Louisa C. O. Haughton

Louisa C. O. Haughton, founding member and eventual president of the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore, certainly left her mark on a few distinct aspects of the city’s history. In spite of this, I’ve been able to find practically nothing about her private life.

Born to Henry Osburne Haughton and Sophie Alricks of Connecticut, her family moved to Baltimore around the turn of the 20th century. Her father’s obituary refers to him as an exporter of cattle and an “anti-vivisectionist.” Her full name was Louisa Courtauld Osburne Haughton—exactly her grandmother’s. She and her sister Maud formed Haughton and Haughton, and together they ran a successful business as dressmakers. She died in 1951.

But Haughton is primarily remembered for her involvement in the WLCB. Following the death of the celebrated poet Lizette Woodworth Reese, she (co-)founded the Lizette Woodworth Reese Memorial Association, which collected much of her materials that would eventually be donated to Enoch Pratt.

She wrote stories and plays. So far I’ve recovered two stories: “Ever-Ready Edgar,” published in the Ladies’ Home Journal, and “The Malachite Collar,” in the New York Tribune. Dr. Cole and I have located copyrights for two plays of hers: The Dancing Delilah, and The Decisions; or The Vacillations of Amelia.

I can’t speak for her plays, but her stories seem fairly standard for the popular fiction of her day, albeit both stories I’ve located feature strong, female protagonists.

Illustration by George d’Arcy Chadwick, prefacing “The Ever-Ready Edgar” in The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1906.

“Ever-Ready Edgar” is a revenge story, in which four women team up against a playboy. Edgar Morris courts and seduces three women in the U.S., France, and England. All of them—Ethel, Elsie, and Eva—have the same initials. He gives each of them souvenirs—a match-box, a set of tablets, and a cardcase.

A fourth, Eleanor, who he meets on a ship coming back from England, almost falls for him. She holds out until she makes it back to the East Coast, and reconvenes with her group of friends—a group that consists, of course, of Ethel, Elsie, and Eva. They all conspire against him.

They invite him to a party, and Eleanor rejects his advances. Here’s the final moment of revenge:

He tried to take her hand, but with a swift movement she drew it away and switched on the piano lamp. On the music-desk in a row before him were the gold match-box, a set of gold tablets, a gold cardcase, and slowly she drew from her belt a gold pencil and put it beside them.

“This is my answer,” she said, rising.


Elizabeth Turner Graham

When I was first assigned to recover what works I can by Elizabeth Graham, I barely recognized her name. I had the impression that she was one of the club’s most quiet published members. Most of what I’ve found confirms that she did, in fact, lead a quiet life.

Elizabeth Turner Graham was born in 1858 and died in 1920. She’s buried in the Friends Burial Ground, which also happens to be Baltimore’s oldest cemetery. Her burial site implies a connection with the Quakers, and much of her poetry reflects religious belief.

After all my sleuthing, I’ve only found two works that I know to be written by Graham: Buttercups and Daisies: Songs of a Summer, and Holly and Mistletoe: Songs Across the Snow. As the similar titles suggest, the two were intended to be companion volumes, and were published one year apart—in 1884 and 1885, respectively. Both of them are rare, but I was able to get my hands on them today in the Maryland Room of UMD’s Hornbake Library.

Cover of “Buttercups and Daisies.” Photo courtesy of University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library.

Both volumes of poetry are quite beautiful. My sense is that everything—from illustrations to binding—was done by Graham. The poetry seems to have been written for children. Graham writes about the unfolding summer—about elves, flowers, and songbirds. In Holly and Mistletoe, the imagery reverses, and she inflects her poetry with an overtly religious tone. Here’s a typical poem of hers, entitled “Fair Month of June:

The hills are white,
Oh, Summer-time!
With snowy Ox-eyed Daisies,
And Buttercups,
With dew filled up,
Her golden vase upraises.

The year moves on,
Oh, Summer-time!
Life’s joys are now the fleetest;
And ‘neath thy moon,
Fair month of June,
Are lover’s vows the sweetest.

There’s little remarkable about her poetry. But holding those volumes in my hands, and leafing through them, it was clear that both books were labors of love. The poems are singsongy, as children’s poetry should be; and the accompanying illustrations, also by Graham, brought them to life.

