Christmas, Comics

Santa’s (Caffeine-Fueled) Starting Nine

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By popular demand– well, okay, a couple of friends asked me — mugs featuring my drawings of Santa’s reindeer are now available in convenient drinking vessel form, in a variety of styles & sizes, including commuter mugs & extra large sizes (extra caffeine helps you fly).

Through the holiday season, Zazzle will be offering generous discounts on various products; always check for their latest discount codes.

Happy holidays to all!

 

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A History of Cleveland OH in 50 Objects

A History of Cleveland, Ohio in 50 Objects #4: The David Berger National Memorial

BergerMemorial
The David Berger National Memorial, Beachwood, Ohio

The outlines of the story are, now, depressingly familiar: people with specific political goals aren’t patient enough, or smart enough, to achieve them by peaceful means. And so they seek to effect change by injuring, maiming, and murdering people who have nothing to do with the terrorists’ objectives.

In 1972, though, it seemed more shocking than it does now — especially because it took place at the Olympics, a place where optimism, cooperation, peace and joy should be paramount. The Olympic Charter even says the goal of the Games is “place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

But in Munich, at the Olympic Games, Palestinian terrorists entered the athletes’ village and took eleven members of the Israeli Olympic delegation hostage.

All eleven hostages were killed.

If you want the details of the attack, the botched rescue, the subsequent finger-pointing, and the aftermath, look elsewhere; there are plenty of places you can find them–movies, documentaries, books.

The focus here is on the eleven Israelis who were murdered — all of them good, smart, strong and heroic, the best Israel had to offer.

Ten of those men were from Israel.

Weightlifter David Berger, though, was a dual American-Israeli citizen, and he was from suburban Cleveland, Ohio.

David Berger was a staggeringly talented and nice guy, the proverbial “gentle giant.” In the months & years after his death, he was universally and consistently described by all who knew him as kind, quiet, shy, and smart. He was an honors student at Tulane, and earned a combination law degree/MBA from Columbia University. Just after his graduation from Columbia, he won a gold medal at the 1969 Maccabiah Games. He fell in love with Israel and moved there, continuing his athletic training, and becoming one of the first people in Israel to teach sports to disabled persons.

His ultimate dream was to participate in the Olympics.

He didn’t medal, but he didn’t really expect to.

To the frustration of his parents back home in Cleveland, his portion of the event wasn’t even televised.

But David Berger was satisfied; he’d achieved his goal.

*****************

After his death, Berger’s body was returned to the United States.  He’s buried in Mayfield Cemetery, in Cleveland Heights.

A few years later, a group of families close to David’s parents, Dr. Benjamin and Dorothy Berger, commissioned a sculpture in David’s memory, and the memory of the ten other murdered team members. U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum, also a close friend of Dr. Benjamin Berger, worked with the appropriate agencies to establish a site for a national memorial.

The David Berger National Memorial is the nation’s smallest national park, and the only U.S. memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes killed in Munich.

On Labor Day, I went to sketch the memorial sculpture in situ, and as I drew, I tried to think of ways to describe the sculpture’s effect on the viewer:

How the sculpture, by Cleveland artist David E. Davis, appears deceptively simple. How it features the five Olympic rings, all broken in half, to symbolize the disruption of the 1972 games. How the rings rest on a base divided into 11 segments, representing the 11 Olympians who died. How it’s made from a steel alloy designed to rust over time, but still stand strong.

How, when seen from its eastern side, the half-circles of steel resemble a multitude of mouths, gaping in horror.

And how, on its western side, the memorial conveys its ultimate message: a series of half-circles suggesting, almost as in stop-motion photography, a fallen athlete who propels himself back up.  The Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland, present home of the David Berger National Memorial, describes “an upward motion in the broken rings to suggest the peaceful intent of the Olympics, a search for understanding, and hope for the future.”

Yes. That’s all there.

But as I sat there pondering, and sketching, a minivan with out-of-state license plates drove by a couple of times, then pulled over to the curb near the park. Two young boys, wearing matching Spiderman shirts, bounded out, followed by their tired -looking mother. Dad, and Grandma, stayed in the car, at first. I had the sense that this was an impromptu stop, made on the way back to the interstate, as the family was on their way home from a long weekend.

