Sunday, September 23, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Mary McLeod Bethune

On October 3, 1904, a lone woman, inspired by the desire to do something for the needy ones of her race and state, began at Daytona, Florida, a training school for Negro girls. She had only one dollar and a half in money, but she had faith, energy, and a heart full of love for her people. To-day she has an institution worth not less than one hundred thousand dollars, with plans for extensive and immediate enlargement, and her school is one of the best conducted and most clear-visioned in the country. Such has been the result of boundless energy and thrift joined to an unwavering faith in God.
Mary McLeod was born July 10, 1875, in a three-room log cabin on a little cotton and rice farm about three miles from Mayesville, South Carolina, being one in the large family of Samuel and Patsy McLeod. Ambitious even from her early years, she yearned for larger and finer things than her environment afforded; and yet even the life that she saw around her was to prove a blessing in disguise, as it gave to her deeper and clearer insight into the problems, the shortcomings, and the needs of her people. In course of time she attended a little mission school in Mayesville, and she was converted at the age of twelve. Later she was graduated at Scotia Seminary, Concord, North Carolina, and then she went to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In the years of her schooling she received some assistance from a scholarship given by Miss Mary Chrisman, a dressmaker of Denver, Colorado. Mary McLeod never forgot that she had been helped by a working woman. Some day she intended to justify that faith, and time has shown that never was a scholarship invested to better advantage.

In 1898 Mary McLeod was married. She became the mother of one son. Not long after, the family moved to Palatka, Florida. Now followed the hard years of waiting, of praying, of hoping; but through it all the earnest woman never lost faith in herself, nor in God. She gained experience in a little school that she taught, she sang with unusual effect in the churches of the town, and she took part in any forward movement or uplift enterprise that she could. All the while, however, she knew that the big task was yet to come. She prayed, and hoped, and waited.

By the fall of 1904 it seemed that the time had come. In a little rented house, with five girls, Mrs. Bethune began what is now the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls. By means of concerts and festivals the first payment of five dollars was made on the present site, then an old dump-pile. With their own hands the teacher and the pupils cleared away much of the rubbish, and from the first they invited the co-operation of the people around them by lending a helping hand in any way they could, by "being neighborly." In 1905 a Board of Trustees was organized and the school was chartered. In 1907 Faith Hall, a four-story frame house, forty by fifty feet, was "prayed up, sung up, and talked up;" and we can understand at what a premium space was in the earlier days when we know that this building furnished dormitory accommodations for teachers and students, dining-room, reading room, storerooms, and bathrooms. To the rear of Faith Hall was placed a two-story structure containing the school kitchen and the domestic science room. In 1909 the school found it necessary to acquire a farm for the raising of live stock and vegetables and for the practical outdoor training of the girls. After six weeks of earnest work the twelve-acre tract in front of the school was purchased. In 1914 a Model Home was built. In this year also an additional west farm of six acres, on which was a two-story frame building, was needed, asked for and procured. In March, 1918, the labors of fourteen years were crowned by the erection and dedication of a spacious auditorium; and among the speakers at the dedication were the Governor of Florida and the Vice-President of the United States. Efforts now look forward to a great new dormitory for the girls.

Such a bare account of achievements, however, by no means gives one an adequate conception of the striving and the hopings and the praying that have entered into the work. To begin with, Daytona was a strategic place for the school. There was no other such school along the entire east coast of Florida, and as a place of unusual beauty and attractiveness the town was visited throughout the winter by wealthy tourists. From the very first, however, the girls were trained in the virtues of the home, and in self-help. Great emphasis was placed on domestic science, and not only for this as an end in itself, but also as a means for the larger training in cleanliness and thrift and good taste. "We notice strawberries are selling at fifty and sixty cents a quart," said a visitor, "and you have a splendid patch. Do you use them for your students or sell them?" "We never eat a quart when we can get fifty cents for them," was the reply. "We can take fifty cents and buy a bone that will make soup for us all, when a quart of berries would supply only a few."

For one interested in education few pictures could be more beautiful than that of the dining-room at the school in the morning of a day in midterm. Florida is warm often even in midwinter; nevertheless, rising at five gives one a keen appetite for the early breakfast. The ceiling is low and there are other obvious disadvantages; but over all is the spirit of good cheer and of home. The tablecloths are very white and clean; flowers are on the different tables; at the head of each a teacher presides over five or six girls; the food is nourishing and well-prepared; and one leaves with the feeling that if he had a sister or daughter he would like for her to have the training of some such place as this.

Of such quality is the work that has been built up; and all has been accomplished through the remarkable personality of the woman who is the head and the soul of every effort. Indomitable courage, boundless energy, fine tact and a sense of the fitness of things, kindly spirit, and firm faith in God have deservedly given her success. Beyond the bounds of her immediate institution her influence extends. About the year 1912 the trustees felt the need of so extending the work as to make the school something of a community center; and thus arose the McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses. In 1912, moved by the utter neglect of the children of the turpentine camp at Tomoka, Mrs. Bethune started work for them in a little house that she secured. The aim was to teach the children to be clean and truthful and helpful, to sew and to sweep and to sing. A short school term was started among them, and the mission serves as an excellent practice school for the girls of the senior class in the Training School. A summer school and a playground have also been started for the children in Daytona. Nor have the boys and young men been neglected. Here was a problem of unusual difficulty. Any one who has looked into the inner life of the small towns of Florida could not fail to be impressed by the situation of the boys and young men. Hotel life, a shifting tourist population, and a climate of unusual seductiveness, have all left their impress. On every side to the young man beckons temptation, and in town after town one finds not one decent recreation center or uplifting social influence. Pool-rooms abound, and the young man is blamed for entering forbidden paths; but all too often the Christian men and women of the community have put forth no definite organized effort for his uplift. All too often there results a blasted life—a heartache for a mother, or a ruined home for some young woman. In Daytona, in 1913, on a lot near the school campus, one of the trustees, Mr. George S. Doane, erected a neat, commodious building to be used in connection with the extension work of the institution as a general reading-room and home for the Young Men's Christian Association; and this is the only specific work so being done for Negro boys in this section of the state. A debating club, an athletic club, lecture club, and prayer-meetings all serve as means toward the physical, intellectual, and spiritual development of the young men. A "Better Boys Movement" is also making progress and the younger boys are becoming interested in canning and farming as well as being cared for in their sports and games.

No sketch of this woman's work should close without mention of her activities for the nation at large. Red Cross work or a Liberty Loan drive has alike called forth her interest and her energy. She has appeared on some great occasions and before distinguished audiences, such as that for instance in the Belasco Theatre in Washington in December, 1917, when on a noteworthy patriotic occasion she was the only representative of her race to speak.

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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Meta Warrick Fuller

The state of Massachusetts has always been famous for its history and literature, and especially rich in tradition is the region around Boston. On one side is Charlestown, visited yearly by thousands who make a pilgrimage to the Bunker Hill Monument. Across the Charles River is Cambridge, the home of Harvard University, and Longfellow, and Lowell, and numerous other men whose work has become a part of the nation's heritage. If one will ride on through Cambridge and North Cambridge and Arlington, he will come to Lexington, where he will find in the little Lexington Common one of the most charming spots of ground in America. Overlooking this he will see the Harrington House, and all around other memorials of the Revolution. Taking the car again and riding about seven miles more he will come to Concord, and here he will catch still more of the flavor of the eighteenth century. Walking from the center of the town down Monument Street (he must walk now; there is no trolley, and a carriage or automobile does not permit one to linger by the wayside), he will come after a while to the Old Manse, once the home of Emerson and of Hawthorne, and then see just around the corner the Concord Bridge and the statue of the Minute Man. There is a new bridge now, one of concrete; the old wooden one, so long beloved, at length became unsafe and had to be replaced. In another direction from the center of the town runs Lexington Road, within about half a mile down which one will see the later homes of Emerson and Hawthorne as well as that of Louisa May Alcott. Near the Alcott House, back among the trees, is a quaint little structure much like a Southern country schoolhouse—the so-called Concord School of Philosophy, in which Emerson once spoke. It is all a beautiful country—beautiful most of all for its unseen glory. One gives himself up to reflection; he muses on Evangeline and the Great Stone Face and on the heroic dead who did not die in vain—until a lumbering truck-car on the road calls him back from it all to the workaday world of men.

