The History, Legacy & Power Of Housewives (And Woman In General)

I found this photo of a National Housewives League meeting Detroit, Michigan, in 1945 while researching the Organized Housewives, a completely unrelated group.

The National Housewives’ League of America was founded in the early part of the twentieth century to advance the economic status of African Americans. Its mission was to encourage African American housewives to patronize African American-owned businesses through “directed spending.”

The Rev. William H. Peck and his wife Fannie B. Peck, after hearing Alben L. Holsey of the National Negro Business League and Tuskegee Institute speak about the successes of the Colored Merchants Association and the New York Housewives’ Association, were inspired to create similar organizations in Detroit. Rev. Peck organized the Booker T. Washington Trade Association in April 1930. Mrs. Peck, believing that the support of those women who controlled most household budgets — housewives — was essential to any business success, founded the Housewives’ League of Detroit on June 10, 1930, with 50 members. In the next couple of years, Mrs. Peck went on to organize leagues in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Jacksonville, Fla. By 1932, Alben Holsey, impressed with the response of the women in the leagues, invited Mrs. Peck and the other league representatives to meet in New York City to form a national committee, which Mrs. Peck chaired. The following year, the national committee met in Durham, N.C., in concert with the National Negro Business League, and formally organized the National Housewives’ League of America, Inc. Mrs. Peck was elected the first president of the organization.

I find this notion of housewives, and the purchase power of women in general, quite incredible… Normally we only hear of the economic power of those who control most household budgets in terms of boycotts, not as positive actions and long term change-making acts too.

Some related facts on the economic powers of women, which I heartily suggest you use to best impact social and economic change along with your household budget:

From 2005 Wow! Quick Facts Book, published by United States Census Bureau:

* Women control 80 percent of household spending
* They make up 47 percent of investors
* Women buy 81 percent of all products and services
* They buy 75 percent of all over-the-counter medications
* They make 81 percent of all retail purchases
* Women buy 82 percent of all groceries
* Women sign 80 percent of all checks written in the United States
* They make up 40 percent of all business travelers
* They make 51 percent of all travel and consumer electronics purchases
* Women influence 85 percent of all automobile purchases
* They head up 40 percent of all U.S. households with incomes over $600,000
* They own 66 percent of all home-based businesses
* Women have been the majority of voters in the United States since 1964

For more information on the history of the Housewives League, see Housewives League of Detroit (HLD) and the records at Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan (where the images are from).

While American Was being Born… Ladies Who Didn’t Have Enough Sense To Come In Out Of The Rain

From a Modern Woman magazine from the 40’s, some interesting news…

For the benefit of eighteenth century ladies who didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain, a Parasol Lend-company flourished in Paris, France, about the year 1776. Negro attendants carried the parasols and collected payment upon delivering a charge at her destination. In those times, a parasol cost too much for an average woman to own.

The Law’s Long Arm (Vote!)

Some people will tell you it’s more important that you vote than who you vote for; I’m not one of those people. But I don’t have a lot of time to perfect this post. So here’s the quick version.

If you have a uterus (or care about anyone who does) you can’t possibly vote for those who cry “Keep government out of my business!” and then sticks their hands in your vagina. No regulation for corporations, less involvement in the boardroom — but more restrictions in the bedroom?! *snort*

Don’t fall for the Republicans or the Tea Party; vote Democrat.

In this time when fear and intolerance are rampant, people are knee-jerk reacting into some sort of fundamentalism that has nothing to do with fairness, equality or even common sense; the jerks want to control you & your health — especially your female body — to regulate the white male hetero wealthy powerbase of our country.

It’s about eugenics, people. Are you going to vote for that?

Don’t fall for the fears and lies; do vote Democrat.

The rich can access safe reproductive health care, including abortions; the rich can access any health care they wish, including treatments made available by the very genetics and stem cell work they wish to prohibit here. They are not limited — they have the means to travel to and pay for whatever services they wish for themselves or their families.

But not you. You are inflicted with “the poverty” which makes you inferior, and if you vote based on their fearful manipulation of you, then you are like sheep headed to the slaughter.

Don’t let them herd you; be heard and vote Democrat.

Obama and the dems have done more in less than two years than any other administration. Sure, things aren’t where we want them to be, but, as every mother knows, it takes longer to clean up the mess than it does to make it. Want proof? Drop or spill a glass of milk — and then clean it up; it took 8 years to spill this milk, so stop crying and be willing to spend a lot longer cleaning it up.

Vote for the Democrats.

Pinheads & Patriots; The View Edition

I missed seeing Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, The Patriots, walk away from Bill O’Reilly, The Pinhead, on The View; but thanks to the Internet, I can watch it over and over again. Looking forward to watching Joy on the late rerun of her show tonight to hear what she has to say about this:

Of Brown Marie, Yellow Marie, And Pickaninny (Or, Of Racism In The Toy Wife)

I don’t think I can let Black History Month go by without mentioning 1938’s The Toy Wife.

Primarily the movie is the story of Frou Frou (played by Luise Rainer), a woman found to be so guilty of a frivolous nature, so childlike in her approach to life, that she must suffer the wrath of The Motion Picture Production Code (aka the Hays Code or Hollywood Code). But I think any woman or thinking man who watched the film will see that others are not only guilty of perpetuating her frivolous nature, but of exploiting it as well — especially those who claim to love her.

In many ways, Frou Frou, the character, reminds me much of Norma Jean Baker, or at least the creation of Marilyn Monroe… A woman literally and figuratively corseted by the studios to be “feminine charms personified,” who was then resented and mistreated by the very persons who had shaped her. (Any feminists reading here likely can feel the echoes of such things in their own lives.)

Jaynie’s done a great job in her review of the movie, so I’ll leave it at that and get onto the other thing to note about this film: the racial issues.

Heck, slavery and racism are so prominent in this film that it’s used as proof of Frou Frou’s poor frivolous and immature state.

Her inability to manage her household and slaves leaves her poor husband dealing with bickering slaves; leaving us to conclude that Frou Frou is so childish, she cannot even manage the childish Negros.

Sure, The Toy Wife is a period piece set during the Civil War on a plantation — with all that implies. But unlike Gone With The Wind, The Toy Wife shocks with insights into the treatment of slaves.

We see the traditionally accepted sanitized version of supposed mutual devotion and affection between master and slaves, both on individual bases and and in groups — such as when the mistress of the household stand on the magnificent steps of her plantation mansion and leads the slaves in prayer.

We see Frou Frou slap her slave, something which tells as much about the immediate situation straining their close relationship (you know how women are so willing to slap one another’s face when we get peeved *snort*) as it depicts slave relations.

But we also see and hear family slaves threatened with whippings and being sold, the rather nonchalant pronouncement of such things by white folks punctuates their manipulation and mastery of human beings — exposing the very same frivolous, spoiled, childlike assumptive behavior that Frou Frou is charged with.

But perhaps most shocking is the story of Frou Frou’s devoted personal slave. Played by Theresa Harris (more here), this slave hasn’t any name — they just call her “Pic” (or “Pick”) short for pickaninny.

We discover this supposedly amusing fact when Frou Frou returns home after years away, being schooled abroad. One by one the female slaves identify themselves — including both Maries who individualize themselves as “Brown Marie” and “Yellow Marie.” You will see and hear it in this YouTube clip (at roughly 37 seconds) but Pic’s story, which should immediately follow once the young woman is spotted beneath the stairs, has been (curiously and infuriatingly) omitted.

So while The Toy Wife offers a sad story of womanhood, it also offers an historical slice of southern pie that’s hard to swallow.

But you should watch it. It’s a wonderful film, capturing so many moments of truth… Even if a lot of them are ugly and painful.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Of Man’s Instrument & The Horror Of Eating Unsalted Cashews

In the June 26, 1950 issue of Newsweek, a report on Smithsonian ethnologist Dr. Kalervo Oberg’s trip to Matto Grosso. Among the horrible delights, calling members of the native Nhambicuara “the most miserable and impolite even to rudeness.”

They eat snakes, bugs, rats, and cashew nuts (unsalted). Their animosity toward the white man is understandable, since the Nhambicuara are about to die out from such civilized sickness as tuberculosis and syphilis.

In order to get y’all to read the article, Newsweek captioned the following photo: The jakui: A man’s instrument.

1950-newsweek-mans-instrument

Does that still compel you to read the article? (Click to see a larger scan, if needed.)

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Let’s Talk Disney Princesses

About 15 years ago, I sent a letter to Disney (on behalf of my Disney stock-owning and Disney-loving daughter) demanding that they diversify their stock of Disney characters and stories.

