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The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

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"The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" is a short story by L. Frank Baum. It is one of the tales in his 1897 collection Mother Goose in Prose.

Summary

A woman (otherwise unnamed) raised four daughters to adulthood. Her daughters married and moved away to begin families of their own. The woman built a house for herself to live in, an odd place shaped rather like a turret. It had a garden in back and a pretty lawn.

The woman lived in her house, contentedly, until she received word that her daughter Hannah had died and that her five children were coming to live with their grandmother. When the kids arrived, she gave them her four daughters' beds as well as her own, and slept on the couch. The new arrangement was just settling in when the woman learned that her daughter Margaret has also died, and that four more grandchildren were coming her way.

Since the house was full, the old woman hired a carpenter to build a "lean-to"-like addition to her turret house. The addition provided space for the four new little ones. Yet the trend of bad fortune continued; her daughter Sarah died, and three more grandchildren arrived for the old woman to care for. A second addition was added to the first. Finally, the fourth daughter Abigail "took sick and died," and her four children joined all their cousins. A third addition was tacked on the the second and the first.

The old woman, fortunately, was healthy and energetic for someone her age; yet now she had her hands very full with sixteen young children to care for. Still, she managed to feed them simple good food, to bathe them and dress them and mend their clothes. "The children thrived and grew fat."

A passing stranger once laughed at her clapped-together house, claiming that it looked like an old shoe; but the woman cared nothing for this — "she was too busy to be angry." She comforted the children when they had bumps and bruises, washed them when they were dirty, and whipped them when they were naughty. She sometimes thought the little ones would drive her mad. On a delivery one day, the local baker suggested that she send her brood to the poor house. The children overheard this, and decided to get revenge on the baker; on the next day they dressed up as red Indians and showered him with their homemade arrows. The baker was not hurt, but escaped without leaving any of his wares. That night, the old woman fed them broth without any bread, then whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.

In time, the children grew to adulthood; the boys found work at neighboring farms, and the girls married and made homes of their own. But they never forgot the loving grandmother who raised them all, and they told their own children stories of the old woman and the children in the shoe.

Background

The story is accompanied by rather crude sketches of the old woman's house as it grows with its additions. The sketches seem much too simple to be by Maxfield Parrish, the illustrator of the volume, and seem most likely to be the work of the author.

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