Log in

Celebrating Women Writers!

> recent entries
> calendar
> friends
> A Celebration of Women Writers
> profile
> previous 20 entries

Monday, September 5th, 2016
4:22 pm - Romantic Canada
I am happy to announce Celebration Edition #418:
“Romantic Canada”
By Victoria Hayward, 1876-1956.
With photographs by Edith S. Watson, 1861-1943.
Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., 1922.

I was inspired to republish “Romantic Canada” because of the wonderful photography of Edith S. Watson, an American photographer who spent nearly 35 years  photographing the  isolated areas of Canada that she travelled through.  During much of that time, she lived and travelled with  journalist Victoria "Queenie" Hayward, whom she met while  wintering in Bermuda.  With her camera, Watson documented the lives of people in Newfoundland and Labrador (not yet an official part of Canada), the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.  The two women visited and often stayed with First Nations people in Quebec and Ontario; Mennonites, Doukhobors, and other "New Canadians" in Manitoba.

One of the first things that struck me, in reading this book, was how our interpretation of the word "romance" has changed.  "Romance" is overwhelmingly used nowadays to indicate "ardent emotional attachment or involvement" (Wordnik.com).   In Victoria Hayward and Edith S. Watson's in "Romantic Canada" the meaning is much closer to  "a mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful".  It is that mysterious appeal that beckons the traveller into wayside glens and little cottages snugly tucked away.  Romance does not lead one to as assignation, but rather to sit with an old artisan and hear stories of the “early days”.

“Romantic Canada” is an illustrated travelogue of Watson and Hayward’s journeys across Canada. Although dated, Hayward’s text is still a valuable record that captures details of how people lived  between the end of the 1800s and the start of the 1920s.  Watson’s black and white photographs continue to be strong and evocative.  In both their work, written and photographed, there is an awareness of the activities of a world of women -- women with carts and baskets and drying-racks for fish, with clam-rakes and looms and dyeing pots; knitting, spinning, and weaving. Some women have learned complicated skills while they were children, part of long-inherited family tradition.   Clearly women as well as men are involved in daily, heavy, ongoing, fatiguing labor: labor that is essential to the success of their communities.  By recognizing and including women, Hayward and Watson made visible aspects of daily life that were all too often ignored and forgotten in historical accounts and analysis.

“The women of Saint Pierre wash their clothes in the streams, of which there are several running down the hills at the back of the town. They dam up the water with stones so as to form little pools, and kneel in wooden boxes on the edge of these to wash. They slap the linen with a flat piece of wood to make it very clean and white, and when all is done, they carry it in a wet bundle on their backs up the hill, to spread it to dry on the great rocks at the foot of the Crucifix.”

“In some of the French shore homes both the plaited and hooked rug give way to the Catalon. Having duly examined and admired those on the floor, Madame takes the visitor up into the garret to see the ponderous loom that holds another in the making. Scattered about are her wools, spun and dyed and perhaps previously sheared by herself. “

The extent to the which Hayward and Watson entrusted themselves to the kindness of strangers is striking.  The two women relied on passing villagers, carts, postmen, and sailors for a variety of transport, and on all sorts of chance-met folk for hospitality and lodging.  Hayward writes:

"The third, and ideal way to make the acquaintance of Cape Breton, is to hire an old horse and drive yourself, making leisurely trips in all directions, lingering wherever Fancy dictates, and putting up each night in any village, town or farmhouse which promises a comfortable night's lodging."

“The man or woman who takes to the open road and puts up where he can when dusk comes down over land and sea, is the voyager likely to have the best adventures and to make the most discoveries. He discovers, primarily, that many tongues are heard in these little sea-coast homes – English, Gaelic, Breton and Acadian-French, and should he go far north enough, some "Huskie". … Even so, the traveller coming to any of these sea-side doors in the evening light will never have to beg a place to lay his head. Hospitality is part of the unwritten code of these parts. An additional mouth to feed brings about absolutely no confusion. It matters not which language the housewife speaks. You may not be able to employ her Gaelic or she your English, but her heart is kind and friendly and the sea has taught her to be cosmopolitan. Her door is ajar to visitors; a small matter like languages will never close it.”

Only when they reach the Pacific coast does one suspect that the travellers are no longer quite so comfortable, the doors no longer quite so open.   Differences in culture are described as “romantic” and “charming” on the east coast.  On the west coast, they are “mysterious and bizarre”,  “full of those powerful undercurrents that thrive on the edge of the wilderness”.  Sadly, the houses of the Japanese fisher folk of Steveston are described from the outside, not the inside.   The author reports that it requires courage to step across the threshold of the Indians of Alert Bay, and one suspects that it is not only the odor of smoking fish that causes her to say so. The contrast between self and other is powerfully and painfully displayed when the author extols the drawing rooms of the Indian agent and the missionary’s wife, where she drank tea in a “real home” presenting a “high standard” for the “red men with totem pedigrees”.  One wishes that the writer could have travelled farther, beyond prejudice and condescension, and met Japanese and Alert Bay Indians with the same respect and consideration she accorded Doukhobor settlers, who were also common targets of prejudice at that time.  But, like us all, she is of her time and caught within her time.

In spite of these drawbacks, we can applaud the intrepid hearts of these two women, Victoria Hayward and Edith S. Watson, as they set out to explore by-ways and distant corners of Canada at the beginning of the 20th century.  We can appreciate their efforts to record the cultures they met through descriptions and photographs.  Their book still merits time and attention.  I hope you will enjoy it.
Sunday, July 17th, 2016
1:05 pm - Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women: Autobiographical Sketches
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #417:

Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women: Autobiographical Sketches
By Elizabeth Blackwell, 1821-1910.
London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895.

Elizabeth Blackwell (3 February 1821 – 31 May 1910), born in Britain, was  the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman to be listed in the UK Medical Register.   Elizabeth's father, Samuel Blackwell, held liberal attitudes towards religion, supported the anti-slavery movement, and believed strongly that  both boys and girls should receive a practical education with the opportunity to develop their personal talents.  Sadly, Samuel Blackwell died unexpectedly on 7 August 1838, leaving his large family in poor financial circumstances.

Elizabeth and her sisters turned to teaching to support themselves.  Over time, Elizabeth developed a conviction that she should become a medical doctor, overcoming her stated "natural repugnance to the medical line of life" and determined to succeed even though  "the general sentiment of the physicians is strongly opposed to a woman's intruding herself into the profession."  That she succeeded in achieving her goal is truly astounding -- and her autobiography is a fascinating account of her experiences, and gives a strong sense of her personality and motivations.

"I felt that I was severing the usual ties of life, and preparing to act against my strongest natural inclinations. But a force stronger than myself then and afterwards seemed to lead me on; a purpose was before me which I must inevitably seek to accomplish. "

In October 1847, Blackwell was accepted as a medical student by Hobart College, then called Geneva Medical College, in upstate New York.  She also gained clinical experience at the Blockley Almshouse in Philadelphia. It was not an easy experience, but Blackwell triumphed, in part through her unyieldingly polite and professional behavior.   Her graduating thesis at Geneva Medical College dealt with typhus and noted the importance of physical health for  moral  and social well-being – an idea that she would develop in her later reform work.  On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. The graduation ceremonies revealed the extent to which she had won respect: Dr. Charles Lee, the dean, stood up and bowed to her as he  conferred her degree, and the local press reported favourably on the event.

Nonetheless, in April 1849, Blackwell left the United States of America for Europe.  She enrolled at La Maternité in Paris as a student midwife, since they would not agree to admit her as a physician.  She gained tremendous experience in female diseases during her stay.  Unfortunately, she also contracted a horrific infection while treating a case of ophthalmia neonatorum, eventually losing the sight in her left eye, and with it all hope of becoming a surgeon.  She also trained at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London in 1850.

Blackwell chose to return to America to establish her own medical practice.  With support in part from the Society of Friends (Quakers) she formed an independent dispensary in New York in 1953.  The institution she established eventually became The New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children and is now the Lower Manhattan Hospital.

"The difficulties and trials encountered at this early period were severe. Ill-natured gossip, as well as insolent anonymous letters, came to me. Although I have never met with any serious difficulties in attending to my practice at all hours of the night, yet unpleasant annoyances from unprincipled men were not infrequent.  …  I am glad I, and not another, have to bear this pioneer work. I understand now why this life has never been lived before. It is hard, with no support but a high purpose, to live against every species of social opposition. . . ."

