Cultural Context

18th Century Lady's Monthly Museum Book

First published in 1798, the Lady’s Monthly Museum billed itself as an “assemblage of whatever can please the fancy, interest the mind and exalt the character of the British Fair.” Issues were published much like a magazine, at a monthly rate, and though it is unclear who exactly compiled the volumes, it is understood that one such as Roberta Klendshoj’s was actually a compilation of multiple issues of the magazine. It is possible the volume came from a publisher bound as such, but its binding is also potentially the aftermarket work of an avid collector with multiple pieces of the puzzle. It is unknown whether or not Roberta obtained the volume in its current bound state or if the issues were combined while in her possession. It is also worth noting that this “volume 2” did not cover a full year, but rather what appears to be a half a year’s time. This is corroborated by the fact that there are some six engravings to be placed, one for each month the compilation binds. Full-color embellishments, such as the costumes previously pictured, were interspersed between poems, invented letters, chapters of serialized romances and ongoing dramas which spanned multiple issues of the publication, and more, all works written by women or by men taking on the voice of women.

The contents of these publications seemed to cater mostly to the growing number of literate housewives, most importantly women of reasonable means, like the wife of someone like Niels Klendshoj. Other periodicals, such as the Lady’s Magazine and the Ladies Mercury, were some of the Museum’s top contenders in the nineteenth century. Housewives who were likely aided by maids and chefs were no strangers to free time, and they consumed these volumes voraciously. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that this particular volume does not appear to have suffered much wear, the likes of which an avid reader might produce. The volume is in pristine condition for having existed for over 200 years. Though the text may never have been read, it remains readable.

Then there’s the issue of the personalized bookplate and its implications. Because of its mass-produced design, it seems likely that Roberta ordered a number of these bearing her name and then placed them with care in each of her many volumes on women’s fashion. It is clear, then, that the woman had a library of her very own. It was much earlier, in 1848, that New York passed a law that allowed women to own property in their own name, but even late into the twentieth century this law was not so heavily observed, especially when it came to the terms of divorce. And Niels and Roberta did divorce.

Niels died in 1975, at the time married to another new name, June Davis Klendshoj. A January 1963 Ohio divorce record denotes Niels’ and Annette’s parting for “gross neglect of duty.” The record also includes a “Marriage Duration” of 39 years which, if the records were correctly entered, would mean the couple had been married since 1924—a date notably overlapping Niels’ 1930 household of seven, including first wife Else. However, this detail seems to be erroneous, considering it would also suggest that Niels and Roberta were together some three years prior to Niels’ arrival in the states. June Davis brings the grand total to three wives during his lifetime, which is certainly not unheard of, but would seem to be indicative of a man who could maintain success on his own, or, at the very least, apart from his original love. The women of his life begin to appear less important as individuals and more a necessary expense to maintaining the sanity of one of the nation’s great medical minds.

But whether she kept her physical possessions following their divorce, or Niels just never thought to tear out her bookplate, Roberta seems to have passed something even more lasting down her lineage. Judging by a Tonawanda News publication in New York state, it would appear that her interest in women’s fashion created an enduring impression with her children, who in turn passed it on to her grandchildren. The article details some “children [in 1967],” importantly denoting an age placing them in the era of potential grandchildren, appearing in an upcoming fashion parade, including one Ms. Anne Klendshoj.

And Dorothy Stout, the volume’s last owner before its entry into the archives, caught that same women’s fashion bug the Klendshoj women passed around. A History of Costume class with Dr. Gertrude Lienkaemper at Kansas State “created a lasting interest in History of Costume.” She went on to become a tenured teacher in the discipline at Stephens College in Columbia, MO. As for this particular volume, though, Stout “probably [acquired it] in an antique shop either in Kansas or Missouri, but more likely in New York State or elsewhere in New England. It was not a family hand-me-down.” Well, New York State seems likely.

Cultural Context