Among other things, I suggested they make stories about adventurous mice, a la The Rescuers, who either didn’t all sound like white folk or who helped more than white children — both maybe. And I said they ought to include princesses of color in their films — and that maybe these princess didn’t have to be exclusively limited to exotic locations, like Princess Jasmine.

disney-princessesSince this letter of mine, there has been Pocahontas & Mulan, each’s ethnicity presented as exotic and distant via the pageantry of location and historical period as Jasmine. But now there’s the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana in The Princess & The Frog.

(I know this sounds like one of those new Windows 7 commercials — but If I had any affect on The Mouse, it took 15 years to get past the corporate layers of white defenses.)

Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Princess Tiana and she’s excited, telling People magazine, “This feels amazing. Not only is [Tiana] the first black princess, she’s the first American princess. So, the scope and the significance is larger than people even realize.”

Apparently Rose is so excited that she’s forgotten that Pocahontas was a Native American. While the ‘princess’ title may be debatable and the treatment of Native Americans is deplorable, is Pocahontas’ status as American really questioned?

If your daughter is a Disney princess fan — and you meet the other requirements — maybe you’d like to be on The Tyra Show:

Does your little girl love Disney princesses? Is she eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana? Have you always wanted to take your daughter to Disney World but have never had the means? Do you have an emotional story to share?

Emmy Award Winning Talk Show is looking for deserving moms and daughters who love Disney Princesses! Daughters should be ages 7-11. Must be available Tuesday, November 17 and the following Thursday to Friday.

My kids are all past Disney princess, but my niece isn’t (and my nephew is half charmed by them, half held hostage by his older sister’s demands). But even if there weren’t Disney kids in my clan, I’d still be glad to see an African American Disney princess. Because fairy tails may not come true, but believing in the magic of them is so much easier to do when folks look and sound more like you; not to mention what this does to those with delusions of white superiority.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: 1907 Englishwoman’s Snark On Fashionistas

The piece, a little beauty titled “Woman’s Dress and Women’s Homes,” in which an Englishwoman ever-so-politely snarks about the mode of American dress, was written by Anna A. Rogers (originally in the Atlantic and then published in the November 4, 1907 edition of The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican). In the article, Ms. Rogers quotes an unidentified Englishwoman who had apparently spoken to an unidentified “writer in one of our western cities especially given over to the national passion for dress.”

The authenticity, sincerity, and/or seriousness of this piece is up to you to decide; as is Ms. Roger’s intent. But comments like “a slovenly ‘slavey’ attends the door,” sure are telling enough on their own.

nov-4-1907-womens-dress-and-homes-snark

This little bit of joy was discovered via the many hours I spend nerdily reading antique newspapers on microfilm at the Fargo public library (because, as they say, “Library, library, more than a book!”), and so my cost was free — unless you count my taxes, which I am most happy to see go to the preservation and presentation of such things.

The Very Best From Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through The Years

the-very-best-from-hallmark-book-coverThe Very Best from Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through the Years, by Ellen Stern, is not a collector’s guide, really; there are no prices or discussion of the secondary market at all. However, savvy collectors and historians who view the world through pop culture vision glasses can learn much from this out of print book published in 1988, which is approaching collectibility itself.

Collectors who are lucky enough to find their cards represented here may ascertain their card’s publication date. Or identify potentially rare cards, such as those which were pulled as failures — like the time Hallmark inadvertently used an X-ray of human bowels rather than the intended heart X-ray for its “heart’s in the right place” card. (Pulled cards would mean fewer in circulation and even rarer finds for collectors — worthy of higher prices, certainly.) But mainly, collectors will gain more insight into greeting cards — in general, and, especially, the Hallmark variety.

(Clearly The Very Best from Hallmark is a corporate sanctioned publication, but I don’t think anyone can challenge Hallmark’s market share superiority or the company’s longevity — both of which speak to the book’s genuine insight into a culture that buys so many greeting cards.)

Ellen Stern’s introduction to the book gives a very brief history of the greeting card along with a rather erratic telling of the story of Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark’s founder. I realize Stern’s job of taking centuries of greeting card history and stuffing it — along with greater detail of the Hallmark company specifically — into a mere 12 pages (including space for images) is no small task; but something’s wrong when I have to re-read paragraphs over again to understand what she’s saying. However, when Stern gets into the aspects about the workings of Hallmark, from art department design to product marketing, she shines.

Here are a few gems:

On a trip to New York in the 1940s, accompanied by Hallmark’s head of corporate design and a couple of artists, [J.C. Hall] would visit Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Bonwit Teller — and there be ushered out because the group was taking too many notes on colors, styles, and windows displays. Everywhere he roamed he analyzed, assessed, and appreciated the wares and wonders…

I do this myself; but as I do my note-taking without entourage, I’ve never been escorted out.

In the 1940s and fifties, in department stores and card shops, Hallmark clerks adhered to a dress code — wearing only black, brown, navy, or charcoal gray — so as not to compete with the merchandise.

As a person who’s served a long retail sentence, I find that fascinating — and wonder why they changed the policy.

Dean Walley was a journalism major at the University of Missouri before joining Hallmark. Now one of the senior writers, he’s also the man who offers a marvelous course in American manners — and manners of speaking — to the artists and writers. Projecting slides of old cards from Hallmark’s archives on a small screen, he will rhapsodize on a colloquialism here, chuckle at an antiquated idea there, applaud an adjective, blast a dialect. He loves the high-falutin’ use of the word “grand,” the bravado of “staunch,” the evasiveness of “To a certain cheerful someone.” His sentimental olio embraces cards of every era, every province: a bluebird of the twenties chirping “Please Hurry Back,” a Dutch girl saying “To mine friend,” a tippler saying “Happy Birschday to You,” greetings to the dentist, a quack from Donald Duck. The point is that Hallmark writers must keep up with the language as it changes.

If you collect or read any vintage printed matter &/or antique publications, you know how true — and puzzling — this is; language is often as ephemeral as old paper itself. (Oh, how I’d love to dish with Dean Walley!)

And that’s all before we get to the over 750 images of vintage Hallmark cards.

Looking at the images, I reaffirm my love of vintage illustration. But it’s not all charming — or at least not all simply charming. There are things to note about our culture here.

vintage-hallmark-birthday-cardsSome of these things are noted by the author, like on page 45 where among the images of vintage greeting cards (birthday cards from the 1930s, shown at left) the author observes, “You couldn’t get a drink, but you could still say ‘Hell’ on a greeting card. By the fifties, it would be just the opposite.”

There have been many changes in deed; and our general history has been documented in this specific form of ephemera. In the forward, Stern has this to say:

The ups and downs of our economy, our hemlines, and our mood: such is the grist for the Hallmark mill. The days of our lives, as you will see on the following pages, are reflected in the cards of our days. Prohibition, fitness, the income tax, Vietnam, the G-man, the G.O.P., women’s suffrage, women’s lib, the radio, the jukebox, the computer, talkies, hula hoops, the Atom bomb, the gray flannel suit, the mini skirt, My Fair Lady, Huey Long, Mickey Mouse, the TV quiz show, the fireside chat, the Duchess of Windsor, Miss Piggy, Sputnik, the beatnik, Charlie Brown, Charles Lindbergh, canasta, Mussolini, rationing, cowboys, hippies, hillbillies, bobby soxers, flappers, the Dionne Quints, Valley Girls, the airplane, the blackout, the Crash. The seasons come, the seasons go, and Hallmark is up to the minute.

“Actually, says Bill Johnson [head of Hallmark’s public relations from 1966 to 1985], most cards reflect more everyday life than national events. And a national event does not in itself bring about a card. Most are ignored by the greeting card industry. It would be a folly to pretend that by looking at cards from 1920 to 1935, say, you’d get a full idea of what was going on in America.” But you get a pretty good one.

I think that’s true. Especially what Johnson says. But it’s here that we learn some things which are (rather miraculously) not noted by the author.

As you critical thinkers probably have noticed, there’s not a damn mention of civil rights. I didn’t not present them; they are not in the book (even though Beatniks garner two pages worth of attention).

vintage-hallmark-cards-with-kidsOK, I’ll admit a “civil rights” themed greeting card is probably not too likely to become a best seller, but where are the persons of color? In the over 750 images of “Hallmark’s best greeting cards, spanning seven crowded decades of American life,” I found exactly two cards of what I’ll call non-white people — that weren’t Mussolini or other rather racist depiction of foreign public political figures. I’m sure too that Hallmark made many more racist cards once upon a time — which they were too ashamed of to share in the book — but to not address the whole issue of race is odd… At least show more than two cards with black folks, right?

Whether or not Hallmark does or doesn’t make cards which are more reflective of our society is research I’ll leave for others; but we don’t see much represented here.

Then again, perhaps that’s a problem best explained by the context of the time at which this book was published.

