Tuesday, November 29, 2016

(November 24, 1849 - October 29, 1924)

British-American novelist and playwright who penned three internationally famous novels: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885-1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden(1911).

"I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden."  Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow."  Frances Hodgson Burnett

She was born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, England, the third of five children of an ironmonger and a mother from a well-to-do Manchester family. The good life was not to last long for the Hodgsons.  In 1852 with a fifth child on the way, her father died of a stroke leaving the family without an income.  She was cared for by her grandmother while her mother ran the family business.
Her grandmother bought her books which in turn taught her to love reading. The Flower Girl, her first book had colored illustrations and poems.  Her mother moved with her children to a new home where they lived with relatives in a home that included a large enclosed garden which became her playground.     Perhaps because of the dire living conditions she endured, she developed a very active imagination and wrote stories in old notebooks.  She enthused over Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel
Uncle Tom's Cabin and spent hours acting out scenes from the book.  She and her siblings were sent to be educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentlemen where she was described as 'precocious' and 'romantic'.
               Manchester's cotton economy was ruined by the American Civil War and in 1863 her uncle William Boond asked the family to join him in Knoxville, TN, where he had a thriving dry goods store. In 1865 the Hodgson family emigrated to the United States.  Poverty still hung in the shadows when the uncle lost much of his business and her family went to live in a log cabin outside Knoxville.   They then moved to a home in Knoxville she dubbed "Noah's Ark", Mt. Ararat' inspired by the house's location atop an isolated hill.   She became a writer to earn money and was published in Godey's Lady's Book in 1868. Her stories also appeared in Scribner's Monthly, Peterson's Magazine, and Harper's Bazaar.    In an effort to escape from the family's poverty, she tended to overwork, thus calling herself 'a pen driving machine'.  By 1869 she had earned enough to move her family into a better home in Knoxville. After her mother's death in 1870 she returned to England for an extended visit.    What followed were a series of episodes that included: her marriage to Swan Burnett, an eye and ear specialist;  The birth of two sons--Lionel (1874) and a first full-length novel,
That Lass o' Lowrie's; birth of a second son Vivien.  She made clothing for her sons which was frilly and designed velvet suits with lace collars for them. She also allowed her sons' hair to grow long, which she then shaped into long curls.   And that is how Little Lord Fauntleroy was born!

After the publication of That Lass o' Lowries she became known as a rising young novelist, established a household in Washington D.C. and began work on Haworth's (1879) as well as writing a dramatic interpretation of That Lass o' Lowries's in response to a pirated stage version in London.
      After a visit to Boston where she met Louisa May Alcott (celebrating her 184th birthday November 29, 2016) and Mary Mapes Dodge, editor of
St. Nicholas, a children's magazine, she began to write children's fiction.
     In 1881 she wrote the play Esmeralda in collaboration with
William Gillette which became the longest running play on Broadway in the 19th century.  (Mary Pickford  starred in the silent film in 1915).
     Despite exhaustion and depression from work, family and household maintenance, she became well known in Washington society and hosted a literary salon on Tuesday evenings with celebrated guests. She also suffered from the heat in D.C..  In the early 1880s she became interested in Christian Science as well as Spiritualism and Theosophy.
                                       She began work on Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1884 with a serialization in
St. Nicholas (1885) and the book publication in 1886.  Receiving good reviews, it became a bestseller in the U.S. and England, was translated into 12 languages and secured her reputation as a writer.

She attended Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, the beginning of many transatlantic trips from the United States to England. Not being able to stand the heat and crowds in the U.K., she took her sons to Florence.  That winter Sara Crewe or What Happened at Miss Michin's was published in the United States. She adapted it into a stage play and later rewrote the story into A Little Princess.

Tragedy struck in 1890 when her eldest son died from consumption in Paris. She sank into a deep depression.    She sought the distraction of charity work, forming the Drury Lane Boys' Club in 1892.   In 1893 she published an autobiography, devoted to her eldest son, The One I Knew Best of All. 

