Southern Women in the Progressive Era
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From the 1890s to the end of World War I, the reformers who called themselves progressives helped transform the United States, and many women filled their ranks. Through solo efforts and voluntary associations, both national and regional, women agitated for change, addressing issues such as poverty, suffrage, urban overcrowding, and public health. Southern Women in the Progressive Era presents the stories of a diverse group of southern women—African Americans, working-class women, teachers, nurses, and activists—in their own words, casting a fresh light on one of the most dynamic eras in U.S. history.

These women hailed from Virginia to Florida and from South Carolina to Texas and wrote in a variety of genres, from correspondence and speeches to bureaucratic reports, autobiographies, and editorials. Included in this volume, to name but a few of the selections, are the previously unpublished memoir of the civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded a school for black children; the correspondence of a textile worker, Anthelia Holt, whose musings to a friend reveal the day-to-day joys and hardships of mill-town life; the letters of the educator and agricultural field agent Henrietta Aiken Kelly, who attempted to introduce silk culture to southern farmers; and the speeches of the popular novelist Mary Johnson, who fought for women's voting rights. Always illuminating and often inspiring, each story highlights the part that regional identity—particularly race—played in health and education reform, suffrage campaigns, and women's club work.

Together these women's voices reveal the promise of the Progressive Era, as well as its limitations, as women sought to redefine their role as workers and citizens of the United States.



Publié par
Date de parution 07 février 2019
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781611179262
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

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Southern Women in the Progressive Era
Women s Diaries and Letters of the South Carol Bleser, Founding Editor Melissa Walker and Giselle Roberts, Series Editors
Southern Women in the Progressive Era
Giselle Roberts and Melissa Walker
Marjorie J. Spruill

2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
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The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data can be found at .
ISBN 978-1-61117-925-5 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-926-2 (ebook)
Front cover photo : Mary McLeod Bethune, ca. 1904; inset , Bethune with a line of school girls, 1905; courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Founding Editor s Preface
Marjorie J. Spruill
Editorial Note
Giselle Roberts and Melissa Walker
Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge (1866-1948): Memoirs of a Southern Feminist
Anya Jabour
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955): Autobiography of an Educator and Civil Rights Activist
Ann Short Chirhart
Mary Lee Cagle (1864-1955): Autobiography of an Evangelist Preacher
Priscilla Pope-Levison
Anthelia Holt (1861-1950): The Correspondence of a Textile Mill Worker
Beth English
Henrietta Aiken Kelly (1844-1916): The Correspondence of a Special Field Agent
Debra Bloom
Florida s First State Health Nurses (1914-1916): Reporting on a Service for Health
Christine Ardalan
Mary and Louisa Poppenheim (1866-1936; 1868-1957): The Keystone , Women s Clubs, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy
Joan Marie Johnson
Mary Johnston (1870-1936): The Suffrage Speeches of a Virginia Novelist
Lisa A. Francavilla
Corra White Harris (1869-1935): Essays on Women, Politics, and Southern Identity
Catherine Oglesby
Founding Editor s Preface
Southern Women in the Progressive Era is the twenty-ninth volume in this series, now titled Women s Diaries and Letters of the South. This series includes a number of never-before-published diaries, collections of unpublished correspondence, and a few reprints of published diaries-a wide selection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century southern women s informal writings. The series may be the largest series of published works by and on southern women.
The goal of the series is to enable women to speak for themselves, providing readers with a rarely opened window into southern society before, during, and after the American Civil War and into the twentieth century. The significance of these letters and journals lies not only in the personal revelations and the writing talent of these women authors but also in the range and versatility of the documents contents. Taken together, these publications will tell us much about the heyday and the fall of the Cotton Kingdom, the mature years of the peculiar institution, the war years, the adjustment of the South to a new social order following the defeat of the Confederacy, and the New South of the twentieth century. Through these writings the reader will also be presented with firsthand accounts of everyday life and social events, courtships, and marriages, family life and travels, religion and education, and the life-and-death matters that made up the ordinary and extraordinary world of the American South.
Carol Bleser
Southern Women in the Progressive Era consists of primary documents that are as intriguing as they are informative. They were written by women living in a time and place in which tradition had a firm grip on people s thoughts and actions, even as numerous political, social, technological, and economic factors-and many people -promoted change.
This volume expands our knowledge of the American South during the turbulent years between 1890 and the end of World War I and how changing circumstances dramatically altered southern women s lives. The documents also help us understand the peculiar features of Progressivism in the region and southern women s varied responses to this political reform movement in which women, despite their disfranchised state, were vitally important.
As the Progressive movement took shape across the nation in the 1890s, the South was experiencing a race crisis. African Americans, who with the aid of northern philanthropists were making progress in education and employment, encountered considerable resistance, including escalating levels of violence and loss of political power. Efforts of white and black populists to engage in fusion politics across party lines achieved limited success, but it was enough to alarm the white elite. The result was a political crisis in which middle- and upper-class whites sought to reestablish hegemony over African Americans and poor whites by restricting access to the ballot and, having done so, enforcing institutionalized segregation. A complementary Lost Cause movement launched an all-out effort to preserve the values for which white conservatives claimed the Civil War had been fought, including white supremacy and state s rights. Meanwhile, New South boosters promoted industrialization and urbanization, and thousands of poor whites moved from farm to factory. A robust movement to curb the production as well as the use of alcohol gained strength with strong support from religious conservatives black and white.
All of these political crosscurrents shaped southerners diverse, conflicting, and sometimes paradoxical responses to Progressivism. A movement in which one of the central tenets was increased reliance on the power of the government to address social problems was complicated by southern whites resentment of outside intervention. Most white southerners insisted that only the South should resolve its problems, especially its Negro problem. White suffragists urged political leaders to enfranchise them by state action, to use woman suffrage-restricted by property or literacy tests to white women-to help restore white supremacy. Declining that suggestion in favor of standing by the polls with shotguns rather than dragging lovely womanhood into the mire, southern white politicians then devised means of limiting the franchise legally -which they hailed as a progressive reform that helped clean up politics. Textile mill owners who relied on cheap child labor, however, were as emphatic as Lost Cause enthusiasts in insisting that southern women (many of whom sought the vote to oppose child labor) be protected from political participation.
White conservative politicians then declared all-out resistance to a federal amendment to enfranchise women, invoking state s rights and insisting that approving the Nineteenth Amendment was tantamount to acknowledging the validity of the Fifteenth Amendment. As a result, the South was decidedly different from the rest of the nation in its response to this landmark legislation of the Progressive Era. Of the ten states that refused to ratify the woman suffrage amendment, nine were south of the Mason-Dixon line. Only Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas broke ranks with the Solid South. On the other hand, the Woman s Christian Temperance Union, which endorsed woman suffrage, thrived in the South, and in no region were politicians more supportive of the Eighteenth Amendment, which imposed Prohibition on the nation.