In 1869 she finished her early pioneer work in America and returned to England.  There she was active in  a variety of social reform movements, co-founded the National Health Society, and campaigned against the Contagious Diseases Acts as a semi-legalization of prostitution.  Her essay, ''Counsel to Parents on the Moral Education of their Children'' (1878) discussed prostitution and marriage, and argued that women as well as men experienced sexual feelings and were equally responsible for their control.  Her autobiography, "Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women" appeared in 1895.  Elizabeth died  on 31 May 1910,  at her home in Hastings, Sussex, and her ashes were buried in the graveyard of St Munn's Parish Church, Kilmun, Scotland.

Her autobiography is well worth reading, and I hope you will enjoy it.
Best wishes,
Mary Mark Ockerbloom
Editor, A Celebration of Women Writers
Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
10:16 am - "Celebrated women travellers of the nineteenth century", "Across Patagonia", "Delightful Dalmatia"
"Celebrated women travellers of the nineteenth century."
By William Henry Davenport Adams, 1828-1891.
London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Lim., 1882; 9th edition, 1906.

"Across Patagonia"
By Lady Florence Dixie, 1855-1905.
London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1880.

"Delightful Dalmatia"
By Alice Lee Moqué 1863-1919.
New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1914.

With summer coming to the Northern Hemisphere, many people are planning summer travels.  For the last three months I've been republishing a trail of women travellers. April featured "Celebrated women travellers of the nineteenth century" (c1882).  While reading that, I was reminded of Lady Florence Dixie's "Across Patagonia" (1880), and released it in May.  For June,  Alice Lee Moqué describes "Delightful Dalmatia"  not long before the first world war swept over the area.  I hope you will enjoy these books, and whatever summer travels you are undertaking!

Most of the "Celebrated women travellers" were physically intrepid and incurably curious, but the editor, William Adams, also applauds women whose "titles to distinction" included "a vigorous writer and a liberal thinker". He quotes Dora D'Istria, who says: "It has always seemed to me,… that women, in travelling, might complete the task of the most scientific travellers; for, as a fact, woman carries certain special aptitudes into literature. She perceives more quickly than man everything connected with national life and the manners of the people. A wide field, much too neglected, lies open, therefore, to her observation. But, in order that she may fitly explore it, she needs, what she too often fails to possess, a knowledge of languages and of history, as well as the capability of conforming herself to the different habitudes of nations, and the faculty of enduring great fatigues. "

Considering why women travel, Adams writes:  "Fettered as women are in highly civilized countries by restraints, obligations, and responsibilities, which are too often arbitrary and artificial, their impatience of them is not difficult to be understood; and it is natural enough that when the opportunity offers, they should hail even a temporary emancipation."  Madame de Hell, traveling with her husband from 1838 to 1848, voices a similar sentiment:  "What happiness it is to escape from the prosaic details of every-day life, from social obligations, from the dull routine of habit, to take one's flight towards the almost unknown shores of the Caspian!"

Escaping mental restrictions could, however, be at least as difficult as escaping physical restrictions. Dora D'Istria was determined to adopt men's clothing to climb mountains.  She describes the difficulty she faced: "I breakfasted in haste, and assumed my masculine dress, to which I found it difficult to grow accustomed. I was conscious of my awkwardness, and it embarrassed all my movements. I summoned Pierre, and asked him if I could by any means be conveyed as far as the valley. He sent, to my great satisfaction, for a sedan-chair. Meanwhile, I exercised myself by walking up and down my room, for I feared the guides would despair of me if they saw me stumble at every step. I was profoundly humiliated, and only weighty reasons prevented me from resuming my woman's dress."  Thankfully, once away from the village, she was able to overcome her discomfort and mount the heights without difficulty.

Lady Florence Dixie is an iconic explorer-traveller, who met challenges with energy and enthusiasm.  "Palled for the moment with civilisation and its surroundings", she gathered up her husband (Sir Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie, 11th Baronet), her older brother (John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry), her twin brother (Lord James Douglas), and a friend (Mr. J. Beerbohm), and escaped to Patagonia,  "precisely because it was an outlandish place and so far away." Their party of ten people, nine dogs, fifty horses, and three mules set off to explore the "mysterious recesses" of "the barren plains of the Pampas" and the surrounding mountains.  Everyone in the party had to work, Florence included.  They gathered and carried with them the wood for their cooking fires, and depended on hunting guanaco (a deer-like mammal), ostrich, and birds for their food.  Of one ostrich-chase, Florence writes: "Unconscious of anything but the exciting chase before me, I am suddenly disagreeably reminded that there _is_ such a thing as caution, and necessity to look where you are going to, for, putting his foot in an unusually deep tuca-tuca hole, my little horse comes with a crash upon his head, and turns completely over on his back, burying me beneath him in a hopeless muddle."  Luckily game was abundant for much of the trip (although they ran out near the end) and  Florence was undetered by any number of perils including Fire!  Earthquakes!  Stumbling horses!  Crashed carriages!  Lost horses and Lack of food!

Fifty years later,  Alice Lee Moqué is clearly a tourist and not an explorer.  Alice, born around 1861, married her second husband John Oliver Moque on June 27, 1894. (Her first husband, inventor Walter Comonfort Snelling, had died a year previously.)   While she refers to her explorations of Dalmatia as "a wedding tour," she also explains that it is her ninth, since they take one "every year". Their main concerns are those of tourists: finding food means locating a decent restaurant and making oneself understood when ordering.  Alice worries whether that "Dear Box", the bane of her trip, will arrive with its mementos intact.  She complains that her feet hurt. And sadly, as a tourist, Alice can not truly  escape the fetters of civilization.  Ongoing sections of her account are devoted to the question of whether she behaves appropriately.  Is it possible that she is "a little too lively" and hasn't "a particle of discretion"?

Nonetheless, Alice Lee Moqué was "a vigorous writer and a liberal thinker" in real life. Though she disclaims "expert" knowledge in her account, she is clearly well-read in history and familiar with classical languages and technical terms in architecture and art.  She was a newspaperwoman, a suffragist, a progressive on sexual education for children, and during World War I, worked with the Women's Volunteer Aid of the Motor Corps!  She writes in outrage at the condition of Dalmatian women: "I'm so glad I wasn't born a Dalmatian – or I feel sure I would be a bomb-throwing, acid-pouring, Croatian suffragette!"  Thankfully, she is also a painstaking observer whose descriptions are packed with solid detail. That she is describing Dalmatia just before the first World War adds extra interest to her account. Signs read: "The taking of photographs of the shore where there are fortifications is strictly prohibited!" She tries to take some anyway.

Enjoy your travels! 
Monday, March 28th, 2016
9:14 am - Pleasant Days in Spain
At a 2015 Art+Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon, I was intrigued to find that sculptor Nancy Cox-McCormack had written a book about her travels in Spain.  Given my fascination for women travelers, I was delighted when I found a copy of her book.  In coordination with this year's Art+Feminism event, I am releasing it online.  I am delighted to announce:

"Pleasant Days in Spain."
By Nancy Cox-McCormack, 1885-1967.
New York: J. H. Sears & Company, Inc., 1927.  Copyright not renewed.

Cox-McCormack travelled to Spain in part because she was inspired by political events.  She hoped to get permission to sculpt Spanish dictator  Primo de Rivera.  She must have had considerable nerve!  "The General had been informed concerning my desire to model his portrait bust and was said to have characteristically exclaimed, 'Mon Dieu, isn't modeling Mussolini enough for one woman?' Thereupon promising that he would pose for me if he could find the time."  Not only did Cox-McCormack model de Rivera as well as Mussolini, she was the first person to do so, in December 1925.

On the way, she enjoyed visiting a number of Spanish cities.  Some of the most interesting parts of the book occur when she talks about sculpture and architecture.  She writes, on seeing the stalls of the Toledo Cathedral, "To have produced so many fruits of the chisel and mallet the soul of these sculptors must have been well supplied with the essences of talent and ambition, encouraged by competition, and sustained by a great faith in themselves and the subjects of their compositions."