It is in this state of Massachusetts, so rich in its tradition, that there resides the subject of the present sketch. About halfway between Boston and Worcester, in the quiet, homelike town of Framingham, on a winding road just off the main street, lives Meta Warrick Fuller, one of America's foremost female sculptors.

There are three little boys in the family. They keep their mother very busy; but they also make her very happy. Buttons have to be sewed on and dinners have to be prepared for the children of an artist just as well as for those of other people; and help is not always easy to get. But the father, Dr. S. C. Fuller, a distinguished physician, is also interested in the boys, so that he too helps, and the home is a happy one.

At the top of the house is a long roomy attic. This is an improvised studio—or, as the sculptor would doubtless say, the workshop. Hither, from the busy work of the morning, comes the artist for an hour or half an hour of modeling—for rest, and for the first effort to transfer to the plastic clay some fleeting transient dream.

Meta Warrick Fuller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 9, 1877. For four years she attended the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art, and it was at this institution that she first began to force serious recognition of her talent. Before very long she began to be known as a sculptor of the horrible, one of her first original pieces being a head of Medusa, with a hanging jaw, beads of gore, and eyes starting from their sockets. At her graduation in 1898 she won a prize for metal work by a crucifix upon which hung the figure of Christ in agony, and she also won honorable mention for her work in modeling. In a post-graduate year she won a much coveted prize in modeling. In 1899 Meta Warrick (then best known by her full name, Meta Vaux Warrick) went to Paris, where she worked and studied three years. Her work brought her in contact with many other artists, among them Augustus St. Gaudens, the sculptor of the Robert Gould Shaw Monument at the head of Boston Common. Then there came a day when by appointment the young woman went to see Auguste Rodin, who after years of struggle and dispraise had finally won recognition as the foremost sculptor in France if not in the world. The great man glanced one after another at the pieces that were presented to him, without very evident interest. At length, thrilled by the figure in "Silent Sorrow," sometimes referred to as "Man Eating His Heart Out," Rodin beamed upon the young woman and said, "Mademoiselle, you are a sculptor; you have the sense of form." With encouragement from such a source the young artist worked with renewed vigor, looking forward to the time when something that she had produced should win a place in the Salon, the great national gallery in Paris. "The Wretched," one of the artist's masterpieces, was exhibited here in 1903, and along with it went "The Impenitent Thief." This latter production was demolished in 1904, after meeting with various unhappy accidents. In the form as presented, however, the thief, heroic in size, hung on the cross torn by anguish. Hardened, unsympathetic, and even defiant, he still possessed some admirable qualities of strength, and he has remained one of the sculptor's most powerful conceptions. In "The Wretched" seven figures greet the eye. Each represents a different form of human anguish. An old man, worn by hunger and disease, waits for death. A mother yearns for the loved ones she has lost. A man bowed by shame fears to look upon his fellow-creatures. A sick child suffers from some hereditary taint. A youth is in despair, and a woman is crazed by sorrow. Over all is the Philosopher who suffers perhaps more keenly than the others as he views the misery around them, and who, powerless to relieve it, also sinks into despair.

Other early productions were similarly characterized by a strongly romantic quality. "Silent Sorrow" has already been remarked in passing. In this a man, worn and gaunt and in despair, is represented as leaning over and actually eating out his own heart. "Man Carrying Dead Body" is in similar vein. The sculptor is moved by the thought of one who will be spurred on by the impulse of duty to the performance of some task not only unpleasant but even loathsome. She shows a man bearing across his shoulder the body of a comrade that has evidently lain on the battlefield for days. The thing is horrible, and the man totters under the great weight; but he forces his way onward until he can give it decent burial. Another early production was based on the ancient Greek story of Oedipus. This story was somewhat as follows: Oedipus was the son of Laius and Jocasta, king and queen of Thebes. At his birth an oracle foretold that the father Laius would be killed by his son. The child was sent away to be killed by exposure, but in course of time was saved and afterwards adopted by the King of Corinth. When he was grown, being warned by an oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother, he left home. On his journey he met Laius and slew him in the course of an altercation. Later, by solving the riddle of the sphinx, he freed Thebes from distress, was made king of the city, and married Jocasta. Eventually the terrible truth of the relationship became known to all. Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus tore out his eyes. The sculptor portrays the hero of the old legend at the very moment that he is thus trying to punish himself for his crime. There is nothing delicate or pretty about all such work as this. It is grewsome in fact, and horrible; but it is also strong and intense and vital. Its merit was at once recognized by the French, and it gave Meta Warrick a recognized place among the sculptors of America.

On her return to America the artist resumed her studies at the School of Industrial Art, winning in 1904 the Battles first prize for pottery. In 1907 she produced a series of tableaux representing the advance of the Negro for the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition, and in 1913 a group for the New York State Emancipation Proclamation Commission. In 1909 she became the wife of Dr. Solomon C. Fuller, of Framingham, Massachusetts. A fire in 1910 unfortunately destroyed some of her most valuable pieces while they were in storage in Philadelphia. Only a few examples of her early work, that happened to be elsewhere, were saved. The artist was undaunted, however, and by May, 1914, she had sufficiently recovered from the blow to be able to hold at her home a public exhibition of her work.

After this fire a new note crept into the work of Meta Warrick Fuller. This was doubtless due not so much to the fire itself as to the larger conception of life that now came to the sculptor with the new duties of marriage and motherhood. From this time forth it was not so much the romantic as the social note that was emphasized. Representative of the new influence was the second model of the group for the Emancipation Proclamation Commission. A recently emancipated Negro youth and maiden stand beneath a gnarled, decapitated tree that has what looks almost like a human hand stretched over them. Humanity is pushing them forth into the world while at the same time the hand of Destiny is restraining them in the full exercise of their freedom. "Immigrant in America" is in somewhat similar vein. An American woman, the mother of one strong healthy child, is shown welcoming to the land of plenty the foreigner, the mother of several poorly nourished children. Closely related in subject is the smaller piece, "The Silent Appeal," in which a mother capable of producing and caring for three sturdy children is shown as making a quiet demand for the suffrage and for any other privileges to which a human being is entitled. All of these productions are clear cut, straightforward, and dignified.
In May, 1917, Meta Warrick Fuller took second prize in a competition under the auspices of the Massachusetts Branch of the Woman's Peace Party, her subject being "Peace Halting the Ruthlessness of War." War is personified as on a mighty steed and trampling to death numberless human beings. In one hand he holds a spear on which he has transfixed the head of one of his victims. As he goes on his masterful career Peace meets him and commands him to cease his ravages. The work as exhibited was in gray-green wax and was a production of most unusual spirit.

Among other prominent titles are "Watching for Dawn," a conception of remarkable beauty and yearning, and "Mother and Child." An early production somewhat detached from other pieces is a head of John the Baptist. This is one of the most haunting creations of Mrs. Fuller. In it she was especially successful in the infinite yearning and pathos that she somehow managed to give to the eyes of the seer. It bears the unmistakable stamp of power.