The documents in this volume illustrate in the most convincing way possible the tremendous differences in the experiences of women living in the South during this period and the ways in which class, race, and religion shaped their ideas and actions. In the South as well as the North, progressive reformers were often condescending to those they sought to help. White suffragists, often led by women from elite southern families, demanded voting rights for themselves while supporting suffrage restrictions affecting poor and black people, believing that they and the men of their class and race should govern maternalistically and paternalistically in the spirit of noblesse oblige .
Southern women of the growing middle class, like middle-class women throughout the nation, flocked to the club movement and increasingly turned their attention from self-improvement to civic improvement. Conscious of widespread opposition to women s involvement beyond the home, many argued that supporting reforms to improve their communities and aid the poor was consistent with the traditional role of the southern lady as well as the spirit of Christian charity. Many supported extension of public health services to African American communities as well as to whites, though some did so by arguing that unhealthy blacks carried germs that would contaminate white homes. African American women in the South, forming women s clubs of their own, often sought white women s support for reforms that would aid their communities and-as long as they did not demand the vote-were often successful.
The documents in this volume richly demonstrate the complexities of southern society and the wide range of political opinions in this era. The women whose stories appear in this book came from many parts of the political spectrum. We hear from a congressman s daughter and the daughter of slaves, from a best-selling novelist to a barely literate mill worker, from a wealthy clubwoman who graduated from Vassar and never held a paid job to an itinerant minister who had little education and lived off contributions to her ministry. We are introduced to women accustomed to international travel and women who felt fortunate when able to journey to the nearest town.
We gain diverse perspectives on southern society and race relations, from an African American woman who founded a school for black girls with the aid of northern philanthropists to a white woman, the founder of an elite women s academy, who resented philanthropists efforts that, in her view, gave blacks undue advantage in relation to poor whites. This same white woman blasted white participants in a particularly savage lynching for disgracing the South, while another became famous for defending them with her pen. We hear from a Lost Cause devotee who believed southern women should improve society only through their influence on children and men, and from a suffragist who lionized Confederate heroes but insisted women s influence should have no bounds. We learn about a Holiness preacher s battle against sexism and public health nurses battles against hookworm, polio, and tuberculosis.
Though some of these women generalized about southern womanhood or the typical southern woman, these documents make it clear there was no one type. One of the few things these women had in common was a consciousness that they were living in exciting times, when things were changing and doors were opening for women. Many devoted themselves to pushing those doors open.
As we read the documents assembled in this volume, we get to see the Progressive Era South through their eyes. Published in the University of South Carolina Press s Women s Diaries and Letters of the South series, Southern Women in the Progressive Era makes a novel contribution by including a variety of genres representative of this era of activism. There are speeches, reports, editorials, published essays, letters, and a few autobiographical pieces written by women reflecting back on earlier experiences.
The editors, historians Giselle Roberts and Melissa Walker, have done a superb job of selecting documents and explaining their importance. Nine different scholars provide valuable context for the nine sets of documents. Altogether this book challenges readers to rethink their impressions of women s ideas and actions in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century South and gives us a new understanding of southern women as agents of change.
Editorial Note
This book contains women s stories from Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, and Texas. Each chapter features a short biographical sketch of the subject followed by an extended documentary selection. The material, with the exception of Mary Lee Cagle s memoir and those featuring reports or articles, has never been published.
The genres featured in the documentary selections are representative of the period. As we know, the broader historical narrative shapes the stories women tell about themselves and the ways they choose to tell them. In the Progressive Era women banded together in clubs and associations to discuss issues, plan campaigns, and document their work and activities. Correspondence, reports, speeches, and editorials-not diaries-were the most popular modes of communication. In later years women reflected on their achievements in memoirs. All these genres are featured in this volume. This is the first time that a broader range of documentary material has been published in the Women s Diaries and Letters of the South series.
The documentary record is also shaped by race, class, and gender; the writer s ability and inclination to put pen to paper; and that person s (or their descendant s) decision to preserve the account. Most notably, race and class limit the availability of written first-person accounts for this period. This volume features the rare voices of two African American professionals: educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune and state health nurse Lottie Culp Gantt. It also contains the extraordinary documentary story of Virginia mill worker Anthelia Holt. Her correspondence is remarkable for its mere existence, and its contribution to the field is unprecedented.
Like many Progressive Era studies, this volume does not address World War I. Documentary stories from the Great War are markedly different from the themes reflected in this book, and we believe they are better suited to a standalone edition.
In most cases our contributors have adopted a uniform methodological approach when editing their documentary selections. Unless otherwise noted, documents are presented in their entirety, with any omissions marked by a three-dot ellipsis in square brackets: [ ]. Inconsistencies such as variations in spelling and punctuation, and irregularities in capitalization or style, have been preserved. A writer s use of + and +c has been replaced with and c, and raised letters have been lowered so that 7 appears as 7th. Underlining and strikethrough in the original text are represented as such. In-text translations for foreign, obsolete, or shorthand words and short phrases appear in square brackets: [ ]. Spelling mistakes have not been corrected. More substantial errors are annotated. Where necessary, missing words have been inserted in square brackets.
The general layout of each document has been preserved and paragraphs have been uniformly indented. In correspondence, placement of dates, addresses, salutations, closings, and postscripts has been standardized, but variations within these components have been preserved. Provenance information appears at the beginning of each documentary selection. In articles, placement of titles and dates has also been standardized. Narrative headnotes have been added to correspondence, reports, and editorials. Typewritten or printed documents have been distinguished from handwritten ones.
Each contributor has attempted to identify all the people, places, events, facts, quotations, and publications mentioned in her selection. Where a reference is not included, the contributor has been unable to make an identification. If an exact date of birth could not be established, it has estimated one based on the census material, indicated by [b. ca.].
Of course, each documentary selection is unique, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Anthelia Holt rarely used punctuation, particularly full stops. To preserve the integrity of her correspondence but make it accessible to readers, three spaces have been added to signify the end of a sentence. Mary Johnston typed her speeches with little regard for spelling errors; they were, after all, to be spoken, not read. Given the oral nature of these documents, some spelling and punctuation mistakes have been corrected, but variations in spelling and capitalization have been preserved. Sophonisba Breckinridge s fragmented memoirs required a more customized methodology. The reminiscences were unordered, and Breckinridge had redrafted several times with some overlap between stories. In reordering this material, Anya Jabour has attempted both to honor Breckinridge s intentions in terms of chronological organization and to reflect her tendency to shift back and forth in time. Fragments have been conflated to make them accessible to a wider audience. Insertions to the text have been added in square brackets, but the removal of repetitious words or sentences or the insertion of punctuation to clarify meaning have not. Headnotes have been added to bridge gaps in the narrative.
T he documentary selections in this book feature the voices of southern women who lived in the Progressive Era. That time period stretched from the 1890s to the end of World War I, when the United States was transformed by politically active pressure groups who called for various kinds of reform. The reformers called themselves progressives, and the name has stuck. Progressives sought to address many of the social, economic, political, and cultural problems of an industrialized and urbanized world. They worked alone and through a host of voluntary associations, both regional and national, to agitate for change. Some progressives addressed poverty, urban overcrowding, and public health problems. They lived in settlement houses, campaigned for child labor laws, or joined the ranks of the National Consumers League, who boycotted the products of manufacturers who exploited workers. Others focused on popular control of the American political process. They fought for woman suffrage, direct primary elections, and effective municipal government.
