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Later in the season, Miss Booth visited Dr.
Zakrzewska. Imagine my surprise when she came to me one day, and laid
before me the coveted manuscript. "It is yours," she said, "to publish if
you choose. I have got Marie's consent. She gave it very reluctantly; but
her convictions accord with yours, and she does not think she has any
right to refuse. As for me," Miss Booth continued, "I resign without
regret my dearest literary privilege, because I feel that the position you
have earned in reference to 'woman's labor' entitles you to edit it."

In an interview which I afterwards held with Marie Zakrzewska, she gave me
to understand, that, had she been of American birth, she would never have
consented to the publication of her letter in her lifetime. "But," she
said, "I am a foreigner. You who meet me and sustain me are entitled to
know something of my previous history. Those whom I most loved are dead;
not a word of the record can pain them; not a word but may help some life
just now beginning. It will make a good sequel to 'Woman's Right to

"Only too good," I thought. "May God bless the lesson!"

It was agreed between Miss Booth and myself, that the autobiography should
keep its original, simple form, to indicate how and why it was written: so
I invite my friends to read it at once with me. Here is something as
entertaining as a novel, and as useful as a treatise. Here is a story
which must enchant the conservative, while it inspires the reformer. The
somewhat hazy forms of Drs. Schmidt and Müller, the king's order to the
rebellious electors, the historic prestige of a Prussian locality,--all
these will lend a magic charm to the plain lesson which New York and
Boston need.

* * * * *

New York, September, 1857.

Dear Mary,

It is especially for your benefit that I write these facts of my life. I
am not a great personage, either through inherited qualifications or the
work that I have to show to the world; yet you may find, in reading this
little sketch, that with few talents, and very moderate means for
developing them, I have accomplished more than many women of genius and
education would have done in my place, for the reason that confidence and
faith in their own powers were wanting. And, for this reason, I know that
this story might be of use to others, by encouraging those who timidly
shrink from the field of action, though endowed with all that is necessary
to enable them to come forth and do their part in life. The fact that a
woman of no extraordinary powers can make her way by the simple
determination, that whatever she can do she will do, must inspire those
who are fitted to do much, yet who do nothing because they are not
accustomed to determine and decide for themselves.

I do not intend to weary you with details of my childhood, as I think that
children are generally very uninteresting subjects of conversation to any
except their parents, who naturally discover what is beautiful and
attractive in them, and appreciate what is said in correspondence with
their own feelings. I shall, therefore, only tell you a few facts of this
period of my life, which I think absolutely necessary to illustrate my
character and nature.

I was born in Berlin, Prussia, on the 6th of September, 1829; and am the
eldest of a family of five sisters and one brother. My early childhood
passed happily, though heavy clouds of sorrow and care at times
overshadowed our family circle. I was of a cheerful disposition; and was
always in good humor, even when sick. I was quiet and gentle in all my
amusements: my chief delight consisting in telling stories to my sister,
one year younger than myself, who was always glad to listen to these
products of my imagination, which were wholly original; for no stories
were told me, nor had I any children's books. My heroes and heroines were
generally distinguished for some mental peculiarity,--being kind or
cruel, active or indolent,--which led them into all sorts of adventures
till it suited my caprice to terminate their career. In all our little
affairs, I took the lead, planning and directing every thing; while my
playmates seemed to take it for granted, that it was their duty to carry
out my commands.

My memory is remarkable in respect to events that occurred at this time,
while it always fails to recall dates and names. When twenty years of age,
I asked my father what sort of a festival he took me to once, in company
with a friend of his with only one arm, when we walked through meadows
where daisies were blossoming in millions, and where we rode in carriages
that went round continually until they were wound up. My father answered,
with much surprise, that it was a public festival of the cabinet-makers,
which was celebrated in a neighboring village; and that I was, at that
time, only nineteen months old.