As they approached the sculpture, the boys seemed to understand that they shouldn’t engage in all-out horseplay in front of the memorial, and that they should be quiet. But they were restless & bristling with barely-contained energy as their mother stood behind them, explaining why small rocks had been placed on the sculpture, and outlining, briefly, why this memorial existed.

“It is wrong to hurt people because they believe in a different religion than you do,” she concluded.

The two boys stood still. “Didn’t people understand that?” the older boy asked her.

“Well, we’re supposed to understand, but there are people even today who …” she trailed off.

After looking around for a few minutes more, they got back in the minivan and drove away.

There are people, and teams, and nations, even today who refuse to participate in sporting events if Israel is taking part. There are athletes who refuse to shake hands with their Israeli counterparts in international competitions. There are teams who refuse to share buses with Israeli athletes — even if they’re headed to the Olympic opening ceremony, ostensibly a celebration of international cooperation.

There are people in the United States, in 2017, who march in the night with torches, chanting anti-Semitic slogans.

*****************

There’s one more subject that consistently comes up in any discussion of David Berger, and his surviving family: peace.

Two days after David’s death, his father Benjamin told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he didn’t blame Germany for his son’s death; he didn’t hate Palestinians, either. In fact, he was upset that several Arab-American business leaders in the Cleveland area had received threatening phone calls after the Munich massacre.

In 2002, Berger’s brother Fred told Sports Illustrated, “If [David] were in Israel today, he’d only want peace for everybody.”

Modern works of public sculpture can be aesthetically inaccessible to the average person, which is why public works of art are so often the subject of ridicule.* (Okay: sometimes public works of art are the subject of ridicule because they’re just bad, though that’s not the case here.)

So the mother who brought her sons to see the David Berger National Memorial probably didn’t realize that the sculpture’s rising broken rings were specifically meant “to suggest the peaceful intent of the Olympics, a search for understanding, and hope for the future.”

But she knew it was a good idea that the sculpture exists, and that it would be a good idea to tell her children about David Berger, to show them this tangible reminder of the circumstances of his death, and to explain what a tragedy it was that the world was denied the opportunity to benefit from his potential.

And to begin to explain to her sons how they can help prevent hate and bloodshed.

There’s our hope for the future, right there.

___________________________________________________________

*This topic will come up again in a future entry in “A History of Cleveland, Ohio in 50 Objects” — the one about Isamu Noguchi’s Justice Center sculpture Portal.)

 

 

 

 

Comics, Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Virginia Apgar

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Asked why she always carried a basic respiratory resuscitation kit everywhere she went –it included a penknife for impromptu tracheotomies — Apgar replied, “Nobody, but nobody, is going to stop breathing on me.”

Virginia Apgar 1909-1974

Women’s History Month is coming to a close, and this entry is going to be a little bit different, starting with an apology for not having kept up with my original goal of a post a day featuring a different American woman.

However, I did make at least a basic sketch for every day of the month, and so I’m just going to extend my own celebration of Women’s History Month beyond the end of March.

Next, I note that in the interest of posting this entry today –March 30th is National Doctors’ Day in the United States –I am posting a draft of today’s comic in lieu of a polished, final product, and will also make the entry itself more cursory. Modern cartoonists often post their work in stages, to demonstrate their process, and I’m tempted to say that’s what I’m doing here. 

But I admit I’ve touched up parts of this initial sketch — mainly redoing my handwriting on the components of the Apgar scale so that it’s legible. You know, on the off-chance some doctor or medical professional somewhere has to deliver a baby outside a hospital, and has forgotten the points of the Apgar Scale, and for some unlikely reason this blog entry is the only reference to it s/he can find on her/his smartphone.

The overall scribbliness, though, remains. Call it “process.”

Now on to Virginia Apgar.

In 1952, Virginia Apgar, an obstetrical anesthesiologist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, developed the first standardized method for evaluating the health of newborn babies. It consisted of five qualities, each measured on a scale of 0 to 2, observed just after birth, and then again five minutes later: color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration.