Progressives were typically from the middle class. They approached problems by gathering relevant facts, analyzing them using the tools of the emerging social sciences, and proposing solutions based on principles of rationality and scientific management. They looked to the government to intervene in society and the economy to implement these solutions. In many cases their work was regionally specific, reflecting local needs and political realities. White southern progressives, for example, sought to commemorate the Lost Cause and to order race relations through segregation. White southern suffragists campaigned for the right to vote, but they did so with arguments about maintaining white supremacy, while black women saw the franchise as a tool for uplifting the entire race.
Middle-class women were at the heart of progressive reform. More women than ever before were attending college and sought to channel their energies and education into doing good. Many of these women chose to remain single and pursue careers in the paid or volunteer work force. While women s opportunities continued to be limited by assumptions about gender and race, they were nonetheless expanding, particularly in the new fields of social work and home economics, because of the professionalization of education, nursing, and public health. The birth rate was also declining among married white and black women, as they took steps to limit the size of their families. Having fewer children gave them more time to participate in clubs and church groups. Clubs that had offered nineteenth-century women a means of self-study and intellectual improvement now turned their attention to benevolence and reform work. Many of these white women s clubs were organized under the umbrella of the General Federation of Women s Clubs (GFWC), a network of state and national clubs that pursued a reform agenda. By 1910 the GFWC represented more than a million women. Black women were also active in the club movement, establishing separate organizations. The National Association of Colored Women formed in 1896 and, with Mary Church Terrell as its president, adopted the slogan Lifting As We Climb to reflect its goal of improving life for the whole race. Other progressives became involved in church-based reform work, including home and foreign missionary societies. The Woman s Christian Temperance Union boasted 150,000 members by the 1890s and was particularly strong in the South.
The Progressive movement in the South also unfolded in the context of a strong tradition of New South boosterism that tried to entice northern capitalists to invest in southern economic development by promoting industrialization, urbanization, and modernized agriculture. Progressive reformers shared many of the assumptions and values about modernity that drove New South boosters. Yet they also supported many ideas that might not look so progressive to twenty-first-century citizens. Many embraced scientific racism, with its claims that science proved the inferiority of nonwhite racial groups. Others adopted progressive models that were rooted in eugenic fears that the so-called inferior races would rapidly outnumber the superior white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants who had long dominated American political, social, and economic life. This strand of the Progressive movement was especially appealing to white reformers in the South who believed in white supremacy and worked to maintain the racial status quo, including segregation and disfranchisement.
To be sure, not all Americans who lived during the first two decades of the twentieth century would have identified themselves as progressives. The middle class made up a minority of Americans; most of the population were factory workers, farmers, domestics, and laborers. Although some working-class Americans joined the union movement, most were not involved in organized reform work. Instead, the struggle to provide for themselves and their families came first. As historian William A. Link has pointed out, progressive reforms exposed profound conflicts in southern society. Many southerners, particularly those outside the educated urban middle class, clung to traditional values and rejected the advance of an increasingly interventionist state. But working-class Americans and working-class southerners also watched as modernity pushed old ways aside. The roles of women were redefined during this period, and working-class women found new opportunities in an expanding range of clerical, manufacturing, and retail sales jobs. Many of the women featured in this book were progressive reformers, engaged in one or more organized efforts to bring about social, economic, or cultural change. A few would not have considered themselves progressives at all, but their lives nonetheless reflect the changes that modernity brought to southern women s lives. 1
The historiography on black and white southern women of the Progressive Era includes Marjorie J. Spruill s foundational work on the suffrage movement, Joan Marie Johnson s study on southern clubs, and Anastatia Sims s research on women s organizations in North Carolina. What has been missing is a documentary edition featuring the stories of these women, told in their own words. This book provides readers with a selection of extended documentary selections by African American women, working-class women, teachers, nurses, and activists. They hail from Virginia to Florida, from South Carolina to Texas. They wrote in a variety of genres, ranging from correspondence and speeches to bureaucratic reports, autobiographies, and editorials. 2
The book is organized into three parts. Part one , Activists in the Making, features the stories of Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Mary Lee Cagle. Breckinridge was a white woman, born and raised in Kentucky, who earned advanced degrees in economics, political science, and law. She established the University of Chicago s School of Social Service Administration, the first school of social work affiliated with a major research university. Bethune, the daughter of former slaves, founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, the city s first African American school for girls. She became a civil rights pioneer, serving as director of Negro affairs for the National Youth Administration and advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on minority affairs. Mary Lee Cagle was an evangelist and one of the first ordained women in the South. She articulated a different notion of womanhood, one grounded in service to God. This documentary selection, featuring chapters by Anya Jabour, Ann Short Chirhart, and Priscilla Pope-Levison, charts the coming-of-age stories of Breckinridge, Bethune, and Cagle, highlighting the influences and early challenges that shaped their work and their outlook as reformers.
Part two , A New Southern Workforce, shows how a changing economy transformed the lives of workers, including Anthelia Holt, Henrietta Aiken Kelly, and Florida s public health nurses. Anthelia Holt, a mill worker at Virginia s Matoaca Manufacturing Company, kept up a regular correspondence with Lottie Clark, the daughter of a tobacco farmer. Holt s letters offer a rare glimpse into the life and work of a member of the New South s industrial workforce. Henrietta Aiken Kelly, founder of the Charleston Female Seminary, fought to establish a raw silk industry in South Carolina as an employment alternative for white women like Holt. She became the first special field agent for sericulture in the United States. Florida s first public health nurses were employed by the State Board of Health to bring basic disease prevention and control to the state. Among them was Lottie Culp Gantt, Florida s first African American state health nurse, who worked in the poor, segregated neighborhoods of Tampa. These documentary selections, featuring chapters by Beth English, Debra Bloom, and Christine Ardalan, explore the social and economic effects of industrialization on the New South.
Part three , Regional Commentators, focuses on women s views on politics and reform through the stories of Louisa and Mary Poppenheim, Mary Johnston, and Corra White Harris. Louisa and Mary Poppenheim owned and edited the Keystone , the official organ for women s clubs across the South and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The magazine encouraged its readers to take up social reform work and provided advice on how to become the ideal southern clubwoman. Mary Johnston was the author of a string of best-selling novels, including a Civil War epic, The Long Roll . The South figured prominently in Johnston s work, but hers was not a voice of the Lost Cause. Instead, Mary Johnston used her love of southern history and her celebrity as an author to champion the cause of woman suffrage. Fellow writer Corra White Harris stood on the opposing side to Johnston. Self-educated and regionally identified, Harris maintained a national reputation as a social critic, literary reviewer, spiritual pundit, and southern apologist until the late 1920s. These documentary selections, featuring chapters by Joan Marie Johnson, Lisa A. Francavilla, and Catherine Oglesby, reveal how women used regionalism to champion, or condemn, the case for suffrage and social reform.