She continued to write novels as a source of income.  Her controversial divorce from Swan Burnett in which she used the cause as desertion (they had orchestrated the dissolution of their marriage some years earlier) was criticized by the press.  They referred to her as a New Woman with the Washington Post writing that the divorce resulted from her "advanced ideas regarding the duties of a wife and the rights of

From the mid-1890s she lived in England at Maytham Hall--which had a large garden where she indulged her love of flowers and resembled a feudal manor house. She socialized in the local villages and enjoyed the country life. After a rather bizarre courtship and marriage to a would be actor ten years younger than her who wanted her money and complete control as a husband, she ended the marriage.

Maytham Hall had a series of walled gardens and in the rose garden she wrote several books; it was there that she had the idea for The Secret Garden in 1904.

It was initially published in serial form beginning in 1910, and first published in its entirety in 1911.  It is now one of Burnett's most popular novels, and considered a classic of children's literature. Several stage and film adaptations have been made.

Several major themes permeate the story.  Rejuvenation: the growth in the garden and Mary is the book's central symbol.  Using the garden motif, she explores the healing power inherent in living things.   Sensibility: There is struggle between common sense and the accepted wisdom of the day, in which common sense wins.  Overcoming trauma:  Both Mary and Colin undergo a great deal of trauma in their childhood. The effects in this book are not glossed over.   The author teaches her audience how trauma can affect children, but also about their resiliency.  Magical realism: the power of positive thinking and belief it can bring about psychological and physical healing.  Burnett was a follower of Christian Science, with its belief in God as a life force rather than a person.

In 2012 it was ranked number 15 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal which has a U.S. audience.

In 1936 a memorial sculpture (pictured here)
by Bessie Potter Vonnoh was erected in Frances' honor in Central Park's Conservatory Garden.  It depicts her two famous Secret Garden characters:  Mary and Dickon.

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."   The Secret Garden

"There's naught as nice as th' smell o' good clean earth, except th' smell o' fresh growin' things when th' rain falls on 'em."
Dickon  The Secret Garden

She wrote fifty novels between 1877 and 1922. She dramatized thirteen of them and involved herself in the rehearsals of all her plays.   Not only did she write for a huge audience, but she also fought for the rights of ownership in works of fiction.  Her legal action in 1888 to establish her claim to the dramatic rights of her famous story Little Lord Fauntleroy effectively stopped unauthorized dramatizations of novels in England.  The 1911 Copyright Act was a direct result of her action.  The Authors' Association of England celebrated her victory at a banquet and presented her with a diamond bracelet and an illuminated memorial inscribed with the names of many leading writers of the time.  During her lifetime she made a lasting contribution to juvenile literature.

Resources:   Wikipedia
Rosemary Gipson.  Notable Women in the American Theatre, A Biographical Dictionary 1989


Saturday, November 12, 2016

MARIE JENNEY HOWE (1870 - 1934)
Feminist organizer, leading suffragist, founder of Heterodoxy in 1912 for "women who did things and did them openly." It was a gathering place for suffragettes, feminists, radicals, labor organizers and professional women who met twice a month to dispute topics such as women's rights, pacifism, birth control, revolutionary politics and civil rights.

"To her life was not a man's thing, it was a human thing. It was to be enjoyed by women as it was by men; there should be equality in all things, not in the ballot alone but in the mind, in work, in a career."     Frederic Clemson Howe, husband

Drawing on domestic traditions of parlor plays and dramatic tableaux, suffragists used brief plays and monologues to enliven their own meetings and to enlist new members through performances at women's clubs and community theaters.  She wrote the Anti-suffrage Monologue also known as Someone has to wash the Dishes in 1912 for the drama group of the New York Woman's Suffrage Party and other suffrage organizations. She parodied anti-suffragist arguments that relied on stereotypes of female dependence, irrationality, and delicacy even as they also warned that women voters would exert too much power.
(Resource: History Matters, the U.S. Survey Course on the Web, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/)


Please do not think of me as old-fashioned.  I pride myself on being a modern up-to-date woman. I believe in all kinds of broad-mindedness, only I do not believe in woman suffrage because to do that would be to deny my sex.