This 1980s book makes clear choices to mention and display the G.O.P. several times (yet I found no clear representations of the Democratic Party) and the republicans of the 80’s certainly weren’t building their platform on civil rights; ultraconservative republicans disliked Affirmative Action and, in a backlash against it, President Ronald Reagan cut funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Of course, I could be connecting some dots based on those missing dots, creating an image that doesn’t really exist, but I don’t think so. I think the G.O.P. populist pride slant is part of the book’s construction.

But that doesn’t necessarily detract from the book either. At least not if you are a critical thinker. This book may have intended to document our American history through the social connection of greeting card commerce up to its then present day of 1988, but it also documents, through its selections and omissions, a view of that once present day of 1988 which is now a part of our history.

If this is the sort of stuff that fascinates you half as much as it does me, get a copy. (The book is not as common as you might think for a 1988 title; however, it’s not as rare as the Amazon listings might indicate, so check for it at eBay.) If you’re not sure yet, stick around; I’ll be discussing some more from this book during the next few weeks. (If I make the posts really long, I know you won’t read all of it!)

It’s Not Blackface When They Have Black Faces, Right?

I love this vintage cotton novelty print blouse from the Bahamas — well, at least until I spotted the three Bahamian singers…

1950s-bahamas-novely-print-top

bahamian-singers

Then I worried that they looked a lot like minstrel performers in blackface. But black persons can be shown as black persons, right?

Uh, I don’t think I can send myself, a white woman, out into the world unless I’m absolutely certain that the rest of the world can tell that this is not racist.

PS I know this isn’t Black Americana, it’s Bahamian. But I’m using that tag so folks can find quasi-related stuff; such is the way of folksonomy.

The Fear Filled Prophecy For The Monday Move Meme

This week’s Monday Movie Meme topic is “fear.” I don’t particularly enjoy being scared; life is scary & fragile enough, thanks. Nor do I find any entertainment value in repeated bodily harm & numerous deaths — no many how many forms the gore takes. So I obviously do not watch many horror or slasher films. But I have managed to see some though — like I was there (with my mom) to see the original Halloween (1978) and I think I saw at least one more part in the classic horror series… Mom needn’t worry that I’d be up late with nightmares because, gross as the films were, they were rather forgettable to me.

But then I saw Prophecy (1979). Nothing, I mean nothing, had scared me as profoundly as that film.

prophecy-the-monster-movieProphecy is about a burned-out inner city doctor (Rob, played by Robert Foxworth) who is given the chance to escape to the country (Maine wilderness) for some meaningful (70’s hot issue) environmental science by investigating a dispute between a paper mill and the local Main Indians. He takes along his classically trained musician wife (Maggie, played by Talia Shire) — because there’s an important personal (and another political 70’s) sub-plot involving the couple: the embittered doc doesn’t want to bring another life into this horrible world, and she’s not only knocked-up, but isn’t so keen on (what I recall to be) another abortion.

When they arrive in Maine, it’s pulped into your head that a crisis is at hand at the paper mill. It’s the environment vs. progress, land vs. capitalism, with the lumberjacks on one side and the Indians on the other. In fabulous retro kitsch film style, Armand Assante plays the young Native American activist, angrily defending the old world traditions with modern gangsta style; gotta love the irony of a film trying to make points about the wisdom of native cultures using an Irish-Italian actor to play a Native American.

The idealogical & political war has been going on for quite some time now, but things are coming to a head. People are missing and the lumberjacks are certain it’s the Indians who, upset that the paper mill is damaging the land, have taken or harmed the people in the name of politics. But something else is going on… Something just below the surface… And we are shown that literally when a duck, floating atop the water, is gulped as dinner by a fish below…

Long creepy story short, the menace is a native alright; but it’s not exactly human.

The Indian legend has it that the creature is Kataden, there to save them, their land, their way of life — but really, it’s a bear that, due to the paper mill’s dirty pool (poisoning the water pools) has mutated into some sort of hideous & huge bear-pig.

prophecy-movie-horror-monster-kataden

As I too vividly recall, the Native American lore says that the legendary Kataden is a being which embodies “every other living creature” — something scientifically paralleled in a Darwinian theory of fetal development when Kataden’s drowned cubs are found by the doctor who supposes these babies are the results of the paper mill’s mercury poisoning. This made everything all the more “plausible” & frightening to my then 15 year old mind.

Like most horror films, the cast of characters is slow to catch on to the real problem, giving way to lots of violence — violence which serves to bloodily & bodily illustrate all the issues at hand.

Along with the paper mill vs. Indian clash, you have the clash of ways and beliefs between the younger Indians & the older Indians, the corrupt and ignorant/innocent paper mill persons, and the “exploration” of modern life via the personal issues of a modern couple. She’s emotional & artsy (feminine) and he’s all hard(ened) science (masculine), which echoes the other film’s value laden battle themes (nature vs.money, faith vs. pragmatics, traditions vs. modernization, the gift of life vs. quality of life).

The dangers of each are literally & graphically presented in such scenes as one of Kataden’s babies trying to suckle from Maggie’s nipple, the attack on innocence represented as a child in a sleeping bag, and the elderly Indian leader meeting his maker as he smilingly goes to meet his savior, Kataden.

And then there’s the matter of her pregnancy… Will the doc bring a child into this world? Does he have a choice? How much does he resent her — enough to not save her as his masculine protective duties dictate? Has she eaten too much of the mercury poisoned fish? Will the monster bites she’s suffered be a problem? Dogs & cats Bear-pigs & men living together; mass hysteria.

At the end of the film, life is affirmed: nature & femininity wins, overcoming corporate masculine greed with a show of traditional human survival instincts rooted in love. But at the end another creepy creature is seen, suggesting a sequel…

Did we learn the right things? Will the thing grow up, then rise up to teach us something new? Only it’s 1979; the 80’s are on the horizon, our backs are turned on the lessons learned, and no sequel has yet to come.

But I’m unable to forget it all — or the images in my head.

Yes, Prophecy is blunt heavy film — heavy on the cliches, ham-handed in using horror to punching them like a fist to your face to make the point — but it was also effective in scaring the crap out of me & placing issues heavily in my heart.

I’m not sure if “adult me” would be so moved. I did catch parts of it on late night television one night, but I wasn’t prepared to sit & give it it’s proper attention (it was on while I worked to meet a deadline) and it was so edited for content that I felt ripped-off. But I’d really like to see it again and see if it holds any of that old (black & terrifying) magic. It must hold something if I retain it so vividly 30 years later.

Click the pic & watch a clip!

For info, images, quotes, opinions, etc. on this film see BadMovies.org & Kindertrauma.

If You’re Forced To Have A Baby, Don’t Throw It Out With The Bathwater (Or, Of Margaret Sanger & Eugenics)

margaret-sanger-1927In Margaret Sanger in Context, Tracey McCormick defends the vilified Margaret Sanger. Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood and advocated for planned parenting & birth control before women even had the right to vote, is often misquoted or quoted out of context.

McCormick takes up defense of Sanger against New Jersey Congressman Christopher Smith’s quoting of Sanger from Sanger’s book, Woman and the New Race (1920): “The most merciful things a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it.”

This is McCormick’s response:

The line in question comes from Chapter 5, “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families.” Upon closer inspection, we see that Congressman Smith has left out the word “large” before family.

…But what if we read the entire paragraph or even the whole chapter?

…Apparently she hated miner families. Excessive childbirth in these families caused ill health in mothers, financial hardship to fathers, and I’ll quote directly for its effect on the children: “In the United States, some 300,000 children under one year of age die each twelve months. Approximately ninety per cent of these deaths are directly or indirectly due to malnutrition, to other diseased conditions resulting from poverty, or to excessive childbearing by the mother.

To demonstrate her hate, Sanger provides us mortality statistics of miner children, quotes a study by Arthur Geissler, which was later cited by Dr. Alfred Ploetz before the First International Eugenic Congress. (Eugenics is a scary word; if we took it out of context we’d realize that that’s what Hitler was up to. And if we practiced some really sloppy thinking, we’d say Sanger = Hitler. But we’re much smarter than that.)

To return to the statistics of children surviving through their first year. The first five children of these large miner families had about a 75% survival rate. The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-born approach a 70% survival rate. The eighth and ninth, about a 65% chance. The tenth, 60%; the eleventh, 50%; and the twelfth, 40%.

Five sentences later, Sanger drops her bomb: “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

I didn’t know the woman personally, but I don’t think Sanger was a proponent of infanticide: I think she was trying to say and do something about the infant mortality rate. But you shouldn’t believe me. This is, after all, nothing more than a 750-word soundbite.

For context, you can read the entire chapter here.

For more-more context, the entire book, Woman and the New Race, is available here.