These documentary stories do not sit in isolation but are connected by people, places, ideas, and events. Mary Johnston addressed the plight of mill workers like Anthelia Holt in her speeches on suffrage, as did Henrietta Aiken Kelly in her pleas for the establishment of a raw silk industry. Several Keystone contributors were Charleston Female Seminary alumnae and members of a women s club named in Kelly s honor. Florida s nurses collaborated with clubwomen in their tuberculosis outreach and worked with Mary McLeod Bethune s Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls to bring health care to the African American community. Mary McLeod Bethune became active in the club movement, cofounding the Florida Federation of Colored Women s Clubs and the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women s Clubs. Women discussed the same events-Henrietta Aiken Kelly and Corra White Harris both published opinion pieces on the Sam Hose lynching in Georgia, for example-and debated the issues of the day, including equal pay for equal work, woman suffrage, and how to become a social reformer without sacrificing home, family, and femininity.
These documentary stories deepen our understanding of women in the Progressive Era and the opinions, philosophies, initiatives, and achievements that defined the period. They chart women s contribution to a variety of reform communities, their work as leaders of associations and federations, and their role in government organizations charged with enacting social change. Each story highlights the part that regional identity, and particularly race, played in suffrage campaigns, club work, and health and education reform. In their own words these women reveal the promise of the Progressive Era, and its limitations, as they sought to redefine their role as workers and citizens of the American South.
Activists in the Making
Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge (1866-1948)
Memoirs of a Southern Feminist
S ophonisba Preston Breckinridge was an influential educator and activist in twentieth-century America. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, she spent her adult life in Chicago, where she founded the University of Chicago s School of Social Service Administration, the nation s first graduate program in social work affiliated with a major research university. In collaboration with the community of women reformers associated with Hull House, Breckinridge was active in virtually every reform of the Progressive Era, including legal aid for immigrants, civil rights for blacks, labor legislation for workers, equal rights for women, and juvenile courts for youth. She also collaborated with European and Latin American feminists and social workers to promote both social welfare and international cooperation. Breckinridge reached the height of her influence in the 1930s, when she served on an advisory board for the Social Security Act, the basis for the modern welfare state, and was the first woman delegate to represent the United States at an international conference, where she helped advance the Good Neighbor Policy and a new framework for U.S.-Latin American relations. Yet when she sat down in 1945 to record her life, she answered the question Who am I? by situating herself in the context of her family of origin. As Breckinridge recognized, her family legacy and early relationships had a profound impact on her career as an educator and a reformer. 1
When she came into the world on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1866, Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge was the newest member of one of Kentucky s greatest dynasties. Through her father, William Campbell Preston (W. C. P.) Breckinridge, she was descended from Prestons and Breckinridges who some family members believed could be traced back to Lord Braedalbane in Scotland. By way of her mother, Issa Desha Breckinridge, she traced her ancestry to the Currys and the Deshas, who claimed to be descended from the French Huguenots. Whether these claims were true or inflated, both sets of relatives had reason to boast of their heritage. One of Sophonisba s great-grandfathers, Joseph Desha, had been governor of Kentucky, while the other, John Breckinridge, had drafted the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. W. C. P. and Issa Desha Breckinridge reinforced the importance of family ties by naming their children after ancestors on both sides of the family, dating back four generations. They christened their second child Sophonisba after her paternal grandmother, but they called her Nisba, a childhood nickname that she continued to use with intimates for the rest of her life. 2
Like many other future feminists of her generation, Nisba enjoyed a close relationship with her father, lawyer and politician W. C. P. Breckinridge. She learned her letters from his law books before she could even walk, thus acquiring a lifelong interest in both learning and the law. By contrast, Nisba had an attenuated relationship with her mother, Issa, whose health was poor, largely as a result of repeated pregnancies. Although a gap of four years separated the eldest, Ella, from the second-born, Nisba, the next three children, Desha, Campbell, and Little Issa, were born at intervals of only fifteen months, and there were still more babies and babies to come : Robert and Curry. The illness and death of two children, Campbell in 1870 and Little Issa in 1872, also consumed Issa s attention and sapped her strength. Although she fostered a close relationship with her eldest child, Ella, Issa had little time or energy to devote to Nisba and her siblings. Instead, she relied on African American servants to perform basic domestic tasks, from preparing meals to bathing and dressing the children. 3
If Nisba could not compete for her mother s affection, her siblings could not compete with her for her father s approval. W.C.P. urged all his children to work hard in school by offering them rewards for perfect reports, but it was Nisba who quickly outpaced her siblings. Ella was more interested in boys than books; Desha was an indifferent student; Robert was a wayward adolescent; and Curry had a learning disability. As Issa once remarked, I fear you [are] Papa s sole [and] only hope for an educated daughter. W.C.P. encouraged Nisba to seek alternatives to what he called the aimless life of the southern belle and to carry on the family tradition of higher learning and public service. The [Breckinridge] name has been connected with good intellectual work for some generations-for over a century, he counseled. You must preserve this connection for the next generation. 4
Eager for Nisba to continue her education, W.C.P. convinced the trustees of Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College to admit women to its new teacher-training program. In 1880 fourteen-year-old Nisba entered A M along with forty-one other female students, who were outnumbered by male students nearly five to one. Nisba undertook coursework in mathematics, German, geography, and English literature. Although she excelled in her classes, she did not obtain a degree from the future University of Kentucky. In 1884 she enrolled at Wellesley College, one of the Northeast s Seven Sister schools, which enforced proper feminine conduct as well as rigorous academic standards. She graduated with distinction in science in 1888. Breckinridge then relocated to Washington, D.C., where her father was serving a term in Congress, and took a position as a high school teacher. The salary was certainly a real contribution to the family income and I greatly enjoyed my first earnings which I gave to Mama, she recalled. After a severe bout of influenza forced her to relinquish her post, Breckinridge traveled to Europe to recover her health and study law. Her trip was cut short in 1892, when she received word that her mother was ill. Breckinridge hastily returned home, only to find that Issa had already died. 5
Rather than attending either graduate school or law school as she had planned, Breckinridge assumed responsibility for running the household and educating her younger sister, Curry. In late 1892 she passed a legal examination and became the first woman admitted to the Kentucky bar. Breckinridge decided to join her father s law firm, but those plans were dashed in the spring of 1893, when W.C.P. married a widowed cousin, Louise Wing. His longtime lover, Madeline Pollard, promptly sued for breach of promise, presenting incontrovertible evidence that the two had carried on a lengthy affair-begun during Breckinridge s first year at Wellesley and continuing through Issa s final illness-that had resulted in the birth of two children. After conceiving a third time, shortly after Issa s death, Pollard secured a promise of marriage, only to miscarry and then to learn that her lover had married another woman. The resulting scandal and highly publicized trial, which took place in Washington, D.C., and continued into 1894, spelled disaster for everyone involved. The fallout from the affair ended W.C.P. s political career, destroyed his legal practice, and ruined him financially.
