Alice Freeman Palmer’s Three Rules for Happiness

Above: After the Rain, Midwestern Sky, June 24, 2019

Alice Freeman Palmer (1855-1902) was the first president of Wellesley College.   She outlined her “three rules for happiness” in a morning talk to a group of young girls from Boston when she was teaching at what was, in the 1890’s, called “a vacation school for children of the slums.”

Alice Palmer’s rules were these:

  1. Commit something to memory every day.  It needn’t be much, three of four words will do, just a pretty bit of a poem, or a Bible verse.
  2. Look for something pretty every day–a leaf, a flower, a cloud.  And stop long enough before the pretty thing that you have spied to say.  “Isn’t it beautiful!”  Drink in every detail, and see the loveliness all though.
  3. Do something for somebody every day.

The three rules are from The Life of Alice Freeman Palmer.  George Herbert Palmer, wrote this biography in tribute to his wife, after her early death in 1902.   I read Alice’s rules for the 66th volume of the LibriVox Short Nonfiction Collection.  You can listen to my recording here:

You can read Alice’s rule’s here:


Summer Rain, by Alice Freeman Palmer

Stand with me here,
My very dear!
Watch the swift armies of the summer rain
Sweep the tall grasses of the Park
Changing our shining noonday into dark.
Hear the loud thunder roar, again, again,
And roll and triumph in this summer rain.

The little birds all hide;
The cattle, wandering wide,
Seek the safe shelter of a spreading tree;
The old dog crouches by his master’s feet.
Dark clouds come on, an army, strong and fleet,
Crash follows crash, all things to covert flee;
And wind and lightning drive me,–close to thee!


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