Well Done, Sister Suffragette! Celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment at Baylor

This week marked the 95th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the addition to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits denying the right to vote to any American citizen on the basis of sex. The amendment marked the culmination of years of activism and struggle on behalf of women across the country, and in the years leading up to its passage on August 18, 1920, two major suffragists visited the campus of Baylor University to issue their clarion call for change.

Anna Howard Shaw

Anna Howard Shaw in 1914 and the Carroll Library where she spoke in 1919

Anna Howard Shaw in 1914 and the Carroll Library where she spoke in 1919

Anna Howard Shaw was a prominent leader in the women’s suffrage movement, having been active in both the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association. She was also a physician and one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States. She had worked with women’s activists like Susan B. Anthony  and Carrie Chapman Catt. Her prominent position in the suffrage movement made her a sought-after speaker, and her trip to Waco occurred on April 11, 1919. According to the April 17th edition of the Lariat, Dr. Shaw impressed the urgency of the situation on her listeners.

After being introduced by Dr. W.P. Witsell, Dr. Shaw outlined briefly the development of the equal suffrage movement in the United States. She then entered into her argument, refuting most efficiently the every opposition to woman’s right to vote.

The fact that we live in a democratic age and under a government, constitutionally defined as a democracy in which all people must have a share, was among the first points brought out as proof of the right of woman’s suffrage.

‘The only way to refute that argument,’ said Dr. Shaw, ‘is to prove that women are not people.’ She also said that men are allowed a voice in the government not because they are men, but  because they are thinking human beings, and she maintains that women, also, deserve the same advantage.

Dr. Shaw’s appearance at Baylor would turn out to be one of her last public speaking engagements. On July 2, 1919, she would die at her home in Pennsylvania after a bought of pneumonia. She was 72 years old.

Annie Webb Blanton

Annie Webb Blanton ca. 1929 and a peek through the trees at Carroll Chapel where she spoke in 1920

Annie Webb Blanton ca. 1929 and a peek through the trees at Carroll Chapel where she spoke in 1920

Annie Blanton was one of Texas’ leading suffragettes. In 1918, Texas held the first statewide elections in which women could cast a ballot. Blanton was elected Superintendent of Texas Public Instruction, making her the first woman in Texas elected to statewide office.

Blanton’s message to Baylor’s student body was two-fold: to discuss the passage of a statewide amendment to address Texas’ many educational needs and to encourage women to turn out at the polls to help it pass. According to the article in the August 12, 1920 Lariat, the state of the educational system in Texas at the time was very poor. Texas had lost almost all of its male teachers – primarily to service in World War I, one suspects – and the salaries for teachers statewide were among the lowest in the country. As the head of Texas’ public school system, Blanton knew the problems firsthand, and her plea to the Baylor community carries real emotion.

Blanton ended her talk by reminding the women in attendance that, should the nineteenth amendment be ratified prior to the vote on the education amendment, women would be eligible to vote regardless of whether or not they had paid their poll tax.

Baylor would celebrate its Diamond Jubilee (75th anniversary) in 1920, and the fact that its reputation had grown large enough to draw such high-caliber speakers in that short a time speaks volumes about the university’s place on the national stage.


There are lots more suffrage-related materials in our Baylor Archives. Read up on the movement today!

Jax and EBB Sitting ‘Neath A Tree / R-H-Y-M-I-N-G: On Sesame Street’s “Sons of Poetry” and the Brownings

What do fictional Northern California biker gangs, a beloved television institution and two Victorian poets have in common? According to this video from Sesame Street’s amazing line of pop culture parody skits, they share a love of rhyming couplets, of course.

In typical Sesame Street fashion, they’ve taken something decidedly adult – the hit FX show Sons of Anarchy, which features violence, drugs, adult themes and language aplenty – and reformatted it to teach pre-K kids about the importance of rhyming. Your tax dollars at work, America!

The setup is that Robert and Elizabeth, who are sitting under a tree (natch), are enjoying a beautiful day in nature, but Robert is having a hard time finding a rhyme to finish this little ditty:

Roses are red / violets are blue
Sugar is sweet / and I love …

Fortunately for our puzzled poet, the Sons of Poetry ride into town and do what they do best: glower, collaborate and come up with solutions. (If you ever watched the source program, which several of us did through all seven seasons, you’ll know that the SAMCRO gang spends lots of time doing the first two, and the third one usually involves someone getting killed in a creative but extra-legal way.)