If you have four hours to spare, you can watch the entire hearing, “New Beginnings: Foreign Policy Priorities in the Obama Administration,” here. (Thanks, C-Span!)

Then, you’ll have context of Sanger and her relationship to “New Beginnings.

I applaud McCormick for taking up the fight here — both in terms of Sanger specifically and the issue of context in general. But one thing is missing from this conversation: The subject of eugenics itself.

The word “eugenics” has become an ugly thing, and rightfully so; but it too has its own context which must be understood. Understanding the context & origins of eugenics is key not only to understanding Sanger (and others), but its lessons are the epitome of the cornerstone of studying history: So that we do not repeat it.

Eugenics should not be simply or only equated with racism or even a scientific excuse for racism; that fine institution, racism, had already been in long practice. Eugenics has been around since the dawn of man; ancient societies, of all races, practiced infanticide for such purposes and Plato advocated that human reproduction should be monitored and controlled by the state. At the root of eugenics is a drive to improve human genetic qualities, better sustain the species, which includes everything from prenatal care for mothers to euthanasia.

But, yeah; racism sure was a part of eugenics for many.

American eugenics, as we speak of it here (referring to movements and social policies), was born in a post Civil War world where rapid growth of industrialization (including the increased mechanization of agriculture) created the first major migration away from farms, including former slaves. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution there were a plethora of problems from such rapid urban growth. Cities were unable to keep up with the increasing populations; the exploitation of labor created militant labor organizations; swings in prices bankrupted many businesses — all of this led, in 1873, to a series of depressions which occurred roughly every decade through the early 1900s.

The depressions further fueled labor & over population issues, which were then additionally burdened by huge waves of immigrants (especially from southern and eastern Europe), which peaked just before World War I (and again after the war too). Then, as today, many Americans began to resent immigrants “stealing” their jobs, their housing, and even their spots in charity programs.

At first, “the poor” and the social & economic problems were, philosophically and physically (via social work, charity organizations, churches, etc.), addressed by Social Darwinism, the application (if not perversion) of Charles Darwin’s biological theory. While Darwin himself did not extend his theories to either social or economic levels, many educated people believed that “survival of the fittest” applied to (and therefore could be used to explain as well as manipulate) social and economic inequalities. But the irony was that the wealthy & powerful, “the fittest,” were endangered. Not only were the working class and the poverty stricken organizing themselves against the wealthy, but a declining birthrate among the captains of industry meant that the lower classes were out-reproducing them too.

Enter progressivism.

Progressive reformers believe(d) in the increased role of government to manage & plan for economic and social issues. Beneath working for the passage of legislation advancing the rights of the newly freed slaves; the establishment of labor unions, child-labor protections, & minimum wage laws; conservation of natural resources; direct elections in primaries, fairer taxation, & control of lobbyists; legislation to control monopolies, banking reform, & trust-busting; and working for women’s suffrage, lay science. (And a managerial class of educated experts capable of long-range planning.)

It didn’t take much for progressive reformers to convert inventive Americans to a strong faith in science as the way to address the problems plaguing the country. This opened the door, using the new science of genetics to spawn an even newer science of social engineering — eugenics. If genetics held the key to such things as alcoholism, criminality, “feeble-mindedness,” and poverty, eugenicists argued, society, who paid a high price caring for such individuals and their issues, should invest in the knowledge & planning to ensure a better genetic America.

poor-men-hold-signs-given-to-them-by-eugenics-supporters-on-wall-street-1915

Some went as far as to say that sterilization of one “defective” adult could save society thousands of dollars over future generations. So when researchers became interested in the heritability of such illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, the findings of their studies were used by the eugenics movement as proof of its legitimacy, prompting state laws prohibiting marriages for and forced sterilization of the mentally ill in order to prevent the “passing on” of mental illness to the next generation. (These laws were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 1927 and were not abolished until the mid-20th century.)

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Now remember the afore mentioned context; not only were social & economic issues a matter of The Haves & The Have Nots, but great tension arose from the fears of going from the former to the latter. The power of labor unions & the rise of the American socialist party combined with world events such as the successful Bolshevik Revolution, increased these fears, inspiring the wealthy to support eugenics. As today, funding for research & media meant that the wealthy could steer, if not actually dictate, the work of eugenicists. The repugnance for class struggles and political radicalism certainly figured into eugenics, resulting in selective immigration restriction.

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In short, eugenics put such a focus on defective genes, individuals, and ethnic groups that it removed the focus from all the problems of the structure of American society itself. And the copious amounts of “scientific evidence” for eugenics being the rational and efficient plan for a harmonious future allowed the wealthiest in society to feel justified in blaming & controlling the victims.

I won’t go so far as to say that Margret Sanger was only philosophically identified with eugenics from the point of view of individual families using birth control to combat their economic & societal problems; there’s too much evidence that Sanger was into eugenics far deeper (& dirtier) than that. (While her work with The Negro Project & her acceptance of invitations to speak to women in the KKK remain controversial, there’s no arguing that Sanger was an eugenicist, including a proponent of using immigration laws to keep out those with “objectionable traits”.) I’m not even saying we should forgive & forget Sanger’s association eugenics because it gave us birth control. I’m saying we have to look at the context of the times — societal issues & individual concerns, education & prevailing science, fears & beliefs. And it’s clear that for a century, from the mid-1800’s through the mid-1900’s, eugenics was a huge part of the culture. So I think we should if not forgive, then at least not entirely condemn; but we certainly should not forget — not to be kind, but to see… To not dismiss. As Garland E. Allen wrote:

The problem with demonizing the older American eugenicists (many of whom thought they were taking the most modern, scientific and progressive approach to social problems) is that we distance ourselves from them and so can easily fall prey to our own biases today.

Margaret Sanger was not perfect. But looking at her life & work in context we are able to admire what is valid and also learn to accept the warnings we must heed about what is not valid.

Popular Racism, 1857

In 1857 (a year before Darwin’s The Origin of Species), creationists Dr. Josiah C. Nott and George Gliddon published Indigenous Races of the Earth, which included illustrations comparing the skulls of “Greeks,” “Negroes,” and Chimpanzees to suggest black people ranked between white people and chimps. All copies of Indigenous Races of the Earth were pre-sold before they were even printed and the book then went on to become one of the best selling books of the time, including being published in many languages.

illustration-in-indigenous-races-of-the-earth

Some Lessons In The Soiling Of Old Glory

the-soiling-of-old-glory-the-story-of-a-photograph-that-shocked-america-by-louis-p-masurAt Collectors’ Quest I just reviewed Louis P. Masur’s The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked Americaa book I can’t recommend highly enough.

While the book is based on a very famous photograph, the Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph by Stanley Forman, taken on April 5, 1976 at a Boston rally against forced school busing, I’d never heard of or seen the photo before.

I don’t know why.

I was 12 years old at that time and I remember vividly Watergate, Viet Nam, etc.; so I obviously absorbed news. And I’ve always been interested in, sensitive to, and emotional regarding matters of race — something I’ve since put down not only to a combination of being human, being female (and so recognizing oppression), and “white guilt,” but as spiritual residue from being born on June 21, 1964, the date of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered (something I never knew until I was about 25 and rented Mississippi Burning). Plus, I’ve been a very avid student of history. So just how the incident & photograph escaped my knowledge is a mystery to me…

But once I found Masur’s book, my ignorance left.

And not just my ignorance regarding this (and other) incidents of relatively recent racism in this country (and in “the liberal north” yet!), but about photography, art, symbolism… And this country’s flag.

I had no idea that someone from my home-state of Wisconsin was so influential in the creation of National Flag Day, or that the Milwaukee Daughters of the American Revolution played a role in early anti flag desecration legislation. In fact, I had no idea that there was such concern over flag desecration as early as the late 1800’s. But what really rocked my cynical world was the reasoning behind it. Masur wrote (pages 98-99):

Even as the flag came to be venerated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it became subject to another kind of treatment: desecration. Of course, it makes perfect sense that the two might emerge side by side, an object worshipped and reviled, an icon and a target. Reports and pamphlets in support of legislation against federal flag desecration began to appear, primarily in response not to overt acts of destruction but to the commercial use of the image of the flag. Arguing that “old glory is too sacred a symbol to be misused by any party, creed, or faction,” one writer included a list of objects on which “old glory… is treated with grave disrespect or used for mercenary purposes.” The items ranged from pocket handkerchiefs and doormats to lemon wrappers and whiskey bottles. In 1890, the House Judiciary Committee recommended passage of a law that made it a misdemeanor to “use the national flag, either by printing, painting, or affixing said flag, or otherwise attaching to the same any advertisement for public display, or private gain.”

What strikes me so odd — not that it should, I suppose — is that folks were so upset by the commercialization of the U.S. flag.

