After giving two speeches yesterday, I hunkered down today to work on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World. In the process I read a comment about Susan B. Anthony by Charles Dudley Warner. Charles Dudley Warner, I said to myself, I “know” him. That’s because in Thanksgiving: The True Story I quoted his account in Being a Boy (1877) of his pie-making chores: “For days and days before Thanksgiving the boy was kept at work evenings, pounding and paring and cutting up and mixing (not being allowed to taste much), until the world seemed to him to be made of fragrant spices, green fruit, raisins, and pastry,–a world that he was only allowed to enjoy through his nose. How it filled the house with the most delicious smells.”
In 1869, Warner was a newspaper editor in Hartford, Connecticut, and attended a Women’s Rights Convention that had been organized by Isabella Beecher Hooker. In a post-convention letter to a friend, Hooker quoted Warner: “Said one of our editors, Charles Dudley Warner, a man of finest taste and culture, when he had been praising the dignity and power of the whole platform: ‘Susan Anthony is my favorite. . . .You could see in her every motion and in her very silence that the cause was all she care for, self was utterly forgotten.”
Yesterday, a question during my talk to the James Michener Society prompted a conversation about Michener’s admiration for Dickey Chapelle; a cross reference because Chapelle is one of the women I featured in Where the Action is: Women War Correspondents in World War II. That night I spoke to a group of women on a BookWomen Reading Retreat. One of the books they read was a novel about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire; a cross reference to A Woman Unafraid, my biography of Frances Perkins who witnessed that fire and later said “I felt I must sear it not only on my mind but on my heart as a never-to-be-forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such a tragedy.” Perkins, of course, did just that as the U.S. secretary of labor where she was the architect of some of the most far-reaching social/reform legislation ever enacted in America, including the establishment of Social Security. An interesting exercise–especially with all the current buzz about high achieving women–is to compare and contrast Perkins’s experiences/policies/achievements during her tenure (1933-1945) and the experiences/policies/achievements of the current secretary of labor, Elaine Cha0 (2001- ). Interestingly, perhaps, ironically both women are graduates of Mount Holyoke College.