Because there’s magic in threes – and because Sesame Street has a whole hour of airtime to fill every weekday morning – we get the Sons working through three options to finish Robert’s rhyme: shoe, moo and stew. Immediately, I wondered if any or all of them showed up in the full text of our Browning Letters Project, and it turns out two of them do! (It would have been quite a surprise if “moo” had turned up, of course.) And now, presented without context (because it’s more absurdist fun that way), are some times Robert or Elizabeth used the words “shoe” or “stew” in their personal correspondence!

I was thinking last night that when you come & drop the silver penny into my shoe, our dear Mr Kenyon might just as well be here to take his chance for a penny too! What do you think?

Page 3, letter from Elizabeth to Mary Russell Mitford, September 25, 1841

I am grateful to all my guardian “little spirits with shoe buckles,” who ‘preserve my life’ from grandeeism, & “company” in the general forms of it.

Page 8, letter from Elizabeth to Mitford, July  22, 1845

I thought, thought, thought of you,-& the books I took up one by one .. (I tried a romance too .. “Les femmes” by a writer called Desnoyers .. quite new, & weak & foolish enough as a story, but full of clever things about shoe tyes .. philosophy in small:) the books were all so many lorgnons through which I looked at you again & again.

Page 1, letter from Elizabeth to Robert, August 9, 1845

(See more examples of the poets’ use of word “shoe” here!)

I did not stand in reach just now of the temptations of mesmerism. I might have said that I shrank nearly as much from these ‘temptations’, as from Lord Bacon’s stew of infant children for the purposes of witchcraft– Well—then I am getting deeper & deeper into correspondence with Robert Browning, poet & mystic,—& we are growing to be the truest of friends–

Page 10, letter from Elizabeth to Julia Martin, ca. January 28, 1845

A German professor selects a woman who can merely stew prunes-not because stewing prunes & reading Proclus make a delightful harmony, but because he wants his prunes stewed for him & chooses to read Proclus by himself.

Page 1, letter from Elizabeth to Robert, August 12, 1846


Postscript

Because Robert can’t get his act together, he ends up losing the girl to the leader of the biker gang, which has probably happened a lot more times throughout history than we’d care to think about, even if it is in opposition to the real life ending of the courtship between Robert and Elizabeth. But then again, we weren’t able to find any references to Robert having to fend of a band of gun-running narco-bikers to keep fair Elizabeth’s hand, so maybe he merely lived in simpler times than our Muppet friends.

Lastly, in case you’re not familiar with Sons of Anarchy, we thought you’d like to see how well the geniuses at Sesame Street were able to replicate a crew of hardened criminals using only felt, yarn and elbow grease. Enjoy!

tig clay Bobby JAX



You can read more letters by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in our Browning Letters Project. The entire 7-season run of
Sons of Anarchy is available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and you can watch Sesame Street at pbskids.org. And if you want to see portraits and other artifacts related to the Brownings, be sure to visit the Armstrong Browning Library on the campus of Baylor University!

 

The Spencer Collection Marches On With 400+ New Titles!

Unlike some of our never-ending projects (ahem, Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, ahem), there are some projects that we’re making slow, steady progress on every day. And that’s why we’re announcing a new batch of items in the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music – 461 all told!

The items span a century’s worth of song craft from 1845 to the 1950s. There are marches, waltzes, and tons of comedies.

And if you’re in the market for a love song, there are 143 of them ready to inspire even the most hapless of Romeos.

We’re including a gallery of some of our favorite covers here, but be sure to check out the whole collection to find your own favorites. And when you’re on the collection landing page, look for the RSS button to sign up and receive updates whenever we add new items to the collection.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.42.04 PMThe Bowery by Hoyt & Gaunt, 1933

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.43.22 PM Salut a la France (France Ever Glorious) by Donizetti, 1855

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.45.16 PMThe Man in the Moon is Looking, by Lonsdale & Eaton, 1878

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.46.17 PMThe Della Fox Little Trooper March by Johnson, 1896

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.47.26 PMEv’ry Life Is But A Clock by Skiff & Vynne, 1893

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.48.31 PM Mary Ann Marie from Hoyt’s A Stranger in New York by Hoyt & Stahl, 1898

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.50.50 PMThe Little Church Around The Corner by Gray & Carroll, 1913


The Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music has nearly 7,000 digital items available from a collection of nearly 30,000 pieces housed in the Crouch Fine Arts Library. See the entire collection here.