In contrast, "[The new Cathedral of The Holy Family] is a terrible half finished mass of bad sculptures that creep and crawl, strangling the feeling for architectural proportions and so expressive of the devil and all his evils that it will be a long year before I can remove Don Gandi's fantasy from my special chamber of horrors! I asked the driver what this unfinished towering mass might be and he immediately won me by shrugging his shoulders and replying, "Oh, Madame, that is a mad-house for the owls and bats" – that being a perfect picture of the utility for which it now stands.'"

One wishes Cox-McCormack spent more time describing her meetings with people like General de Rivera and sculptor Maestro Benliure in Madrid.  She was able to view a  Court Procession for the mass of the Epiphany, and see the King and Queen, due to an invitation from  the mother of His Excellency the Ambassador from Great Britain. She reflects, "If they have any qualms about the insecurity of crowns, they have had practice enough (beginning with the bomb thrown at their wedding coach) not to appear concerned. One can have nothing but admiration for any head that carries a crown in these "democratic" days of mighty dictatorships."

Her experience of Spanish culture was generally difficult.  "The minute I stepped off the train in Burgos I began to feel the handicaps of being an unaccompanied woman. …. I don't like the humor of a society that constantly reminds one of one's sex."   She found it hard to endure the constant presence and solicitations of beggars in the streets. The widespread acceptance of violent "entertainments" appalled her. Glimpsing the survivor of a cockfight:  "What pranced from the gutter to acclaim public approval … was a perfectly shameless remnant of the cockfight plucked of all lustrous plumage of natural illustriousness, but solemnly bearing the wounds of Victory. I had never seen a fighting cock after the match. I never wish to see one again either before or after the fray."   She brusquely refused to attend bull-fights.

The contents of this book were originally addressed to the author's friends in Europe and America. Unfortunately, this leads to some unevenness in tone and style, and to various comments which we, not being the intended audience, are unlikely to understand.  One could wish that her account had received serious editing: she has an unfortunate tendency to long rambling sentences and mixed metaphors.  Nonetheless, I hope you will enjoy her account of "Pleasant Days in Spain."
Monday, February 1st, 2016
9:09 pm - Pemberley Shades: A Novel
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #412:
"Pemberley Shades: A Novel"
By D. A. (Dorothy Alice) Bonavia-Hunt, 1880-1970.
New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1949.
Concurrent publication in New York and London; Copyright not renewed.

Many of us return repeatedly to Jane Austen, are abashed by her brilliance, and wish that she had written more.

In recent years, there have been a wide range of mashups based on Austen's works, some better, some worse. One of the earliest was "Pemberley Shades" by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt.  Her title was taken from a quotation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, chastising Elizabeth Bennett on her possible marriage to Darcy:    “Heaven and earth — of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”  "Pemberley Shades" was published in 1949, in London, England by Allan Wingate, and in New York by E.P. Dutton.

Happily, in "Pemberley Shades",  Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt generally gets it right. She does a credible job of a daunting task, that of building upon Austen's beloved "Pride and Prejudice".   Many of Austen's memorable characters reappear, and their personalities generally are in accord with Austen's originals.  Elizabeth's mother does not appear -- perhaps Bonavia-Hunt did not feel she could quite carry her off -- but her father steps in briefly, as do Jane and Bingley, and various others.

The two characters who are most different, understandably, are Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife Elizabeth -- they have, after all, been married for several years, and that has changed them both.  If they are not, perhaps, just who they were when we last saw them, they are plausibly people whom those people might have become.  Nor have they stopped growing; in Pemberley Shades, their relationship continues to develop.  New characters bring their own challenges, for both the characters and the reader -- but I would rather let you read the book  yourself than have you cry "Spoilers!"

The author, Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt was born in London in 1880 to Anglican clergyman  Rev. Henry George Bonavia-Hunt and Madeline Bonavia-Hunt. Her father founded the Trinity College of Music in 1872 in London; her mother was a published author.  She had three siblings, never married, and lived with her younger brother Noel Aubrey, also a minister and musician. She died in 1970. (Source:  http://austenprose.com/2008/09/17/pemberley-shades-the-legend-of-the-lost-sequel/ )

I am confident you will
Read and Enjoy,
Mary Mark Ockerbloom
Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
10:03 pm - The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them
Since January is a time for resolutions and plans, it seems fititng to release the account of a fantastic trip.

I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #411:
"The Indian Alps and How We Crossed Them: Being a Narrative of Two Years' Residence in the Eastern Himalaya and Two Months' Tour into the Interior, By a Lady Pioneer"
By Nina Elizabeth Mazuchelli, 1832-1914.
New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1876.

Francis Mazuchelli and Elizabeth Sara "Nina" Harris were married in 1853. Francis was an Anglican parish priest, employed as a curate in Wymering near Portsmouth.  In 1857, the year of the Indian Mutiny, he joined the British army as a chaplain. The Mazuchellis arrived in the district of Darjeeling, India the following year.  Nina was determined to explore, and convinced her husband to agree. Though he put in a token objection, commenting on the irrationality of women, he also  "sent in an application for three months' 'leave,' that he might travel with me whither my fancy led. The 'leave' was speedily granted, and everything now favoured my making the long-wished-for journey, across trackless wastes to the snows."  Their first journey was a two-week excursion into Bhutan, traveling via Kalimpoong to Dumsong and home again.

Undeterred, they planned a more extensive trip with the support of a district officer of the British Imperial Government, identified in the account simply as "C--", "a mighty potentate in the eyes of the natives of the province".  C--  made arrangements with agents of the Rajah of Sikkim for the delivery of food and supplies along their route.  The expedition, when underway, included Nina, Francis, C--, and about 70 servants to attend to the needs of the three British travellers by carrying food, supplies and people; cooking, clearing their route; and establishing their camps. For parts of the trip, Nina was carried in a type of sedan chair, on the back of a bearer. There were no detailed maps of the area: they relied on local guides, and travelled about 600 miles in two months.  They explored the Singaleeh (Singalila) mountain range along the border between Nepal and Sikkim, travelling towards Mount Kanchenjunga (Kinchinjunga).  They reached Junnoo Mountain and  the Chunjerma pass before being forced home by inhospitable conditions and shortages of food.

An ardent artist, Mazuchelli's book is lavishly illustrated with sketches of their journey and colorful  chromolithographs of her watercolors, including a view of Mount Everest. Nina Mazuchelli was unquestionably a romantic.  She rhapsodises that "Truly those who love Nature in her wild and savage aspects should come here; for a grander combination of these qualities cannot be conceived – the snowy peak, the ice-bound rock, the blasted pine, and the deadly precipice."  Further, "God's own language is written in stars; but these mountains, no less types of solidity and endurance beyond all Time, impress me with a sense of majesty and divinity above all else. "

Her love of nature and flowing prose are balanced by her sense of humor, and she often combines romantic philosophy with an attendant sting, as in her description of jackals serenading: "whether it arise from idealism, gregariousness, or a real attribute of external nature, it matters little in the present case, for to our ears, not familiarised to these nightingales by habit or fond association, the sound resembled a dismal and unearthly wailing of women, with a strong dash of the hyæna, to which a whole kennel of hounds baying the moon would in comparison have been as loveliest music of the spheres."

Mazuchelli is both fearful and intrepid. She usually makes the trip sound like a happy outing in a particularly beautiful if somewhat exhausting park.  But the travellers endured very real dangers: led astray by a guide, they faced not only cold but starvation. There is no question that the expedition came near to ending with the deaths of those involved.

"No food having overtaken us, we have been compelled to alter our route. Rice is diminishing ominously, and there is only a small quantity of bhoota left and four sheep. … getting into deeper snow with the mere hope of food reaching us, would be absolute madness. We have no right to risk the lives of our people, even were we disposed to hazard our own. Once at Yangpoong, should supplies meanwhile not overtake us, we shall not be far from a village, which we must sack in case of need."

Thankfully, though Nina regretted that they could not continue to their original goal, she survived to publish an account of her trip.  The Mazuchellis returned to Great Britain in 1875, and Francis served in several parishes in Wales. They had no children.  He died in 1901, and  Nina in 1914.
Sunday, December 6th, 2015
8:08 am - "And Both Were Young", Madeleine L'Engle, 1949
With the holidays in view, I like to release a children's or young adult novel in December.  This year, I'm happy to present something by a favorite author:

"And Both Were Young"
By Madeleine L'Engle, 1918-2007.
New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc., 1949, Copyright not renewed.

