Friday, June 7, 2019

"Women Cannot Band Together"

Cover of Gilder pamphlet
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which legalized the inherent right of women to vote. We've blogged in the past about the suffragist movement and women's ongoing and infuriating struggle to be recognized as equals. Today, we thought we'd share more of the treasure trove of suffrage items in an attempt to present what we like to call a "usable past." Ideally, people's exposure to controversial documents from our collective past will encourage them to make better future decisions for society.

In this particular instance, we want to talk about the vigorous pamphlet war that cropped up during the suffragist movement in the early-20th century. Exhibit A is the reprint of an article published in Harper's Bazaar in 1894 and written by Jeannette L. Gilder, "founder of The Critic," a New York-based magazine of literary criticism. In the article, Gilder (a self-described "working-woman") says that "we cannot worship God and Mammon; neither can we be politicians and women. It is against nature, against reason." She concludes by stating that voting cannot help women, but it can hurt them, just a like a bomb that could "go off in her own hands, and work a mischief that she little dreams of."

cover of Sedgwick pamphletOther anti-suffragists quickly joined the fray. One William T. Sedgwick, "noted biologist" and M.I.T. Professor of Biology and Public Health, emphatically states that women are biologically different from men and therefore constitutionally incapable of the same sorts of intellectual and physical work of men. Essentially, Sedgwick claims the menstrual cycle is an insurmountable "handicap" that means women shouldn't vote. He believes that "the particular insane restlessness which is now affecting certain classes of women in America and England seems to be due to the comparative idleness from which they suffer through the gradual removal of the old domestic industries." So, in other words, technological innovations in the domestic sphere have resulted in women's boredom and so they are now "shrieking for 'liberty'".

Cover of Abbott and Breckenridge pamphlet
Thankfully, there are suffragist voices in print during this period as well. In response to an anti-suffrage pamphlet written in 1913 by Minnie Bronson, "formerly Special Agent, Bureau of Labor," two suffragettes published a devastating reply. Edith Abbott, Ph.D. in Economics and Law, and Sophonisba Breckenridge, Assistant Professor of Social Economy, both of the University of Chicago, dismantle Bronson's arguments in a brutal step-by-step fashion. Before they even begin, however, they undermine Bronson's claim to any authoritative position by revealing that her tenure as an employee of the Labor Department was fleeting; instead, her primary occupation was a high school math teacher and then a paid representative of anti-suffragists. This revelation is preceded by a blunt statement that, in arguing that suffrage will not lead to better treatment of women in industry, "Miss Minnie Bronson stands practically alone, opposed to the women who, as a result of long years of experience, are qualified to speak as to the conditions under which women work."

Other suffragists turn to humor and sarcasm instead of rhetorical rebuttals. Our personal favorite is a tongue-in-cheek rant by Marie Jenney Howe. Titled "An Anti-Suffrage Monologue," the pamphlet deftly skewers the hypocrisy and illogical positions of the anti-suffragist movement. Some choice excerpts:

"Many men call me an angel and I have a strong instinct which tells me it is true; that is why I am an anti, because 'I want to be an angel and with the angels stand.' And if you don't like that argument take this one. Women are depraved. They would introduce into politics a vicious element which would ruin our national life."

Cover of Howe pamphlet
"Women cannot band together. They are incapable of organization. No two women can even be friends. Women are cats. On the other hand, if women were enfranchised, we would have all the women banded together on one side, and all the men banded together on the other side, and there would follow a sex war which might end in bloody revolution."

These fascinating and occasionally amusing pamphlets (whether intentionally or not) are from the papers of Jesse Belle Hardy Stubbs MacKaye within the larger MacKaye Family Papers (ML-5). She was the president of the Milwaukee Women's Peace Society. To see this amazing collection of pamphlets, come to Special Collections and ask for Box 227 from the MacKaye Family Papers (ML-5).

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Coin Worth Impeachment

Letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 31 May 1901 We've alluded in the past to the artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens' commission from President Theodore Roosevelt to design a twenty-dollar gold coin. However, the actual letters between the two distinguished men deserve further comment. The context, too, is worth knowing. In the decade preceding the design of the coin, Saint-Gaudens had experienced several frustrating interactions with the United States Mint, including the rejection of his design for the official medal of the Chicago World's Fair in 1892. Instead, the directors went with a design submitted by the Mint's Chief Engraver, Charles Barber. Saint-Gaudens and Barber had both been on a silver coinage selection committee for the Mint in the previous year; after the committee failed to find a suitable artist, Barber had put himself forward as the only qualified candidate for the position (in his estimation). Saint-Gaudens disagreed and publicly criticized Barber's final product, saying that the work was inept and looked like the work of a sixteen-year-old beginner.

After these two experiences, Saint-Gaudens swore off working with the Mint in any capacity. True to his word, he rejected any and all commissions that might have any connection to the organization, no
Letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 6 November 1905
matter how tenuous. By 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt evidently felt the same way about the state of the nation's coinage. He reached out to Saint-Gaudens, with whom he had become friends, to see if the sculptor might be willing to help design some gold coins. Roosevelt, of course, had strong opinions about the appearance of the coinage. In a letter to Saint-Gaudens, written on November 6th, 1905, he says, "I was looking at some gold coins of Alexander the Great to-day, and I was struck by their high relief. Would it not be well to have our coins in high relief, and also to have the rims raised?"

Saint-Gaudens complied with the president's "suggestions" and ultimately produced model coins that delighted Roosevelt. In a letter to Saint-Gaudens dated December 20th, 1906, Roosevelt says, "These models are simply immense - if such a slang way of talking is permissible in reference to giving a modern nation one coinage at least which shall be as good as that of the ancient Greeks." He goes on to say that he has ordered the Mint to begin production immediately and hypothesizes that  he "shall be impeached for it in Congress" but that he "shall regard that as a very cheap payment!" Saint-Gaudens would never really see his final design reach fruition, however. He died of cancer in August of 1907, just a few months before production finally began on the coins.

Letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 20 December 1906Later this month, nearly a hundred and twelve years after his death, the Trustees of the Saint-Gaudens Memorial will award the Saint-Gaudens Medal to Dartmouth College Library in recognition of its care and preservation of the sculptor's papers. The Medal is being given to the library for its exemplary care and conservation of the collection of papers and artifacts relating to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, other artists of the Cornish Colony, and the Saint-Gaudens Memorial. Established in 1988, the Saint-Gaudens Medal is awarded, from time to time, by the Saint-Gaudens Memorial to such persons who, by their talents and beneficence, have made a distinguished contribution to the arts in America in the high tradition of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The Saint-Gaudens Medal was designed in 1992 by sculptor Robert W. White (1921-2002), a long-time Trustee of the Memorial.

To read more about Dartmouth College Library's receipt of the medal, read the press release. To read the correspondence between Saint-Gaudens and Roosevelt, come to Special Collections and ask for the Saint-Gaudens Papers (ML-4), Box 16.