Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

The Heroic Entrepreneurship of Mary Emma and Company

"Happy are they who have the courage to defend what they love." -Ovid

We are in our second family reading of the biographical Little Britches series by Ralph Moody, and we have come now to the place where, at long last, the widow Mary Emma has led her little flock (six chidren, aged from 2-15) to a place of financial stability. The family narrowly escaped from Colorado after Christmas, enduring a harsh winter in Boston, and, with the coming of spring, their in-home laundry service is finally beginning to flourish.

If you were unfamiliar with this family and this era of history, you might be surprised that it would ever be possible for such a family to support itself. Upon getting to know them, you might just as well conclude that it would be just the opposite. How could such a strong family, with such work ethic, in such a golden age of prosperity, ever fail?

It took about two years [?] from the death of Ralph's father until this point in the story. Why were there so many false starts and hardships for them in getting to financial stability?

Short answer: because Mary Emma's struggle was primarily a moral one. She refused easy outs that would have compromised the family in the long run. Here are her basic rules:

  • Obey your conscience - They left their comfortable home and their established business in Colorado and even broke the law in order to defend an accused stranger whom she knew to be innocent.
  • Stay together - She refused to break up the family after her husband's death despite great pressure to do so and the fact that she herself was gravely ill.
  • Stay out of debt - Again and again, she takes financial risk instead of going into debt. And the correctness of this only becomes clear in hindsight: if she had taken debt to survive in Colorado, then she would not have had the moral freedom to leave there when it became morally necessary!

Doing these things can be devilishly hard. Even more today than in that time, in my opinion. I doubt that a widowed woman with six young children would even be allowed to have such a glorious triumph as this today. She would have been stopped on the starting line by the control-everything-at-any-cost segment of society.

But, thankfully, she got the chance to shape her own destiny and, once their moral concerns were satisfied, she and her older children turned out to be wicked good entrepreneurs.

"You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life, but it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."

-lines for Rocky Balboa, written by Sylvester Stallone

If you find yourself struggling to keep up the fight and on the verge of moral compromise or giving up, I offer to you the good advice that was given to me ten years ago: "Just keep hitting."

1 Comment

  1. Great! I’m signing out this book from the library! 🙂 Looks like a great book to read together! Thanks!

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