Friday, July 31, 2009

Just a-Looking for a Home, Idaho Version

Call it synchronicity, call it coincidence, or call it some random act in the cosmos—on Tuesday, Lizzy Frizzfrock featured a post about a Manx kitten that had turned up at her neighbors’ home, & which she was looking after while trying (successfully, it turns out) to find a home for the kitten.

How this pertains to us is that Wednesday morning Eberle & I got up to find a cattle dog (Autrain Shepherd/Border Collie mix by the looks) comfortably dozing on our front porch. She had no collar or any i.d., but was obviously trained—she knew commands like “down” & “stay,” & obeyed quite well, despite being pretty agitated when she actu
ally saw humans—of course those cattle dogs are really smart. She’s a young dog, & rambunctious.

We got a poster together & circulated a “found dog” notice; & we took it to the Indian Valley hot spots like the general store & the post office & the diner. Because this type of dog is almost always a “worker,” people tend to recognize the animals as belonging to a particular ranch, but no one could place her.

It really was tempting to
give her a home here. She was very friendly & fun. There were at least a couple of big problems, however—one, Eberle is allergic to dogs (she gets hives), & two our cats Manxine & Weenie were beside themselves, & with some good reason. The dog appears to be a cat chaser. Our llama & especially our alpaca also were on “high alert”—llamas see any creature in the dog family as an enemy & can be pretty aggressive toward dogs & coyotes (they are often used as watch animals for sheep because of their aggression towards coyotes).

The story has a happy end. An old & very kindly rancher in Indian Valley had recently lost his dog & offered to give her a home. When I brought the dog around to his place this morning, you could tell he was very happy, tho in a
laconic old rancher sort of way. I’m sure the dog should be quite happy in her new digs!

For those who don’t know, “just a-looking for a home” phrase comes from the song “The Boll Weevil Blues.” Blind Lemon Jefferson, Pete Seeger & Dave Van Ronk all sang this—I’m sure others have, too, but those are the versions I know—other than my own.

We’re having another fun & busy weekend. Our good friends Sue & Jay are coming to visit from Portland, & we’ll be away all day tomorrow. While I’m pretty sure I'll be posting tomorrow, I’m less certain about Sunday. If something is posted Sunday it’s likely to be in the afternoon.

Have a good one!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Wayback Machine #5: Eberle & John’s Musical History, part two

For Thursday: some more glimpses of our musical history—in this case, shots from 1999. This was an interesting musical year looked at retrospectively. Eberle & I again joined forces with our good friend violinist Lois Fry & our good friend Judy Anderson, drama teacher at McCall-Donnelly High School, for more theatrical background music, this time for the spring production of Under Milkwood. The play actually stirred a bit of controversy at the school, because some parents found the play too sensual, at which point Judy marched into the principal’s office & pointed out—among other things—the fact that Oklahoma, one of the most commonly staged musicals in high school theater, includes the song “I Cain’t Say No” sung by the character Ado Annie:

I'm just a girl who cain't say no,
I'm in a terrible fix

I always say "come on, let's go!"
Jist when I orta
say nix.

There was also some discussion of specific speeches in The Taming of the Shrew & Hamlet, & with some editing, Under Milkwood was staged as planned. Our musical mix was a bit more diverse than for Alice in Wonderland, & in this case we provided a soundtrack that was continuous rather than a number of set pieces, as we did for Alice in Wonderland. My memory tells me the music was quite good; I do wish we had a recording, but so it goes. Eberle & I switched off on keyboard—we even played one duet—& she also played electric bass. I remember playing the Orff marimba quite a bit, as well as a little bit of uke & 5-string banjo. Lois played violin. There also was a fair amount of percussion & sound effects—we used a kitchen canister for a tin drum in one scene, for instance, & I believe there was slide whistle also.

Hope you enjoy the pix!