Compiles from information in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Harriet Tubman

Greatest of all the heroines of anti-slavery was Harriet Tubman. This brave woman not only escaped from bondage herself, but afterwards made nineteen distinct trips to the South, especially to Maryland, and altogether aided more than three hundred souls in escaping from their fetters.

Araminta Ross, better known by the Christian name Harriet that she adopted, and her married name of Tubman, was born about 1821 in Dorchester County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, the daughter of Benjamin Ross and Harriet Greene, both of whom were slaves, but who were privileged to be able to live their lives in a state of singular fidelity. Harriet had ten brothers and sisters, not less than three of whom she rescued from slavery; and in 1857, at great risk to herself, she also took away to the North her aged father and mother.

When Harriet was not more than six years old she was taken away from her mother and sent ten miles away to learn the trade of weaving. Among other things she was set to the task of watching muskrat traps, which work compelled her to wade much in water. Once she was forced to work when she was already ill with the measles. She became very sick, and her mother now persuaded her master to let the girl come home for a while.

Soon after Harriet entered her teens she suffered a misfortune that embarrassed her all the rest of her life. She had been hired out as a field hand. It was the fall of the year and the slaves were busy at such tasks as husking corn and cleaning up wheat. One of them ran away. He was found. The overseer swore that he should be whipped and called on Harriet and some others that happened to be near to help tie him. She refused, and as the slave made his escape she placed herself in a door to help to stop pursuit of him. The overseer caught up a two-pound weight and threw it at the fugitive; but it missed its mark and struck Harriet a blow on the head that was almost fatal. Her skull was broken and from this resulted a pressure on her brain which all her life left her subject to fits of somnolency.

Sometimes these would come upon her in the midst of a conversation or any task at which she might be engaged; then after a while the spell would pass and she could go on as before.

After Harriet recovered sufficiently from her blow she lived for five or six years in the home of one John Stewart, working at first in the house but afterwards hiring her time. She performed the most arduous labor in order to get the fifty or sixty dollars ordinarily exacted of a woman in her situation. She drove oxen, plowed, cut wood, and did many other such things. With her firm belief in Providence, in her later years she referred to this work as a blessing in disguise as it gave her the firm constitution necessary for the trials and hardships that were before her. Sometimes she worked for her father, who was a timber inspector and superintended the cutting and hauling of large quantities of timber for the Baltimore ship-yards. Her regular task in this employment was the cutting of half a cord of wood a day.

About 1844 Harriet was married to a free man named John Tubman. She had no children. Two years after her escape in 1849 she traveled back to Maryland for her husband, only to find him married to another woman and no longer caring to live with her. She felt the blow keenly, but did not despair and more and more gave her thought to what was to be the great work of her life.

It was not long after her marriage that Harriet began seriously to consider the matter of escape from bondage. Already in her mind her people were the Israelites in the land of Egypt, and far off in the North somewhere was the land of Canaan. In 1849 the master of her plantation died, and word passed around that at any moment she and two of her brothers were to be sold to the far South. Harriet, now twenty-four years old, resolved to put her long cherished dreams into effect. She held a consultation with her brothers and they decided to start with her at once, that very night, for the North. She could not go away, however, without giving some intimation of her purpose to the friends she was leaving behind. As it was not advisable for slaves to be seen too much talking together, she went among her old associates singing as follows:

When dat ar ol' chariot comes
I'm gwine to leabe you;
I'm boun' for de Promised Land;
Frien's, I'm gwine to leabe you.

I'm sorry, frien's, to leabe you;
Farewell! oh, farewell!
But I'll meet you in de mornin';
Farewell! oh, farewell!

I'll meet you in de mornin'
When you reach de Promised Land;
On de oder side of Jordan,
For I'm boun' for de Promised Land.
The brothers started with her; but the way was unknown, the North was far away, and they were constantly in terror of recapture. They turned back, and Harriet, after watching their retreating forms, again fixed her eyes on the north star. "I had reasoned dis out in my min'," said she; "there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have de other, for no man should take me alive. I would fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when de time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me."

"And so without money, and without friends," says Mrs. Bradford, "she started on through unknown regions; walking by night, hiding by day, but always conscious of an invisible pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night, under the guidance of which she journeyed or rested. Without knowing whom to trust, or how near the pursuers might be, she carefully felt her way, and by her native cunning, or by God-given wisdom she managed to apply to the right people for food, and sometimes for shelter; though often her bed was only the cold ground, and her watchers the stars of night. After many long and weary days of travel, she found that she had passed the magic line which then divided the land of bondage from the land of freedom." At length she came to Philadelphia, where she found work and the opportunity to earn a little money. It was at this time, in 1851, after she had been employed for some months, that she went back to Maryland for her husband only to find that he had not been true.
In December, 1850, she had visited Baltimore and brought away a sister and two children. A few months afterwards she took away a brother and two other men. In December, 1851, she led out a party of eleven, among them being another brother and his wife. With these she journeyed to Canada, for the Fugitive Slave Law was now in force and, as she quaintly said, there was no safety except "under the paw of the British Lion." The winter, however, was hard on the poor fugitives, who unused to the climate of Canada, had to chop wood in the forests in the snow. Often they were frost-bitten, hungry, and almost always poorly clad. But Harriet was caring for them. She kept house for her brother, and the fugitives boarded with her. She begged for them and prayed for them, and somehow got them through the hard winter. In the spring she returned to the States, as usual working in hotels and families as a cook. In 1852 she once more went to Maryland, this time bringing away nine fugitives.

It must not be supposed that those who started on the journey northward were always strong-spirited characters. The road was rough and attended by dangers innumerable. Sometimes the fugitives grew faint-hearted and wanted to turn back. Then would come into play the pistol that Harriet always carried with her. "Dead niggers tell no tales," said she, pointing it at them; "you go on or die!" By this heroic method she forced many to go onward and win the goal of freedom.

Unfailing was Harriet Tubman's confidence in God. A customary form of prayer for her was, "O Lord, you've been with me in six troubles; be with me in the seventh." On one of her journeys she came with a party of fugitives to the home of a Negro who had more than once assisted her and whose house was one of the regular stations on the so-called Underground Railroad. Leaving her party a little distance away Harriet went to the door and gave the peculiar rap that was her regular signal. Not meeting with a ready response, she knocked several times. At length a window was raised and a white man demanded roughly what she wanted. When Harriet asked for her friend she was informed that he had been obliged to leave for assisting Negroes. The situation was dangerous. Day was breaking and something had to be done at once. A prayer revealed to Harriet a place of refuge. Outside of the town she remembered that there was a little island in a swamp, with much tall grass upon it. Hither she conducted her party, carrying in a basket two babies that had been drugged. All were cold and hungry in the wet grass; still Harriet prayed and waited for deliverance. How relief came she never knew; she felt that it was not necessarily her business to know. After they had waited through the day, however, at dusk there came slowly along the pathway on the edge of the swamp a man clad in the garb of a Quaker. He seemed to be talking to himself, but Harriet's sharp ears caught the words: "My wagon stands in the barnyard of the next farm across the way. The horse is in the stable; the harness hangs on a nail;" and then the man was gone. When night came Harriet stole forth to the place designated, and found not only the wagon but also abundant provisions in it, so that the whole party was soon on its way rejoicing. In the next town dwelt a Quaker whom Harriet knew and who readily took charge of the horse and wagon for her.