What on earth would they think of today’s patriotism? Of our current state of ridicule of anyone not wearing or displaying, on person or product, an American flag?

That sound you hear is the thud of fainting conservatives from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Or maybe it is the screams of horror from the same.

Once I wrapped my mind around such societal flip-flop, I then was left to revisit my own memories of the flag. A flag I’d seen on so many things… And that was before 9/11.

Heck, walk down any major isle at oh-holy-Wal*Mart this week, and try not to find something with the U.S. flag printed on it — tank tops with the flag & little white puppies, disposable plates with flags on them, socks with flags & fireworks, seat cushions… Endless. And all made to be profited from.

Was the Bicentennial responsible for this?

Back then (and I don’t mean just 1976, but the years surrounding it too) we had our school pictures taken with flag backgrounds, ate off flag forks, plastered cafeterias with flag-printed crepe paper & balloons, even applied flag printed toilet paper to clean our dirty butts. It was as bad as Masur notes, and, as he quotes, by then at least one member of the Sons of the American Revolution was OK with such kitsch: “I see no harm in these Bicentennial products. There is no harm in making a buck.”

But while the Bicentennial was the height of flag kitsch, I had some memories of flag use and “abuse” before then…

Again from Masur (page 107):

The meaning of America and the meaning of the flag went together. As the counterculture of the late 1950s and the 1960s came into prominence, attempts to redefine America often meant desacralizing the flag by wearing it. The cultural rebellion of the 1960s necessarily implicated the flag. [Allen] Ginsberg came to sport a top hat with the American flag motif. In discussing Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, and the drug culture of the 1960s, Ginsberg argued that “they didn’t reject the American flag but instead washed it and took it back from the neoconservatives and right wingers and war hawks who were wrapping themselves in the flag, so Kesey painted the flag on his sneakers and had a little flag in his teeth filling.”

This was as I recalled from my television set. The protest film footage, the body paint on Goldie Hawn & Judy Carne on Laugh-In (and if the girls hadn’t actually worn flags painted on their bodies, well, I said it was as I recalled it…) It may not all have been as commercial as the Bicentennial kitsch was; but it was there, making it’s own statement, whether you dug it or not.

In the end, I agree with Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson who, ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943, said:

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the state as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

I don’t for a moment consider the use of the flag as a weapon to be anything other than criminal; that’s not my intent in any way. While the photo and exploration of the cult of flag connect in Masur’s book (they have to; the flag as symbol must be discussed), that’s not his point either. But what you have to see is a time, not long ago, when many felt the flag, like the country, didn’t represent them any more.

Here Masur repeats a quote Kenneth Clark published in Dark Ghetto:

The flag here in America is for the white man. The blue is for justice; the fifty white stars you see in the blue are for the fifty white states; and the white you see in it is the White House. It represents white folks. The red in it is the white man’s blood — he doesn’t even respect your blood, that’s why he will lynch you, hang you, barbecue you, and fry you.

There are many times I feel that way. Not just in theory. Not just as continuing amateur historian. But as a woman living her life here as a second class citizen. Without equal pay. Without the same recourse & credibility when she stands to seek justice. Without recognized rights to her own body. And with far greater (& societal accepted) risk of violence & sexual assault.

Why isn’t my gender’s blood part of the red on the flag?

I feel a reclamation-of-the-flag art project coming on.

Happy Fourth of July.

When Does It Become Too Hot To Operate A Model Railroad? (Or, Taking A Ride On A Model Train To Meet The Emperor of Death Valley)

When does it become too hot to operate a model railroad?

When the thermometer reaches 160 degrees.

So said T.R. Goodwin, superintendent of Death Valley National Monument — and model railroad enthusiast — in that oh-so priceless March 1951 issue of Profitable Hobbies Magazine. (Click to read the large scan.)

model-trains-1951

But the story doesn’t end there. Well, it probably does for most people; but I’m one of those obsessives, remember? I find one (admittedly amusing) article, and I have to find out more.

(Here’s where I recommend you have a beverage & settle in to read. This 1950’s article about a man and his model train set is better than Mister Rogers’ trolley taking you to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe; Goodwin’s train, said to be the only train for 145 miles — and probably long neglected by now if parts of it even exist — takes you back in time.)

While the heat standard for model railroad use set by Goodwin in 1951 should speak for itself, the official hottest temperature recorded for Death Valley is listed as 134° (in July, 1913, at what is now Furnace Creek Ranch). But, that really doesn’t matter much to me; frankly, when the temp reaches 125, most all of my hobbies would cease — as would my breathing, probably. Anyway, I was now left to research T. R. Goodwin himself.

The short article in Profitable Hobbies Magazine says that “Mr. Goodwin opened Death Valley as a national monument under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service in 1933. Since that time he has watched his barren domain grow rapidly in importance as a tourist attraction.” So I thought there would be a rather large amount of information on Goodwin. But I was wrong.

It’s disappointing to find so little on Goodwin; not just because I’m obsessive, but because from what I can piece together, the man plays important roles in US history. And why shouldn’t he? As Superintendent of The Death Valley National Monument, T.R. Goodwin, was called “Emperor of Death Valley” in Harry Oliver‘s Desert Rat Scrap Book (Packet Three, Pouch Four, 1950, page 3, “The Mail Pouch”), saying, “Though his majesty rules an area larger than some of our states with considerable more power than any Governor, it is whispered that his highness has to swat his own Vinegarones and take his own pet tortoise out for a run.”

Homey & humorous, yes; full of yesteryear’s non-pc protocol, sure. But knowing that Goodwin was in charge of nearly two million acres, you have to consider the truth of it too.

harry-olivers-desert-rat-scrap-book-1950

While the discovery of the Desert Rat Scrap Books (which are full of charming & inappropriate old stories — including many attributed to Goodwin) would be a delightful enough conclusion (or, more accurately, a lovely collection pursuit), there is far more. If you are willing to devote hours, days to researching Goodwin. And I am. (Need to replenish your beverage yet?)

At first the info is sketchy. The “T.R.” in T.R. Goodwin stands for Theodore Raymond Goodwin. He served in the Spanish-American War, lost his first wife after just a few years of marriage, and RootsWeb says that T.R. Goodwin was the brother of noted western artist Philip R. Goodwin.

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There’s a Death Valley ’49ers “Keepsake” booklet on T.R. Goodwin, published in 1978 — but apparently long out of print. (I’ve ordered a copy & will share what I can.)

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Until I get the book, this is what I’ve been able to piece together.

While Goodwin may have been the first official superintendent, his gig didn’t start until 1938, according to the National Park Service. Officially, the Death Valley National Monument was established by President Herbert Hoover on February 11, 1933 and John R. White was the acting superintendent, starting on March 16, 1933, until April 14, 1938; then Goodwin took over on April 15th as the official superintendent.

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According to NPS administrative history information, Goodwin seems to have appeared on the government parks scene sometime prior to 1928, when he was the director or roadwork done in the Cold Spring, Anna Spring Plaza, Anna Spring Dam, and the Rim Village area.

Three park roads received surfacing/oil processing treatment in 1928 under the direction of T.R. Goodwin, a road oiling expert loaned to the National Park Service by the California State Highway Commission.

Goodwin must have loved the area & the people, because before he was established as superintendent Goodwin wrote an article (“Park Ranger Believes Early White History Lies Behind Sealed Lips of Red Man Of The Desert,” Inyo Independent, 29 October 1937) on the Indians of the region, “and in so doing attempted to delineate some of the relationships.” He & his writings on Native Americans was written about as well. Perhaps care & concern for the people and land is what got him the superintendent gig rather than his construction skills — or willingness to put up with the heat of Death Valley.

Among the John P. Harrington papers (from 1907 – 1959) held at the Smithsonian Institution, are letters between Harrington, the American linguist and ethnologist who specialized in the native peoples of California, and Goodwin. These letters, dated May of 1946, show Harrington preparing for a field visit to study the Death Valley Indians.

JPH to Goodwin, May 11, 1946:

The writer is Ethnologist in the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, and wants to make a study of the Death Valley Indians. I understand that the Indian Village in Death Valley is 30 miles from your Park Headquarters – in which direction and how reached? Is this village at Death Valley Junction? Any information that you give me will be greatly appreciated. It may be that it is too late in the season to visit this Village for I am told that the Indians of it repair to remote places in the mountains during the summer months. I could come in the fall. There must be some Indian who would be a good interpreter or informant – what is the name of such a one, or better the names of several. They say that only the northern part of the Panamint Mountains belonged to the Death Valley Indians, that is, to the Shoshoni Indians, and that the southern part of the Panamint Mountains belonged to the Chemehuevi Indians. That would make it that there are two languages spoken at the Village. Or has the Chemehuevi language retreated – to where? Where was the line? Or was it the Serrano language of the Tehachapi Mountains instead of the Chemehuevi language? Who were the Panamint Indians – did they talk Chemehuevi? Who were the Pitant Indians? Who were the Keits Indians?

