Elsie Dinsmore

Ever read any Elsie Dinsmore books? No, neither have I. I know the name, because it’s a byword for slushy pious Victorian dogoodery, though I don’t remember where – Little Women? Which is no slouch in the slushy pious Victorian dogoodery department itself, so maybe not. Mark Twain? Possibly.

They’re now big with the Incredibly Christian set. Rethinking Vision Forum is not impressed. But the part I really liked is from a comment there. The commenter read the first Elsie when she was a child and asked her mother what she thought of it.

“What a wet blanket.  That girl did nothing but cry all the time.  I think every page her eyes filled with tears and her tiny chest heaved with sobs.”  She started to laugh.  “Her tiny chest HEAVED with SOBS!”

I love her. My tiny chest HEAVED with LAUGHTER.


  1. Claire Ramsey says

    My friend Debbie (a real person) read Elsie Dinsmore books as a child in the 1950s, supplied by her grandmother via her mother. And ever since I met her, about 45 years ago, I have had the joy of mocking that little sap Elsie, over and over! And I never had to read the books myself!

  2. mariethereseoloughlin says

    Thanks, OB, for article on Elsie Dinsmore. I never heard of her before now. She seems to be a far cry from Laura Ingles ‘Little House on the Prairie’, main child protagonists. Given that the author Martha Finley’s family, were of Scottish-Irish heritage, with deep roots in the Presbyterian Church, the warped religious mindset behind the best-selling books, is rather unsurprising. An aside: a relation of Martha Finley was a personal friend of President George Washington.

  3. Aimee says

    I read the first 3 or 4 Elsie Dinsmore books when I was about 13 and they are simply brutal. I was twisted into thinking Elsie was a character I should strive to emulate. I am a fairly compliant quiet type person but even I found it to be impossible, and quite honestly suicidally depressing. I would never in a million years give them to my kids to read. Ugh this is what i got because the Left Behind books were too worldly.

  4. Jen says

    I received the first four books throughout high school and have constantly reread them. I have heard them made fun of and ridiculed as some of the worst stories ever published. To be honest though, I would prefer my daughter read a story based within actual events; such as the Civil War, then to think she could try to get into a fiction land, say Hogwarts. Everyone’s life is different and we all handle situations differently, but wouldn’t you like to have your child be firm in their beliefs in God then to fall into temptation easily.
    Don’t laugh at the language, because in about 50 years our children will be laughing at how we wrote and talked. Finley kept it true to the time-period instead of simplifying it for an easy read. She wanted people to see the world through the eyes of a little girl and how she viewed the current event that truly happened in our history.

  5. Ashe Isadora says

    Jen, I absolutely agree with you! I have loved Elsie for many years and I’m not even a Christian! What I got out of it as a child was sympathy for religious underdogs. I’m sick and tired of hearing the books ridiculed and characters villainized. I’d recommend Elsie and also The Golden Compass to any kid. They have strong female protagonists for children to admire.

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