Top Pic: Eberle’
s upright bass, which we bought in the winter of 99 at Telford’s in Boise, a very good shop for instruments of the violin family. I recall laying down in the back of our Subaru Legacy wasgon to make sure the bass would fit—I figured if I’d fit, the bass would. & did.

Yours truly at
the McCall Winter Carnival parade. Eberle & I used to march with the Citizens for Valley County group, & our bunch always had a grand time, generally playing the “Mickey Mouse Theme.” We had horns & drums & banners—a real marching band. The cymbals of course were great fun, but I must say that marching at zero degrees F in a Bugs Bunny mask is challenging!

Eberle with bass drum at the Winter Carniv
al—she was in 7th heaven!

Eberle playing the upright bass in the front room of our old house

A scene from the dress rehearsal for Under Milkwood

Guy with guitar on the porch of our o
ld house some time in the spring of 99. I played that Takamine guitar exclusively back then—funny, because as I’m thinking recently of culling the instrument herd, the Takamine is high on the list of candidates to be sold.

& yours truly with tenor recorder, playing some little ditty for the guinea hens. I really like the sound of the tenor recorder—deeper, of course, & more “breathy” than your garden variety soprano recorder. Those plastic Yamahas are really quite good instruments. I later gave this tenor recorder to Alice in Wonder Band mate Art Troutner, & he used it on our recording of “She Sells Seashells” (which Eberle & I co-wrote).

Eberle as part of the Goldie Band at the 1999 McCall Folk Festival. That was a fun band, with a repertoire ranging from “Chicken Soup & Rice” to “A Day in the Life of a F
ool.” The band was formed solely for this Folk Festival performance, however, so it was a one-shot deal. For locals: this was back when the Folk Festival was held in Ponderosa Park, before it moved out to Roseberry.

Stay tuned for more Musical History next month!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weiser River Pillow Book #8

[Here's the July installment of Eberle's Weiser River Pillow Book series. Enjoy!]


Finishing the storage box for the corral, we sit and watch a single ant carrying a wood chip around and around on the cracked earth.

In a nearby field, a neighbor loading hay for us into the truck. My darling steadies the load as the hooks pull out of the bale, cruel looking hooks so close to him, and my heart skips a beat in the beautiful field at the foot of Sage Hill.

Deciding that my distaste for leeches is less than my desire to cut down cattails, and finally wading into the pond with my fierce pink-handled knife.


It doesn’t matter what the words are, when your beloved is tested, diagnosed. The cottonwoods with their terrible beauty went spinning out of reach, untouchable. As the hours passed, the presence of death made poetry everywhere—absolute perfection of line and form—it was appalling. How did I live through those two days? He said, please don’t cry any more, he said it very gently. I went to sit in the draw where the spring comes out of the earth and runs down. When I came out, I had stopped crying. I took his hand, loving him so much. And now we have begun.


Drove to the city to have the belt sander fixed.

Pulled the pump out of the swamp cooler when it broke.

Put chicken wire around the young plum trees.

Went to a Historic Preservation Commission meeting.

The first time we were apart, he went to softball practice, I went to drumming practice.

Put a nest of guinea hen eggs under the broody bantam hen.


Taking things to their logical conclusion, all texts became of equal value—all criticism also becomes of equal value. Yet strangely the idea of a canon persists, of authority and hierarchy, it was not killed by the silver bullet manufactured for its heart. You can’t really kill the undead, or stop the living from offering themselves as food for the undead.

Still, it’s strange to think how they continue, the oddly dismal halls of academe—with the frosted door-windows of offices, the colored posters, the clicking of respectable shoes on tiles visited nightly by the other world of the maintenance staff. And the few insects who have found a niche, silent within the walls, where, secretively, they live and eat.


I dreamed the ditch, although it was in another country, vaguely reminiscent of Bolivia, and the ditch was filled with fleshy-bony fish, so full that there was no water to step into. The horizon was distant, but flattened, the way it is in the land of death.


