Little Visits with Great Americans

by Orison Swett Marden

Miss Helen Miller Gould, A Friend of the Children

Miss Helen Miller Gould has won a place for herself in the hearts of Americans such as few people of great wealth ever gain. She is, indeed, one of the best known and most popular young women of New York, if not in the world. Her strong character, common sense, and high ideals, have made her respected by all, while her munificence and kindness have won her the love of many.

Her personality is charming. Upon my arrival at her Tarrytown home, I was made to feel that I was welcome, and everyone who enters her presence feels the same. The grand mansion, standing high on the hills overlooking the Hudson, has a home-like appearance that takes away any awe that may come over the visitor who looks upon so much beauty for the first time.

Chickens play around the little stone cottage at the grand entrance, and the grounds are not unlike those of any other country house, with trees in abundance, and beautiful lawns. There are large beds of flowers, and in the gardens all the summer vegetables were growing.

Miss Gould takes a very great interest in her famous greenhouses, the gardens, the flowers, and the chickens, for she is a home-loving woman. It is a common thing to see her in the grounds, digging and raking and planting, for all the world like some farmer's girl. That is one reason why her neighbors all like her; she seems so unconscious of her wealth and station.


When I entered Lyndhurst, she came forward to meet me in the pleasantest way imaginable. Her face is not exactly beautiful, but has a great deal of character written upon it, and is very attractive, indeed. She held out her hand for me to shake in the good old fashioned way, and then we sat down in the wide hall to talk. Miss Gould was dressed very simply. Her gown was of dark cloth, close-fitting, and her skirt hung several inches above the ground, for she is a believer in short skirts for walking. Her entire costume was very becoming. She never over-dresses, and her garments are neat, and, naturally, of excellent quality.


In the conversation that followed, I was permitted to learn much of her ambitions and aims. She is ambitious to leave a great impression on the world, —an impression made by good deeds well done, and this ambition is gratifying to the utmost. She is modest about her work. "I cannot find that I am doing much at all," she said, "when there is so very much to be done. I suppose I shouldn't expect to be able to do everything, but I sometimes feel that I want to, nevertheless." Her good works are numerous and many sided. For a number of years, she has supported two beds in the Babies' Shelter, connected with the Church of the Holy Communion, New York, and the Wayside Day Nursery, near Bellevue Hospital, has always found in her a good friend. Once a year she makes a tour through the day nurseries of New York, noting the special needs of each, and often sending checks and materials for meeting those needs.


One of her most charming charities is "Woody Crest," two miles from Lyndhurst, a haven of delight where some two score waifs are received at a time for a two-weeks' visit. She has a personal oversight of the place, and, by her frequent visits, makes friends with the wee visitors, who look upon her as a combination of angel and fairy godmother. Every day, a wagonette, drawn by two horses, takes the children, in relays, for long drives into the country. Amusements are provided, and some of those who remain for an entire season at Woody Crest are instructed in different branches. Twice a month some of the older boys set the type for a little magazine which is devoted to Woody Crest mattion of young women of today, and what careers they should follow. This is one of her particular hobbies, and many are the young girls she has helped to attain to a better and more satisfactory life.


"In the first place," she said, "I believe most earnestly in education for women; not necessarily the higher education about which we hear so much, but a good, common school education. As the years pass, girls are obliged to make their own way in the world more and more, and to do so they must have good schooling."

"And what particular career do you think most desirable for young women?"

"Oh, as to careers, there are many that young women follow, nowadays. I think, if I had my own way to make, I should fit myself to be a private secretary. That is a position which, I think, attracts nearly every young woman; but, to fill it, she must study hard and learn, and then work hard to keep the place. Then I think there are openings for young women in the field of legitimate business. I've always held that women know as much about money affairs as men, only most of them haven't had much experience. In that field there are hundreds of things that a woman can do."


"But I don't think it matters much what a girl does so long as she is active, and doesn't allow herself to stagnate. There's nothing, to my mind, so pathetic as a girl who thinks she can't do anything, and is of no use to the world. Why, it's no wonder there are so many suicides every day!"

She is consulted by her agents in regard to all her affairs. "I have no time for society," she said, "and indeed I do not care for it at all. It is very well for those who like it," she added, for she is a tolerant critic.

Her life at Tarrytown is an ideal one. She runs down to the city at frequent intervals, to attend to business affairs, for she manages all her own property; but she lives at Lyndhurst. She entertains but few visitors, and in turn visits but seldom.

I will not attempt to specify the numerous projects of charity that have been given life and vigor by Miss Gould. I know her gifts in recent years have passed the million-dollar mark.

Would you have an idea of her personality? If so, think of a good young woman in your own town, who loves her parents and her home; who is devoted to the church; who thinks of the poor on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas; whose face is bright and manner unaffected; whose dress is elegant in its simplicity; who takes an interest in all things, from politics to religion; whom children love and day laborers greet by fervently lifting the hat; and who, if she were graduated from a home seminary or college, would receive a bouquet from every boy in town.

If you can think of such a young woman, and nearly every community has one, (and ninety-nine times out of a hundred she is poor,) you have a fair idea of the impression made on a plain man from a country town in Indiana by Miss Gould.

Helen Miller Gould is just at the threshold of her beautiful career. What a promise is there in her life and work for the coming century!

She has given much of her fortune for the Hall of Fame on the campus of the New York University, overlooking the Harlem River. It contains tablets for the names of fifty distinguished Americans, and proud will be the descendants of those whose names are inscribed thereon.

The human heart is the tablet upon which Miss Gould has inscribed her name and her "Hall of Fame" is as broad and high as the Republic itself.

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