The highest possible Apgar score is 10 (though few babies actually score that high due to fluctuations in the initial appearance of their skin) A low score is a warning sign that an infant may be in need of special medical care or extra medical attention.

This was the first time a consistent method had been applied to babies’ state of health upon entering the world, and as a result, countless numbers of infants survived who may not have survived otherwise –merely because no one had kept track of initial signals of trouble.

Eventually, to honor Apgar’s achievement–and to provide a handy mnemonic for medical students– the names of the steps on the Apgar scale were adapted so that their initial letters spelled out Apgar’s name:

Appearance (color)

Pulse (heart rate)

–(Reflex irritability) Grimace

Activity (muscle tone & flexion)

Respiration

(Many, however, didn’t realize the “backronym”‘s significance; Apgar was once visiting a Boston hospital, where a secretary exclaimed, “Oh, I didn’t know Apgar was a person; I thought it was just a thing!”)

Apgar was the only woman in her anesthesiology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and only the fiftieth doctor in the United States to be certified in anesthesiology.

She was the first woman to head the anesthesiology division of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the first woman to be made a full professor at the medical school.

At age 45, she earned a Master’s in Public Health degree, eventually becoming the Executive Director of the March of Dimes, and later, its director of research.

In her spare time — I know, when did she have any? — she was a talented violinist, and made her own violin, mezzo violin, viola and cello. Apgar was also an avid gardener — she’s got an orchid named after her — and a stamp collector; she was honored with her own United States Postal Service stamp in 1994. At the ceremony commemorating Apgar’s stamp, a quartet of pediatricians played Apgar’s own handmade string instruments. (They were eventually donated to Columbia, where you can now rent them.  The instruments, not the pediatricians.)

Virginia Apgar was a woman you’d want to keep breathing for. You wouldn’t dare not to.

Sources:

Bause, George S., M.D. “The 20-cent Virginia Apgar Stamp.” Anesthesiology. V. 113, No. 4, October 2010, p. 944.

DeBenedette, Valerie. “Retrobituaries: Virginia Apgar, the Woman Whose Name Saves Newborns.” Mental Floss, October 12, 2016.
Mount Holyoke College. “Virginia Apgar.”
Smithsonian National Postal Museum. “Arago –People, Postage and the Post: The 20-cent Apgar.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine, Exhibition Program. “Changing the Face of Medicine: Dr. Virginia Apgar.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “The Virginia Apgar Papers.”

 

Comics, Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Emily Dickinson

KellyKomicsEmily
“There is always one thing to be grateful for — that one is one’s self and not somebody else.” — Emily Dickinson to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, ca. 1873.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Here’s the thing.

We simultaneously know everything about Emily Dickinson, and nothing about Emily Dickinson.

We know that she withdrew completely from the world …except, you know, when she wrote hundreds of letters, and when she sent boxes of her homemade chocolate caramels to friends, family, and neighbors, and when she lowered baskets full of cookies and gingerbread for the neighborhood children out of the window in her second floor bedroom, where she spent most of her time in seclusion.

We know that her heart was broken. By a man. Or a series of men.

Unless, of course, she was gay.

Or unless she preferred being alone, and never had a romantic relationship.

She was plain. Unless she was beautiful.

All the things we know. And yet don’t know.

That white dress she always wore. (Unless she didn’t.)

Her only known photograph.

Except for maybe this photo, which could be her.

Um … or this one?

Or this photo, which is almost certainly, definitely, positively not her … unless it is, which it might be.

Her green thumb.

Her famous recipe for a truly gargantuan cake.

Her recipe for cookies –maybe the ones she made for the neighborhood children (added bonus: the recipe card has a poem written on the back).

The color of her eyes.

And for the things we don’t know, there have been plenty of opportunities for people to fill in the blanks, or to use the outlines of Emily Dickinson’s life to create … other things.

The Broadway play.

The movie.

The murder mystery.

The doll.

The finger puppet.

The candle.

The fact that you can sing nearly all of her poems to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. Or the “Yellow Rose of Texas.” Your choice, really.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for anything, however unlikely, that brings Emily Dickinson to a wider audience. (I’m looking forward to the day when there’s an Emily Dickinson action figure, and I’ll be the first one in line to buy it.)