Naturally the work of such a woman could not long escape the attention of the abolitionists. She became known to Thomas Garrett, the great-hearted Quaker of Wilmington, who aided not less than three thousand fugitives to escape, and also to Grit Smith, Wendell Phillips, William H. Seward, F. B. Sanborn, and many other notable men interested in the emancipation of the Negro. From time to time she was supplied with money, but she never spent this for her own use, setting it aside in case of need on the next one of her journeys. In her earlier years, however, before she became known, she gave of her own slender means for the work.

Between 1852 and 1857 she made but one or two journeys, because of the increasing vigilance of slaveholders and the Fugitive Slave Law. Great rewards were offered for her capture and she was several times on the point of being taken, but always escaped by her shrewd wit and what she considered warnings from heaven. While she was intensely practical, she was also a most firm believer in dreams. In 1857 she made her most venturesome journey, this time taking with her to the North her old parents who were no longer able to walk such distances as she was forced to go by night. Accordingly she had to hire a wagon for them, and it took all her ingenuity to get them through Maryland and Delaware. At length, however, she got them to Canada, where they spent the winter. As the climate was too rigorous, however, she afterwards brought them down to New York, and settled them in a home in Auburn, N. Y., that she had purchased on very reasonable terms from Secretary Seward. Somewhat later a mortgage on the place had to be lifted and Harriet now made a noteworthy visit to Boston, returning with a handsome sum toward the payment of her debt. At this time she met John Brown more than once, seems to have learned something of his plans, and after the raid at Harper's Ferry and the execution of Brown she glorified him as a hero, her veneration even becoming religious. Her last visit to Maryland was made in December, 1860, and in spite of the agitated condition of the country and the great watchfulness of slaveholders she brought away with her seven fugitives, one of them an infant.

After the war Harriet Tubman made Auburn her home, establishing there a refuge for aged Negroes. She married again, so that she is sometimes referred to as Harriet Tubman Davis. She died at a very advanced age March 10, 1913. On Friday, June 12, 1914, a tablet in her honor was unveiled at the Auditorium in Albany. It was provided by the Cayuga County Historical Association, Dr. Booker T. Washington was the chief speaker of the occasion, and the ceremonies were attended by a great crowd of people.

The tributes to this heroic woman were remarkable. Wendell Phillips said of her: "In my opinion there are few captains, perhaps few colonels, who have done more for the loyal cause since the war began, and few men who did before that time more for the colored race than our fearless and most sagacious friend, Harriet." F. B. Sanborn wrote that what she did "could scarcely be credited on the best authority." William H. Seward, who labored, though unsuccessfully, to get a pension for her granted by Congress, consistently praised her noble spirit. Abraham Lincoln gave her ready audience and lent a willing ear to whatever she had to say. Frederick Douglass wrote to her: "The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and footsore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt 'God bless you' has been your only reward."

Of such mould was Harriet Tubman, philanthropist and patriot, bravest and noblest of all the heroines of freedom.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Mytth Presents A Hidden Heroine of the French Revolution

THE year 1788 was the last of the old régime. Mme. Le Brun was now thirty-two and at the height of
her fame and prosperity. She had more commissions than she could execute, more engagements than she could keep, more invitations than she could accept, but her mind was full of gloomy presentiments. She passed the summer as usual between Paris and the country houses where she stayed.

As she drove with a friend down to Romainville to stay with the Comte de Ségur, she noticed that the peasants they met in the roads did not take off their hats to them, but looked at them insolently, and sometimes shook their sticks threateningly at them.

While she was at Romainville there was a most awful storm, the sky which had become deep yellow with black clouds of alarming appearance, seemed to open and pour forth flash after flash of lightning, accompanied by deafening thunder and enormous hailstones, which ravaged the country for forty leagues round Paris. Pale and trembling, Mme. de Ségur and Mme. Le Brun sat looking at each other in terror, fancying that they saw in the awful tempest raging around them, the beginning of the fearful times whose approach they now foresaw.

When the storm had subsided the peasants were crying and lamenting over the destruction of their crops, and all the large proprietors in the neighbourhood came most generously to their assistance. One rich man distributed forty thousand francs among them. The next year he was one of the first to be massacred.

As time went on and affairs became more and more menacing, Mme. Le Brun began to consider the advisability of leaving the country, and placing herself and her child out of the reach of the dangers and calamities evidently not far distant.

Early in 1789 she was dining at La Malmaison, which then belonged to the Comte de Moley, a rabid Radical; he and the Abbé de Sieyès and several others were present, and so fierce and violent was their talk that even the Abbé de Sieyès said after dinner—

“Indeed, I think we shall go too far;” while the Comtesse du Moley and Mme. Le Brun were horror-stricken at the terrible prospects unfolded to them.

After this, Mme. Le Brun went for a few days to Marly to stay with Mme. Auguier, sister of Mme. Campan, and attached like her to the Queen’s household.

One day as they were looking out of a window into the courtyard which opened on to the road, they saw a man stagger in and fall down.

Mme. Auguier sent her husband’s valet de chambre to help him up, and take him into the kitchen. Presently the valet returned, saying, “Madame is indeed too kind; that man is a wretch. Here are some papers which have fallen out of his pocket.” He gave them several sheets of papers, one of which began, “Down with the Royal Family! down with the nobles! down with the priests!” and all of which were filled with a tissue of blasphemies, litanies of the Revolution, threats and predictions horrible enough to make their hair stand on end.

Mme. Auguier sent for the maréchaussé, four of whom appeared, and took the fellow in charge; but the valet de chambre who followed them unperceived, saw them, as soon as they thought themselves out of sight, singing and dancing, arm in arm with their prisoner.

Terror-stricken, they agreed that these papers must be shown to the Queen, and when, a day or two afterwards, Mme. Auguier was in waiting, she took them to Marie Antoinette, who read and returned them saying—

“These things are impossible. I shall never believe they meditate such atrocities.”

Mme. Auguier’s affection for the Queen cost her her life. In the fury of the Revolution, knowing her to be without money, she lent Marie Antoinette twenty-five louis. This became known, and a mob rushed to her house to take her to prison and execution. In a frenzy of terror Mme. Auguier threw herself out of the window, and was killed on the spot.

The last time Mme. Le Brun saw the Queen was at the last ball given at Versailles, which took place in the theatre, and at which she looked on from one of the boxes. She observed with indignation the rudeness of some of the young Radical nobles; they refused to dance when requested to do so by the Queen, whose agitation and uneasiness were only too apparent. The demeanour of the populace was becoming every day more ferocious and alarming; the drives and streets were scarcely safe for any but the lower classes. At a concert given by Mme. Le Brun, most of the guests came in with looks of consternation. They had been driving earlier in the day to Longchamps, and as they passed the barrière de l’Étoile, a furious mob had surrounded and insulted everybody who passed in carriages. Villainous looking faces pressed close to them, horrible figures climbed on to the steps of the carriages, crying out, with infamous threats and brutal language, that next year they should be in the carriages and the owners behind them.

The continual terror in which she now lived began to affect the health of Lisette. She knew perfectly well that she herself was looked upon with sinister eyes by the ruffians, whose bloodthirsty hands would soon hold supreme power in France. Her house in the rue Gros-Chenet, in which she had only lived for three months, was already marked; sulphur was thrown down the grating into the cellars; if she looked out of the windows she saw menacing figures of sans-culottes, shaking their fists at the house.

