View Full Version : The Original Mildred

Mary Sue
07-28-2006, 08:19 AM
I haven't read the modern Millie Keith series. However, I HAVE read the 19th-century original novels, in which she's generally referred to more formally as "Mildred."

In the original books Mildred is a distant "poor cousin" to the Dinsmores. She's at least 15 years older than Elsie, being in her mid-teens at the time of Elsie's birth. In the first book Mildred's lawyer father moves the family to Pleasant Plains, Indiana, a rather primitive pioneer town. Mildred, though a good Christian girl, has some faults---most notably her pride, which causes her to look down on the country bumpkin neighbors. Several of the young men try to court her, but she has no use for any of them. Then one of the rejected suitors--- a blacksmith---- suffers a terrible injury and has to have his hand amputated! Mildred, pitying him greatly, is kind enough to sit by his side, giving him moral support, while the grisly surgery is performed. After that, the two of them become friends. But not lovers, since Mildred really does need someone on her own intellectual level.

In the second book she goes to visit the rich relations at Roselands. There she falls under some bad influences. Mrs. Dinsmore----Elsie's unpleasant step-grandmother---urges Mildred to start enjoying more worldly pleasures. Pretty soon the young girl succumbs. She even goes dancing, which Martha Finley considers a most diabolical pastime! But Mildred's conscience later reproaches her, and she gives up these "unseemly" activities. Elsie is introduced as a 4-year-old child, whom Mildred befriends and tries to protect from Mrs. Dinsmore's cruelty. And by the end of the book Mildred has fallen in love with Charlie Landreth, a very nice young man but not a Christian.

The third book concerns Mildred's moral dilemma. Should she marry the godless man that she loves, or one of her more acceptable Christian suitors? In the end Charlie converts, so that she's glad that she waited so long for him. Book four begins with the pair as newlyweds, paying a visit to Horace Dinsmore and 12-year-old Elsie. Book five is interesting, because it centers on one of Mildred's brothers----Rupert Keith---who goes out West during the Gold Rush. En route he is captured by Indians! He later escapes, assisted by a beautiful Spanish girl. Their subsequent marriage is very romantic, and I'm pleasantly surprised that Martha Finley would have sanctioned anything so unconventional. Book 6 is all about the Civil War, in which Mildred's elder son serves. And she and Charlie give sanctuary to some runaway slaves; unlike the Dinsmores, they are Abolitionists at heart.

These books are more down-to-earth than the Elsie series. If Elsie's the fairy tale princess, Mildred's the real girl who works hard, loves her family, and tries to do right. She's less angelic than Elsie, having a real temper and a certain amount of arrogance to overcome. In way, I prefer her to Elsie. She's a character, I think, that more girls can relate to.

Though I haven't read the new revised "Millie," I gather that the modern series differs a great deal from the old. What's Mildred like in the new books? Does she interact with Elsie at all? Is the plotline the same? Being unable to find the new books here, I have no means of comparison, and I'm kind of curious!

09-11-2006, 01:59 PM
I have only read the first two modern ones published by Mission City Press. Millie/Mildred is still a girl who is easy to relate to. She is about 12 years old when they move to Pleasant Plains, and I have not yet read of any serious suitors.

Millie at this point is very familiar with the Bible, and it is very worn, as she takes it many places, including up trees(!) However, she is by no means ideal, she struggles with Fan's fall, why they live in a warehouse, why God has even brought them to Indiana.

Horace Dinsmore visits them in Pleasant Plains, after Elsie is born. As I understand it, Millie eventually visits the Dinsmores.

Mary Sue
09-11-2006, 02:56 PM
That's interesting, that in the modern rewrites they made the character of Mildred much younger! I guess this was done to appeal to a more juvenile audience. The original books were intended for older girls, with romance and courtship playing a large part in the original Mildred series.