This young adult novel of L'Engle's was not copyright renewed and is now in the public domain.   Some of the details of the original manuscript were apparently considered too "adult" for publication in 1949, when the book first appeared.  A modified version, recreating aspects of the original, was published in the 1980's, and is still under copyright.

The main character of the novel is Philippa, or "Flip" Hunter.  Her mother is dead, and her father is an artist who cannot provide her with a full-time home. Flip is left at a boarding school in Switzerland while her father  travels for his work.  L'Engle takes a classic "school story" structure, but adds a level of seriousness by situating the story strongly in the aftermath of World War II. It is ironic that Philippa's father is travelling to create a book about "lost children" throughout history, for Philippa and many of the other children she gets to know can also be seen as "lost children", coming from broken or World-War-II-traumatized families.

"When Flip thought about all the lost children she felt a deep shame inside herself for her anger and resentment ... She was not a lost child. She would have a place to eat and sleep and keep warm all winter, and at Christmas time she would be with her father again."  Flip's own statement reminds the reader that however essential places to eat, sleep, and keep warm may be, material concerns are not the only ones that are essential.  The question of what truly constitutes a "lost child" is returned to throughout the book.  Listening to one of her friends, "Flip felt that having your mother not love you would be the bitterest way of all to lose her."

 Though Flip may consciously resist the idea, the stories of Flip's classmates suggest that Flip is in danger of becoming a lost child herself if she is further separated from her father.  The most explicit romantic interest of the book does not involve Philippa, but rather her absent father. The implications of his choices for Philippa are one of the paramount concerns of the book.  His intention to help lost children, expressed through his work, is a hopeful indicator that he and Philippa may not be lost to each other.  "He told Flip that he hoped maybe the book would help people to realize that all these children had to be found and taken care of." 

As the main character, Philippa herself is more concerned with family and friendships than with romantic involvement. As in many of L'Engle's books, Flip is approaching the threshold of adulthood, gawky and uncertain of her own skills and her place in the world around her.  "Now she was older, much older, almost an adult, and she had to stand on her own feet and not be afraid."  Attempts to form age-appropriate friendships are portrayed throughout the book:  Flip finds it difficult to make friends at school and is subjected to hazing by some of her classmates.  A time goes on,  friendships with both sexes provide a potential for healing and growth for those involved.  Flip's relationship with a French boy Paul, develops slowly, and their romance eventually grows out of friendship.  In her relationship with Paul, Philippa is explicitly contrasted with girls in her class who are "boy crazy". In some cases, L'Engle suggests that girls are moving prematurely into an adult world of dances and strapless gowns.   There are particularly creepy overtones to the relationships of a student who is given lace-and-silk pajamas by her mother's fiancé.

As the book develops, so does Philippa, and indeed some of the most significant changes begin within her.  She becomes increasingly aware of other people and their concerns, and less focused on her own fears.  As other people become more real to her,  she opens herself up to them and builds supportive relationships.  It is worth giving this book a closer reading, and paying attention not just to the superficial action, but to the themes underneath. 
Monday, November 2nd, 2015
3:58 pm - Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888
Early history of Ambler, 1682-1888.
Ambler, PA: H. H. Kelly, 1936. Copyright not renewed.

"The Early History of Ambler" was written by in Horsham, Montgomery County, where her ancestors settled in 1724, she was the daughter of farmer William Y. Hallowell. A  life-long Quaker, Mary Hough graduated from Swarthmore College in 1878, then studied to become a doctor at the Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, graduating in 1881. After interning at the Staten Island Hospital of New York, she married  Dr. C. B. Hough of Bucks County in 1886. They moved to Ambler, where she practiced successfully until her retirement in 1931. Interested in the history of the town, she researched and wrote a series of newspaper articles for the Ambler News which were published in book form in 1936.  The copyright was not renewed.  The town republished an expanded commemorative edition in 1976.  Reading her carefully researched account of the town makes me want to pick up my camera and head off to Ambler to see which of the buildings she described are still standing -- and to enjoy the autumn leaves.

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015
10:37 am - Negro Musicians and Their Music
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #408:
"Negro Musicians and Their Music"
By Maud Cuney-Hare, 1874-1936.
Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1936, 1943. Copyright not renewed.

Maud Cuney Hare (1874-1936) was, by all accounts, a fascinating woman.  Described by W. E. B. DuBois as "a tall, imperious brunette, with gold-bronze skin, brilliant eyes and coils of black hair", she was the daughter of  Texas politician and civil rights leader Norris Wright Cuney and Adelina (Dowdy) Cuney. Cuney Hare studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  She lived in Boston for much of her adult life, but she also travelled widely, in Mexico, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico,  studying folklore and music.

In "Negro Musicians and Their Music", Maud Cuney Hare documents the development of African-American music, nationally and internationally, from its beginnings in Africa to the newly evolving forms of blues and jazz in the 1930s. She was the first  music scholar to write about African American music.

Many of her discussions directly address racial issues.  She defends both African Americans who choose not to perform ethnic material, and those who do:

"Just as we find musicians of other races without any particular concern regarding the folk material of their nation or race, so are there many Negro lovers of music who have no special interest in the folk songs. This sentiment prevails among laymen as well as among musicians. On the other hand, there has arisen a group of serious men and women, who have not only shown a willingness to accept plantation songs as a heritage, but in doing so, lose no time in brooding over the cruel past or the unjust present."

Her discussions of white appropriation of Negro spirituals and dance forms are biting.  At one point she quotes a summary of the issue written by Eugene Kinckle Jones:

"It seems a little odd that until the Spirituals became accepted by music authorities abroad as the only original American music, Americans with few exceptions were not concerned with their origin, and still less their preservation. For two hundred years these songs had come up from the cotton fields and cabins . . . They were just "nigger songs" until the great world of music acclaimed them as the only music indigenous to America. Then it was that 'diligent scholars' started the painstaking and laborious task of finding their source, of collecting and amassing voluminous data by which ultimately they were enabled to announce that the Spirituals are not the creation of the enslaved black but rather the creation of the rural white."

Cuney Hare asserts that "The rich fund of folklore and folk-song has certainly been the vivifying source whence have sprung the modern art cultures of the world." She also acknowledges that "The syncopation of the African song is the fore-runner of American Ragtime and the more reprehensible Jazz and Blues." However, with her classical training, she disliked the new forms, associating Jazz with "monkeyish antics on the part of the performers, and the grotesque use of the instruments". It was her opinion that "Not until the past two or three years has Jazz arisen to the dignity of a subject for serious discussion by white and Negro students of music."  She preferred the "vision and high ideals" of African Americans working within the traditions of  symphony, opera and ballet.

The book is full of details about individuals, groups, and performances in the 1910s, 20s and early 30s. I strongly recommend that you read the footnotes -- some of them cover multiple pages, quoting hard-to-find sources and expanding on themes of the main text. Her footnoted discussions of the  Negro Symphony Orchestra, for example, are fascinating both in describing the organization and instrumentation of the "orchestra" and public responses to it.

"Negro Musicians and Their Music" has been acclaimed as "a priceless legacy of accomplished documentation" and scholarship.   Sadly, Cuney Hare never saw the book in published form. She died of cancer soon after she finished proof-reading the manuscript.  The copyright of the work was not renewed.  A second edition, with added photographs (many of Jazz musicians) was published in 1943.  There were almost no changes to the text in the second edition, and both variants of the text and photographs are included in this online edition.    I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Sunday, June 28th, 2015
7:52 pm - The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps
I'm happy to announce Celebration Edition # 407;
"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps"
By Edna Brooks
New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1918

"The Khaki Girls behind the lines. Or, Driving with the Ambulance Corps" is the second in a series of four books dealing with the adventures of two young women who are automobile-mad and determined to "find their place in the Big War".  That phrase is used as the subtitle of the first book in the series, and it hints at the divergence of feminist responses to the war effort in World War I.

