March 2019

"While You Wait" (A Play from The Smart Set, June 1900)

The Smart Set (Cover)MRS. VAN CLEEF—Now, in this divorce business, there seems to be a great rivalry between South Dakota and Oklahoma, but the Oklahoma firm’s circular is a good deal the more enticing. Listen. It says (she reads from a circular which she takes from her pocket): “Our newer States, in compiling their laws, have seen fit to show more liberality in the matter of obtaining divorces than may be found among the older states, whose laws on this subject were enacted at a time when ideas were less in accord with the advanced liberal thought of the present.

“As the Mohammedan devotee confidingly turns his eyes toward the tomb of his beloved leader, so has Dakota been regarded as the Mecca of hope to weary companions in matrimony.”

Isn’t that nice? We’ll be the weary companions.

Helen Churchill Candee on Women in Oklahoma Territory

HCC BWCandee’s contrast of O.T. home-seekers with “helpless, discouraged women, inefficient and parasitical” certainly cuts more sharply than her later works. At the risk of reading too much into one colorful phrase, perhaps this reflects a bit of her own “strength via defiance” – her own refusal to be a “helpless, discouraged woman”?

Candee was caring for two children in a frontier town. Divorce carried substantial social stigma, whatever her former society or current surroundings. It must have taken some grit and grind in practice, however much grace and style were manifested in the presentation. A little defensiveness or hostility is not inconceivable. It happens.

Helen Churchill Candee - An Introduction

Helen Churchill CandeeHelen started her formal education in one of America’s first kindergartens, then attended several girls’ boarding schools of the sort only available to a certain quality of family – and even then mostly only those in New England. Before she was a teenager she spoke and wrote multiple languages, was schooled in grace and etiquette, and probably knew more history and literature than a majority of adult men in the nation at the time. She was particularly inspired, according to one diary entry, by an event at which Charles Dickens read aloud from one of his works.

How many of you have heard Dickens live? My point exactly.

The Olmecs (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Olmec Head1.The Olmec are generally considered the foundational civilization of Mesoamerica – the region now hosting southern Mexico and Central America. They were the cultural forefathers of later, more familiar peoples like the Mayans and Aztecs.

2. The Olmec seem to have built the first pyramids in the Americas, played the first organized ballgames, and been the first to process and enjoy… chocolate. 

3. The Olmec left behind some heads. Big stone heads. Really, really big stone heads.

The Great Depression (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Dust Bowl Mother1. The Stock Market “Crash” (October 29th, 1929) marked the beginning of the biggest, longest, worstest, economic and emotional depression in all of U.S. History. It impacted most of the rest of the world as well.

2. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) pushed an unprecedented series of government programs and other laws collectively called the “New Deal” by way of trying to fix things. Historians and economists argue about how much good they did. Many elements of “big government” today began as part of this “New Deal.”

3. The Dust Bowl – Depression was felt even more deeply across the Midwest due to a decade of drought which made it almost impossible to grow anything. The apocalyptic dust storms of the 1930s led to the term “Dust Bowl,” now used to more generally refer to the overall misery and suffering of farmers and their ilk.

The Seneca Falls Convention (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Seneca Falls Speech1. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Denied the right to participate in the first “World’s Anti-Slavery Convention” in London in 1840, Mott and Stanton decided that if women were to be effective reformers, they’d need more rights themselves. They spearheaded the first “women’s rights convention” on record in Seneca Falls, NY, eight years later.

2. “The Declaration of Sentiments” – Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, this document (read at the convention) declared that “all men and women are created equal” and the “history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.” It’s probably excerpted in the back of your textbook somewhere.

3. Controversy over Suffrage – Stanton was part of a contingent who wanted to push for women to be given the right to vote; Mott and other more cautious activists resisted, fearing it would be so unpopular as to harm their efforts overall. The resolution passed, however, despite having little impact on election laws at the time.