But, after the publication of these two books, it seems that her attentions went elsewhere. She organized Mt. Washington’s Lend-a-Hand Club—the first woman’s club in Maryland—and served as its president for at least twenty years. From what I’ve found of the club, its aims were more philanthropic than our own WLCB, but no less successful.

I might not have recognized Graham’s name from the minutes, but I did recognize the name of the Lend-a-Hand Club. The two publications of hers I’ve found are, in their own way, remarkable; but I think it’s likely that much of her literary aspiration was supplanted by activity in women’s clubs.

Aaronna’s Grief

For our first day of class, we’re reading a number of stories written by women pertaining to the struggles of women writers coming under masculine scrutiny. One of the most illuminating of these is, I think, “Miss Grief”—an 1880 short story written by Constance Fenimore Woolson, great-niece of James Fenimore Cooper, and friend and contemporary of Henry James.
Constance Fenimore Woolson in 1886.
Throughout the text, Woolson demonstrates that her narrator and protagonist, a well-regarded male author, seeks to exert his masculine influence on women in all facets of life. Of course, one can see this in his treatment of Miss Aaronna Moncrief, and her writing. Consider, for instance, how her name is altered. Her father wanted sons, and feminized the name “Aaron” when he was given a daughter. The narrator of the story refers to her as “Miss Grief,” when she actually goes by “Crief”—at first mistakenly, but eventually because he thinks it suits her better. He’s doing more than just changing her name; he’s altering her legacy, and molding her to suit his own artistic designs.
But this aspect of the narrator’s character is also made clear through his treatment of Aaronna’s foil—his romantic partner and eventual wife, Ethelind Abercrombie. The following passage, in which Woolson overtly contrasts the two figures, is especially elucidating:
Not that poor Aaronna’s poems were evil: they were simply unrestrained, large, vast, like the skies or the wind. Ethelind was bounded on all sides, like a violet in a garden-bed. And I liked her so (329). 
In this passage, it becomes clear that what the narrator finds distasteful in Aaronna’s writings, and what he hopes to curb in his alterations of them, is artistic liberation. He is infatuated by—and eventually marries—Ethelind for exactly the opposite qualities. The comparison of Ethelind to a circumscribed flower is especially revealing; it suggests that she is, to him, an object to be pruned, restrained, and controlled.

What we lost in the fire

This past week, I finished the transcriptions for a Club season I’d been greatly looking forward to: 1903-1904. The reason for my interest: the Baltimore fire of 1904, thought to be the third most devastating fire in United States history. (Dr. Cole already touched on it briefly in an earlier post.)

Amazingly, the Club met the very day after the fire ended: Tuesday, February 9th. The fire had hardly been under control for twenty-four hours. “Few members were present,” the recording secretary wrote. “But the president decided that the record of our meetings should be kept unbroken.” Only a portion of the program was therefore given.

Aftermath of the conflagration. This photograph could have been taken the very day the Club met.

But what shocks me about the minutes from this time period is that, save this one meeting, there is not a single other reference to the devastation in the season. Here’s what they do have to say about it, though:

In a few strong words, [Mrs. Wrenshall] alluded to the great financial loss, from which we must all suffer; but pointed out the comfort that was ours, in the dauntless spirit shown by the people. Especially, she thought, should we unite in thanks, to the press which had risen so wonderfully above the difficulties of the time, to give the public information and cheer. The magnitude of the loss Baltimore had sustained, was almost incredible. The city had been laid low; but we had been spared the worst and greatest agony, in that, there had been no sacrifice of human life, except in one instance. Had the fire begun on any day but Sunday, what horrors would have been added. There could be no shadow of doubt that much of the great misfortune, must be laid to the charge of building those high structures which helped to carry the force of the fire beyond all human reach.

That’s it—one paragraph. What interests me most in this account is the reference to the loss of life “in one instance.” I’m from Baltimore, sort of. My elementary and middle school allegedly owes its existence to the fire. But the narrative of the fire I’d grown up with held that not a single person perished in the fire.

So I did some poking around. In his volume, The Great Baltimore Fire, Peter B. Petersen notes that no one challenged this claim until 2003, when an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University by the name of James Collins, dug up a story in the February 17th issue of The Sun, entitled “One Life Lost in Fire.” The story reported that the charred remains of an African American man were pulled out of the basin—that is to say, the harbor. We don’t know his name.