Goodwin to JPH, May 15, 1946:

With reference to your letter of May 1[1], 1946…

Most, if not all, the Indians move to the high country in the summer returning after gathering pinon nuts in the early fall. Practically all the males speak good english and one in particular Tom Wilson who is half breed Piute with a Mexican father, is married to the daughter of the former Chief Hungry Bill. Tom is intelligent and speaks excellent english.

I have never heard of any territorial division of the Death Valley Indians. They are supposed to be an off-shoot of the Shoshone tribe. . . . The Death Valley Indians are called Panamint Indians and all live here except for a few around Beatty, Nevada and one family in the Panamint Valley. They are not wards but are under general supervision of the Carson Agency at Stewart, Nevada. All the other Indians I know of surrounding the area are Piutes and said to be tribal enemies of the Panamints.

JPH to Goodwin, May 20, 1946:

Your extraordinarily kind letter, full of information, has arrived and I am surely glad that I wrote you before coming. Several of the matters that you state perplex me.

A Chemehuevi (Piute) Indian told me that the Panamint Indians speak the Piute language; that the northern part of the Panamint Range was held by another kind of Indians, an off-variety of the Shoshones, whom a Panamint Indian can not understand; that way north of these quasi-Shoshones there lives another kind of Piutes known as the Northern Piutes, who speak another non-intelligible language — that same one that is spoken by the Bannock Indians, in southern Oregon, at Carson City, Nev., at Bishop, Calif., etc.

Thanks a million times over for telling me about Mr. Tom Wilson – is he still at Furnace Creek? How could I write to him? He would perhaps instantly know about this Shoshone-Panamint mix-up. Isn’t there any place that one could board at Furnace Creek though the Inn is closed? It may be going to require Indians to straighten this matter out. . . .

Goodwin to JPH, May 27, 1946:

Replying to your letter of May 20, 1946, you apparently have certain information that has never been brought out here, although we have had close touch with the Indians in this vicinity over a period of thirteen years. . . .

While there’s a certain level of condescension in referring to a “half breed” as “intelligent,” one must remember that in 1946 “Injuns” had it far worse. It was a different time & place, and Goodwin was living in The West, among such characters as Walter Scott aka Death Valley Scotty, one of the rough-riders for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show turned prospectors who built Scotty’s Castle.

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Tribute to Goodwin’s own intelligence can be found in history books: He is called “a more sympathetic Park Service official” in Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process by author Mark Edwin Miller, and in Death Valley (Images of America: California), author Robert P. Palazzo says Goodwin was “instrumental in taking up the cause of the Timbisha to prevent their removal from the monument.”

In the correspondence between Goodwin & Harrington, I am particularly amused by the polite perplexed assertions each professional makes as they defend their information about the Timbisha Shoshone people; especially how Goodwin, a former road oiling man turned government administrator, holds his own against Harrington, the bookish linguist and ethnologist.

Gawd – I love old letters like this.

But Goodwin’s story doesn’t end here either.

During World War II Japanese-Americans had it as bad as Native Americans. Not just racist Asian humor, but in removal from their homes. Ten camps on US soil imprisoned over 110,000 Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens during WWII — one of which was Manzanar. A place already with a long history of forced relocated peoples. (I swear my history books & lectures never really imparted this knowledge to me; nor had I ever grasped the concurrent plight of Japanese Americans & Native Americans. And, if that doesn’t blow your mind, consider that Ansel Adams was at Manzanar taking photographs.)

In December 1942, a riot broke out at Manzanar War Relocation Camp. This became known as The Manzanar “Incident.”

On December 6, 1942, one of the most serious civil disturbances to occur at all the relocation centers erupted at Manzanar. Months of internal tension and gang activity had raged between members of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and many of the first-generation Japanese. Although the JACL leaders acted as representatives to the administration, the elders did not share their views and had little respect for them. Meetings turned into shouting sessions with beatings and death threats against the pro-administration group.

On the night of December 5, six masked men beat JACL leader Fred Tayama while he was in his bed. The leader of the Kitchen Workers Union, Harry Ueno, was arrested for the beating and jailed in the nearby town of Independence despite a lack of conclusive evidence. The next day about 2,000 internees gathered in support of Ueno, and a “committee of five” was selected to negotiate his release. Center Director Ralph Merritt attempted to talk with the agitated crowd and subsequently agreed to bring Ueno back to the relocation center jail to avoid further violence or bloodshed.

…By evening, the soldiers who were stationed in front of the building drew a line in the sand but the hostile protesters surged closer. The crowd became extremely unruly and tear gas was used to break up the demonstration. Although no orders were given to shoot, soldiers fired into the crowd, and a 17- year old was killed and eleven others were wounded. One of the wounded died later on December 11.

Protesters who were considered troublemakers were removed from the camp and held in local jails. Those who were U.S. citizens went to a WRA isolation center at Moab and non-U.S. citizens were sent to Department of Justice camps. Most work, except oil delivery and kitchen crews, was suspended by the administration until after Christmas. By early January 1943, the camp’s operations fully resumed, and schools reopened on January 10.

But what of Tayama & others who were attacked and threatened? Here’s more of the story of Manzanar:

On Sunday night and Monday, December 6 and 7, threats were made against many evacuees at Manzanar who were outspoken pro-American advocates or who were perceived to have pro-WRA administration sentiments. Those threatened included staff members of the Manzanar Free Press, members of the internal security police force, and evacuees who had supervisory jobs in the center. Many of these evacuees, including Tayama, Tanaka, and Slocum, had been active members of the Japanese American Citizens League prior to evacuation, and many had encouraged evacuee cooperation with the government’s relocation policies. John Sinoda, a 25-year-old Kibei who held a key position in the camp’s employment office, was severely beaten by a gang with clubs at the outdoor theater, receiving scalp lacerations. Others were assaulted, including George Kurata, the camp housing coordinator, who managed to escape from his attackers. [49] By Monday noon, approximately 40 evacuees had entered the camp Administration Building, asking for protection and indicating that they were afraid to remain in their barracks. The administration also aided removal from the barracks those evacuees whose names appeared on the dissidents’ blacklists and deathlists. Thus, the number of evacuees taken into protective custody by the camp administration subsequently increased to 65 individuals.

The evacuees in protective custody slept on cots in the Administration Building at night and were crowded into a room in one of the military barracks in the military police compound south of the camp during the day. There was insufficient room for all of them, however, and they were forced to take turns “in getting warm.” They were fed in the kitchen in the military police compound. [50]

Faced with the dilemma of protecting the 65 people, Merritt and his staff immediately began a search for a place outside of Manzanar to house them on a temporary basis. Merritt and Brown had been associated with T. R. Goodwin, Superintendent of Death Valley National Monument, during their days with the Inyo-Mono Associates as well as the Citizens Committee established by the military to ease public relations for the camp with the Owens Valley residents following evacuation. Thus, Merritt sent Brown to Death Valley to inquire as to whether the national monument had any place to house the people. Goodwin offered the abandoned Cow Creek Civilian Conservation Camp, comprised of 16 deteriorating buildings adjacent to the monument’s headquarters. After considerable discussion and clearance was received from WRA Director Myer and General DeWitt, the 65 evacuees, who became known as “refugees,” were sent to Cow Creek on December 10.

…The Cow Creek camp was administered by Camp Director Albert Chamberlain, a WRA employee, and Fred Tayama was elected unofficial “mayor” by the refugees. The WRA staff, evacuees, and soldiers shared the same latrines and showers and ate at the same times in the mess hall which was supplied from Manzanar. After improving their quarters and the grounds of the camp, the evacuee men, needing something to do with their time and appreciative of the hospitality shown by the National Park Service, painted signs, cleaned out springs, built dams, dug ditches, mixed cement, installed radio antennas, and conducted other odd jobs in the national monument without pay. The evacuee women spent their days, caring for their children, assisting in the mess hall, and housekeeping. During their stay. Park Service personnel, as well as the soldiers, took groups of evacuees sightseeing in the national monument and on trips to pick up supplies and mail. The camp had a swimming pool that was enjoyed by the older children. The 65 evacuees remained at the Cow Creek camp under military guard, primarily for their protection, until arrangements could be made for their release through indefinite leave and assistance could be provided for relocation. The American Friends Service Committee played a major role in obtaining jobs and homes for the evacuees, sending representatives to Cow Creek to interview and assist them in planning for relocation. As a result of this organization’s efforts, many of the evacuees relocated to Chicago where the Friends had established a hostel to help those relocating from the relocation centers. As jobs and housing became available, departing evacuees were taken to Las Vegas, the nearest railhead, via military escort. By mid-February the “refugee” camp at Cow Creek was vacated. [51]

I wonder if any of the group of 65 Japanese and Japanese American internees brought into Death Valley for their safety got to see or play with Goodwin’s model railroad?