It’s just that, in the end, what we truly know of Emily Dickinson is … her poetry.

Isn’t that all we need?

The Heart is the Capital of the Mind —
The Mind is a single State —
The Heart and the Mind together make
A single Continent —

One — is the Population —
Numerous enough —
This ecstatic Nation
Seek — it is Yourself.

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Comics, Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted: The Lowell Mill Girls

The Lowell Mill Girls
NB: The Lowell Mill Girls did not actually brandish bobbins as they marched for change. I was just trying to imagine a way to metaphorically depict their protest, since they didn’t carry signs. Harriet Hanson Robinson is represented twice here, second from left as an adult, and at the far right, as she might have looked as an 11-year old mill worker (though in the real life Lowell Mill strike, she actually led the ‘turn-out).

The Lowell Mill Girls, 1834 & 1836

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America, in the early 1800s, some Boston businessmen envisioned building a planned industrial community dedicated to textile manufacturing. The area around Pawtucket Falls, about 25 miles northwest of Boston, proved ideal — the falls could provide hydropower to run the mill machinery — and Lowell, Massachusetts, was incorporated in 1826.

The mill owners recruited girls and women from nearby farms to work in the mills; there were few other opportunities for women to earn wages in that time and place. Moreover, the mill owners designed Lowell as the first “company town” — the mill girls lived in boardinghouses owned by the mills, and the companies sponsored libraries, concerts, music lessons, part-time schooling, lectures by authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe and other activities for their workers.

Even though the hours were long–at one mill, 4:50AM – 7PM with short breaks for meals, six days a week — the wages were good, even after the women paid for their room and board. And despite the mill’s overwhelming presence in their everyday lives, for most of the women, this was the first opportunity they’d ever had for some semblance of independence–and, mostly away from men.

However, in 1834, faced with increased competition and economic instability on a national level, the mills tried to reduce costs via a 15% pay cut. New management at the mills created more stringent rules, inside and outside of work: “Drinking, swearing, and staying out after 10 p.m. were all firing offenses. So were failure to attend church or simply being ‘a devil in petticoats’ (the official grounds for the 1830 dismissal of one Elizabeth Wilson). Sleeping two to a bed in a boardinghouse relieved little stress.”

The mill girls had had enough; they walked off the job — in what we now call a strike, then termed a ‘turn-out.’ (One mill owner referred to their action as “Amazonian.”) But the women were not well-organized, and went back to work within a week.

Two years later, faced with more economic instability, the mills tried to lower wages and make the women pay their own rent at the company-owned boardinghouses. (Some sources suggest the mills also raised the rent at the same time.)  The Lowell Mill Girls walked off the job again.

As a child, Harriet Hanson Robinson worked at a mill as a”bobbin doffer” –she replaced full bobbins of spun thread with empty ones — and years later, in her memoir Loom and Spindle, she recalled the 1836 mill strike:

One of the first strikes of cotton-factory operatives that ever took place in this country was that in Lowell, in October, 1836. When it was announced that the wages were to be cut down, great indignation was felt, and it was decided to strike, en masse. This was done. The mills were shut down, and the girls went in procession from their several corporations to the ‘grove’ on Chapel Hill, and listened to ‘incendiary’ speeches from early labor reformers.

One of the girls stood on a pump, and gave vent to the feelings of her companions in a neat speech, declaring that it was their duty to resist all attempts at cutting down the wages. This was the first time a woman had spoken in public in Lowell, and the event caused surprise and consternation among her audience.

Cutting down the wages was not their only grievance, nor the only cause of this strike. Hitherto the corporations had paid twenty-five cents a week towards the board of each operative, and now it was their purpose to have the girls pay the sum; and this, in addition to the cut in the wages, would make a difference of at least one dollar a week. It was estimated that as many as twelve or fifteen hundred girls turned out, and walked in procession through the streets. They had neither flags nor music, but sang songs, a favorite (but rather inappropriate) one being a parody on ‘I won’t be a nun.’

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I-

Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?

Oh ! I cannot be a slave,

I will not be a slave,

For I’m so fond of liberty

That I cannot be a slave.