Incurable hope.

Infectious laughter.

Untreatable irreverence.


A man who plays on the softball team with my darling has a lung disease too.

Surprisingly, also, raises pigeons, which I have wanted for so long.

Inside his trailer, a helmet from the Vietnam war, a large TV, and a cat on the TV tray.

Inside the pigeon house made of plywood, truck windows, scraps, it is another world-- the beautiful colors and the muted light, the sound of wings, the unbreathable air.


A pocket in time, containing a diner and grocery store in one large room.

A large gumball machine, and in the bathroom a “Pandora’s Box” condom dispenser.

Salt and pepper shakers in the shape of pieces of toast in a toaster.


Onions from the onion trucks lying on the roadside.

In one field, piles of different colored onions, reminiscent of crop circles, sand paintings, and other ancient mysteries.

A house in the shape of a lighthouse on the edge of a dry field rippling dust.


Coming home from the city, we stopped at a fruit stand. The cherries looked past their prime and the thought that there would be no more this summer overwhelmed me with the fear of death—his death. He saw, and began filling a bag by the handful, to assuage my sudden anguish. The woman behind the counter shook her head indulgently at him. “Look at you,” she said, and told him she’d get a damp towel for his hands. The sharp moment softened as they spoke over the damp towel, across the counter, and when I got back into the car, I was glad of the cherries again.


When he moved in, he brought a colander with his kitchen things, so that we had two in the household. This upset me at first, giving me the sense of panic I get when there is too much stuff. How he persuaded me, gently, that it was all right to possess two colanders. Then the first night, making supper together, that we used both of them: one for salad, one for pasta, and I laughed at how useful, in fact, abundance could be.


These strange storms have created moments of stillness unusual for July. Not the false stillness of numbing heat, buzzing at the edges with insects, the swamp-cooler—but the stillness that comes between storms—a lack of breath that makes me terrified of breathlessness—the stillness of stilled leaves.


At first I thought that living with the shadow of death would somehow invalidate everything. But the opposite is more true: it is that shadow which completes things, which creates the thin bearable edge of unbearable beauty—which returns that beauty to the everyday, the immediate, the inalienable. I always forget this, and, always, remembering it again seems insurmountably difficult—at first.

Eberle Umbach
© Eberle Umbach 2001-2009

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"The Dead And Their Children"

Assuming you’ve all had your morning fix at Just a Song, it’s time for another of my translation efforts from the 1990s. This one involves a poem by one of the “card-carrying,” capital “S” Surrealists, Benjamin Péret.

I felt myself very drawn to Péret's work, in fact & translated more poems of his than of any other poet. I translated the entire text, in fact, of a few of Péret’s books: Le grand jeu, De derrière les faggots (a truly untranslatable title), Je ne mange pas de ce pain-la, & Je Sublime. I particularly love the poems in Le grand jeu (from which this poem comes) & De derrière les faggots.

It’s odd in some ways, my attraction to Péret’s poetry, because in many ways it’s very dissimilar to anything I’ve written. I do think that working with Péret so much had an influence, however—it probably contributed to “loosening me up,” & also served as a great model for humor in modern poetry—tho overall, his sense of humor is probably more playful than mine, at least in the respective poetic incarnations.

There will certainly be more Péret poems to come here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Hope you enjoy this one.

The Dead And Their Children

For Denise Kahn

If I was some thing
instead of some one
I'd say to Edward's children
give it up
and if they wouldn't give it up
I'd go off into the jungle of magi kings
without boots without my drawers
like a hermit
and there'd certainly be a big animal there
without teeth
with feathers
skinned like a calf
and it would come one night to eat my ears
Hey lord it would say to me
you are a saint among saints
go on take this car
The car was spectacular
eight wheels two engines
and a banana tree in the middle
that covered up Adam and Eve

but that's the subject of another poem

Benjamin Péret
translation © John Hayes 1990-2009

"Country Blues" on Just a Song

Mornin’, everybody. Any Dock Boggs fans out there? If so, you might want to swing by Just a Song for my take on the great banjoist/bootlegger/coal miner’s bone-chilling song of rural dissipation& you’ll get two great Doc(k)s for the price of one, because there are are YouTube clips of both Boggs’ version & Doc Watson’s later take on “Country Blues.”