If she had not got away in time there can be no doubt as to what would have been her fate; fortunately her fears made her act with prudence. M. Brongniart, the architect, and his wife, friends of hers, seeing her so pale and altered, persuaded her to go and stay with them for a few days at the Invalides, where they had rooms; she gladly accepted and was taken there by a doctor attached to the Palais Royal, whose servants wore the Orléans livery, the only one that was now respected, and in whose carriage she consequently arrived safely. Her kind friends nursed and tried to comfort her; made her take Bordeaux and soup as she could eat nothing, and tried to reassure her, being amongst those who did not believe in the perils to come. It was no use. When they went out they heard the threats and violent talk of the mob, and the discussions they held with each other; by no means calculated to give comfort to those who were listening.

Mme. Le Brun returned home, but dared not stay there, so she accepted the invitation of her brother’s father-in-law, M. de Rivière, in whose house she thought she would be safe, as he was a foreign minister. She stayed there a fortnight, treated as if she were a daughter of the house, but she had resolved to get out of France before it was too late.

It would in fact have been folly to stay any longer; already the mob had set fire to the barrière at the end of the rue Chaussée-d’Antin, where M. de Rivière lived, and had begun to tear up the pavement and make barricades in the streets. Many people disapproved of emigrating, some from patriotic  reasons, others as a matter of interest. To many it was of course a choice between the certainty of losing their property and the chance of losing their lives; and rather than become beggars they took the risk and stayed, very often to the destruction of themselves and those dearest to them. To Lisette there was no such alternative. Wherever she went she could always provide herself with money without the least difficulty; she had always longed to see Rome, now was the time.

She had numbers of orders, and of portraits half finished, but she was too nervous and agitated to paint, and she had a hundred louis which some one had just paid for a picture—to herself fortunately, not to M. Le Brun, who generally took everything, sometimes never even telling her it had been paid, at other times saying he must have the whole sum for an investment, or to pay a bill owing.
This hundred louis would take her to Rome with her child and nurse, and she began in haste to pack up and prepare for the journey.

It was the evening before the day fixed for their departure, the passport was ready, her travelling carriage loaded with luggage, and she was resting herself in her drawing-room, when a dreadful noise was heard in the house, as of a crowd bursting in; trampling of feet on the stairs, rough voices; and as she remained petrified with fear the door of the room was flung open and a throng of ruffianly-looking gardes nationaux with guns in their hands, many of them drunk, forced their way in, and several of them approaching her, declared in coarse, insolent terms, that she should not go.

In reply to her observation that she had a perfect right to go where she chose, they kept repeating—
Vous ne partisez pas, citoyenne, vous ne partisez pas.

At last they went away, but in a few moments two of them whose appearance was different from the rest returned and said—

“Madame, we are your neighbours; we have come back to advise you to go, and to start as soon as possible. You cannot live here, you are so changed that we are sorry. But do not travel in your carriage; go by the diligence, it is safer.”

Lisette thanked the friendly gardes with all her heart, and followed their advice. She sent to take three places in the diligence, but there were none to be had for a fortnight, as so many people who were emigrating travelled by it for greater safety.

Those of her friends who were Radicals blamed Lisette for going, and tried to dissuade her. Mme. Filleul, formerly Mlle. Boquet, said to her—

“You are quite wrong to go. I shall stay, for I believe in the happiness the Revolution will bring us.”
She remained at La Muette until the Terror began. Mme. Chalgrin, of whom she was an intimate friend, came there to celebrate very quietly the marriage of her daughter. The day after it, both Mme. Chalgrin and Mme. Filleul were arrested by the revolutionists and guillotined a few days later, because they were said to have “burnt the candles of the nation.”

Lisette paid no attention to the dissuasions of her friends; in spite of all they said she knew quite well that she was in danger. No one could be safe, however innocent, if any suspicion or grudge against  them was in the minds of the ruffians who were thirsting for blood.

“Although, thank Heaven, I have never done harm to anybody,” she said. “I agree with the man who said: ‘They accuse me of having stolen the towers of Notre Dame; they are still in their place, but I am going, for it is clear that they have a grudge against me.’”

“What is the use of taking care of one’s health?” she would say when her friends were anxious about her. “What is the good of living?”

It was not until the 5th of October that the places in the diligence could be had, and on the evening of the 4th Lisette went to say goodbye to her mother, whom she had not seen for three weeks, and who at first did not recognise her, so much had she changed in that short time and so ill did she look.
They were to start at midnight, and it was quite time they did so.

That very day the King, Queen, and royal family were brought from Versailles to Paris by the frantic, howling mob. Louis Vigée, after witnessing their arrival at the Hôtel de Ville, came at ten o’clock to see his sister off, and give her the account of what had happened.

“Never,” he said, “was the Queen more truly a Queen than to-day, when she made her entry with so calm and noble an air in the midst of those furies.”

It was then she made her well-known answer to Bailly, “J’ai tout vu, tout su, et tout oublié.”
Half beside herself with anxiety and fear for the fate of the royal family and of all respectable people, Lisette, her child, and the nurse or nursery governess went to the diligence at midnight, escorted by M. Le Brun, Louis Vigée, and M. Robert, the landscape painter, an intimate friend of theirs, who never left the diligence, but kept close to its doors as it lumbered along through the narrow dark streets to the barrière du Trône. For the terrible faubourg Saint Antoine had to be passed through, and Lisette was dreadfully afraid of it.

However, it happened on that night to be unusually quiet, for the inhabitants had been to Versailles after the King and Queen, and were so tired that they were asleep.

At the barrier came the parting with those she was leaving in the midst of perils. When they would meet again, if they ever did at all, it was impossible to guess.

The journey was insupportable. In the diligence with them was a dirty, evil-looking man, who openly confessed that he was a robber, boasting of the watches, &c., that he had stolen, and speaking of many persons he wished to murder à la lanterne, amongst whom were a number of the acquaintances of Mme. Le Brun. The little girl, now five or six years old, was frightened out of her wits, and her mother took courage to ask the man not to talk about murders before the child.

He stopped, and afterwards began to play with her; but another Jacobin from Grenoble, also a passenger, gave vent to all kinds of infamous and murderous threats and opinions, haranguing the people who collected round the diligence whenever they stopped for dinner or supper; whilst every now and then men rode up to the diligence, announcing that the King and Queen had been assassinated, and that Paris was in flames. Lisette, terrified herself for the fate of those dear to her, tried to comfort her still more frightened child, who was crying and trembling, believing that her father was killed and their house burnt. At last they arrived safely at Lyon, and found their way to the house of a M. Artaut, whom Lisette did not know well. But she had entertained him and his wife in Paris on one or two occasions, she knew that their opinions were like her own, and thought they were worthy people, as indeed they proved to be.

They did not know her at first, for besides her altered looks she was dressed as an ouvrière, having just exhibited in the Salon her portrait which she had painted with her child in her arms, and fearing she might be recognised.

They spent three days in the Artaut family, thankful for the rest, the quietness and the kindness they received. M. Artaut engaged a man he knew to take them on their journey, telling him that they were relations of his, and recommending them to his care. They set off accordingly, and, this journey was indeed a contrast to the last. Their driver took the greatest care of them, and they arrived in safety at the bridge of Beauvoisin, the frontier of France.

Never, would Mme. Le Brun say in after years, could she forget or describe the feelings with which she drove across that bridge to find herself at the other side—safe, free, and out of France.
Henceforth the journey was a pleasure, and with feelings of admiration and awe she gazed upon the magnificent scenery as she ascended the mighty Mont Cenis; stupendous mountains rising above her, their snowy peaks buried in clouds, their steep sides hung with pine forests, the roar of falling torrents perpetually in her ears.

“Madame should take a mule,” said a postillion coming up to her, as she walked slowly up the precipitous mountain path. “It is much too tiring for a lady like Madame to go up on foot.”

“I am an ouvrière,” she replied, “and am accustomed to walk.”

The man laughed.

