To begin, I just read something about the English--that they have a high tolerance for "messiness" in their homes. I feel the drizzle of English blood I have, on my father's side, rise to the occasion. I have been trying to order the books that have been pouring in on my new project. Sometimes, I have to yank myself out of the 19th century to answer the door or pay a bill. And I have not been the great housekeeper I would like to be and never have been. Piles of books and notes seem to be an ever-increasing menace to navigate around here. But I am trying; and this morning, I picked up a book in a place that hasn't been touched for a while, opened it, and found treasure.
The book, Our Famous Women, An Authorized Record of the Lives and Deeds of Distinguished American Women of Our Times, is the 1886 edition. (Low and behold, the book is now in paperback on Amazon!) It was a gift given to me many years ago from good friends, Joe and Marlene Wetherall. Marlene worked freelance for Victoria and Joe is a favorite friend for his enthusiastic support of my son's music. Whenever he plays Where or When I think of Joe requesting that beautiful song--and asking Paul not only to play it, but sing it! Heaven!
Well, my dears, this book got shelved at a time when a busy life didn't give me too much time for 700-page books. And it's lovely binding with gold placed it in the decorative rather than the reading column. I'm sure a dust cloth has come in contact hundreds of times over the years, but this morning I opened it. The amazing thing is not just the women written about--but the women who did the writing. I just never thought of Julia Ward Howe fulfilling a publisher's request to write about Maria Mitchell, the American astronomer. Thanks to Trish Foley, we had a wonderful story about her in Victoria, or I might not have known who she was.
Of course, I don't recognize the names of all the writers. I was pretty good on the subject of the profiles. Susan B. Anthony's story is told by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and since she was a shoulder-to-shoulder suffragist, she was well-versed in her life, times, and accomplishments. Harriet Beecher Stowe is the author of the chapter on Catherine E. Beecher, the poet and teacher who wrote to help women manage their homes and families. She was Harriet's older sister.
What a wonderful idea they had at A. D. Worthington & Co., Hartford, CT. And yes--it is, as they claim, "superbly illustrated," although some of our foremothers seem a bit stern, with the exception of Mary Clemmer. She opted for a profile to show off her elaborate hairstyle and rested her chin on her hand. Mary was a journalist who reported on the surrender of Maryland Heights in September 1862 from her own personal experience. According to her biographer, Lilian Whiting, "Mary Clemmer has ennobled journalism by her profound conviction of its moral significance." We could use some of that today, me thinks.
The moral of this story is to keep your treasure and delve into it once in a while. You never know what you might find that makes your day as this did mine.