My own recollection of this first strike (or ‘turn out’ as it was called) is very vivid. I worked in a lower room, where I had heard the proposed strike fully, if not vehemently, discussed; I had been an ardent listener to what was said against this attempt at ‘oppression’ on the part of the corporation, and naturally I took sides with the strikers. When the day came on which the girls were to turn out, those in the upper rooms started first, and so many of them left that our mill was at once shut down. Then, when the girls in my room stood irresolute, uncertain what to do, asking each other, ‘Would you? ‘ or ‘Shall we turn out?’ and not one of them having the courage to lead off, I, who began to think they would not go out, after all their talk, became impatient, and started on ahead, saying, with childish bravado, ‘I don’t care what you do, I am going to turn out, whether any one else does or not;’ and I marched out, and was followed by the others.

As I looked back at the long line that followed me, I was more proud than I have ever been since at any success I may have achieved, and more proud than I shall ever be again until my own beloved State gives to its women citizens the right of suffrage.

The agent of the corporation where I then worked took some small revenges on the supposed ringleaders; on the principle of sending the weaker to the wall, my mother was turned away from her boarding-house, that functionary saying,’Mrs. Hanson, you could not prevent the older girls from turning out, but your daughter is a child, and her you could control.’

It is hardly necessary to say that so far as results were concerned this strike did no good. The dissatisfaction of the operatives subsided, or burned itself out, and though the authorities did not accede to their demands, the majority returned to their work, and the corporation went on cutting down the wages.

And after a time, as the wages became more and more reduced, the best portion of the girls left and went to their homes, or to the other employments that were fast opening to women, until there were very few of the old guard left; and thus the status of the factory population of New England gradually became what we know it to be to-day.

Although Harriet Hanson Robinson gives a factually accurate account of events, the outcome of the 1836 Lowell mill strike was not quite as bleak as she describes.  For one thing, the mill owners did back down from raising rents at the boardinghouses.

Also, the mill girls were much more organized for their second strike; the number of participants doubled– to 1,500–as compared to the 1834 strike, and the sympathies of the citizens of Lowell were much more with the striking workers.

Perhaps most importantly, although the immediate goals of the Lowell mill strikes were not entirely achieved, the women who participated in them were inspired to find additional means to effect change. They published newspapers featuring writing by women, to counteract the falsely positive narratives put out by the textile companies. In 1845, they formed the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association, a political organization designed to lobby elected representatives. Harriet Hanson Robinson and her daughter founded the National Woman Suffrage Association of Massachusetts, part of an effort nationwide to promote giving women the right to vote; Harriet Hanson Robinson was the first woman to testify to the Congressional Select Committee on Woman Suffrage.

So, if in the short term, the Lowell mill girls failed, their efforts sowed the seeds for future social change.

An 1845 letter by Ellen Munroe appearing in The Voice of Industry — a newspaper for workers then published by the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association — serves as a tribute to the Lowell mill girls, and could very well serve today as a salute to those trying to change the way things are:

Bad as is the condition of so many women, it would be much worse if they had nothing but [men’s] boasted protection to rely upon; but they have at last learnt the lesson, which a bitter experience teaches, that not to those who style themselves their ‘natural protectors,’ are they to look for the needful help, but to the strong and resolute of their own sex. May all good fortune attend those resolute ones, and the noble cause in which they are engaged. ‘She devils’ as some of them have been elegantly termed by certain persons, calling themselves men; let them not fear such epithets, nor shrink from the path they have chosen. It is, indeed, a theory one, but they are breaking the way; they shall make it smoother for those who come after them, and generations yet unborn shall live to bless them for their courage and perseverance.

Sources & Notes:

Branson, F. “I Won’t Be A Nun.” Lee & Walker, Philadelphia, monographic, 1873. Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/sm1873.01033/.

Kidder, David S. and Noah D. Oppenheim. “Lowell, Massachusetts,” The Intellectual Devotional: American History, New York, NY: Rodale Inc. 2007, p. 60.

Munroe, Ellen. “On ‘Woman’s Weakness,'” letter to the editor of the Boston Bee, March 13, 1845, reprinted later that year in The Voice of Industry.