The Pollard affair also had a profound effect on Breckinridge. Postponing her plans to attend law school at the University of Michigan and turning down a fellowship to study sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Breckinridge instead accepted a teaching appointment in Staunton, Virginia, where she lived with her sister Ella and Ella s husband, Lyman Chalkley, and taught Latin and history and arithmetic and all kinds of things. At the conclusion of the term, Breckinridge returned to Washington, D.C., where she undertook the task of housekeeping as well as caring for her father s new wife, whose frail mental health had crumbled under the strain of the scandal. Prioritizing family responsibilities over her professional goals took a toll on Breckinridge s health and happiness. As she later recalled, by the mid-1890s the question of my health and my future became acute. 6
At this critical juncture Breckinridge visited a Wellesley classmate in Chicago. There she met Marion Talbot, dean of women at the University of Chicago, who encouraged her to pursue graduate study. Breckinridge was awarded a fellowship in political science and secured a special position as Talbot s assistant. I was grateful for the opportunity to earn my room and board that way, and the contacts were always interesting, she wrote. With Talbot s support, Breckinridge completed the coursework for her master s degree in political science. Out of funds, she then returned to Lexington, where she wrote her master s thesis on Kentucky s early judicial system and became the first women to qualify to present cases before the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Finally taking up a post in the law office her father now shared with John T. Shelby, Breckinridge practiced law for the first time; one of her first cases was a contentious divorce involving domestic violence and a child-custody battle. But when Talbot arranged a fellowship for her to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, Breckinridge seized the opportunity to earn her Ph.D. in political economy, which she completed in 1901. Passed over for faculty appointments in favor of her male colleagues, Breckinridge enrolled in the University of Chicago s new law school. She graduated in 1904 at the top of her class and became the first woman to earn a doctor of jurisprudence degree at the university. Her father died that same year, severing Breckinridge s most important tie to Kentucky. 7
Still unable to find a faculty position in any of her fields of expertise, Breckinridge stayed on at the University of Chicago as assistant dean of women and head of Green Hall, a women s dormitory. She also accepted a teaching appointment in the Department of Household Administration, created and chaired by Talbot. In this capacity, Breckinridge offered a course on The Legal and Economic Position of Women. In addition to being perhaps the first women s studies course in the nation, this class also acquainted her with Edith Abbott, a former schoolteacher and brilliant statistician who had come to the university in 1903 to pursue her Ph.D. in economics. Breckinridge suggested that the two women collaborate on a statistical study of women s work in the United States, and with the enthusiastic support of settlement house workers, club women, and labor leaders, Breckinridge and Abbott launched a long-term study under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor. 8
Breckinridge s efforts on behalf of working women brought her to the attention of settlement house leader Jane Addams, who invited her to live at Hull House. Although her university responsibilities required her to live on campus during the academic year, Breckinridge became an official resident of Hull House, spending her summer quarters there from 1907 to 1921. Breckinridge s association with Hull House cemented her ties to Chicago s activist community and launched her lifelong career in social activism. She became a member of the Women s Trade Union League and the Juvenile Protective League, and founded the Immigrant Protective League-all organizations that met at Hull House. During her time at Hull House, Breckinridge also joined the Chicago branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped found the Chicago Urban League, a local civil rights organization. For the rest of her life, Breckinridge remained a powerful advocate for African American rights. With Jane Addams and others, Breckinridge cofounded the Women s Peace Party, later the U.S. chapter of the Women s International League for Peace and Freedom, and remained an outspoken pacifist throughout both world wars. Addams and Breckinridge also served as co-vice presidents of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
For Breckinridge women s rights and social justice were inextricably linked. Speaking in her home state of Kentucky shortly before the ratification of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, Breckinridge hailed the full enfranchisement of the American woman as the beginning of a new era both for women s rights and for the nation s welfare. With full voting rights, she predicted, women would be able to develop every faculty they inherit in common with men without hindrance from him. There is henceforth to be a fair field and no favor. Not only would woman suffrage advance women s equality, she explained, but it would also advance public welfare, the greatest good for the greatest number. The newly enfranchised female electorate, Breckinridge proclaimed, would help the entire nation deal with the leading issues of the day. 9
In addition to introducing her to a panoply of progressive reforms, Hull House also offered Breckinridge professional opportunities. Fellow resident Julia Lathrop invited her first to deliver lectures at a local training school for social workers, the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy (CSCP), and then to direct research as the head of the Chicago School s Department of Social Investigation, which sought both explanations for and solutions to social problems through social science. Breckinridge promptly hired Edith Abbott to collaborate with her on research. Reflecting the priorities of the reform organizations associated with Hull House, Breckinridge and Abbott conducted studies of women s work, education, immigration, housing, and juvenile delinquency. At the same time, they transformed the CSCP into the University of Chicago s School of Social Service Administration. It was not only the first graduate school of social work affiliated with a major research university but also the power base from which Breckinridge and Abbott worked together to promote the profession of social work and shape public policy. 10
Breckinridge was just beginning to establish herself as a social work educator and social justice activist. She would not reach the height of her career until the 1930s, when she became part of an influential network of New Deal women who shaped the emerging welfare state. But when she looked back on her life in the mid-1940s, Breckinridge returned to the Progressive Era, her coming-of-age story, and the childhood experiences that predisposed her toward a life of social activism. Breckinridge s extant autobiography remains unfinished and, until now, unpublished. It consists of an assortment of fragmentary reminiscences, some typed and some handwritten, most unnumbered and out of order, and all much amended, on approximately 150 sheets of paper, a mix of bond and yellow lined pages.
Breckinridge wrote several different versions of the table of contents for her autobiography. The chapter headings suggest that she intended to write a segment on her work at the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy and another on the School of Social Service Administration. Her precise intentions for these latter portions of her life story remain a mystery, however, since the manuscript ends with descriptions of her work as Talbot s assistant instead of documenting her own rise to prominence. Perhaps her reluctance to promote herself made it impossible for her to write these latter sections. Or perhaps she was stalled by poor health: dated material is from 1945 and 1946, and Breckinridge died of heart problems in 1948. Or perhaps the later chapters were separated from the materials used here and have yet to be located or identified.
Covering Breckinridge s first four decades-from her Kentucky childhood through her introduction to progressive reform in Chicago-Breckinridge s unfinished autobiography offers an extended meditation on why and how she became a leader in both national and international reform. Successive drafts and extensive edits offer insight into how Breckinridge thought about herself and how she wished to present herself to the world. Because Breckinridge approached this writing project in her characteristic fashion-double-checking details and correcting minor errors-it is factually accurate. Despite her claims that some details were blurred in her memory, Breckinridge s memory only failed her when she addressed painful topics, such as her extended bout of depression following her mother s death and the revelation of her father s extramarital affair.
