Penelope Van Princess

Penelope Van Princess was a fable I heard growing up, recently I decided to dig a little deeper.  I was shocked when I read this story and realized it was more than just a fabled tale! 
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One of the best things we have done as home schoolers is to study family history. History is so much more interesting when you have a personal interest in the subject. For years, we have researched and talked about the relatives, many of whom have such facinating character you could write a book about it. What little boy wouldn’t want to learn about Uncle George Baseball, Uncle Herold the Hermit or Great Grandpa Ives and his mysterious connection to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad? Family history is facinating stuff.

My Grandmother used to tell me stories as a girl of an Indian Princess in our family. I was facinated by her tale of the only woman EVER known to have survived a scalping by Indians. My Grandmother always had her mind, even at age 105, and I had no doubt that she knew her family history. But it wasn’t until I recently Googled “Penelope Von Princess” that this tale came to life for me. There is nothing like seeing it printed in front of you on the Internet, and suddenly a family fable has a basis in reality.

It was the year 1622. A baby girl was born in Amsterdam, Holland named Penelope Kent. She grew up, and married a Mr. Van Princen (some versions of the story say his name was Von Princess or Van Princis. Grandma had told me Von Princess and I am sticking with it. She would have never gotten Van and Von confused.), set sail with her husband for the New World in 1642. It was a long, dangerous journey by sea. Many of the passengers on board the ship became ill in their cramped conditions. A storm ship wrecked their vessel off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1643. Although they made it to shore, it was not easy. Mr. Van Princen was already ill, and now injured. The small group of settlers didn’t want to remain on the beach for very long, fearing attack by the Indians. They were eager to be on their way to New Amsterdam (which is now New York City). Penelope could not convince them to stay where they were while her husband recovered, and the group soon left them to fend for themselves on the deserted beach. Somehow Penelope managed to move her husband into the nearby woods, looking for shelter. Shortly afterwards, the Indians did attack them. They killed her wounded husband, brutally slashed and scalped her, leaving her for dead.

Penelope was not dead, however. She was severely wounded, her left arm hacked so that it would never regain it’s usefulness, her scalp fractured, and her abdomen slashed so she actually had to hold her intestines in her body with her one good hand. She regained conciousness and dragged herself inside of an old hollow log for shelter. For the next 7 days she survived solely by eating mushrooms from inside the log. Eventually two Indians came deer hunting, and disovered her. The younger of the two men was eager to finish killing her off, but the older man would not let him. Perhaps he saw what a miracle it was she was still alive. He wrapped her carefully in a blanket, took her back to his wigwam, and nursed her back to health. Penelope ended up living with the Indians for several years before she finially finished her journey to New Amsterdam. (This is probably why the family story claimed she was an Indian Princess). Penelope remained friends with the Indians that had healed her, even after she returned to the colony.

Penelope later met her second husband Richard Stout in New Amsterdam in 1646. A few years after their marriage they moved to Middleton, New Jersey in 1648-1649. Despite her previous maming, Penelope and Richard had a total of 10 children. Penelope lived to be 110 years old, and had 502 total off spring by the time she died in 1732.

Wow, what a story! November is the month all the little kiddies begin to make Pilgrim costumes for the “Harvest Festival” and decorate pinecones to look like turkeys for the Thanksgiving table. It drives me crazy. What really bothers me is that we sugar-coat our heritage for our children. The Mayflower was not the only ship to sail across the sea. Thousands of settlers came her seeking refuge, but ended up suffering incredibly in the process. The bountiful Harvest did not miraculously appear on the Thanksgiving table, and the Indians who shared the feast were not one bit friendly. It amazes me the things these people went though. I would feel like packing it up and heading back where I came from. I can’t imagine inviting your enemies to dinner, sharing your only food, not knowing if they would eat with you, or have your scalp for dessert.

We should teach our children the other side of the Thanksgiving story. True faith, trust and forgiveness are present in this tale. Penelope must have wished she was dead while waiting for 7 days in that log. She must have had tremendous faith. I cannot imagine why she did not go insane from the pain she endured. She certianly would have feared the Indian man who took her and healed her. She wouldn’t have been able to understand his language to know he wasn’t going to harm her. Being moved to the Indian village alone must also been terrifying for her. Perhaps he was trustworthy, but what about the other Indians? He must have been incredibly skilled at healing, for her to bear so many children later in life. Wow, what an amazing true story. Much better than the happy go lucky stories on the seasonal Hallmark cards, don’t you think? This is what true legends are made of.

Enjoy discovering your Heritage this month.

Designer Mom

Update: My father recently discovered this Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper clipping among Grandmother’s things.

Penelope Van Princess Article

I love the verbage:

“Penelope Van Princis (1602-1712) After journeying to America from Amsterdam at the age of 18, was attacked by Indians, who killed her husband, fractured her skull, shoved a spear through her body and left her in the belief she was dead.

She spent 7 days in a hollow tree, survived to live another 92 years, and had 502 descendants when she finally died at the age of 110.”

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Lingerie that Every Woman Should Own

Spirella representative @designerssweetspot.com
One of the best kept secrets for the fashionable woman is great lingerie. Just as a wise man built his house upon a rock, the wise woman starts her look with great fitting undergarments.

