Family Life and Motherhood

Gustave Carus, Alwin Carus, Edward Carus, Paula Carus, Libby Carus, and Herman Carus in nursery

Gustave, Alwin, Edward, Paula, Libby, and Herman in nursery (left to right), c. 1902

Mary Hegeler Carus, Libby Carus, and Paula Carus

Mary, Libby, and Paula (left to right), c. 1896

Paul Carus and Alwin Carus

Paul and Alwin, c. 1902

After a brief stint of less than a year of living in Chicago, Mary—now Mrs. Mary Hegeler Carus—and Paul moved back into the family mansion in La Salle. Here, amongst parents, brothers, and sisters, she and her new husband would start their own family.

Between 1889 and 1901, Mary gave birth to a total of seven children. Her first born Robert tragically died at birth, however her other six children all lived long lives into adulthood. They were Edward (1890), Gustave (1892), Paula (1894), Elisabeth or “Libby” (1896), Herman (1899), and Alwin (1901). Alwin was her last surviving heir and he passed away in 2004.

Although Mary had the assistance of a nurse, tutors, and governesses, she was not emotionally or intellectually detached from her children, expressing a loving concern for their welfare. For instance, in her letter to her sister Gisela of 28 November 1890 when Edward was only 15 weeks old, she fondly reflects on the burgeoning personality of her first son and says “Baby is about all I have to think of.” Her continued affection for her children is evident in her numerous letters to them when they were away from home. She writes:

“I hope you have had some more good rides, & are brown and fat” (to Libby);

“Be sure and get out enough and take some exercise every day” (to Edward);

“I hope you will have fine skating again, the children expect to spend most of the day on the ice—Do not venture too far out alone” (no addressee);

“Have you had your grey suit repaired? Please bring home a trunk and your underclothes to be mended” (to Gustave);

“Be sure to take some exercises & do some deep breathing” (to Edward);

“A box went up with some of your belongings—I hope you did not miss your heavy coat last week—I wish you might be able to skate and toboggan” (no addressee).

Mary and her husband also show a personal interest in the intellectual growth of their children. They studied child development and education and planned special activities, such as a trip to view the Wright brothers’ airplane in Peoria, IL. While Edward and Gustave were away at the University of Wisconsin, she makes these comments about their academics:

“Do you speak French every meal? I am very glad you have taken it up, will send you some magazines so you have something to talk about” (to Edward);

“I hope you will meet Prof. [Alexander Rudolph] Hohlfeld soon, that you may join some German Club” (to Edward);

“Gustave seems to have had some trouble with his examinations—I wish he could make up his mind to have a tutor when his work is hard for him—even just a few lessons help over the hard points,—as he has seen in his chemistry…. I wonder if you could see Gustave’s Math. Teacher & find out where his difficulties are,—you may know him” (to Edward);

“Do not be afraid of having a tutor for your Mathematics,—if you can pass that off it will mean so much—Perhaps Edward will help you with your mechanics later, he might see Prof. [Edward R.] Maurer about it” (to Gustave).

Mary’s commitment to the proper maturation of her children and her conversations with her husband on the matter all but certainly informed Paul’s research for his Our Children: Hints from Practical Experience for Parents and Teachers. Published in 1906 by the Open Court, Our Children describes the responsibilities of parenting and providing moral guidance using firsthand experiences.