Monday, November 23, 2015

The Penultimate Stop

Only Wilmington and Baltimore to go. What was it like for the three women to be so close to the end of their trip? Were they utterly sick of each other? Ready to be done with it all? Was there some part of them that would miss being on the road, all the drama, being in the spotlight?
Maria behind the wheel, looking grim as usual, and Ingeborg
standing beside her. Looks as if Sara is hopping out the other side. 

Hard to know. I haven’t found any correspondence from them relevant to this part of the trip. Yet. But I’m guessing they were ready to finish it up. I have to say that I got pretty tired of living out of a suitcase and wearing the same clothes day after day. And the relentless demand of the calendar that forced me to move on when I might have liked to linger and visit a world class art museum, or hang out with friends for a day or two, got tiring. As much as I looked forward to the people and the research in the next city, it was hard to part with people and places I only got to connect with for a day or two. But the final celebration in DC was scheduled and so I had to keep moving, and it was the same for Sara and the Swedes. They were due in DC on December 6 for a rendezvous with Congress and a meeting with President Wilson. You don’t schedule those and fail to arrive on the appointed date and time…They actually pulled into Baltimore on December 4 to give themselves some extra time to get ready.

I had a great visit with the LWV of Delaware at Gwenn and Brett Elliott’s lovely home in Lebanon. By chance the League had already been planning a wine and cheese party Saturday evening, and I happened to arrive the very same day, so they just wrapped me into it. Yay! Always up for wine and cheese. I got to talk about the original trip and what I was doing, and hear their thoughts about politics, voting, reproductive rights, and other matters. They’re very concerned about efforts to suppress voting rights, and the role of money in politics. They’d love to see the Millenials get involved in the League but (like everyone else) are unsure how to reach them. There seems to be general agreement that use of social media, rather than wine and cheese parties in people’s homes, is a better way to reach the younger folk but the details of how exactly the League would do this remain elusive. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with this smart and interesting bunch of people, which included several husbands.

Several people mentioned that when they were younger they had to hide from their employers the fact that they were married, otherwise they would have been let go. In some cases this went on for a couple of years.

Sadly, because I was in Delaware on a weekend I wasn’t able to do any research at the archives or libraries, so I’ll have to go back another time. Mabel Vernon, the envoy’s advance planner, was from Delaware and I was hoping to dig up a little more information. Delaware, I shall return!

On Sunday morning I took off for Baltimore and my rendezvous with Sara Bard Field’s four step great-granddaughters, Sara Wood Smith, Laura Smith, Cynthia Matthews, and Eliza Livingston. They had graciously agreed to out to DC from their homes in California and Oregon to help organize and participate in the final celebration. I hadn’t known them prior to this trip, so it was kind of an adventure for all of us to figure out the agenda, how the room should be decorated, and who would do what. I have to say that if you ever find yourself in need of event planners I can highly recommend these four women! 

The envoys had arrived in DC amid much pageantry and ceremony, so I’d always thought that I should do something to commemorate their trip and mine when I reached DC. But I found the actual event planning daunting. I’m not so good at pageants and ceremony and decorating at the best of times, and trying to figure all that stuff out while I was traveling was a daunting prospect. Imagine my joy when Sara agreed to serve as liaison with the caterers and as point person for the RSVPs, and Cynthia offered to serve as master of ceremonies! My blood pressure dropped almost instantly and I went from dreading my arrival in DC to looking forward to it.

Sally Grant and I stand next to a portrait of Sadie Crockin.
Anne Curran in the foreground.
Anyway, after lunch in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor we all traipsed over to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, where the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City had set up a little event. The museum had recently honored Sadie Jacobs Crockin, who was a suffragist and the first president of the Baltimore League of Women Voters, among many other contributions during her long life. As the library brochure read, “She used her prodigious energy to rally women for women’s rights, aid to immigrants, Zionism, good citizenship, efficiency in government, and other causes. Leading by her own example, Crockin assured women that activism would bring them ‘a different outlook on life, a bigger, broader view,’ that would enrich their own lives and the lives of women and men in Maryland.” Food for thought for us all. It’s small wonder she was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.

Showing my prop during our discussion in the Board room
at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
There actually were other people in the room...
We had a great chat in the Board room of the museum, and those present shared their experience and thoughts about women’s rights. Sara remembered that following her divorce from her first husband she had difficulty getting credit. 

The following day “the descendants” (my shorthand way of referring to them) and I assembled at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in DC, which was the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party (which the CU became known as in 1917.) The Sewall-Belmont staff, especially Jennifer Krafchik and Jessica Konigsberg, had been super helpful throughout my trip serving as a sounding board, providing archival photos, and with publicity. Although Sara Bard Field may not have visited this particular location (the CU/NWP had moved offices several times before settling there in 1929) it was filled with history from her era. Jennifer gave us a long tour filled with fascinating details of this rich history. If you haven’t been to the Sewall-Belmont ever, or in the last five years, it’s well worth a visit. They re-did the museum about five years ago and it’s beautifully decorated with each room devoted to a slice of the history.
The descendants (from left to right Sara Wood Smith, Cynthia Matthews, Eliza Livingston, and Laura Smith.) Jennifer Krafchick from the Sewall-Belmont House is in front.
Later in the afternoon I met with Maine Senator Susan Collins in her office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, conveniently located right next door to the Sewall-Belmont House! Senator Collins is well known as a moderate Republican and an important force for deal-making in the contentious environment on the Hill. I hadn’t known that she was also the lead author of a bill to establish the National Women’s History Museum; many thanks to her for that important leadership. Unfortunately, as with everything else related to women’s rights and claims to history this is promising to be a lengthy battle. That bill was first introduced 12 years ago and just recently a commission was established to study the possibility of maybe thinking about someday creating a national history museum. Part of the hang-up is funding, of course. The museum’s backers are proposing to use private money to build it, and then have the Smithsonian take over its operations, which would require annual appropriations.  It appears that many in Congress don’t believe women are worth the expense. So what else is new? Senator Collins agreed that perhaps this one needs to go into the “We Demand!” bucket…

I introduce the envoys to Senator Susan Collins.

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