Unfortunately, today we tend to over look this area. Generations ago, corsetieres came into homes and gave the lady of the house a custom fitting. Corsets were not sold in stores. My ancestors were corsetieres in Niagara Falls, Canada. The Spirella Corset Company began in 1904, and would send a female professional into customers homes to fit them for the perfect bone corset.

Back then, proper fitting of a corset was a literally a life and death matter, as if a lady had a fall, or was accidentally poked in the ribcage, the fragile stays could break and puncture her body. Can you imagine? Corsetieres were often nurses, and corsets were many times part of the doctor’s prescription for various aliments such as chronic back pain. Here’s what one of the original garments looked like:
We have it so easy today, don’t we?
This is a poorly fit corset.
This is a properly fit Spirella.
Spirella was making corsets well into the 1960’s. Wonder why women in vintage photos look so grand? Guess what they are wearing underneath?
My Grandmother used to say, don’t ever wear undergarments you would be embarrassed to have a doctor see if you got hurt and were sent to the Emergency Room. What a thought process!
Since we think that no one really sees our undergarments, they get put on the bottom of our priority list.
Did you know????
It is estimated that approximately 85% of American women wear the wrong size bra. Particularly in the Midwest, the average is supposedly higher. Given the popularity of Oprah’s Bra episode which first aired in November of 2005, you can tell this is a major issue with women today. Oprah even has dedicated a page to the subject, she calls it “The Bra Revolution”.  Here’s the link:
Did you know that a proper fitting bra can change your figure by as much as 2 inches? It can make you look bigger and fuller, or it can even make you look like you lost weight! Do you wonder why you can’t find blouses to fit? Perhaps it’s time to shop for some new foundations instead of new clothes.
I love lingerie. Designing lingerie was my specialty in college and I worked for a lingerie company for a number of years in Chicago. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Every woman should build her wardrobe from the foundations up. If your “girls” are headed South, it’s time to pick them up and put them back where they belong!
How do you know when you need new foundations?
1) Have you gained or lost more than 7 lbs. since you last purchased undergarments?
2) When you look in the mirror (fully clothed), is your bust point centered between your shoulder and elbow?
3) Has it been more than 6 months since you purchased new braziers?
4) Are wearing your bra on the last or smallest hook, and the band is still loose? Are the under wires are protruding into your side? Are your breasts are spilling above or below the bra?  Do you feel confident wearing your undergarments, or do you feel frumpy and grumpy?
If you have answered YES to any of these questions, it’s time to go shopping!
Where to begin?
FIT
Correct fit is essential. Since we no longer have the option of in home fittings, we need to find a specialty shop dedicated to filling this need. Here in Madison we are blessed with Contours Lingerie at 6102 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI.
LOCATION
Contours is a great place to find a beautiful selection of foundations and specialty sleepwear. Personalized service, and a wide selection of larger sizes adds to the package. Contours specializes in bra fittings (no charge), and has a wonderful selection including European style garments. I stopped in recently for a fitting, and picked up a coupon for a discounted wax at the Bella Beauty Salon next door. You also get a free pantie with a wax! You can’t go wrong with this deal!
If your not local, getting a proper fitting can be as close as your local department store. JC Penny’s offers free fittings, plus you get an additional 20% discount on your purchase! Call today!
STYLE
Don’t be afraid to try some new styles. Designer Issac Mizerahi gives this list of lingerie must haves in his book ” How to Have Style”:
1) At least one T-shirt Bra, preferably in several colors, such as beige, white and black. Avoid prints and unnecessary wild colors.
2) A Convertible bra, including X and T back styles,usually they come with removable straps for an optional strapless look.
3) A Push-Up Bra.
4) An all lace bra, preferably in a great color like red. Step out of your box on this one!
5) A Minimizer Bra, you just never know when you might need it to fit under a certain blouse!
6) Various pantie styles and fabrications including lace, cotton and tricot. Vary the waistbands to include bikini or boy short and high waisted. High waisted pants are coming back, be prepared!
I am adding the following must haves to his list:
6) Several different styles and colors of Spanx or smooth fitting spandex type undergarments including a camisole, a T-shirt style, and a bottom such as a bike short or full body hugging style for wearing under clingy dresses.
7) You should also own long winter underwear, especially for those of us in cold climates. Try Cuddle Dudds for a warm fleecy type feel, or the lighter weight silks from Land’s End. Do not under any circumstances wear the old fashioned thermals! They are SO unfeminine and will add inches to your figure! Yikes! Who wants that?
8) At least one silky fabric camisole. They fit great under clingy T-shirts and blouses, giving you a smoother look.
Always remember to wash your lingerie in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle. Don’t ever dry them in the dryer. Undergarments will last infinitly longer by air drying them.
Two things that are completely passe’ are girdles and slips. Spanx are a hundred times more effective, they don’t ride up, and they are a thousand times more comfortable. Need I say more?
In closing, I will share with you one of my favorite stories. We were at a Christian couples weekend when our keynote speaker told us this story. He was shopping at his local Mall, when he noticed a band of Amish ladies MARCHING down the Mall, all of them carrying Victoria’s Secret shopping bags. Just because you look plain on the outside doesn’t mean you can’t look GREAT on the underside! Happy Shopping!