Hey, even if you don’t know about Dock Boggs, here’s your chance & you’ll get to hear one of the real prototypical old-time music songs; & to top it off, Just a Song is a great blog, the brainchild of Citizen K, who’s assembled a number of other musically-oriented bloggers as co-contributors; your own humble banjoist is just one among them.

Finally, be sure to tune back in to Robert Frost’s Banjo just a bit later this morning, because there’ll be a translation of a poem by Benjamin Péret—complete with a car in the Garden of Eden!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Council Farmer’s Market

As regular readers know, I’ve been very happily busking at the monthly Council Saturday Market since this April, & this past Saturday Eberle came with me to lend a hand with set-up & to provide the invaluable service of a sound check—very difficult to do either by yourself or with the assistance of people who aren’t accustomed to listening to amplified sound in terms of finding a good balance & an appropriate volume level. Eberle also was inspired to take lots of photos, & I’m posting the highlights.

The Council Saturday Market—its official name—is th
e brainchild of Cindy, proprietor of the local floral/garden shop (I should add this is one of the town’s very best shops). During her regular Saturday business hours (10:00 to 2:00) various vendors set up in the lot next to her shop & sell wares ranging from beauty products to homemade bread. The market takes place on the last Saturday of the month from April thru August. I gave Cindy a call back last April—I think only a few days before the first market—pretty much on a whim. She was very enthusiastic about having live music, & I’ve enjoyed participating in the market a lot. Both Cindy & the vendors have been very supportive & helpful, & it’s a great atmosphere for playing.

But back to Saturday, & speaking of highlights: to me the real highlight was when Eberle returned to join in on the final set. We roared thru some favorites, including “The Mean Old Bedbug Blues” (a Bessie Smith tune), “Joliet Bound” (Memphis Minnie & earlier in a different form by Cannon’s Jug Stompers) & Taj Mahal’s rousing “Gonna Move Up to the Country (& Paint My Mailbox Blue). From my solo portion, I was particularly happy with two Blind Lemon Jefferson songs: “Matchbox Blues” & “Two White Horses” (AKA “Please See My Grave is Kept Clean”) both of which are pretty new to my repertoire, & both of which I sang to banjo accompaniment. I also was happy with the way another new addition sounded (this one a guitar song): the Howling Wolf song “I Ain’t Superstitious.”

The market really has been a great experience—just on
e more month, sadly—& I’ve picked up some nice mad money, as well as some fringe benefits—like free produce! I’m always happy to sing & play for food.

Hope you enjoy the pix.

Yours truly with Regal resonator guitar; was I ever grateful for that umbrella, which was dropped off for me by our friend Sue P.

Some very nice folks with various lotions & creams.

Homemade bread & jam! I exchanged some stories about catching (& eating) crawdads with this nice person during a break.

Some great people from the small mountain town of Cuprum; the gentleman has self-published a chronicle of Cuprum called "Thunder in the Mountains" on I'm getting me one of them Cuprum centennial caps next time I have the chance!

Yours truly again picking a bit of banjo. You can see Buffy the Buffalo right behind me atop the cooler.

Cindy (to the left) & her sister in the little shed that was used for selling produce this month; in June it was used for selling fireworks. Check out the corn & berries in those galvanized tubs!

A view down Council's main drag, Michigan Ave.

The floral shop sign, complete with carved bears.

Guitar player with squash.