 An advertisement for the series reads:

"Joan Mason, an enthusiastic motor girl, and Valerie Warde, a society debutante, meet at an automobile show. Next day they go together to the Motor Corps headquarters and in due time are accepted and become members of the Corps, in the service of the United States… As a result of their splendid work in the Motor Corps, the Khaki Girls receive the honor of an opportunity to drive with the Ambulance Corps in France."

Joan and Valerie, then, are in many ways laudable feminist heroines. They are capable, brave, and take initiative, aggressively stepping forward and preparing themselves to become ambulance drivers behind the front lines, and overcoming substantial obstacles to reach their goals. They are happy under a car, fixing it, and determined and competent drivers, even when under fire. In creating a place where they can contribute to the war effort, they are overcoming gender restrictions about what women can and cannot do.  They are also devoted friends, and affectionate and supportive of the other women with whom they work.

They are also -- not surprisingly for popular fiction of the time -- both adamantly patriotic and anti-German.Throughout the book, stereotypes abound. Germans are "Huns", "Boche", "beasts", a ruthless and  ignoble foe.  "Our boys" are "true blue", "gritty", gallantly singing on their way to the trenches.  French peasants are steadfast, enduring and perhaps a little subservient.

Another woman ambulance driver, who has killed an enemy soldier, does express conflicted feelings.  "I felt queer about having killed even a Hun. The boys made a lot of fuss over me, but I couldn't say a word hardly. I was glad I killed him, but sorry I had to do it. It doesn't seem just right for women to kill, even in self-defense. It is right, though."

Reading the Khaki girls today is somewhat disconcerting.  Their competence and ability to challenge gender roles are appealing, but their blood-thirsty patriotism is not.  The tension between feminism and pacifism that I experienced, reading this book, was  in fact central to English feminist politics at the time the book was written. Feminist historians such as Jo Vellacot have argued that in Britain the war was not a major factor in gaining the enfranchisement of women, and in fact, split the feminist movement.

In Britain, two main organizations were campaigning for the enfranchisement of women when World War I broke out.  One was the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) while the other, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, was the Women's Social and Political Union. Both groups limited agitation for the vote once the war began, but beyond that, they had very different approaches to war and the war effort.  The NWUSS helped by sponsoring women's hospital units, but refused to collaborate in recruiting.  In contrast, the WSPU actively collaborated in recruiting, in exchange for the government's release of women imprisoned for political activism.  Over time, the NWUSS women became more supportive of pacifism while the WSPU allied with the government and its pro-war propaganda. The women's peace movement, culminating in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, reached across class lines that the pro-war groups did not challenge.

The Pankhurst family is an interesting example of the type of divisions that occurred.  Though all had worked together in support of woman suffrage, the family split over the war.  Emmeline and her daughter Christabel formed the 1917 Women's Party on patriotic lines, eventually becoming anti-trade union.  Sylvia Pankhurst held to their original socialist beliefs and became an active pacifist.  Emmeline and Christabel favored conscription, while Sylvia actively opposed it.  Emmeline and Christabel supported a limited class-based  women's franchise, while Sylvia supported universal suffrage .

The Khaki girls don't discuss the vote, but I like to think they would have supported woman suffrage. In the USA, the 19th Amendment, ratified by Congress in 1920, enfranchised American women in recognition of their readiness to aid the war effort.  So the Khaki Girls, had they been real, would have returned from their wartime service with the right to vote alongside the boys they had transported in their ambulances. 
Saturday, June 6th, 2015
11:21 pm - The Empire of the Invisibles
I am happy to announce Celebration edition #406:
"The Empire of the Invisibles"
by H. E. (Harriet E.) Orcutt.
First published in Intelligence, Vol. VII., No. 1, December 1897. pp. 65-71; Vol. VII., No. 2, January, 1898, pp. 166-173; Vol. VII., No. 3, February, 1898, pp. 246-258; Vol. VII., No. 4, March, 1898, pp. 325-335; Vol. VIII., No. 1, April, 1898, pp. 52-58; Vol. VIII., No. 2, May, 1898, pp. 135-140; Vol. VIII., No. 3, June, 1898, pp. 190-200; Vol. VIII., No. 4, July, 1898, pp. 246-253; Vol. VIII., No. 5, August, 1898, pp. 331-337. Reprinted as The Empire of the Invisibles by H. E. Orcutt.
New York: The Metaphysical Pub. Co., 1899.

"The Empire of the Invisibles" is a land peopled by the ghosts of those who have committed suicide. 
Many of the ghosts have killed themselves because of poverty, unable to raise the means to support themselves. What happens to those who die by other means, the ghosts do not know. 

As ghosts, they are no longer subject to the physical needs of food and sleep.  What sort of society will develop in this land of ghosts, non-material but still present in the world?  Each individual responds according to his personality, inclinations and interests.  Harriet Orcutt explores the possibilities of Utopia in an ethereal community, no longer subject to day-to-day physical needs.

Oddly enough, there appear to be no female ghosts. It is not clear whether this is an effect of perception, whether women did not commit suicide, or whether female ghosts go elsewhere after they die.
Saturday, May 9th, 2015
1:35 pm - The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760
I am happy to announce:
Celebration Edition #405:
"The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760."
By Myra Reynolds.
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1920.

One of the things that I've noticed is that feminism, and works written by women, seem to go through cycles of discovery and forgetting.  As a graduate student I used to haunt the college bookstore, watching for new editions of early works through England's Pandora and Virago presses, and bemoaning the cost of the ever-so-tantalizing but more expensive scholarly editions of early works.  But one of the most delightful acquisitions I found was not in the university bookstore, but in a second hand shop down the street.  There I came across Myra Reynolds "The Learned Lady in England 1650-1760". Years before the current waves of feminist scholarly interest, Reynolds painstakingly collected the available details of every woman she could find from that time period.   She invariably mentioned the women whose lives I found so fascinating, quoting from their works and placing them in their societal and educational context. Other scholars have discovered more information since, and some of her conclusions reflect the time in which she herself wrote, but her book is still enjoyable and full of wonderful information about women who might otherwise have been lost from history.   I'm thrilled to be releasing her wonderful book from 1920.

Every time Myra Reynolds discussed a  book that I had republished in the Celebration of Women Writers, I realized again how much she had inspired this site. You can thank her when you read Anne Killigrew's "Poems" (1686), or Dorothy Osborne's letters, or Margaret Cavendish's wonderful science fiction account, The Blazing World, or Margaret Fell's "Woman Speaking Justified" (1666), or any of the other works online.

FELL, Mrs. MARGARET. Women's Speaking Justified Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, London, 1666.

KILLIGREW, ANNE. Poems London, 1686.

OSBORNE, DOROTHY. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, 1652-1654. Edited by E. A. Parry. Dodd, Mead and Co., 1888.

NEWCASTLE, MARGARET, DUCHESS OF. The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World. London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.

One of the exciting things about the web is that it has the potential to make works more accessible, to counteract the repetitive "erasure" of women from history.   While proofreading I kept finding wonderful quotes.  I encourage you to tweet your favorites as you read.  
Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
7:07 pm - The Sorceress of the Strand
I am happy to announce a collection of clever tales of chemical mayhem:
"The Sorceress of the Strand."
By L. T. Meade, 1854-1914 and Robert Eustace, 1854-1943.
First appeared in The Strand Magazine, Volume XXIV ["Madame Sara," "The Blood Red Cross," "The Face of the Abbot"] July-December, 1902;
Volume XXV ["The Talk of the Town", "The Bloodstone," and "The Teeth of the Wolf"] January-June, 1903.

It's terribly awkward to have an evil genius for a best friend.   At least, that could be the take-away from  "The Sorceress of the Strand", a collection of six short stories which appeared in The Strand Magazine in the early years of the 20th century.  It seems as though every young woman that Madame Sarah befriends is  the target or the means of extortion or murder -- sometimes both!    For Madame Sara is an evil chemical genius.  For good or ill, she has the secrets of the chemical world at her elegantly manicured fingertips.   She has returned from the wilds of the Amazon and other remote areas of the world with all sorts of arcane chemical knowledge, which she uses to remain stunningly beautiful -- retaining the looks of a women in her 20s or 30s when she must be a generation or two older.  Both her appearance and her knowledge enable her to charm London society.    Gentlemen and ladies both succumb to her charm, and seek her help to remain young and beautiful themselves.   Yet Madame Sara cannot seem to resist the lure of crime, particularly when unique, strange, and priceless treasures are involved.  And it seems that she must have a positive delight in destroying fortunes, reputations, and lives, so often does she indulge in such pastimes.