“Ah!” he said, “Madame is no ouvrière; it is very well known who she is.”

“Well, who am I, then?”

“You are Mme. Le Brun, who paints with such perfection, and we are all very glad to know that you are far away from those wicked people.”

“I could never guess,” said Lisette, “how the man knew me. But this proved the number of spies the Jacobins had everywhere. However, I was not afraid of them now; I was out of their execrable power. If I had no longer my own country, I was going to live where art flourished and urbanity reigned—I was going to Rome, Naples, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.”

Compiled from sources in the public domain

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The American Spinster Circa 1913


Author of “The Fireside Sphinx,” etc.

THAT this is the Golden Age of spinsters no one will deny, and that America furnishes the soil in which these hardy plants put forth their finest bloom is equally indisputable. How many years have passed since the “antient maydes” of Boston—which term included all unmarried women older than twenty-five—were pronounced by John Dunton to be a “dismal spectacle”? How many years since a few “acute and ingenious gentlewomen” in colonial Virginia had the temerity to remain single and cultivate their own tobacco plantations, for which unnatural behavior they were subjected to repeated “admonishments”? Now the “antient mayde” flaunts her freedom in the faces of those who are patiently doing their duty to the world. Now if a woman runs a successful apple-orchard or dairy-farm, her exploits are heralded far and wide, and other women write exultant papers about her, intimating that the day of the male agriculturist is virtually over. I am not sure that the attitude of our great-great-grandfathers, who jealously and somewhat fearfully guarded their prerogatives, was not more flattering to my sex than this enthusiasm evoked by achievements which in a man would not be found worthy of notice.

As for age—well, who in these years of grace is frankly and confessedly old? We no longer say, “On a l’âge de son cœur,” but “On a l’âge de sa volonté.” Jane Austen settled down to caps and spinsterhood before she was thirty. Dr. Johnson alluded to Miss Lucy Porter’s “hoary virginity” when that lady was fifty-two. The Ettrick Shepherd stubbornly protested that “to ca’ a woman saxty, and then mainteen that ye didna ca’ her auld, is naething short o’ a sophism.” But now no one gets beyond middle age, or “the prime of life.” I have heard a Boston spinster of eighty-two (a remarkable woman, I admit) casually spoken of as middle-aged; and when, in a desperate resolve to push matters to an issue, I said: “Miss D—is not middle-aged; she is old. If you are not old when you are eighty-two, when are you old?” the remark was taken in ill part. “I should not dream of calling Miss D—old,” said one gallant Bostonian, and all his hearers agreed with him.

The French spinster is a negligible factor. The English spinster has conquered her territory and become a force to be reckoned with. But the American spinster is the standard-bearer of the tribe. Her incessant activities and her radiant self-satisfaction have made her appear more dominant than she is, and have caused her critics much needless apprehension. When Mrs. Van Vorst wrote, in 1903, “Our factories are full of old maids, our colleges are full of old maids, our ball-rooms in the worldly centers are full of old maids,” Americans read these words with placid unconcern. They had given too many wedding presents in their day to have any doubts anent the permanent popularity of marriage. But English readers, who are ever prone to be literal, appear to have accepted Mrs. Van Vorst’s statements au pied de la lettre. Mr. Marriott Watson, chilled to the heart—as well he might be—by the vision of a ballroom destitute alike of girls and matrons, wrote for the “Nineteenth Century” a severe and agitated protest. He asserted that a woman’s “functions” “alone excuse or explain her existence,”—which is one way of looking at the matter; and he pointed out that American women are the most remote the world can show from the primitive and savage type which represents the dynamic force of a race.

The mere fact that the American spinster is so often and so sharply censured marks the strength of her position. No one dreams of censuring the French vieille fille or the German jungfrau. These victims of fate meet with scorn or sympathy, according to the taste and breeding of commentators. In either case, their lives are registered as failures. Nothing can rob the German woman of those vital sensibilities which center in the home and family. “Every great movement of the Teutonic soul,” says Mr. Havelock Ellis, “has been rooted in emotion.” If the women of Germany are demanding “rights,” and demanding them with no uncertain voice, it is because they seek to meet their responsibilities with authority. The sphere of home and child-rearing is their sphere, and they purpose to rule in it.

It is not possible for the Frenchwoman, who understands the structure of society, to welcome spinsterhood. “All her instincts of expansion,” says that acute observer Mr. William Crary Brownell, “are hostile to it. There is no more provision in the French social constitution than in the order of nature itself for the old maid.” Therefore, as the twin passions of the French heart are to be in rational accord with nature and in rational accord with social life, the unmarried woman has no alternative but to feel herself doubly incomplete. She is unstirred by the American woman’s vaulting ambition to be man’s rival, or by an uneasy envy of man’s estate. Perhaps it is because a French girl never regrets her sex that France has produced more eminent women than any other nation in the world. Certainly the only man who ever had the courage to say he would like to be a woman (a beautiful woman, he stipulated) was that distinguished Frenchman M. Jules Lemaître.

No one since De Quincey has spoken so generously of the English spinster as has Mr. John B. Atkins in the pages of THE CENTURY. He does not, like so many of his contemporaries, accuse her of gross selfishness. He does not deny her the right to control her own life. He goes so far as to say that she may use it to good purpose, and extract from it some measure of content. He points out the philanthropic paths which it should be her duty and her pleasure to tread. He draws a pleasing picture of the maiden aunt giving to nieces and nephews—to nephews especially—her sympathy and comradeship. Sir Leslie Stephen says that “Woman to a boy is simply an incumbrance upon reasonable modes of life,” and it is to be feared that many women—aunts and others—have the same doubtful regard for boys. But British sentimentality demands of the old maid, if she be a good old maid, that yearning attitude toward other people’s children which marks her as “womanly” and earns for her the tolerance of the world.

The American spinster is seldom sentimental, which is in her favor, and she is seldom emotional, which is both gain and loss. Her attenuation of feeling lessens her charm and influence, but serves to keep her in accord with the orderly conventions of society. She is keenly competitive, and eager for new fields of activity; but she can read Ellen Key’s “Love and Marriage” with intelligent detachment. She cries occasionally for the moon, but she is in no immediate danger of scorching her fingers by trying to play with the sun.

The flexibility of American social life gives to the unmarried woman an assured position which has no counterpart in the older civilizations. She may be an anomaly in nature, but she is in perfect accord with her more or less agreeable surroundings. She has no background to give repute and distinction to her rôle; but she infuses into it her own persuasive personality. She stands free from the common obligations of her sex, but she does work which is well worth doing, and she not infrequently adds to the gaiety of life. “Of how many homes,” says Mr. Brownell, “is she not the decorously decorative ornament! She may have courted or have drifted into her position of dignified singleness; it is in either case equally sure that she has not considered her estate incomplete in itself, or disengaged from the structure of society.”

As a matter of fact, she is wont to feel herself—birth and fortune permitting—a pillar of society. It is no question with her of wasted force or blighted vitality. It is a question of directing her superabundant energy into those channels where she can accomplish measurable results. She seeks and finds a constructive human existence remote from marriage and maternity. The French or German woman remains unmarried because the unkindly fates have so decreed. The English woman occasionally assists fate from sheer love of independence. “The most ordinarie cause of a single life,” says Bacon, “is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds.” But it is surely reserved for the American woman to remain unmarried because she feels herself too good for matrimony, too valuable to be intrusted to a husband’s keeping. Her attitude bears some resemblance to that of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, who wrote with praiseworthy conviction: “I may say without vanity that just Heaven would not bestow such a woman as myself upon a man who was unworthy of her.”