The story slipped under the radar, and went practically unnoticed. Peterson theorizes, “Officials may not have deemed a single black life sufficient in 1904 to warrant undercutting the supposed—and astounding—lack of deaths related to the fire.” But not even Afro-American reported it.

And the women of the Club couldn’t have been referencing it either. The body was found a full week after their meeting. Whose death they were referencing is beyond me. It could have only been hearsay. But, more likely, this only supports my longstanding hunch that we lost more in the fire than we think.

Getting to the bottom of Lanier’s burial

During our trip to the Green Mount Cemetery today, I was perplexed by one instance in particular: the circumstances of the poet / musician Sidney Lanier’s burial ground. For one thing, the stone was unlike any I had ever seen at a cemetery. For another, his grave was actually located on the plot of the Turnbull family (Mrs. Frances L. Turnbull being the founding president of the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore)—no other Laniers around him. This means, of course, we weren’t able to identify the name of his wife, who we know also to have been a member of the Club.

I decided to see what I could find out concerning all of the above.

Photo of Turnbull plot lifted from findagrave.com. Lanier’s grave is the reddish stone with the plaque; the three stones next to him are Turnbulls.

First of all: why the Turnbulls? In Aubrey Harrison Starke’s extensive biographical and critical study of Sidney Lanier (see the “sources” page for citation), he details the nature of his friendship with the Turnbulls. Apparently, Lawrence Turnbull, c-owner and editor of the Southern Magazine,  first visited Lanier at his home in Macon, Georgia, after having read his poem “Nirvana.” It’s not unreasonable to assume that the friendship to ensue from this visit is one of the primary ties that drew Lanier to Baltimore in the first place.

Upon his coming to Baltimore, the Turnbulls and the Laniers immediately developed a close tie. Mrs. Turnbull’s relationship with Lanier in particular is thought to be especially important by Starke. He writes of Mr. Turnbull’s “poetic, music-loving wife,” that her “romantic idealization of Lanier has stamped itself unmistakably on Lanier’s character as it appears through the aura of Lanier legend.” He continues, “[Mrs. Turnbull] must be remembered as a real benefactor of Lanier’s Baltimore days.”

I can’t help but wonder how much her “romanticization” of Lanier could be rooted to his reputation as a Confederate nostalgic. A favorite topic of Lanier’s poetry was that of an agricultural utopia. Most of it is Wordworthian, and innocent enough (read: “Corn“). But some of his worst poetry depicts the Antebellum South as having been populated by “happy” slaves (read: “Civil Rights“). But that’s a discussion for another day.

But regardless of how close the Laniers were to the Turnbulls, why would he want to be buried with them? Turns out, it was supposed to be temporary. Starke writes that Lanier had requested that an autopsy be performed to find out the cause of the disease that took his life. But here’s the weirdest thing: he died in Lynn, North Carolina. But they carried his body all the way to Baltimore.

For reasons not specified by Starke, the autopsy was never performed. He was interred at the Turnbull lot in 1881. The stone wasn’t erected until 1917, after his wife requested that his body remain there. But the stone did come from Georgia; pink and black marble.

Close-up of the stone, courtesy of Clara Love. The epitaph reads, “I AM LIT WITH THE SUN,” and was lifted from Lanier’s poem, “Sunrise.”

I was also able to determine (finally!) the maiden name of Lanier’s wife: Mary Day. Turns out Lanier met her in the middle of his time in the Confederate Army, in 1863. She was from Macon, too, and had studied music in New York. She lived for forty years after Lanier’s death, and edited and compiled his works. She died in 1931 in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

But her grave isn’t there. Apparently, she doesn’t have one. Starke’s text was published prior to Mary Lanier’s death, but her page on Find a Grave states that her ashes were spread with her husband’s. That is to say: she rests with the Turnbulls, too.

Women’s education in Baltimore: Goucher & Lutherville

A few weeks back, I wrote about my interest in the Lutherville Female Seminary, a now defunct college in Baltimore County that was devastated by a fire in 1911. This week, I’ll be focusing on the kinds of education offered at two early Baltimore area women’s colleges with connections to the Club—The Woman’s College of Baltimore City (now Goucher College) and the aforementioned Maryland College for Women in Lutherville—as well as their roles in Baltimore society.