One can't help having some feminist sympathy for her.  Here is a women so brilliant that she can quickly deduce, from stolen glimpses at the draft of a technical paper, conclusions that the writer himself has completely failed to draw.  An expert chemist who works for the police, who finally reaches similar conclusions after several sleepless nights, at least has the honesty to recognize her brilliance as he enlightens the inventor: "she read your notes, and at a glance saw what you have not grasped at all, and what I have taken days to discover."  But however brilliant Madame Sara may be, and whatever secrets she has brought back from exotic places, she is clearly and bluntly put in her place by the male protagonists of the stories.  Without credentials, without official diplomas, she cannot be credited as anything but  a quack.  However marvellous her scientific attainments (and they are acknowledged to be considerable), the very fact that she is a woman raises questions.  As one of her opponents states, "The sort of knowledge you allude to, … that scientific knowledge which Madame possesses, and which is not a smattering, but a real thing, makes a woman at times – dangerous."  Surely, a little reflection must suggest that knowledge can make either men or women dangerous?  The authors, however, make it clear that the "official" detective "would be sure to suspect any very clever woman."

Honestly, what's a brilliant woman to do but become an evil genius?

Slightly less facetiously, it's always interesting to see how women are portrayed and not portrayed, and Madame Sara gives the attentive reader much to think about.  From the viewpoint of the somewhat stuffed-shirt male protagonists, women are predominantly valued for their beauty and their integrity.  Intellectual intelligence is not required; indeed most of the young women that the heroes attempt to protect are more than a bit gullible.  Admittedly, they are usually pointed out to be quite young, and Madame Sara is both much older than she looks, and much cannier, giving her the advantage in any battle of wits.  The male protagonists do seem to prefer their women young and stupid: it quite upsets them that Madame Sara combines the appearance of youth with keen intelligence.  The authors, on the other hand, may well have different views.  How tongue-in-cheek were L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace when they wrote sentences like: "No," I answered, boldly, "I cannot understand any circumstances in which a wife could rightly have a trouble apart from her husband."   Now I ask you, does that sentence suggest that she should share her troubles with her husband?  or that he is most likely to be the cause of them?

Whether you cheer on the heroes, Dixon Druce and his friend the mildly Holmesian Vandeleur, or confess to a sneaking sympathy for the evil Madame Sara, you cannot help but enjoy these clever tales of chemically-inspired mayhem.  After all, how often does the  denouement of a thriller occur at  a Royal Society lecture? 
Sunday, March 1st, 2015
5:04 pm - "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia"
Happy Women's History Month!  In celebration of which, for your reading pleasure, I release:

"A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia: Wherein is handled The Loves of Amphialus and Helena Queen of Corinth, Prince Plangus and Erona. With the Historie of the Loves of Old Claius and Young Strephon to Urania."
By Anna Weamys, ca. 1630-.
London: Printed by William Bentley, and are to be sold by Thomas Heath, 1651.

Little is known about the life of English author Anna Weamys (fl. 1651).  The original (and only extant) printing of 1651 of  "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" identifies the author as "a Young Gentle-woman, Mistress A. W."  An entry in Edward Arber's  "The Term Catalogues"  (1690)  advertises a proposed second edition as being "Written by a Young Gentlewoman, Mrs. A[nna] W[eamys]."

Historian Patrick Colborn Cullen suggests that the source of this attribution may be a letter from poet and essayist James Howell, who wrote one of the dedicatory poems to the volume, as "JAM. HOWEL."  Howell's "Epistolae Ho-elianae" (IV.xx) includes a letter which accompanied a commendatory poem for the continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's "Arcadia".  The letter congratulates "Dr. Weames" for being "father to a daughter that Europe hath not many of her equals."  Both in the letter and in the introductory poems in praise of her book, Mistress Weamys is mentioned repeatedly as being a very young woman, "so young a spirit", who should be cherished. It is also clear from the commendatory poems that she is unmarried.

Patrick Cullen situates Weamys as part of a network of royalist sympathizers,  including aristocratic patron Henry Pierrepont and his daughters Anne and Grace,  writer James Howell, printer William Bentley, bookseller Thomas Heath, and possibly poet Frances Vaughan (nee Altham), the wife of James Howell's friends, Richard Vaughan, second earl of Carberry. Her father, presumably, was a doctor of divinity in the Church of England, making her a member of an educated family.  That she is identified as a "Gentlewoman" suggests that it was not not a titled one.

The book itself is predominantly a romance, a form followed generally by royalists.  In writing "A Continuation of Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia" (1651), Anna Weamys is following an accepted form, that of continuing and responding to another writers' work.  The source upon which Weamys builds is an unfinished fragment, the "New Arcadia" section of Sydney's 1593 edition, "Arcadia".   By continuing and reworking Sydney's story, Weamys is "placing herself on the same stage"  as the "learned Sydney". Her work, like his, is a mix of literary genres, the most dominant part of her conversation with him being romance, the second pastoral.

The ending of Sydney's "Arcadia" leaves open the fates of many of his characters, and indeed invites their continuation:  "The strange stories of Artaxia and Plexirtus, Erona and Plangus, Helen and Amphialus, with the wonderful chances that befell them; … the poor hopes of the poor Philisides in the pursuit of his affections; the strange continuance of Claius' and Strephon's desire; … may awake some other spirit to exercise his pen in that wherewith mine is already dulled."

That Anna Weamys has taken up this challenge, to further the romance, is hailed by her auditors as a most suitable transformation of Sydney's work, indeed his "gallant generous spirit" is described as defying death "with a timely Metempsychosis" to breath "through female Organs".  F. Vaughan goes even further, charging other women to "Lay by your Needles Ladies, take the Pen, The onely difference 'twixt you and Men."  Weamys not only furthers the romances hinted at in Sydney's account, but takes them in new directions, reshaping them with wit, energy and humour.

Weamys herself was writing during a time of upheaval, during or soon after the English civil wars.   Perhaps because of this, she avoids political complications in her account.  However, a desire for not just personal, but also political, stability, is explicitly included in the happy ending she describes at the end of her book:

"Then after all Ceremonies accomplished, they retired severally to their flourishing Kingdoms of Thessalia and Macedon, and Armenia, with Corinth, where they increased in riches, and were fruitfull in their renowned Families.  And when they had sufficiently participated of the pleasures of this world, they resigned their Crowns to their lawfull Successours, and ended their days in Peace and Quietness."

Whether Anna Weamys herself found a happy ending, with either political or personal stability, we do not know.
Friday, February 13th, 2015
10:08 pm - "The Convent of Pleasure", Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle
Happy Valentine's Day! I am delighted to announce:

Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674
"The Convent of Pleasure", as first published in "Plays, never before printed." London: Printed by A. Maxwell, 1668.

I admit that I cannot resist a February title that plays upon the questions of gender, sexual attraction, and what is natural and unnatural. We have Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, to thank for a rolicking play that I would love to see staged.  "The Convent of Pleasure" never graced the boards during Cavendish's life -- or indeed, for several hundred years after her death.  Its first known performance was by Gweno Williams and students at the University of Ripon and York in 1995.  Depending on the director, widely varying interpretations could be presented of this clever, enjoyable, and witty script. 

"Retiredness bars the life from nothing else but Men."

-- So saith Lady Happy, whose father  has just died, leaving her young, beautiful, wealthy -- and independent. She gathers friends and followers and creates a world apart, one consisting solely of women.    Of course, one must be fabulously wealthy and upper class to live, like Lady Happy, a life "incloister'd with all the delights and pleasures that are allowable and lawful."
While she and her friends enjoy a life of ease, lower class women do the work of all the servants and farmers needed to support the elaborate household.  Yet Lady Happy considers poor women too to benefit from a separation of the sexes, which frees them from an oppressor:  A set of plays-within-a-play graphically illustrates the dangers and abuses that women of all classes may experience in relationships with men.