This is not idle jesting. Would it be possible in any country save our own for a lady to write to a periodical, explaining, “Why I am an Old Maid,” and be paid coin of the realm for the explanation? Would it be possible in any other country to hear such a question as “Should the Gifted Woman Marry?” seriously asked, and seriously answered? Would it be possible for any sane and thoughtful woman who was not an American to consider even the remote possibility of our spinsters becoming a detached class, who shall form “the intellectual and economic élite of the sex, and leave marriage and maternity for the less developed woman”? What has become of the belief, as old as humanity, that marriage and maternity are highly developing processes, forcing into flower a woman’s latent potentialities; and that the less developed woman is inevitably the woman who has escaped this keen and powerful stimulus. “Never,” says Edmond de Goncourt, “has a virgin, young or old, produced a work of art.” One makes allowance for the Latin point of view. And it is probable that M. de Goncourt never read “Emma.”

Signor Ferrero, contemplating the unmarried women of England, those amazing creatures who “devote themselves to sterility, not from religious motives, but from sheer calculation” (which is also a Latin point of view), has recorded his conviction that they will make themselves felt as a force, and has expressed his genuine dismay as to the possible results of their activity. He has even confessed to some whimsical misgivings lest Italian and Sicilian women should acquire this Saxon taste for spinsterhood. Yet England is emphatically a man’s country—which France has never been—and its attitude toward marriage is a robustly masculine attitude, as unacceptable to the French as to the American woman. There is no attempt anywhere to gloss over this rude fact. The Englishman believes with Mr. Kipling:

“He travels the fastest who travels alone.”
He echoes the verdict of Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, “Marriage narrows and damps the spirits of generous men.” “The position of a single man,” says a stout-hearted writer in the “Contemporary Review,” “is in itself envied and applauded; that of a single woman certainly is not. To every woman marriage is still accounted a promotion. There may be counterbalancing circumstances, but to be married is, in itself, an object of desire and a subject for congratulation.”

In the good old days when English spinsters softened the reproach of spinsterhood by borrowing the prefix “Mrs.,” as did those excellent ladies, Mrs. Hannah More and Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, the position of a single man was neither envied nor applauded. He was held to be (if of decent life,—much allowance was made for rakes) only a little less contemptible than a single woman. “The pain and the opprobrium o’ defunckin an auld bachelor,” writes the Ettrick Shepherd, expressing after his hardy fashion the sentiment of his time. Dr. Johnson firmly maintained that marriage was more necessary for a man than for a woman, because a woman could make herself comfortable and a man could not. The responsibility for the more modern and more supercilious masculine attitude must be placed where it belongs,—on the shoulders of the Englishwoman, who has accepted the creed that for her marriage is a promotion, and that “counterbalancing circumstances” should not be held to weigh too heavily in the scale. As Dean Hole’s friend said to him, when congratulated on her daughter’s engagement: “To be sure, Jenny hates the man, but then there’s always something.”

Miss Austen was the most veracious of chroniclers, one who with careful self-control refused to wander beyond the area of her own observation; but there is nothing in American fiction, and very little, I fancy, in the fiction of any land, which is comparable to the marriage of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. Many novelists have made easy copy of husband-hunting. It is a favorite theme with Trollope, who treats it with ruthless cynicism, and it is a not uncommon element in modern story-telling. But Charlotte Lucas staggers us. Miss Austen calls her “sensible and intelligent.” She is also well-bred, clear-headed, and kind. She is Elizabeth Bennet’s chosen friend. And she marries Mr. Collins! Marries him with alacrity, and with permanent satisfaction. If there be any one episode in life and letters which is calculated to reconcile us to the rapid increase of spinsterhood in England and America, it is the amazing fact that Jane Austen not only married Charlotte Lucas to Mr. Collins, but plainly considered it a not unnatural thing for her to do.

Ten years ago, when a rage for compiling useless statistics swept over Europe and the United States, it occurred to some active minds that children should be made to bear their part in the guidance of the human race. Accordingly a series of questions—some sensible and some foolish—were put to English, German, and American school children, and their enlightening answers were given to the world. One of these questions read: “Would you rather be a man or a woman, and why?” Naturally this query was of concern only to little girls. No sane educator would ask it of a boy. Even Jules Lemaître at twelve must have shared the convictions of his fellows. German pedagogues, be it noted, struck the question off the list. They said that to ask a child, “Would you rather be something you must be, or something you cannot possibly be?” was both foolish and useless. Interrogations concerning choice were of value only when the will was a determining factor.

In this country no such logical inference chilled the examiner’s zeal. The question was asked and was answered, and we discovered as a result that a great many little American girls (a minority, to be sure, but a respectable minority,) were well content with their sex; not because it had its duties and dignities, its pleasures and exemptions; but because they plainly considered that they were superior to little American boys, and were destined, when grown up, to be superior to American men. One small New England maiden wrote that she would rather be a woman because “Women are always better than men in morals.” Another, because “Women are more use in the world.” A third, because “Women learn things quicker than men, and have more intelligence.” And so on through varying degrees of self-sufficiency. “Lord, gie us a gude conceit o’ ourselves!” prayed the Scotchman, who knew the value of assurance.

Now certainly these little girls were old maids in the making. They had stamped upon them in their tender infancy the hall-mark of the American spinster. In a few more years they will be writing papers on “The Place of Unmarried Women in the World’s Work,” and reading addresses on “The Woman of Intellect: her Duty to Herself and to the State.” There is a formidable lack of humor in this easy confidence, in the somewhat contemptuous attitude of women whose capacities have not yet been tested, toward men who stand responsible for the failures of the world. It denotes, at home or abroad, a density not far removed from dullness. In that dreary little Irish drama, “Mixed Marriages,” which the Dublin actors played in New York two years ago, an old woman, presumed to be witty and wise, said to her son’s betrothed: “Sure, I believe the Lord made Eve when He saw that Adam could not take care of himself”; and the remark, while received with applause, reflected painfully upon the absence of that humorous sense which we used to think was the birthright of Irishmen. The too obvious retort which nobody uttered, but which everybody must have thought, was that if Eve had been designed as a care-taker, she had made a shining failure of her job.

It is conceded, theoretically at least, that woman’s sphere is an elastic term, comprising any work she is able to do well. Therefore, it may be that American spinsters, keen, college-bred, ambitious, and, above all, free, are destined to compete vigorously and permanently with men. They are, we are told, the only women who can give themselves unreservedly to work, and from them alone enduring results are to be expected. Yet it is at least worthy of notice that most of the successful business women of France,—Mme. Clicquot-Ponsardin, Mme. Pommery, Mme. Dumas, Mme. Bernet, Mme. Boucicault,—have been either married women who were their husbands’ partners, or widows who took upon their capable shoulders the burden of their dead husbands’ cares. They were also mothers who, with the definite aims and practical instincts of their race, projected themselves into the future, and wove out of their own pursuits the fabric of their children’s lives.

At present the American spinster is in a transition stage, a stage so replete with advantages that we may be permitted to hope it will last long. She has escaped from the chimney-corner, and is not yet shut up in banks and offices. She does a reasonable amount of work, and embraces every reasonable opportunity of enjoyment. She gratifies her own tastes, and cherishes her natural affinities. She sometimes cultivates her mind, and she never breaks her heart. She is the best of friends, and she has leisure for companionship. She is equally free from l’esprit gaulois and from “les mœurs de vestales pétrifiées,” which are the Scylla and Charybdis of the French vieille fille. She is content with a contentment which the German jungfrau neither understands nor envies. She is assured with an assurance unknown to the experienced English old maid. She is, as I have said, the standard-bearer of her tribe, and the pibroch to which she marches blithely through life has the ring of the old Covenanting song:

“That a’ the world may see
There’s nane in the right but we.”
All this is far removed, as Mr. Marriott Watson warns us, from the savage and primitive woman, who represents the dynamic force of a race. But who shall ring the bells backward? And who shall reconcile the primitive woman to the exigencies and formalities of civilization? Some years ago in South Carolina I came to know and love an old Negro “mammy,” a wise, fat, kind, mysterious old mammy, whose heart was soft, whose touch was healing, whose voice was like a lullaby, and whose experiences would have colored half a dozen ordinary lives. Her sister, the laundress, was one day under discussion, and I asked, with more than my customary ineptitude: “Aunt Cordelia, is Caroline an old maid?”