However, like all memoirs, Breckinridge s life story is a selective account, and the events that she chose to include and exclude, as well as how she chose to present them, are revealing. While Breckinridge s male ancestors loomed large in Kentucky s political history and in her memoir, she devoted scant attention to her female ancestors, even though her maternal great-great-grandmother Katherine Montgomery Bledsoe was allegedly a dispatch bearer for General George Washington during the American Revolution, and she was named for her paternal grandmother, Ann Sophonisba Preston, a descendant of founding father Patrick Henry. And while Breckinridge s family tree included wealthy slaveholders who vociferously defended slavery and supported secession, she emphasized the ways in which they championed free African Americans civil rights and, by contributing to sectional tensions, helped bring about the Civil War and emancipation. As an adult Breckinridge was a civil rights advocate, holding membership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and supporting Ida B. Wells-Barnett s antilynching campaign. By the time she wrote her memoirs, then, she sought to distance herself from her white supremacist upbringing.
In every way Breckinridge placed her individual experience in historical context: her transformation from a dutiful daughter to an activist academic, as well as her enduring attachment to her family and her home state of Kentucky. 11

This documentary selection features the unfinished memoirs of Sophonisba Breckinridge. From the Breckinridge Papers, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Illinois, and the Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge Papers, Breckinridge Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Published with permission of Catherine Harper Homan .
To begin with I should ask, Who am I? And as I try to recall these almost 80 years, I remember that the great puzzle of my childhood was how I could be as common as I evidently was and yet be kin to such very nice people. I wanted to write an account of my father, 12 but I seem unable to make the beginning of a biography of him, while I cannot speak of myself without speaking at length of him. In the following pages I shall try to give a correct account of my experiences during these more than eight decades. I shall devote a chapter to my inheritance through my Father, the Campbells, the Cabells, the Prestons and the Breckinridges, and a chapter to my mother s family. I do this because they meant so much not in the way of my inheritance but because they meant so much in my conscious experience.
On my mother s side the relatives were in general prosperous farmers, whose political affiliations were with the radical movements, while on my Fathers side there was a vigorous conservatism. My mother s younger sister Mary or Molly Desha, 13 liked to trace the family back to the French Huguenots just as another Cousin, Letitia Bullock 14 liked to trace the Breckinridges back to Lord Breadalbane in Scotland. 15 Evidently [great] grandfather Breckinridge 16 found something to justify this claim for when he acquired a tract of land in Fayette County about eight miles out from Lexington he named it Braedalbane. My Father however never took these claims very seriously.
This narrative could begin with the year 1798, for in that year, two of my three great grandfathers, both of whom were married, were concerned with the Legislative session in Kentucky. Over the lower House of that session, my great grandfather Joseph Desha 17 presided; and one of the important acts of that session was the adoption of the so-called Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 18 which John Breckinridge drafted and submitt[ed] to Jefferson as the leader of the democratic party at that time. This was a time of great uncertainty regarding the relations of the states to the federal Union and these resolutions claimed for the states the right to withdraw from the organization they had created. It seemed as simple as that in 1799.
No one of my three great grandfathers had been born in Kentucky. Joseph Desha had been born Dec. 9, 1768 in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. At this time Kentucky had not been explored, much less settled. It was only in [1769] that Daniel Boone 19 made his adventurous trip. When [Joseph] was three years old, his parents, [Robert Desha and Eleanor Wheeler], moved into Kentucky where they stayed a year, then went on down to Tennessee. 20 They were there a year and then about 1778 they returned and settled in Mason County. In 1794 [Joseph] joined Wayne s campaign against the Indians in Ohio. 21 The books refer to the slaying by the Indians of two of his brothers 22 and of Joseph s eagerness in entering this campaign to avenge this catastrophe.
Joseph Desha seems to have been effective in speaking, and direct in his relationships. He was described as believing rather in much thinking than in much speaking. 23 He married Margaret Bledsoe, whose family was likewise identified with Pennsylvania and Tennessee. In 1792 he had been elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives where he served for the next ten years. He was then elected to the State Senate where he served until 1807, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, to which he was re-elected until 1819. In 1813 he was Major General of Kentucky volunteers and commanded a Division at the Battle of [Thames]. 24 In 1824 he was elected governor and served four years, during troublous times where relief was the chief issue. Joseph Desha was a truly New Deal Governor of Kentucky in the 1820s. This was the period of the so called Old and New Court controversy 25 and he supported the measures intended to give relief to the debtor.
There have been few men in public office who had to face situations both public and private more distressing and difficult than Joseph Desha when Governor. The very cruel experience was having his son Isaac charged with murder and found guilty after a trial lasting approximately one week. 26 The murder was a brutal one in which one Baker traveling north from the deep South and stopping on his way for the night in Frankfort was waylaid, he was beaten, his throat was cut and he was left dead or dying by the side of the road. He and Desha had spent the night at the same place and were said to have started out together in the early morning. Later in the day, Desha appeared with his hand injured and his whip broken. An indictment was brought against him in Fleming County but on his motion the case was transferred to Franklin County, and as has been said, after a trial lasting a week a verdict of guilty was brought in, murder, being a capital offense. At that time no bail was allowed for such offenses and after a motion for a new trial failed, the governor is said to have pardoned the son, who is reported to have gone first to Arkansas and later to the Sandwich Islands.
Another son of Joseph was John Randolph Desha. He became a leading physician and married Mary Curry. 27 My mother s parents were Mary Curry and John Randolph Desha. Mary Curry was the daughter of Major James Curry 28 of Cynthiana. There were three daughters, Mary who married John Randolph Desha, Martha who married William McChesney of Lexington, and Adelaide who married [William Johnson and then John Harman]. 29
With the Breckinridges it was different. [In] the migrations of the eighteenth century, John Breckinridge, a young lawyer from Bottetoute County Virginia married Mary Hopkins Cabell, the daughter of Joseph Cabell, 30 and in a short time migrated to Kentucky. There he established a law practice [and] was a leader among the advocates of the French liberalism. [John Breckinridge] was elected to the state legislature where [in 1798] he secured a revision of the Criminal Code after the pattern of that adopted in 1790 by the Pennsylvania legislature and the establishment of the state penitentiary. [He] was a member of the second [Kentucky] constitutional convention in which he unsuccessfully tried to protect the franchise of free people of color, was elected to the United States Senate where he guided the revision of the federal judiciary act and the negotiation and ratification of the Louisiana Purchase, [and] became attorney general in Jefferson s second administration. 31 [He] died at the early age of forty-six, leaving a young widow of thirty-two and a family of four sons, John [Joseph] Cabell, Robert Jefferson, John and William Lewis. 32
[Joseph and Mary Clay Smith Cabell Breckinridge s son] John Cabell was a person of charm and eloquence, obtained the rank of [major] in the Mexican war, was elected [as a Democrat] to the United States [Congress in 1850, and again in 1852, and] to the vice-presidency with [James] Buchanan in 1856. In 1860 he was again elected to the United States Senate, then nominated by the extreme southern group as candidate for the presidency, and so brought about the election of Lincoln. 33
My Grandfather Robert Jefferson Breckinridge not only supported the Union but gave to Lincoln the doctrine regarding the perpetuity of the Union enunciated in his, Lincoln s, first presidential message. Two younger sons, Joseph Cabell and Charles Henry, were in the Union army. There were, however, John Cabell, a nephew of R.J.B., and the two sons Robert and [my father] William in the Confederate Army. 34
My mother was Issa Desha. She was the third of five children 35 born to her parents, the youngest of whom was a boy, Benjamin. Adelaid[e] and Eleanor were older, Molly and Ben were younger, and Ben was the special object of their mother s pride and devotion. In 1857 when the cholera had begun to fade into memory, diphtheria, then the scourge of childhood and youth, stalked abroad in the state and within a week took Addie, Ella, and Ben as trophies of its grim power. From this blow, and especially from the loss of Ben, her mother could not recover.