New England Historical Society(dot)com. “Harriet Hanson Robinson — Lowell Mill Girl.”

Robinson, Harriet Hanson. “The Lowell Mill Girls Go on Strike, 1836,” Loom and Spindle or Life Among the Early Mill Girls (New York, T. Y. Crowell, 1898), pp. 83–86, via History Matters (a project of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning of the City University of New York and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University).

Stewart, Doug. “Proud to Be A Mill Girl.” American Heritage, S

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Comics, Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Grace Murray Hopper

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Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)

You may not know Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper by name, but the technology you’re (likely) using to read this might not exist without her.

Hopper was a mathematician by training, earning a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. She taught math at Vassar College — where she’d received her bachelor’s degree — for ten years. During World War 2, she took a leave of absence to join the United States Navy Reserve and worked with early computer systems at Harvard.

After the war, she began to work for the corporation developing the UNIVAC I, the first commercial computer in America. As part of Hopper’s work, she pioneered the development of the “compiler” — a program which translates one computer language into another, thus making a programmer’s job easier. (One writer dryly notes “she did this, she said, because she was lazy, and hoped that the ‘programmer may return to being a mathematician.'”)

Hopper was also instrumental in creating the computer languages COBOL and FORTRAN. She even helped popularize the computer term “debugging” –meaning to fix a computer glitch — after an actual moth found in a Navy computer.

But Grace Murray Hopper was also funny, and capable of instantly quotable observations like “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall which runs counter-clockwise.”

She really did have that clock in her office, and a skull-and-crossbones flag as well.

Hopper was a memorable (and popular) teacher and lecturer:

In her speeches Admiral Hopper often used analogies and examples that have become legendary. Once she presented a piece of wire about a foot long, and explained that it represented a nanosecond, since it was the maximum distance electricity could travel in wire in one-billionth of a second. She often contrasted this nanosecond with a microsecond – a coil of wire nearly a thousand feet long – as she encouraged programmers not to waste even a microsecond.

Colorful details like that meant that after her (involuntary) retirement from the Navy at the age of 80, she became a star of popular media–interviewed on 60 Minutes, and even making an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

After she described her work on early computers, Dave asked her, “How did you know so much about computers then?”

“I didn’t, it was the first one,” she told him.

Grace Murray Hopper learned by doing, and was the antidote to “We’ve always done it this way” thinking.

We’re all in her debt.

Sources:

Portions of this “Nevertheless, She Persisted” entry are  based on my 2012 blog post “Amazing Grace.”

Backus, John. “Difference Engines: Bridging the Language Gap.” Computerworld, May 1, 2006.

Finley, Klint. “Tech Time Warp of the Week: Watch Grace Hopper, The Queen of Software, Crack Jokes With Letterman.” Wired, October 10, 2014.

Pearson, Gwen. “Google Honors Grace Hopper … And A ‘Bug.’Wired. December 9, 2013.

United States Navy. “USS Hopper (DDG 70).”

Yale University Computer Science. “Grace Murray Hopper.”

 

 

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Comics, Women's History Month

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Juliette Gordon Low

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Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927)

Geez, the things my Girl Scout handbooks never mentioned.

I knew, of course, that in 1912,  Juliette Gordon Low had founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, inspired and encouraged by her friend Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had established the Boy Scouts, and the “Girl Guides” program  in England.

I knew that she’d been born to a wealthy family in Savannah, Georgia just before the Civil War, and had a life of privilege. I vaguely recalled that she’d been nicknamed “Daisy,” and I had a memory, based on a half-remembered painting, that she was beautiful.

But there was plenty I didn’t know, things (understandably) glossed over in the bio we learned in Girl Scout meetings.

The “Daisy” nickname? Her family called her “Crazy Daisy,” due to her ebullience, optimism, and predilection for joking and silliness.

But the nickname also came to reflect other troubles Daisy was having; a series of ear infections she suffered throughout her youth affected her hearing. When she went to a doctor for relief, he inadvertently ruptured her eardrum.