"Men are the only troublers of Women; for they only cross and oppose their sweet delights, and peaceable life; they cause their pains,  but not their pleasures. Wherefore those Women that are poor, ...  are only fit for Men; for having not means to please themselves,  they must serve only to please others; but those Women,  where Fortune, Nature, and the gods are joined to make them happy,  were mad to live with Men, who make the Female sex their slaves;  but I will not be so inslaved, but will live retired from their Company."

Of course, the men are quite put out :-) so to speak, about their exclusion from feminine bliss, and in particular that feminine bliss that comes with possession of a WEALTHY wife.  Various plots are proposed to regain access to the women, but only one man, the Prince, is willing (or able) to pass as female in order to enter the precincts of the women's cloister.  Presenting himself as a Princess desirous of engaging in the women's cross-gendered exploration of sex roles, a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man, he seriously disturbs the Lady Happy's contentment, causing her to reflect that:

"My Name is Happy, and so was my Condition, before I saw this Princess;
but now I am like to be the most unhappy Maid alive:
But why may not I love a Woman with the same affection I could a Man?"

What is the nature of gender?  Throughout the play Newcastle delights in teasing her characters, and her audience, with this question.  She concludes, perhaps somewhat ambiguously still, that

"No, no, Nature is Nature, and still will be
    The same she was from all Eternity."

I hope you will enjoy this valentine (of sorts), with all its clever wit, as much as I did.
Mary Mark Ockerbloom
Thursday, January 1st, 2015
7:38 pm - One thousand dollars a day: Studies in practical economics (1894)
It seems particularly suitable to release a utopia on New Year's Day.
"One thousand dollars a day: Studies in practical economics."
By Adeline Knapp, 1860-1909.
Boston: The Arena Publishing Company, 1894.

Adeline Knapp's fundamental concern is the economics of modern society and labor.   This collection of stories, however, is more imaginative than the title of the book might suggest, mixing utopian, scientific and evolutionary speculations with economic concerns to address the problems of individuals and societies. Although the title story is most often identified as a utopia, many of the other short stories explore similar ideas.

"One Thousand Dollars a Day" explores possible economics of Utopia, and their potential impact on society.
What would be the practical impact of economic reforms, and could they result in a positive transformation of society?   "The Sick Man" and "The Earth Slept" are both biological analogies for societies and their functioning.
In "The Sick Man", a single individual represents the body of society.  In "The Earth Slept", a parable of uplift, societies evolve along with species, ultimately aspiring to Utopian ideals.

It's interesting to see how scientific progress is related to a benevolent society. Many advances that we now take for granted were still new enough to spark wonder.   "The Discontented Machine" includes a paeon to scientific endeavor:

"There is nothing more magnificent than a great machine or engine at work. The locomotive, pulling its long trains up grades and across levels, – the great ocean steamer, walking steadily across the expanse of seas, the mighty press, turning off a thousand complete newspapers a minute, – all these evidences of human power and ingenuity are enough to make one proud of the age in which he lives, and the race to which he belongs."

All is not easy in this mechanical paradise, however, for Knapp raises the question of what will happen if a sentient machine demands pay for its work.

"Really, upon my word," exclaimed Mr. Hyde, impatiently, indignation at the injustice of the charges preferred getting the better of his fear of the strange complainant. "It seems to me that you are a most unreasonable machine. Of course our fortunes depend upon you, to a great extent, though, as you know, the market is full of machines, all willing to do your work if you refuse. But do we not maintain you? What more would you have us do?"

"Getting Ahead" is the least imaginative of the stories, a bitter account of an emigrant's experience of life in the land of "plenty and freedom".  Knapp leaves hanging the question of how women and children manage to survive in a society with rigid gender roles, when the breadwinner of a family is no longer available. Another sour note is the racism shown by the emigrant towards Asian workers, who are castigated as not living in San Francisco, and not helping to build up the country - a particularly ironic charge, given that the laws of the time prevented Asians from bringing their families to California, and created the conditions under which their labor, as well as others, was exploited.

Read and enjoy in 2015!  Mary Mark Ockerbloom
Saturday, December 6th, 2014
7:07 pm - The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures
I'm extra happy to announce Celebration Edition #400!
"The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures."
By Josephine Diebitsch Peary, 1863-1955.
New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1901.
It seems suitable to release a book about living in the Artic for December :-)

In 1888, Arctic explorer Robert Peary married Josephine Diebitsch, the daughter of a linguist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As Peary's wife, Josephine accompanied her husband on three voyages to the Polar regions, as well as making two trips to Greenland to meet him on his return from additional expeditions.  In June of 1891 Josephine accompanied her husband and the small crew of the Kite to northern Greenland. They wintered in McCormick Bay, approximately midway between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. Josephine was a full partner in the expedition, tending strings of traps and hunting deer, ptarmigan, rabbit and walrus with the men, cooking for six men under primitive conditions, enduring the long, dark, frozen winters, and keeping morale high with grace and good humor. During her second expedition, September 1901, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie Ahnighito Peary. Marie's middle name honored the Eskimo woman who made the child's first fur suit. Known as the "Snow Baby", she was the most northerly born Caucasian child up to that time, born within 13-degrees of the Pole, high above the Arctic Circle and less than 800 miles from the Pole.

Josephine and baby Marie spent the winter in a two-room "house" on Bowdoin Bay. Josephine recorded the story of her daughter's birth in the high Arctic in photographs and anecdotes in "The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures."  The book is intended to be accessible to children, mostly likely to be read to them by a parent.  For all the serious detail it contains, it is written in a fairy-tale tone that can seem patronizing.   Underneath, one can occasionally glimpse the serious challenges that the writer experienced:

"Such a funny house it was where she was found. It was only one story high, the outside was covered with thick, black tarred paper, the walls were more than a foot thick, and there were lots of windows for such a small house, one wide one running right across the top of the house, just like a hot-house. This was to enable the inmates to enjoy the sunshine just as long as it lasted.  All round the house was a close veranda, the walls of which were built of boxes of food, biscuits, sugar, coffee, and tea; for none of these things, in fact, nothing but meat could be bought in the country."

Nonetheless, the visual record of life in the north that is revealed in the photographs and text is interesting and informative.  Read and enjoy the snow! 
Friday, October 31st, 2014
4:56 pm - The Undying Monster ; A New Constitution for the United States of the World
Happy Halloween!  I am happy to announce two new titles! For thrills and chills, see Celebration edition # 398:

"The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension."
By Jessie Douglas Kerruish, 1884-1949.
London: Heath Cranton Limited, 1922.

If Charles Stross had had a sweet, charming great-aunt, nearly 100 years ago, she might have written "The Undying Monster".
If Bob Howard, the main character of Stross's Laundry series, had had a sweet, charming great-aunt, she might well have been a protagonist of "The Undying Monster"!  Jessie Douglas Kerruish's fictional world is simpler and kinder than Stross's tend to be,
but by the time I finished Kerruish's book, I couldn't help imaging how Stross might have rewritten it.

When horrific tragedy strikes, "supersensitive" Luna Bartendale is appealed to to investigate.  Luna is determined to find the answer to the puzzle of the Hammand Horror, whether its cause is to be found in the material world, or some dimension beyond.

Luna, however, is rather surprising from the first.  She applies the methodicalness of Sherlock Holmes to the evidence collected
using her psychic abilities, using both to discover aspects of a problem that has previously defeated Madame Blavatsky and Sir William Crookes.

She asserts, "I'm testing every tradition, searching every Dimension."  The traditions tested clearly include those of popular mediumship and occultism, both of which are snappily criticized by Miss Bartendale, along with the popular press.

'Junior reporters put in a spare hour in the nearest Reference Library, and amassed enough information during it to publish authoritative articles on Black Masses, Magic, Elementals, Family Banes, and the like, and sign them: "By a Well Known Occultist," or "By a Distinguished Psychic Expert."'

Part of the fun is listening to Luna politely suppress the uncritical suggestions of her clients, as they try to anticipate what she will do to solve the case. For example,

"Reincarnation, as an explanation of mental phenomena, is as easy and unprovable as Spiritualism," she replied, with a laugh. "I don't deal in easy and unprovable theories."