[My parents ] courtship could not have been a lengthy one for the dates on the stone of [my father s] earlier wife Lucretia Clay and of their baby Lu Clay show that only months had intervened since that earlier sorrow had befallen him. 36 I know that the affection and the sense of loss were abiding and I know too, that he would have been happier if he could have shared his sorrow. The situation of the second wife is a very hard one. To speak of the memories she knows that he cherishes is too difficult; not to speak is to acknowledge the existence of an area of affection and emotion into which she cannot enter but of which she remained aware.
The joys of courtship and marriage, too, were clouded by the prospect of war and the bitter cleavage of opinion characteristic of many families of the border states and peculiarly apparent in her husband s family. [My parents married on September 17, 1861, when my mother was] lacking two months or so of being eighteen years of age. [At that time], when the logic was with the secessionists but history with the unionists, William C. P. Breckinridge yielded to the plausibilities of logic and entered the Confederate service [on] July 17, 1862, leaving his wife and infant daughter, Eleanor, 37 in the care of her mother and father. The following day [he] was made Captain of a Company at Georgetown, Ky. They evidently went on from Georgetown to Cynthiana, and thus to Lexington, for the next afternoon, July 18 he was in a battle in the capital woodland at Ashland, the earlier home of Henry Clay. 38 How he felt [about the war] is briefly but touchingly told in a note to his wife s father two years later when he was about to go into an action from which he thought he might not return.
He did, however, return, and, after the exciting days and weeks of May 1865, he came back to Lexington three years older to review and relearn his law, to build up a practice, to establish a family, and to take his place in a new union which the arbitrament of war had determined was one and indissoluble. 39 Being both brave and honest, he accepted the verdict of the Confederate failure and made his contribution to the building of a new nation. In [1867] he became a candidate for the office of County Attorney. He was however defeated after being questioned as to whether or not he would accept negro testimony. He issued a public statement that he would surely do so. After that defeat he did not again seek public office until in 1884. He became a candidate for the United States House of Representatives. 40
I came April 1, 1866. I was the second child but the war had intervened between Ella s coming who was born on June 7 1862 and my birthday April Fool s day and Easter Sunday of 1866. I was evidently at first rather a frail baby but later the pictures show a sturdy youngster. I was only 16 months older than [my brother] Desha and then Campbell, Little Issa and Robert came in swift succession. 41 There was no doctrine of birth control or spaced child bearing prevalent at that time. There were babies and babies to come.
I don t know which house I was born in, but there are two houses on High Street, one on the corner of High and Upper Streets built either by my Grandfather or my Father. If I was not born there, we moved into it shortly after my birth. My grandparents, Grandma and Dada, lived in the earliest years of my memory in the house on the north west corner of High and Upper Street. It was still standing as was the one next door which my Father built the winter after his return from the war.
I was a common child and a dull child, not exactly stupid but dull. [Everyone] said that I would miss the points of all the jokes made the day before I died; but some of them thought that perhaps Saint Peter 42 did not have much sense of humor either and [that] he would go over there with me to make me feel quite at home. I liked all kinds of people and was not particular in my choice of amusement or companionship. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the curbstone in front of our house-we were living then on Short Street and our house was without any front yard-watching a procession go by, and having my grandmother come out and lead me by the ear into the house saying you common child! How you do love the curbstone!
My grandmother- Grandma -thought we were all more or less common. I suppose it is true that what real breeding or manners we had, if we had any-and Desha truly had both-we got from the Currys, through our mother. Gran[d]ma was an elegant woman. She had beautiful hands and feet, long heavy black hair, and a stately bearing. She read French; she enjoyed George Meredith. 43 She remembered La Fayette s laying his hand on her head when he visited Lexington in 1829, 44 when she was held in her father s arms on the crowded street. She had the forms of skill that marked the lady. Each girl must before she was really finished make a complete layette. She could tell a lady by the button holes she made, and on Saturday mornings, she would try to supplement our schooling by teaching us the essential domestic arts. She would say that she d like us to learn as while you could tell a lady by the button holes she made, she had never known a Breckinridge woman who could make a decent button hole.
Grandma had no scruples against corporal punishment, and I recall her boxing my ears many times. I had a bad temper and later, Desha and I would have genuine encounters. Finally Gran[d]ma became discouraged about the effect of strapping and determined to adopt very vigorous methods. The most terrifying experience was that of being dunked and I don t know what serious offence I had been guilty [of] when she decided that I must be subjected to that penalty, too. A large basin was therefore filled to the brim. Whether it was the indignity of being lifted aloft and my head submerged while my feet were in the air or the real terror of the experience of eyes, ears, nose and throat being immersed I don t know, but that was my last experience with my Grandmother s punitive skill.
I loved my Father and he was indescribably tender and skillful. Mama was far from strong, [and] Papa helped in many ways. I remember when he told me that I was old enough and big enough [to] lace my own shoes. Then [it] came to me that I laced them in the morning [and would need to] unlace [them] at night. At that realization I [was] overwhelmed with tragedy and wept both loud and long.
My grandmother helped [my mother] and the servants managed. [Our servant Clacy] 45 was tall with a fine standard of manners which she tried to inject into our training and conduct, and Easter tall, very dark, rather un-amiable in appearance, but indefatigable, and, in reality, kindness and efficiency incarnate. Aunt Polly 46 cooked, Easter managed the dining room, while Clacy dressed and undressed us, gave us our Saturday baptisms and tried to teach us manners. Clacy had been to Toronto when my mother and Ella were there during the [Civil] war.
I began going to school very young but I don t know at what age. I am told that I learned my letters of [f] the backs of my Father s law books for he had to review his law after his years in the Confederate Army, but it sounds apocryphal. When we began to go to school we got reports. We were given marks 100, 99, 98 etc. Papa said that we could have either $1.00 or a little party if we got perfect reports. I generally took the dollar while Ella took the party. I had quite a little sum saved when a lady who had been a Missionary to China came to stay with us. She gave such an account of the poverty of the Chinese Children that I gave her my savings. My mother never forgave her for taking my little savings but she undoubtedly thought that I was fortunate to have such a channel for distributing the little fund.