He was so much interested in my story, that I related another of my
memories. One dark morning, my mother wakened me, and hastened my
dressing. After this was accomplished, she handed me a cup of something
which I had never tasted before, and which was as disagreeable as
assafoetida in later years. This was some coffee, which I had to take
instead of my usual milk. Then I went with my father to the large park
called Thiergarten, where we saw the sun rise. I began to spring about;
looking at the big oaks which seemed to reach into the heavens, or
stooping down to pluck a flower. Birds of all kinds were singing in
chorus, while the flower-beds surrounding the statue of Flora scented the
pure morning air with the sweetest of perfumes. The sun ascended,
meanwhile, from the edge of a little pond covered with water-lilies. I was
intoxicated with joy. The feeling of that morning is as fresh to-day as
when I related this to my father. I know I walked till I got fairly tired,
and we reached a solitary house beyond the park. Probably fatigue took
entire possession of me; for I remember nothing more till we were on our
way home, and the sun was setting. Then I begged for some large yellow
plums which I saw in the stores. My father bought some, but gave me only a
few; while I had a desire for all, and stole them secretly from his
pockets; so that, when we reached home, I had eaten them all. I was sick
after I went to bed, and remember taking some horrible stuff the next
morning (probably rhubarb); thus ending the day, which had opened so
poetically, in rather a prosaic manner. When I repeated this, my parents
laughed, and said that I was only twenty-six months old, when my father's
pride in his oldest child induced him to take me on this visit; when I
walked the whole way, which was about _nine miles_. These anecdotes are
worth preserving, only because they indicate an impressionable nature, and
great persistence of muscular endurance. It is peculiar, that between
these two events, and a third which occurred a year after, every thing
should be a blank.

A little brother was then born to me, and lay undressed upon a cushion,
while my father cried with sobs. I had just completed my third year, and
could not understand why, the next day, this little thing was carried off
in a black box.

From that time, I remember almost every day's life.

I very soon began to manifest the course of my natural tendencies. Like
most little girls, I was well provided with dolls; and, on the day after a
new one came into my possession, I generally discovered that the dear
little thing was ill, and needed to be nursed and doctored. Porridges and
teas were accordingly cooked on my little toy stove, and administered to
the poor doll, until the _papier-mâché_ was thoroughly saturated and
broken; when she was considered dead, and preparations were made for her
burial,--this ceremony being repeated over and over again. White dresses
were put on for the funeral; a cricket was turned upside-down to serve as
the coffin; my mother's flower-pots furnished the green leaves for
decoration; and I delivered the funeral oration in praise of the little
sufferer, while placing her in the tomb improvised of chairs. I hardly
ever joined the other children in their plays, except upon occasions like
these, when I appeared in the characters of doctor, priest, and
undertaker; generally improving the opportunity to moralize; informing my
audience, that Ann (the doll) had died in consequence of disobeying her
mother by going out before she had recovered from the measles, &c. Once I
remember moving my audience to tears by telling them that little Ann had
been killed by her brother, who, in amusing himself with picking off the
dry skin after she had had the scarlatina, had carelessly torn off the
real skin over the heart, as they could see; thus leaving it to beat in
the air, and causing the little one to die. This happened after we had all
had the scarlatina.

When five years old, I was sent to a primary school. Here I became the
favorite of the teacher of arithmetic; for which study I had quite a
fancy. The rest of the teachers disliked me. They called me unruly because
I would not obey arbitrary demands without receiving some reason, and
obstinate because I insisted on following my own will when I knew that I
was in the right. I was told that I was not worthy to be with my
playmates; and when I reached the highest class in the school, in which
alone the boys and girls were taught separately, I was separated from the
latter, and was placed with the boys by way of punishment, receiving
instructions with them from men, while the girls in the other class were
taught by women. Here I found many friends. I joined the boys in all their
sports; sliding and snow-balling with them in winter, and running and
playing ball in summer. With them I was merry, frank, and self-possessed;
while with the girls I was quiet, shy, and awkward. I never made friends
with the girls, or felt like approaching them.

Once only, when I was eleven years old, a girl in the young ladies'
seminary in which I had been placed when eight years of age won my
affection. This was Elizabeth Hohenhorst, a child of twelve, remarkably
quiet, and disposed to melancholy.

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