Tip Chick has a message for everybody.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hatrack the Horse

Howdy folks! I did manage to rouse myself after a marathon day yesterday— very fun day, but very hot & very active. I played at the Council Farmer’s Market from morning until early afternoon—& a very pleasant surprise there, because Eberle showed up with melodica, flute & kazoo in hand & we played the final set together. Eberle also took some pix at the beginning of the day, & I’ll post some of those tomorrow.

We also had a pleasant visit with Eberle’s sister Andrea & her sons Liam & Finley—we all went to visit the Stippichs so Liam & Finley could see Joe's workshop—they’re both fine musicians, & Liam plays mandolin (in addition to guitar & some Dobro & tenor banjo); Finley plays accordion & keyboard. Following this we headed to the Adams County Rodeo—& we may have pix of that tomorrow, too (a bit of a long story there involving a full memory card & a generously loaned camera).

For today, we have another piece of original music, with slideshow. “Hatrack the Horse” comes from our soundtrack to Rootabaga Country; those of you who’ve read Carl Sandburg’s delightfully unique Rootabaga Stories will no doubt recall the stolid farmer, Hatrack the Horse, & his pigeons; & by the way, Hatrack isn't a "horse" in the sense of Equus ferus caballus. For those of you who haven’t read the stories yet, you might check out Joseph Perry’s fine Rootabaga Stories site here to get a taste of what they're like.

While Rootabaga Stories were written before the Depression, I thought Dorothea Lange’s fine Depression-era photos captured something I wanted to convey, so I included a number of them in the slideshow. For those who are curious, the Panama Hat at the top of the post, (which also comes up about halfway thru the slideshow) was Harry S Truman’s.

Hope you enjoy this. I’ll be trying to catch up on blog visits over the next day or so.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009


We’ve been looking at voices from the poetic margins this month in the Weekly Poem series, & I’m concluding this with a short poem by Josephine Miles. Ms Miles, who was also a distinguished academic—the first woman to receive tenure at University of California, Berkeley, in 1947—was a poet of the everyday, which she approached with wit & insight; her poems also really defy categorization in terms of “school”; she had quite a unique voice, & an unerring eye for detail.

Tomorrow probably will be a day off here at Robert Frost’s Banjo central—not 100% on that, but that’s the likely course of events. This will be a busy Saturday—my monthly marathon Farmer’s Market gig (with triple digit temps predicted—yikes!) as well as some visiting & possibly the Adams County Rodeo in the evening. If we do go to the rodeo I’ll try to write something up for Monday.

Hope you enjoy this short but pithy poem about exclusion & acceptance, & I’d encourage you to look into Ms Miles’ works; they are a largely undiscovered treasure.


It's not my world, I grant, but I made it.
It's not my ranch, lean oak, buzzard crow,
Not my fryers, mixmaster, well-garden.
And now it's down the road and I made it.

It's not your rackety car but you drive it.
It's not your four-door, top speed, white-wall tires,
Not our state, not even, I guess, our nation,
But now it's down the road, and we're in it.

Josephine Miles

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dad’s Photos #13

Time for some more of Dad’s Photos, & I believe the current batch are the oldest in the album—at least some of them date from 1937. During this period my father worked as a valet at an upscale restaurant in Wayland, MA called Ten Acres. My mother believes he also cooked at this establishment. Judging from the pictures, he was quite proud of the job.

It’s also interesting that these are the early ph
otos from the album because the quality seems a bit below average, particularly with a couple of the images being over-exposed. According to my mother, my father used a Leica camera in taking the photos found in this album—I wonder if it was new to him then & he was still getting used to it; she also says he sold the camera in 1941 to finance their honeymoon!

In other news—this will be one busy weekend, so I may not get to other folks’ blogs as much as usual & may be a bit slow on responding to comments here.

Hope you enjoy these photos.