Woman suffrage is the reform against nature.  Look at these ladies sitting on the platform. Observe their physical inability, their mental disability, their spiritual instability and general debility!
Could they walk up to the ballot box, mark a ballot, and drop it in?  Obviously not. Let us grant for the sake of argument that they could mark a ballot. But could they drop it in? Ah, no. All nature is against it. The laws of man cry out against it. The voice of God cries out against it--and so do I.

Enfranchisement is what makes man man.  Disfranchisement is what makes woman woman. If women were enfranchised every man would be just like a woman and every woman would be just like a man. There would be no difference between them. And don't you think this would rob life of just a little of its poetry and romance?

My first argument against suffrage is that the women would not use it if they had it. You couldn't drive them to the polls. My second argument is, if the women were enfranchised they would neglect their homes, desert their families, and spend all their time at the polls.  You may tell me that the polls are only open once a year. But I know women. They are creatures of habit. If you let them go to the polls once a year, they will hang round the polls all the time.

If the women were enfranchised they would vote exactly as their husbands do and only double the existing vote.  If the women were enfranchised they would vote against their own husbands, thus creating dissension, family quarrels, and divorce.

.....Women cannot understand politics. Therefore there would be no use in giving women political power, because they would not know what to do with it. On the other hand, if the women were enfranchised, they would mount rapidly into power, take all the offices from all the men, and soon we would have governors of all our states and dozens of women acting as President of the United States.

I have talked to many woman suffragists and I find them very unreasonable. I say to them: "Here I am, convince me." I ask for proof. Then they proceed to tell me of Australia and Colorado and other places where women have passed excellent laws to improve the condition of working women and children.  But I say, "What of it?" I ask for proof.

Then they quote the eight million women of the United States who are now supporting themselves, and the twenty-five thousand married women in the city of New York who are self-supporting.  I don't believe in statistics.   I wish to prove anti-suffrage in a womanly way, that is, by personal example.  This is my method of persuasion. Once I saw a woman driving a horse, and the horse ran away with her.  Isn't that just like a woman?  Once I read in the newspapers about a woman whose house caught on fire, and she threw the children out of the window and carried the pillows downstairs.  Does that show political acumen?  Besides, look at the hats that women wear! Have you ever known a successful woman governor of a state?  Or have you ever known a really truly successful woman  president of the United States? Well if they could they would, wouldn't they?
As for the militant suffragettes, they are all hyenas in petticoats.

I know the suffragists reply that all our activities have been taken out of the home. The baking, the washing, the weaving, the spinning are all long since taken out of the home. I say all the more reason that something should stay in the home. Let it be woman. Besides, think of the modern invention, the telephone. That has been put into the home. Let women stay at home and answer the telephone.

Let us consider the argument from the standpoint of religion. The Bible says, "Let the women keep silent in the churches," Paul says, "Let them keep their hats on for fear of the angels." My minister says, "Wives, obey your husbands." And my husband says that woman suffrage would rob the rose of its fragrance and the peach of its bloom. I think that is so sweet.

Besides did George Washington ever say, "Votes for women?" No. Did the Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm ever say "Votes for women?" No. Did Elijah, Elisha, Micah, Hezekiah, Obadiah, and Jeremiah ever say, "Votes for women?" No. Then that settles it.

.....Have you ever pictured to yourself Election Day with women voting? Can you imagine how women, having undergone this terrible ordeal, with their delicate systems all upset, will come out of the voting booths and be led away by policemen, and put into ambulances, while they are fainting and weeping, half laughing, half crying, and having fits upon the public highway?  Don't you think if a woman is going to have a fit, it is far better for her to have it in the privacy of her own home?
And how shall I picture to you the terrors of the day after election?  Divorce and death will rage unchecked, crime and contagious disease will stalk unbridled through the land. Oh, friends, on this subject I feel---I feel, so strongly that I can--not think!

Resource:  Wikipedia  Marie Jenney Howe
#heterodoxy  #NationalWoman'sParty  #NewYorkWoman'sSuffrageParty #MarieJenneyHowe
#feminist #suffragist