Then, on her wedding day, a piece of rice thrown after the ceremony by a well-wisher somehow became lodged in her ear; the damage was so great that she lost her hearing in that ear. Eventually, she lost most of the hearing in her “good” ear as well.

As her biographer Stacy Cordery noted to the Christian Science Monitor, Juliette Gordon Low’s hearing loss reinforced the “Crazy Daisy” nickname: “…she’s making mistakes through no fault of her own. She can’t hear. So part of [not] hearing [well] is that  someone says ‘XYZ’ and  you respond ‘ABC.’ It makes you respond in a way that other people around you interpret as a little bit odd.”

And maybe Juliette Gordon Low should have considered that errant grain of rice a warning: she moved to England with her husband, wealthy cotton merchant William Mackay Low. Soon, William Low started palling around with playboy Prince Edward VII and his party posse, all prone to prodigious feats of concupiscence, alcohol consumption, gambling, and general excess.

Not unexpectedly, William Low soon had a mistress, and began spending more and more time away from his wife.  When Juliette Gordon Low, not to mention the public at large, became aware of the situation, William Low asked her for a divorce. Divorce in the early 20th century was a more arduous –and humiliating — process than it is now, and so Juliette Low suggested that she and her husband separate instead, so that they had time to work out details of a divorce.

But before divorce proceedings began, William Low died as the result of a stroke. And to Juliette’s horror, his will left his entire estate and fortune to his mistress.

Even William Low’s sisters were appalled, and assisted Juliette’s attempts to challenge the will. She didn’t win her case outright — but she did get some of the money to which she was entitled, and her husband’s home in Savannah, Georgia.

After her husband’s death — and more importantly, after meeting Sir Robert Baden-Powell — she returned to Savannah.  Her career options were limited, as they were for most American women at the time, but she was on fire with an idea.  She called a distant cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!”

That “something” was the Girl Scouts, of course, which Juliette imagined as an organization for girls from all cultures, economic classes, ethnicities, and degrees of physical abilities. Through the organization she founded, she made her own experiences from a privileged childhood — athletic activities, exposure to the arts, adventures in nature — available to girls of all backgrounds.

And as for the obstacles and difficulties she went through — well, Juliette Gordon Low turned them into assets. notes in the Washington Post, “Later in life, Daisy would use her deafness to her advantage, often pretending to not understand people when they said they couldn’t volunteer or donate to her beloved Girl Scouts.”

She even turned the shattering experience of her marriage as an inspiration. As her biographer Stacy Cordery told public broadcasting’s Diane Rehm, “…the lesson that Daisy learned from this, to answer the question about how did she come to want to be involved in an organization to help young women, is Daisy Low learned that life was not predictable. And even though you’ve done everything right, you’d grown up in good circumstances, you’d married the man you loved, you’d been faithful and loyal, sometimes you wound up cuckolded and then widowed.”

Therefore, ingenuity and self-reliance are good attributes to have — and to teach to others. And providing bigger and bigger challenges to test the people you teach? That’s good, too.

You know what? The Girl Scouts should stamp Juliette Low’s profile on their Trefoil cookies. More people should know more about her.

 

Sources:

The website of Stacy Cordery, author of Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, was an invaluable resource and so I’m mentioning it first and most prominently; just for one example, it includes a image of Juliette Gordon Low’s doctor’s sketch of the inside of her ear (JGL’s, not Stacy Cordery’s), which I found morbidly fascinating, if not ultimately useful for this profile.

Additional Sources:

Girl Scouts of the United States of America. “Juliette Gordon Low.”

Kehe, Marjorie. “That ‘Crazy Daisy’ who started the Girl Scouts,” (an interview with Stacy A. Cordery, author of Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts), CSMonitor.com, March 12, 2012

Juliette Gordon Low, who had no children of her own, started Girl Scouts in 1912.” Washington Post, March 9, 2012.

Rehm, Diane (interviewer). The Diane Rehm Show (radio show transcript). “Stacy Cordery: ‘Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts.’” Dianerehm.org, February 23,2012, 11AM.

Sims, Anastatia. “Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 03 April 2015. Web. 09 March 2017.

Also, this entry was fueled by a truly impressive amount of Trefoils and Samoas.  For research purposes, naturally.