Marlboro, Mass. – Remember Rufus – “Bronx Café” [Sorry, no info on either Rufus or the Bronx Café]

Family Style Dinner – Terrace Room – Ten Acres

Ten Acres – Wayland, Mass – 1937-1938

Rollerway – Marlboro, Mass

Big Shot
In the Dough

George, Ray & Old Ralph – Ten Acres [Sorry, no info here, either, but I liked the photo; the fellow on the right - presumably "Old Ralph" - sorta reminds me of William S Burroughs]


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back , part 2

[Both Eberle & I were really gratified by the response to The Little Match Girl Strikes Nack, part 1—so without further fanfare, here’s part two.]

Nineteenth century Lon
don was very slow to address the problems of slums and their mortality rate, which was known to be extremely high— the problem of water supply, sewage and even corpse disposal were identified as largely responsible, but it was long before any concerted action was taken to correct conditions that appalled many observers. In fact, the problem was exacerbated when slums were demolished, creating even larger homeless populations. The London County Council was not formed until 1889, long after similar bodies had been established in smaller cities to address the growing problems of poverty and displacement.

Although many British subjects expressed outrage at the sufferings of the poor and of workers, they had mixed feelings about the underclasses themselves taking action against policies that placed profit over humanity. Successful literature had a tendency to justify the social structures that created a privileged class. For instance, the popular Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Little Match Girl describes a street child selling matches on New Year’s Eve who dies from exposure. On the night of her death, she sees visions of children who have homes, who are not abandoned or working. She tries to warm herself by lighting the matches she has failed to sell, and remembers her grandmother, the only person to treat her with kindness and respect. The inspiration for this Hans Christian Andersen story was apparently a popular woodcut by a Danish artist, Johan Thomas Lundbye—an illustration of a poor child selling matches that was printed in an 1843 calendar. Andersen received a copy of the illustration among several others from an editor with a suggestion that he base a story on one of them.

In the fairy tale, the Little Match Girl’s grandmother carries her soul to Heaven after she dies a peaceful and sentimentalized death. In real life, women workers at match factories went on strike to protest working conditions that were causing women to die singularly unsentimental deaths. The yellow phosphorous used in the Bryant & May match factory in London was known to cause a gruesome and fatal condition called phossy jaw, a type of bone cancer. Because of this fact, several countries had banned the use of yellow phosphorous and used red phosphorous instead, which was harmless; but the British government allowed owners of match factories to put workers in daily contact with this lethal substance, stating that banning it would interfere with the spirit of free trade.

In 1888, two years af
ter the riots Beatrix Potter described, Annie Besant wrote an article about conditions at the Bryant & May match factory, which employed women almost exclusively, called White Slavery in London. The company responded by trying to force the women working there to sign a statement saying they were happy with conditions at the factory. The women refused to do this and instead, 1400 of them went on strike.

Born in slums, driven to work while still children, undersized because under-fed, oppressed because helpless, flung aside as soon as worked out, who cares if they die or go on to the streets provided only that Bryant & May shareholders get their 23 per cent and Mr. Theodore Bryant can erect statues and buy parks? Girls are used to carry boxes on their heads until the hair is rubbed off and the young heads are bald at fifteen years of age? Country clergymen with shares in Bryant & May's draw down on your knee your fifteen year old daughter; pass your hand tenderly over the silky clustering curls, rejoice in the dainty beauty of the thick, shiny tresses.
Annie Besant, The Link, June 1888

Annie portrayed the victimization of girls and women in her article, and this was part of the social reality—but the factory women who took their fates in their own hands by going on strike were far from passive. Neither Annie nor any one else from outside the factory acted as organizer, and the undocumented story of how the factory women achieved this united action is one of the most compelling chapters in the invisible history of women.

The Link, a newspaper founded by Annie, presented a very different perspective on working women than that of mainstream papers—
for example, The Times, which commented that the women at the Bryant & May factory would be perfectly content with their lot if only meddlers like Annie didn’t stir them up. But, partly because of Annie’s journalism as well as the remarkable courage of the factory women, the Bryant & May dispute was the first strike by unorganized workers to gain national publicity. As an aside, in 1891 the Salvation Army opened its own match factory in East London using red phosphorus and paying its workers twice the rate offered at Bryant & May factory. The workers were soon producing six million boxes of matches a year. The Bryant & May factory did not stop using yellow phosphorus until 1901.