Is this the end of Goodwin’s story?

It is unclear. For while little else could be found about him, it seems unlikely that such an active man would just wither away, content to be a relic of the past. He must have been more than just a fascinating old coot, with lots of stories to share (should anyone be willing). But for now, I have nothing but blanks.

T. R. Goodwin died in 1972; this I learned from his wife Neva’s obituary, which also lists Mr. Goodwin as “an engineer in Sequoia” prior to placement as superintendent of the Death Valley National Monument. This may not be so accurate. Other research, again tied to Neva Goodwin’s death, states that T.R. Goodwin died in 1969:

T. R. “Ray” Goodwin preceded her in death Oct. 27, 1969. Research Note: Stone reads that he died Oct 25, 1969.

theodore-r-goodwin-grave-marker

It’s interesting to note that while Mr. Goodwin was an amazing man — one I think ought to be remembered — that his wife’s obit mentions next to nothing of her own life. This sexist fact is noted by Cathy Spude in her discussion of Mrs. Goodwin’s obituary, as published in The Electric Courier, and electronic newsletter for the employees of the National Park Service:

September 11, 1996 Volume 2, Number 13

“Neva Goodwin, 100, died August 14 at the home of her daughter, Kay Hamblin, in Yreka, California. She was buried in Monett, Missouri. Mrs. Goodwin was the first superintendent’s wife to live in Death Valley. T.R. Goodwin had been an engineer in Sequoia when he was put in charge of the newly created monument in 1933. He also served in Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon during his NPS career. He died in 1972. Memorial donations in Mrs. Goodwin’s name may be made to Waldensen Presbyterian Church in Monett, MO 65708. Survivors include sister Chris Driskill, daughter Kay Hamblin, son Ted Goodwin, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Contacts with the family may be made through the Death Valley public affairs office.”

So we see that gender-based stereotypes in obituaries is not confined to the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it is here in 1996! It appears, from this obituary, that Neva Goodwin’s primary contribution to society was through her roles as wife, sister and mother. More information was given about what her husband did in his career than about Neva in her career as wife and mother.

The editor of this newsletter would probably be defensive if I suggested that his obituary was androcentric; he would no doubt reply that the readers of the newsletter are more interested in fellow employees (i.e., the deceased’s husband) than in their spouses. I wonder how many people in the service do indeed remember a man who died in 1972 (my 21-year career post-dates that event). Neva without a doubt continued to contribute to something at Death Valley, that the public affairs office is handling contacts with the family. What that contribution was, we cannot tell from this obit.

Surely as his wife, living with him in Death Valley, Neva Goodwin had her own work — and stories as well. She must have raised their son (the very one, according to the original 1951 article, the first of T.R.’s toy trains was purchased for). And, I imagine, Neva spend many a night trying to get Superintendent Goodwin to stop playing with his toy trains long enough to get something to eat & sleep before he began he’d have to get up in the morning and become Emperor of Death Valley again.

In Other Craft-Store Scandals…

Who knew craft stores would be home to so many scandals? But beneath their glitter, pipe cleaners, & plush for teddy bears, I guess the heart of American culture beats… Take the names of craft store acrylic paints.

According to Ceramcoat paints, by Delta, Santa must can only be a Caucasian — in fact, “flesh” tones only come in Caucasian.

flesh-tone-creamcoat-paint

I remember when Crayola renamed the “flesh” crayon “peach” sometime in the 60’s (Mental Floss says it was 1962, but I was born in ’64 and I remember the change — maybe it took forever for the new crayons to roll-out on store shelves?). And I believe there were several attempts by Band-Aid to promote varying shades of “flesh” tone bandages over the years… But that was apparently only after they tried more fanciful designer colors — ‘cuz decorating Dorothy Kilgallen in bright rainbow color Band-Aids is more important than providing options in the race-rainbow of skin tones.

*sigh*

I would have happily photographed any other, darker, warmer, etc. shades of “flesh” or skin tones, but there weren’t any.  They do, however, have a color for hippopotamus flesh. Make of that what you will.

hippo-grey-cream-coat-paint

Anyway, while I had my camera out in the paint isle, I also found myself compelled to take a photo of another paint. Plaid’s Apple Barrel acrylic paint in Territorial Beige.

That’s an odd name for a paint — just how is a color “territorial” other than by bleeding & taking over all the pottery, paper etc.? (Not something I look for in a paint.) That shade name was also used by Delta too, making it even weirder. Most amusing of all was seeing that at least one bottle takes it’s name to heart; see how one of the bottles is begging to take over the empty row next to it? Perhaps it even intimidated the other color to vacate the premises.

territorial-beige

As for why I was searching for paint shades, that’s a project I’m not ready to dish about yet; stay tunned.

The Goodness Of A Mike Shayne Twinkie

A relatively recent 50 cent thrift store grab, a paperback copy of The Homicidal Virgin; cover illustration by Robert McGinnis.

The Homicidal Virgin is, like all the Mike Shayne works, one of those classic gumshoe detective stories. Now, as far as “classic gumshoe fiction” goes, it’s a fairly predictable genre. That’s not to say the story endings are always seen a mile away (or before you finish reading the wraps), but, like most all pulp fiction works, it’s a rather formulaic genre — and it’s a slam-dunk that the detective will get his man along with his woman. (And should the perp be a woman, well, the lucky detective gets two women.)

As an avid reader, I avoided most works in this genre, along with the related “romance novels” for many years. But after collecting vintage pulp novels & retro paperbacks for their covers, I began to become interested in what lay beneath the art. After reading a few, I found that these vintage and retro works can be like Twinkies: something sweet & quick to enjoy between real sustenance. And that too many (or one bad one) can hurt your teeth (from excessive grinding) &/or give you a giddy giggly high. Anyway, every now and then, I grab a pulp off the shelf and read it.

The Homicidal Virgin beckons with sex. From the back cover:

LOST INNOCENCE

Mike Shayne had been in hotel bedrooms with beautiful girls before, but this time it was different. This girl was different. She didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and she blushed.

Unfortunately, she was too good to be true. But Mike didn’t realize this until later, after she lowered her eyelids and softly confessed her one little vice — murder.

As if that tease wouldn’t lure in the usual male readership, the front teaser page promises even more…

SHAYNE WATCHED THE TWO WOMEN AT THE BAR

One was seated on the last stool against the wall. She wore a low-necked ruby-red dress and tinted Harlequin glasses that effectively concealed her eyes, but Shayne could still feel her piercing gaze.

The other had just arrived. She seemed too young to be dropping into a cocktail lounge alone. Not yet twenty, Shayne thought, with a virginal and appealing look of timidity about her.

They both wanted to talk to detective Shayne. Ruby-Red Dress had a difficult-to-believe story of a missing husband; Miss Virgin, and even more harrowing tale of sexual depravity. And the strange thing was, both stories were connected — with utter improbabilities.

Right at the moment, Shayne didn’t know which woman he had more faith in. It was almost impossible to believe that both of them had been speaking the whole truth and nothing but the truth all the way through.

As a sophisticated woman of 2009, I find the sexual stereotypes laughable. But then again, this fictional world of laughable gender roles is far preferable to the confusing oppression of the real world — of the 60’s or today. I daresay that it’s done purposefully to be somewhat comical in the man’s-man tone. (It is certainly benign — no action, and less heaving bosoms than a Harlequin novel.) So why not float in it, go with the current? Especially when you know that the book isn’t going to live up to all that pseudo sexual tension. Hell, it downright misleads with the situational placement of the women (they do not both appear in the bar to tell their stories near simultaneously). But I guess as a teaser, it works for the typical audience.

As for the rest of the plot, once you get past the simplistic sexual stereotypes, it’s believable enough. And the ending is definitely not predictable. (But the end is far too quick-wrap-up, with Shayne giving a “and that’s that” dust-off of his hands.) So as far as a detective mystery goes, it’s a-OK.

Other than the gender stereotypes, references to sedans and coupes (car terms you know but are hardly used today), there is only one other way the novel is dated. And that’s on page 18, where an “attractive colored girl” is seen down the hotel hallway, refreshingly juxtaposed with the “chubby cheeked” bag boy with a “long sharp nose” whose color is not mentioned (and so presumed colorless — or “white”), and so we’ve skipped at least a “Yessum!” stereotype of the black bag boy.

Given how sexist the rest of the book is, I was, after resettling my hackles from the “colored girl” reference, rather pleasantly surprised.

