOT have been said to her would have been “and that way we can have more girls to play with”
Okay I love this series on Dear Princess, as it is amazingly therapeutic. I was given this book as a Catholic fundamentalist homeschooler in the early 90s, found it both confusing and damaging AND had a copy in German, to practice that language. Anywaze, I would love to see you take on MORE Rod and Staff books, particularly more by Landis and particularly “Days on the Farm with Annette and Samuel”, which I loathed as a child. “Days on the Farm” was the most perfect example of a very specific and vengeful God. They always had immediate physical repercussions from heaven for their childish transgressions AND got taken soberly to the bedroom to be lovingly spanked and bible-versed at by Mother or Father or both or who knows. Go barefoot against orders? Poison Ivy. Take a snack without permission? Die of botulism. Or something like that. “Be sure your fault will find you out” quoted mother as she sprinkled dirt over Annette’s mangled corpse.