Annie was inspired to write her article after hearing Clementina Black give a spee
ch on the topic Female Labour, in which she described the twelve-hour days and the inhumane as well as dangerous working conditions at the Bryant & May match factory. Clementina, also a successful novelist, was acting secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League and traveled the country making speeches and persuading women to join trade unions. In 1888 she attended the Trade Union Congress where she introduced a motion on equal pay for equal work. Clementina’s involvement with the Women’s Trade Union League began through her friendship with Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, who was living in London at the time.

Eleanor Marx, Clementina Black, and Annie Besant met often at the Reading Ro
om of the British Museum. Women writers from Christina Rosetti to George Eliot had frequented the Reading Room, but in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, that hallowed chamber became something of a hotbed of female friendship. The Reading Room at this time took on an identity as a vibrant meeting place for women friends, writers, and activists to the point where male readers objected—saying that the women were crowding the room and sitting in seats other than the ones designated for their special use. Amy Levy, Margaret Harkness, E. Nesbit, Olive Schreiner, Beatrice Webb, Alice Zimmern, Beatrice Harraden, and Charlotte Despard all laid siege to this male sanctuary and for a time transformed it.

Amy Levy, a poet and novelist whose work was praised by Oscar Wilde, wrote a
n essay in 1889 titled “Readers at the British Museum” in Atalanta, a magazine for young women. Amy describes the Reading Room as a shared space, accessible and egalitarian: “For some it is a workshop, for others a lounge; there are those who put it to the highest uses, while in many cases it serves as a shelter,—a refuge, in more senses than one, for the destitute.” In drawings that accompanied the essay, women are figured as prominent inhabitants of this space. Amy’s vision, and the work that women were actually doing in the Reading Room, is, again, in direct opposition with complaints in more mainstream journals about women taking over that space. “Ladies in Libraries” appeared in the Saturday Review in 1886, commenting that “woman makes the Reading Room a place where study is impossible....woman talks and whispers and giggles beneath the stately dome...she flirts, and eats strawberries behind folios…. When she does read, she is accused of reading novels and newspapers, which she might better procure somewhere else.”

To Clementina Black (excerpt)

More blest than was of old Diogenes,
I have not held my lantern up in vain.
Not mine, at least, this evil--to complain:
"There is none honest among all of these."
Amy Levy

In America, women were ac
tive in labor reform movements at this same time in history. Mary Morton Kehew joined the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston in 1886 and became its president in 1892. She fostered the establishment of new schools of dressmaking, housekeeping and salesmanship. Alongside Mary Kenney she founded the Union for Industrial Progress, organizing bookbinders, laundry and tobacco workers and women in the clothing trade between 1896 and 1901. She became the first president of the Women’s Trade Union League, which acted as community of support for women working within the labor movement including Jane Addams, Mary McDowell, and Lillian Wald. Novelists were also addressing the condition of working women in their fiction. Life in the Iron Mills, by Rebecca Harding Davis, was published in the Atlantic Monthly in April 1861, and is considered by many critics to be the pioneering work of American realism in literature.

© Eberle Umbach 2007-2009

Pix from Top:
Gustave Doré: Over London By Rail
Johan Thomas Lundbye: Self-Portrait—I wasn’t able to find a copy of his match girl illustration
Bryant & May Match Factory: by Fin Fahey, & licensed under a Creative Commons License 2.5
Annie Besant
Eleanor Marx
British Museum Reading Room by Diliff (David Iliff), & licensed under a Creative Commons License 3.0
Amy Levy
19th Century print of the Wheeling, WV iron works

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