In Anna Knipp and Thaddeus Thomas’ (quite extensive) The History of Goucher Collegethey quote an 1860 article of the Saturday Review which encapsulates, almost hilariously, how untenable the denial of mental equality between the genders can be: “The great argument against the existence of this equality of intellect in women is, that it does not exist. If that proof does not satisfy a female philosopher, we have no better to give.”

But we can see this kind of circular logic as exemplifying just how absurd this viewpoint had become. In 1860—and especially in Baltimore—it could no longer be defended.

First, though, it’s only right to note that the higher education of women in Baltimore had initially failed—twice. The first of these failed institutions was initially on St. Paul Street: The Baltimore Female College, funded by the Methodist Episcopal Church, opened its doors in 1848 and closed them in 1890. Then there was The Mount Washington Female College of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which opened in 1856 and closed in 1860. This latter school, though, is of particular importance to us at Loyola: it was sold to the Catholic Church and eventually became Mount Saint Agnes College, which merged in 1971 with Loyola College as it became co-educational. It’s part of our heritage.

But in her book In the Company of Educated Women, author Barbara Miller Solomon points to a tremendous boom in women’s education between the 1870s and 1910s. Although she makes no mention of the Lutherville Seminary (which seems, as I lamented in my last post, to have been practically erased from the annals of history), she does make mention of two Baltimore schools: The Woman’s College of Baltimore and the College of Notre Dame in Maryland.

Facade of Old Goucher College, or the Women’s College of Baltimore City, at 2227 Saint Paul St.

Like the Lutherville Seminary, what strikes me—and Solomon—about these two schools is their religious roots. As for the College of Notre Dame, the religious connection is obvious; in fact, it was the first Catholic women’s college in the United States. But as for Goucher college, its religious roots are more obscure—it received much of its funding from the Methodist Conference in 1884. But it runs deeper than that; as Solomon points out, these schools “adhered to the religious ideal of virtuous, True Womanhood,” and more overtly religious schools such as Notre Dame stressed “religious rather than academic ideals.”

But, apparently, Notre Dame and present-day Goucher offered some of the best education available to women at this time, and “extended woman’s sphere beyond the familial roles.” Solomon attributes this, in no small part, to the proximity and influence of Johns Hopkins University—then also present in downtown Baltimore, as opposed to its present-day Homewood Campus. In fact, she points to The Woman’s College of Baltimore City as being rivaled in terms of its “high intellectual standards” by Randolph-Macon College for Women in Virginia (sponsored by Presbyterians).

From the very beginning, The Woman’s College of Baltimore City did much to emphasize its academic rigor. It was no “seminary”; it was a college, and one of the finest available for women. Consider the statement of Bishop Andrews, quoted here in its entirety:

I would not give a fig for a weakling little thing of a seminary. We want such a school, so ample in its provisions, of such dignity in its buildings, so fully provided with the best apparatus, that it shall draw to itself the eyes of the community and that young people shall feel it an honor to be enrolled among its students.

But what of seminaries? Clearly, their reputations were less stellar; according to Bishop Andrews of Goucher, they were something to be scoffed at. But the Lutherville Female Seminary was not exactly a joke; information is scarce, but even in its infancy in 1853, its classes included “moral and mental philosophy, handwriting, ancient languages, natural philosophy, chemistry, mathematics, German, English literature, music, drawing, and painting.” Its reputation eventually became such that students attended the school from out of state, whereas its initial students seem to have come primarily from the city and the county. In 1895, it was appropriately rechristened the Maryland College for Women.

Facade of Maryland College for Women in Lutherville, prior to fire and restoration in 1911.

But, in spite of the grandeur of its facade, conditions within the Seminary were gloomy. The Heritage Committee of the Greater Timonium American Bicentennial Committee (!) dug up an invaluable insight into the daily lives of the students there. The reminiscence of an alumna is printed in their volume The Limestone Valley. Here’s an excerpt:

The school building was large and insufficiently heated. The girls went around the house enveloped in shawls and then were not warm. There was a large dormitory with about thirty beds and each bed was a little apartment with curtains for a dressing room. The provision for the table was also very primitive; bread, butter and molasses for breakfast and supper, with tea or coffee and ham, potatoes and hominy for dinner.