If one can forgive the brief appearance of antiquated race terms (and subtle racism created by the omission of other black characters) and laugh at the portrayal of Mike & his “babes”, it’s a sound little Twinkie of a read.

***

The Homicidal Virgin, a Mike Shayne Mystery, is credited as written by Brett Halliday, originally a pen name of Davis Dresser. I have the 1967 “New Edition” published by Dell — the original is copyrighted 1960 — but the novel was not written by Dresser because Dresser gave up writing the Shayne novels in 1958. (Bookish types can find out more about ghost writers, film & television etc. at ThrillingDectective.com.)

You can find more Mike Shayne covers by McGinnis here.

You Can’t Judge A Racist Nun By Her Habit, Part Three (Or, The Little Chink In Sister’s Armor)

That darn Sister Patricia also owned a copy of Little Chink, one of (at least) three Musical Recitations by Helen Wing.

Little Chink is by one Mildred Merryman — who, as it turns out, is quickly becoming an obsession. More on that in a bit; first, here’s the lyrics.

Chink, Chink, Chinaman, named Chow-Chow,
Lives all alone with his dog Bow-Wow,
Sits and drinks his tea all day
Out of a tea-pot, Chinese way.
Chinese girl thinks he’s just right
She sings to him with all her might:

Little Chink Chink Chink
I think think think
You must be wise
Little Chink Chink Chink
When you wink wink wink
With your funny little beady, little eyes.
Little Chink Chink Chink, I love-a, love-a you
Lets you marry me and I’ll marry you,
Little Chink Chink Chink
What do you think-What Do you think?
I saw you wink! Little Chink.

I get that the word “Chink” lends itself to easy rhymes like “wink” and “think”, but geeze.

Now, the second verse is not printed with the actual music composition, so when I saw Sister’s penciled lyrics, I immediately thought that she herself had (as she had done with Japanese Love Song) made her own lyrics, creating the “pig-wig tail” part.

But inside the front cover, the entire lyrics are printed. Here’s the second verse:

Once came a big bear Woof! Run, run!
Poor little Chink, Chink have no gun,
But he such a brave boy, He no fail!
He shoots him down with his pig-wig tail
Chinese girl thinks he’s so smart
She sing to him with all her heart.

So while Sister is guilty of purchasing, playing & likely directing a choir of children to sing this song based on the titular ethnic slur, she is free of the sin of writing any part of it. That honor goes to Mildred Merryman…

Mildred Merryman is Mildred Plew Merryman, nee Mildred Plew Meigs. Very little is known about Mildred — something that only makes me more obsessed. I do know that she wrote a number of poems for children, so silly & full of rhyme that they naturally lend themselves to children’s songs — making each poem a potential ditty. (In some cases, a real doozy of a ditty.)

From what I can see, neither her other poems or ditties are so offensive. In fact, they are quite cute. So I continue to hunt for more and am doing some heavy research. Stay tunned for more on Mildred.

You Can’t Judge A Racist Nun By Her Habit, Part Two

More vintage sheet music owned by Sister Patricia; this time, Story Poems with Musical Settings by Phyllis Fergus.

The song, The Woodpecker (copyright 1925 by Clayton F. Summy Co.), takes its lyrics from an anonymous poem previously published in The Millgate Monthly, and is dedicated to Fergus’ niece, Elizabeth Clifford. Something which likely makes poor Elizabeth cringe — roll over in her grave? — why couldn’t her aunt just pat her on the head and exclaim, “My haven’t you grown!” and give her an ugly frock like the rest of the relatives? Because this is one racist little song:

The Woodpecker

A woodpecker picks out a great many specks
Of sawdust when building his house.
He works like a nigger
To make the hole bigger,
He cuts thru’ the wood like a mouse.
He doesn’t bother with plans of cheap artisans,
But there’s one thing can rightly be said;
The whole excavation has this explanation
He builds it
By working, Well! by using his head!

Can’t you just imagine a classroom full of students with bright shining faces who, at the urging of Sister M. Patricia, are happily singing the n-word as part of their religious dedication?

Singing their way into heaven? Hmmm, more like sinning their way to hell.

Ah, but it was the times… The roaring, racist 20’s.

But if the image of a nun leading a choir of earthly angels in singing the n-word doesn’t illustrate how entrenched and insidious racism is, then what will?

If the name Clayton F. Summy sounds vaguely familiar, it likely is due to the Happy Birthday hullabaloo. (See also: Google Answers.) Which means that the same folks who claim to own the rights to Happy Birthday likely also own this racist little ditty.

You Can’t Judge A Racist Nun By Her Habit

Normally the most interesting thing to me about vintage sheet music is the cover art; this is because I’m musically illiterate and can’t use it for anything but decoration and/or parts for altered arts (honestly, the only way I am able to carry a tune is to buy sheet music *ba dum dum* ). But this weekend I bought hundreds of sheets of vintage sheet music & some of the most fascinating ones were those that had little to no artwork at all.

All of the pieces I’m showing you today were owned by one Sister M. Patricia, O.S.B. (Order of Saint Benedict), from Sacred Heart Convent, East Grand Forks, Minnesota. (Puzzling then, that at least The Naughty Little Clock Song sheet music would come all the way from Boston! Surely there was a cheaper option in the Twin Cities?)

But anyway, Sister M. Patricia was a racist nun — and I can say that based on her musical habits.

First up, her copy of Japanese Love Song, copyright 1900, words by “Anon”, music by Clayton Thomas aka Salome Thomas Cade aka Nellie Salome Thomas, and dedicated to Madame Alberto Randegger. Only Sister has crossed-out “Japanese” and replaced it with “Chinese” —

Because apparently one Asian is as good, or as heathen, as another. Hey, I’m not calling anyone a heathen! The original lyrics read:

She was a maid of Japan
He was the son of Choo Lee
She had a comb and a fan,
And he had two chests of tea.

She wore a gown picturesque,
While he had a wonderful queue,
Her features were not statuesque,
Which matter’d but little to Choo, to Choo,
Which matter’d but little to Choo.

He smiled at her over the way,
She coquetted at him with her fan;
“I mally you,–see?” we would say
To this queer little maid of Japan.

And day after day she would pose
To attract him, her little Choo Lee,
All daintily tipp’d on her toes,
This love of a heathen Chi-nee, Chi-nee
This love of a heathen Chi-nee.

But Fate was unkind to them, quite,
For he never could reach her, you see,
Though she always was there in his sight,
And she look’d all the day on Choo Lee;

For a man mayn’t do more than he can,
Tho’ a maiden may languishing be,
When she is a maid on a fan,
And he’s on a package of tea, of tea,
And he’s on a package of tea, ah!

Her revisions also include changing lyrics in the newly created Chinese Love Song:

For continuity purposes, of course, “Japan” was changed to “Chi-nee”. And Sister is nothing if not consistent in her racism, as we’ll see in part two. (Yup, that’s a tease to come back soon.)

PS This little song was performed at a The New York Times, August 31, 1902:

The Zulu Lulu Barware Infection

Don’t hate me for wanting to get one of these Zulu Lulu swizzle stick sets — it’s just too horrific not to own if you’re into non-PC things, which I totally am. As a woman & a collector they leave such a bad taste in my mouth, I just had to own them.

I often shy away from the Black Americana (lest folks take my interest the wrong way), but sometimes, like the vintage postcards, they are literally attached to other things. These vintage swizzle sticks are not physically attached to something else, but are attached in ideology to things that make a feminist’s heart ache (or sing, if you’re into documenting such things). Along with racism, there’s sexism & ageism in these swizzle sticks.

Inside each woman’s abdomen (or uterus) is a number representing her age. As the number increases, her breasts droop, her ass grows, and her tummy bulges. She may be Nifty at 15, Spiffy at 20, Sizzling at 25, and even (despite the nipple pointing downwards) Perky at 30 — but she’s Declining at 35, Droopy at 40, and I guess women look so bad after 40 that there’s no sense in making a swizzle stick. (There are rumors that there’s another set of swizzle sticks with Zulu Lulus at 50 and 60 years of age; but I’ve never seen them.)

While the messages of these vintage barware pieces are more transparent than the brown plastic they are made from, the promotional holder is more pointed than those plastic swords used to skewer cherries, reminding everyone every woman just what men think of them:

Don’t pity Lulu – you’re not getting younger yourself…laugh with your guests when they find these hilarious swizzle sticks in their drinks. ZULU-LULU will be the most popular girl at your party!

There’s so much sexism, racism & ageism in these swizzle sticks that it had to ooze out into the drinks being served and from there, infect all those at the party. I guess that’s why your guests would “‘bust’ out laughing”.

Today, we’d bust out in tears; or just spontaneously combust.