Aunt Cordelia turned upon me a look in which contempt for my ignorance blended with a deep acceptance and understanding of life as she had known it, unfiltered, unsheltered, unevasive. “Laws, honey,” she said, “we’s no ole maids. Some’s married, and some isn’t; but we’s no ole maids.”

 Compiles from Sources in the Public Domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shadows in a Timeless Myth Presents Frances Namon Sorcho First Female Deep Sea Diver


“As a girl in a quiet little home in Virginia, I little thought I would ever become a diver. In fact I didn’t know what a real diver was.

“When I first saw the queer rig I shuddered, but now the grotesque costume is as natural to me as is my tea-gown, and perhaps I feel a little more at home in it.

“Only arms, limbs and a body well trained muscularly can walk about in shoes that weigh 27 pounds apiece, supporting an armor with copper helmet and breastplate, and leaden belt of weights which tip the scale-beam at 246 pounds. Therefore, the commencement of my education as a diver consisted of a year’s training in a school of physical culture. When it was completed my muscles were as hard and springy as steel, and I felt no fear on the score of physical strength as I contemplated my first visit to the ‘bottom of the sea.’

“My first dive was off the southern coast of Florida, not far from Clear Water Harbor. My husband was at the time engaged in the business of collecting rare shells and coral for several Northern Universities. I well remember how I felt when I first donned the armor. Fear and curiosity were so closely blended that I hardly know which I felt the most of. At any rate, my husband was waiting, and almost before I realized it the queer canvas armor had been adjusted and the breastplate had been slipped over my head. A thick pad or collar had been put on my shoulders to take the weight off the breastplate and helmet, which alone weigh 56 pounds; but even then the plate felt quite heavy, and as the metal gaskets were being screwed down with thumb-nuts and a wrench, I felt as if I were being screwed up in my coffin. But there was little time for such gruesome reflections, and a stout leather belt holding the sub-marine knife was next girded about my waist.

“This knife, a double-edged affair, sharp as a razor, screws into a watertight brass scabbard. It is the diver’s only weapon, and with it he must protect himself against sharks and other sub-marine monsters. The shoes come next. How heavy and awkward they looked, with their soles of cast-iron two inches thick, and how clumsy they felt when I tried to walk in them for the first time!

“The life-line—that all-important half-inch manilla rope—was then knotted about my waist, and the belt of leaden weights was strapped about me under the arms, and I was told to step over the railing of the boat on to the short ladder that had been suspended over her stern. I did so, mechanically I fear, and when I had managed to get down a few steps, the helmet was slipped over my head and by a deft turn locked.

“The queer headpiece was much larger than my head, and admitted of considerable freedom of movement inside it.

“‘Now recollect,’ said my husband, ‘if you want to come up quick in case anything happens, give one jerk on the life-line. If you want more air give two jerks, or less air three jerks.’
“I expected to shoot to the bottom like a lump of lead, owing to all the weight I had on me, but I sank gradually instead, so buoyant was the inflated armor. I was on the bottom with five fathoms of water over my head almost before I realized it.

“I felt a sensation of pressure on the chest, and in my ears and head, which was quite painful. The first thing that I noticed, was a boiling of the water about me for which I was unable to account, until I happened to think of the foul air escaping through the valve in the back of the helmet.

“I found, also, to my surprise, that I could see quite well some distance about me, and observed a number of little fishes, which finally swam quite close to me and appeared to gaze in the glass front of the helmet with their little bead-like eyes, as though wondering what sort of a fish I was. I felt strangely light and buoyant, and found that with the slightest upward movement I would shoot surfaceward several feet. The armor also felt so stiff and hard that I could scarcely move in it.

“The next time I went down was not on a pleasure trip, but to work, and for several weeks my husband and I took turns diving for shells and curios. We finally completed our contract.

“Recovering a dead body is the task a diver dislikes more than any other kind, and although I have recovered quite a number, the work is yet horrible to me.

“The first dead body I ever brought to the surface was that of a man who was supposed to have been murdered and thrown into a lake near Atlanta, Ga. I searched the entire bottom of the lake, and finally in a deep hole found the body.

“It was shockingly mutilated and disfigured, and was almost unrecognizable, but we never found out whether the man had been murdered or not.

“When I came to the surface with that bloated, disfigured corpse, strong men were made sick and turned away, and to tell the truth I felt a little squeamish myself; but it was a matter of business, not sentiment, with me, so I doffed the armor and pocketed the reward that had been offered.
“The exploding of sub-marine torpedoes is dangerous work, and you can take my word for it that one does not feel very comfortable groping about with five or six pounds of dynamite in her hand, not knowing what minute it may take a notion to go off and blow her into kingdom come. Diving is fascinating, but it is dangerous, and there are very few women who would care to engage in it even if they had the nerve.”

Frances Namon Sorcho.

Compiled from sources in the public domain

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents Women In Ancient Britain

No deities were nearer to the hearts of Celtic peasants than those who were known as deae matres,—the mother goddesses. Once they were thought to belong to Germans and Celts alone; but their statues have been found in numbers at Capua; and, slightly modified, they survived into the Middle Age. Generally figured in groups of three—a mystic number—their aspect was that of gentle serious motherly women, holding new-born infants in their hands, or bearing fruits and flowers in their laps; and many offerings were made to them by country folk in gratitude for their care of farm and flock and home.

There is evidence, though it is hardly needed, that the inevitable hardships of life were not equally shared, and that the lot of the women was worse than that of the men. Judging from the measurements of the neolithic skeletons, the disparity between the sexes in stature was as great as it is among modern savage tribes. The average height of the men was about five feet six inches, of the women only four feet ten inches: the difference in civilized communities is about half as much. It is perhaps safe to conclude that when food was scarce, the men thought first of themselves, and that the women not only suffered from the effects of early child-bearing, but had more than their Duration of life. share of toil. No doubt disease, the attacks of wild beasts, and frequent accidents, as well as intertribal wars, tended to shorten the duration of life: at all events Thurnam calculated that the average age of the people whose skeletons he had examined was not more than forty-five years.

We all learned in childhood that the Britons admitted the sovereignty of women. In the middle of the first century Cartismandua was queen of the Brigantes; and a few years later, when the Iceni revolted against Rome, their general was Boudicca, who is better known by the barbarous misnomer of Boadicea. The Gauls may have had the same institution; and perhaps it would hardly be worth noticing if it were not apparently inconsistent with what Caesar tells us about the status of Gallic wives. They were indeed permitted to own property. The bride brought a dowry to her husband; but he was obliged to add an equivalent 270 from his own estate and to administer the whole as a joint possession, which, with its accumulated increments, went to the survivor. On the other hand, the husband had the power of life and death over his wife as well as his children; and when a man of rank died his relations, if they had any suspicion of foul play, examined his wife, like a slave, by torture, and, if they found her guilty, condemned her to perish in the flames of the funeral pyre.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915