But what’s most remarkable about the Lutherville Seminary is that it existed at all. According to The Limestone Valley, it was from the very beginning meant to be the center of the community; in their words, “the village of Lutherville was planned around the Lutherville Seminary.” Lutherville is rather unique to Baltimore county (largely an amalgamation of unplanned, spontaneous demiurban sprawl) in that it was a planned community. Its street grid was very deliberately laid out, and has hardly changed in a hundred and fifty years.

In this respect, one can rightly call Lutherville a community that was, from its very inception, centered around women’s education. In the 1850s, this was progressive. And to Lutheran founders John G. Morris, Charles Morris, and Dr. Benjamin Kurtz, it was never to be a “weakling little thing of a seminary” at all—it was to be a “first rate Female College.” And that’s what it became.

Language and education

These past two weeks, I’ve had the privilege of going back further in time than I had been before, picking up transcriptions during the 1893-1894 season. I’d previously been transcribing from the 1911-1912 season. I was able to identify some shifts in the Club’s interests, but for the most part it seems that the Club’s interests were more or less preserved during that almost twenty-year period. But it does seem to me that the Club was somewhat more academic in its earlier years.

They even had a Committee on the “Exact Study of the English Language.” I didn’t see it in the 1910s, and so can only assume it was retired. It met twice during the 1894-1895 season, and discussed everything from etymology and pronunciation to linguistically-rooted philosophy. Club member Maria Middleton even gave a talk regarding such (we think) contemporary concerns as the inexactitude of English pronouns, and the “careless use of the word ‘like,’ especially in making it do duty as a conjunction.” I can’t help but think of the neologism “juvenoia” here—defined, roughly, as the eternal tendency of older generations to worry about or criticize the youth. But maybe nothing really changes.

So what I’m finding most interesting about going back in time is seeing how social views change—or how they don’t. To me, the article that most illustrated this is the poet Lizette Woodworth Reese’s talk on “Poetry as a Means of Education,” which I found reflective of the growing tendency of humanity to regard the child as a legitimate social unit, with its unique needs and anxieties that merit extra care. Children—and specifically childhood—we think, ought to be protected.

This is the sort of notion it’s all too easy to take for granted. But really the concept of childhood is a relatively modern phenomenon in Western thought—perhaps first put forth by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and nourished, perpetuated, and elevated by the English Romantic poets. (See: concise Wordsworth and copious Wordsworth.)

In her talk, Lizette Woodworth Reese speaks of the capacity of children to appreciate poetry (for her purposes, apparently, synonymous with all forms of literature) in a uniquely childlike way. The reading of children is not vested, as that of adults. It’s innocent—maybe even enlightened. She says, “We cannot parse John Milton, and read him too.” So maybe something is lost when we analyze art. To paraphrase the words of French filmmaker Robert Bresson: “I’d rather my films be felt than understood.”

I don’t know about all that, but I see her point: maybe we can learn something from children about literature. But her concern is really what children can learn from literature. She’s interested in literature as an educational tool; the recording secretary writes, “Jack is becoming a dull boy instructed in facts and figures, and is letting his mysteries and illusions go.” Literature, she thinks, can teach “mysteries and illusions.”

In support of her theory, she cites the “Rollo” series of children’s books. I did some poking around, and found that the Rollo stories were a series of fourteen children’s books, written by American writer Jacob Abbott, that aimed to educate children, while, apparently, entertaining them. The series begins with Rollo Learning to Talk, moves onto Rollo at Play, to Rollo’s Museum, to, eventually, Rollo’s Philosophy Part IV: The Sky. Here’s the text of the first part of Rollo’s Philosophy (“Water”). As you can see, much of it takes the form of a pseudo-Socratic dialogue.

This concept is still prevalent today—probably more so. Think of Children’s shows like Baby Einstein (for people who want their children to be well-versed in Mozart and Bach) or Dora the Explorer (for people who want their children to learn Spanish at the dazzling rate of one word per episode). Abbott’s Rollo series was a precursor.

Miss Reese, as far as I know, never had any children. But she was a teacher; and maybe she saw her poetry as another outlet through which she could educate—if only subconsciously.