Luna herself believes strongly in a world of both science and spirit: "We human beings are threefold. One part is hereditary, the result of what our ancestors did and thought, one the result of the circumstances in which our lives are spent, and the third the spark of Himself God puts in us all–the personality. The Personality through which, by God's grace and our own effort, we can either rule Heredity and Circumstance, or else rise superior to them."

Perceptive readers may quickly suspect the cause of the Hammand Horror, as does Luna Bartendale. More challenging is tracing occurrences of the horror over time, understanding its genesis, and, if Luna can manage it, finding a way to overcome it and avert future disaster. (Modern readers who scoff at Luna's "scientific" theories, should remember that the state of scientific knowledge has changed substantially in the past 100 years.)

If you're thinking about the upcoming U.S. elections, consider reading Celebration edition # 399: Deeply involved in the women's rights movement, Victoria Claflin Woodhull  reinvisioned the workings of a constitution.  See what she had to say, and be sure to vote on Nov 4!

"A New Constitution for the United States of the World,
Proposed for the Consideration of the Constructors of Our Future Government"
by Victoria C. (Victoria Claflin Woodhull, 1838-1927.

"Constitution of the United States of the World: An Address by Victoria C. Woodhull",
speech, New York: Washington's Lincoln Hall, 1870;
Printed as A New Constitution for the World by Victoria Woodhull,
vt. A New Constitution for the United States of the World,
Proposed for the Consideration of the Constructors of Our Future Government.
New York: Woodhull, Claflin & Co., 1872; Reprinted in
Alternative constitutions for the United States:
a documentary history, edited by Steven R. Boyd. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Read and enjoy! Mary Mark Ockerbloom
Thursday, October 9th, 2014
1:25 pm - Some African Highways
I am happy to announce Celebration Edition #397:
"Some African Highways: A Journey of Two American Women to Uganda and the Transvaal"
By Caroline Kirkland, 1865-1930.
Boston: Dana Estes & Company, 1908.

Threading through Caroline Kirkland's journey through Africa there is a faint tone of regret.  Although they spent some very uncomfortable nights on shipboard, packed on deck like wet sardines, she and her mother were not eaten by lions, or attacked by savage natives.  Their trip to visit a sister (in Entebbe) and brother (in Johannesburg) was wonderful and she had "the inestimable delight of visiting these regions before the extraordinary panorama has changed" but…  it was not, perhaps, quite as exciting as she had hoped (until the very end!)

For travelling in Africa, Kirkland recommends "certain things you must have. First and foremost, good health – secondly, an open mind, free from prejudices – thirdly, a willingness to make light of trifles and to put up with small discomforts. "

Be warned, however, that Kirkland herself is not "free from prejudices", by modern standards, about Africans, Chinese, and Jews.  Her responses to the native population reflect her race, class and time. Admiration for "human life in its most primitive, elemental forms" balances uneasily against the awareness that "willing, cheerful, obedient and not unskilful" servants still have "savage potentialities".  Though Europeans may introduce "the hours and customs of the West End of London into the heart of Darkest Africa",  "The sombre power of Africa to remain African in spite of European invasion is unmistakable. The white intruders … continue to be aliens."  Kirkland herself is one of those aliens. Nonetheless, there are many interesting and enjoyable passages in her account of  her travels.

She devotes an entire chapter to "Sleeping-Sickness", a devastating epidemic that was destroying entire districts of Africa, the Ebola of its time.   "The natives of Uganda have paid its most shocking toll. Out of a population of about three hundred thousand in 1900,  two hundred thousand died of sleeping-sickness between that date and 1906 in the Protectorate alone. " At the time she wrote,  scientists had determined that the disease was communicated by a species of tsetse fly, the glossina palpalis,  and had detected trypanosomes multiplying in patients' blood.  But it would be years until a cure was found  -- by Louise Pearce (1885-1959) and Wade Hampton Brown, pathologists from the Rockefeller Institute, who developed tryparsamide  in 1919.

There are also moments of sheer delight, as in this description of playing bridge while travelling by railway :  "Our table was a box built for a monkey, but which at that moment held only two giant sleeping tortoises,  while the monkey sat on the professor's shoulder. The little lemur I mentioned as being on the boat was curled up  inside the hat of madame, which she was wearing, while a gray parrot jabbered at us from a perch above.  Outside the sun was declining in a golden haze when suddenly we saw five or six giraffes sidling off through some low trees."

On the final leg of their journey home, however, all Caroline's hopes for excitement were surpassed: Mount Etna began to erupt on April 4, 1906 during their stay at Naples. While wandering crowds of refugees staggered into the city, Kirkland joined the crowds of sight-seers heading toward the mountain.  From Resina, she was afforded an uninterrupted view of the mountain "from its base to its terrible summit", while the ground shook under her.  Most tourists soon left the city, but Kirkland stayed, daring showers of mud and ash to visit the active volcano.  "Any personal emotion like fear was lost in a certain awful ecstasy inspired by the spectacle."
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
6:53 pm - The Emperor of the Moon

I am happy to announce:

Celebration Edition #396:

The Emperor of the Moon:
A Farce. As it is Acted by Their Majesties Servants, At the Queens Theatre.

London: Printed by R. Holt, for Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, at the Blew-Anchor in the lower Walk of the New Exchange, 1688. The second Edition.

I've been spending some time this summer in expanding my bibliography of early utopias and science fiction by women,
now more appropriately titled "Pre-1950 Utopias and Science Fiction by Women". The newest version can be seen at:

I've added considerably to the list of writings after 1923, with information about their first publications, when I could find it, and their probable copyright status in the United States. I'm using that information to identify editions which are in the public domain, for release on the Celebration website, so you can expect to see a number of utopias and science fiction works appearing here in the coming months.

The first such addition is:
"The Emperor of the Moon: A Farce. As it is Acted by Their Majesties Servants, At the Queens Theatre."
By Aphra Behn, 1640-1689.
London: Printed by R. Holt, for Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, at the Blew-Anchor in the lower Walk of the New Exchange, 1688. The second Edition.

The play "The Emperor of the Moon" is a delightful romp by Aphra Behn, who mocks the early scientists of her time. "Doctor Baliardo" is fixated on the moon, using an array of "his Microscope, his Horoscope, his Telescope, and all his Scopes" in an attempt to divine the secrets of a utopian moon world. He is totally blind to the earthly world,  where his daughter and niece are being courted by two noblemen. Other than an occasional glimpse of each other at church, the lovers can only pass notes through the stratagems of their servants. The servants, in their turn, are farcical competitors for the women's governante (who is rich), repeatedly promising to act nobly and generously towards each other, and immediately breaking their promises and trying to gain unfair advantage. Much hilarity ensues as the men concoct an outrageous plan to trick the moon-mad scientist and gain access to the ladies. I would love to see this staged.

In addition to Behn's play, I've added a number of short stories to the Utopias and bibliographies list:

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851
    "Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman". Submitted in 1826 to the New Monthly Magazine, first published in Yesterday and to-day by Cyrus Redding. London, T. C. Newby, 1863, pp. 150-165.

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart, 1844-1911
    "A Dream within a Dream" in The Independent, Vol. 26, No. 1, February 19, 1874.

Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
    "Transcendental Wild Oats" first published in The Independent, Vol. 25, No. 1307, 18 December 1873, pp. 1569-71; reprinted in Silver Pitchers: and Independence, a Centennial Love Story by Lousa M. Alcott. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1876, pp. 79-101.

McLandburgh, Florence
    "The Automaton Ear" in The automaton ear, and other sketches. Chicago: Jansen, McClurg and Co., 1876, pp. 7-43.

Fuller, Alice W.
    "A Wife Manufactured to Order" in The Arena [Boston], 13 (July 1895): pp. 305-312.

Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858-1924
    "The Five Senses" first published in London Magazine, December 1909.

Anyone with an interest in utopias must read Alcott's "Transcendental Wild Oats", a bitingly funny (and heartbreakingly personal) account of her family's experience of life in a Utopian colony.  The gender politics of utopian life in her account are fascinating, if painfully infuriating: the men undertake to do whatever they are inspired to, according to their talent and inclination, while the women are expected to feed the family (on what?), do the laundry, look after the children...  The clash of day-to-day necessity with high-flown idealism has rarely been better portrayed.

Have lots of fun reading!  Mary Mark Ockerbloom
> previous 20 entries
> top of page