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Aunt Crete's Emancipation: 10/30/06

Aunt Crete's Emancipation

Six months ago I picked up Aunt Crete's Emancipation after seeing that it was a reprint of a 1911 book. I love old books and especially those from around 1880 to about 1930. As this reprint includes the illustrations, I had to take the book.

I was also intrigued by the title. I immediately wondered; Who is Aunt Crete? and Why does she need emancipating? I also thought of the women's suffrage movement that was reaching its peak in the early decades of the 20th century. By 1911 thirteen states had granted women the right to vote and the nineteenth amendment would be passed in 1914.

Emancipation in the title also implies slavery. Was Aunt Crete somehow enslaved? Was this in the form of a poorly paying job or elder abuse at home? Who then sets Aunt Crete free? How did she become enslaved in the first place?

As it turns out, Aunt Crete's Emancipation is a fairly light hearted book. If it were a modern book it would probably be classified as either romance or chick lit (although Aunt Crete is much older than the typical chick lit protagonist) but she does end up living the typical plot line: handsome stranger from a distant land takes interest in a poor over worked woman and whisks her away to a life of luxury and adventure. In this case the handsome stranger is her nephew and the adventure is a trip to the beach and a fancy hotel.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

This copy is a reprint (looks like a scanned reprint) of the 1911 edition. I actually enjoyed the book enough to want to keep my eyes out for an original print as the illustrations didn't copy well.

Aunt Crete is the spinster sister "enslaved" by her sisterly duties to a niece and sister who for whatever reason has let them bully her into staying at home and doing the bulk of the chores. When the son of the sister who broke with tradition and left for the Yukon comes calling, the family flees to the beach leaving him "stuck" with Aunt Crete. Unfortunately for them, he takes a great liking for her and has the money to give her the life that the rest of the family has been pretending to have all these years at the expense of Aunt Crete's labor.

One thing that disturbed me about the book is the very last illustration (it's also the frontispiece). While the caption reads: "At last Aunt Crete was emancipated" she is shown dressed as a maid! There is nothing in the text that suggests that cousin Donald's idea of emancipation is to make Aunt Crete be his personal maid but clearly the illustrator and publisher thought it best to make it seem that way. Why else would a young nephew want to travel the world with his spinster aunt? What else could a woman of her years possibly do (or want to do) with her time in 1911?

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