My father was extraordinarily liberal [about the education and employment of women]. The fact that his childhood had been so largely influenced by his two older sisters 47 and that his college life was spent in contact with girls of collegiate attainments undoubtedly influenced his attitude toward women and their intellectual capacity. He graduated in 1855 at Centre College [in Danville, Kentucky]. In the same class, there were three girls, his cousins [and] daughters of President Young, 48 who took the work but could not be given the degrees because of their sex. Only in 1905, after fifty years were degrees conferred on Mary Young Row, Caroline Young Douglas, and Jane Young Rutherford, all of whom had married Presbyterian ministers. My mother had had no such academic training. And as has been said, she was three months less than eighteen years of age when they married. [My father] had, however, a great respect for her competence and ability and was proud of her beauty and her charm.
[Papa also] saw the misery which befell the women who were left, after the war in the South, destitute and unprepared for the struggle of self support. In his own family, he had to bear needlessly heavy burdens in the support of Grandma and Auntie, whose sources of support had been destroyed by the war. 49 Grandma tried pitifully hard to find ways of contributing to her own support. She took a few pupils, she tried to use her little art of china painting. She was so able that it is very sad to recall the humiliation she had to endure as the beneficiary of my father s support, although he made every effort to make her feel that she was useful and welcome in his home. As a matter of fact, I don t know what would have become of us if she had not been there to keep some kind of order, in view of the strain on Mama from child-bearing and from the demands made on her by papa s professional activity.
[Many struggled to find their way in the post-Civil War South.] One day, when I was quite a big girl, I was walking along with my Father on Short Street. Short Street is the street running parallel with Main Street and on it are several banks and business houses other than shops or dry goods stores. As we went along, a forlorn looking man crept up near my father and I saw a bill which I have always thought was a five dollar bill pass from his hand to that of the beggar, as I thought the stranger to be. We were very poor. I have told how my grandmother and aunt lived with us, how the children were coming in swift succession, how my mother s health was very frail, and we had very long visits from very many relatives. I was therefore surprised at my father s giving a beggar such a very large sum, and asked him how he happened to do this, and he gave me the following reason. This apparently down-and-out man was an ex-confederate soldier. Clever and witty and of good substantial family, he was one of the casualties of the war in that when he was seriously wounded and the pain seemed unendurable, he was given opiates and became the victim of the morphine habit. There was in those days no psychiatric treatment, any more than an occupational provision; and, he, like others, among them a tall handsome member of Desha family in Cynthiana, 50 lived on the affectionate but inadequate and uncertain contributions of the older members of the company or regiment or unit to which they found it least humiliating to appeal.
After I grew older I liked to do things with my hands. I delighted in making the cake that Papa liked and Saturdays I would spend making Angels Food which was baked in layers with thick icing between and on top. Clacy and Easter said that no wonder I made good cake and good icing. I d easily cook a rich man poor using such expensive ingredients. Saturdays I often spent the whole day making the cake [for] Papa and the boys-Desha and his friends and the cousins who stayed with us. 51
[Desha] was always wonderfully good to me. I was awkward where he was skillful. In my mother s letters to my father, when we were little children there are frequent references to his skill in rubbing her head so as to ease the headaches from which she suffered, while I meant well but bungled and was awkward. During his boyhood and early manhood he felt strongly that it was for the men to carry the heavy load. He was deeply distressed when I insisted on taking a teaching position and earning my own living. As the high school was a very real distance from where we lived, I arranged to buy a bicycle, when he learned this, he was truly chagrined. He said that it was hard to have a sister who earned; that she should ride a bicycle was really too much. As there was no principle involved and I knew that if I would let him he would gladly sacrifice to give me what I needed, I gave up the bicycle.
Later [Desha] became [editor of the Lexington Herald 52 and] an ardent suffragist. Mrs. Pankhurst 53 said that he was perhaps the most ardent man in support of the cause she met. That change came about through an experience he had in dealing with the legislature. In the winter of 1906 [his wife] Madge 54 got introduced into the legislature three bills of special interest to the women s organizations. These were a Child Labor bill on which Mr. Bernard Flexner 55 had helped her, a companion Compulsory School Attendance bill, and a revised or perhaps initial Juvenile Court bill. When the session was underway, she was taken ill and was ordered to the Southwest, and Desha was left to put through his own and her bills. His were in the field of business and with him stood professional interests and organizations, in some cases so influential politically that practically all he had to do was to let members of the legislature know who they were and what they wanted. Her measures [were] all boneless and not to[o] effectively organized. He saw the difference between the two [and] the difficulties under which women worked to accomplish results that were of consummate importance to the man as well as the women and children of the state.
He helped secure the Child Labor, Juvenile Court, and Compulsory Attendance legislation [and] was a very exhausted man when the legislature adjourned. He said that if he had succeeded with his own and failed with hers, he would never have been sure that he had tried as he should. I think as a matter of fact, his own life was shortened by that winter of great strain. He wanted the women to be able to carry their own weight and fight their own battles. He learned for one thing at what a disadvantage their votelessness placed them. When asked for a hearing as spokesman for certain business interests [or] men s interests he was treated with respect and given prompt hearing. When he spoke in behalf of the women, he was treated as something of a joke, and he did not like it.
[My older sister Ella] was much cleverer [than I], but she had many distractions. She had great charm and very early became attractive so that boys and young men flocked about her. She thought, too, that my father was needlessly strict and she was not always entirely frank. When Mr. Chalkley began to show [her] special attention my father pointed out that he was the son of a rich and indulgent mother; 56 [that he] probably lacked the vigor necessary for the adequate care and support of a wife who would bring only cleverness and charm without experience in actual management. [So Ella] met Lyman at the houses of friends, one of whom was the wife of Chief Justice Fuller. 57 When my father learned of this, he was grievously hurt and talked with Mrs. Fuller. Not long after that, in June of 1889, [Ella and Lyman] were married in a simple home wedding. Lyman Chalkley was a gentle soul, a gentleman in manner and bearing, kind and patient and capable of patient drudgery. He served for a term as county judge in Staunton, and Covington, Virginia.
[My younger sister, Mary Curry] 58 was a lovely baby with big blue eyes. She was friendly, too. When she was two or three years old she became very pious. I don t know just how it happened, but if Grandma misplaced her glasses or Mama lost her keys Curry would run off and kneel down and ask the Lord to help her find them. And usually after a fairly short interval she would be led to look in some unaccustomed place and find them. There was nothing triumphant in her manner when she had found them and brought them all. She was so sure that she would find them that doing so brought no surprise.
[Curry] had a very active independent kind of a mind, but was handicapped by a strange eyesight characteristic. She was slow learning to read and I was surprised one day to observe that she said many things in reverse. I discovered it observing one day, when I was urging her to practice her reading-she was still a little girl-that always when she had the word on she would pronounce no and the word no became on . This discovery was a great help and we went along swimmingly after that. She had however no interest in grades or marks.
[Curry acquired her nursing degree from the Presbyterian Hospital Training School in Chicago in 1908.] When she had to take a civil service examination in order to get a job on the staff of Dr. Sacks, who was head of the Tuberculosis authority in Chicago, 59 and they gave her a great number of simple reading and arithmetic questions, she wrote any idiot co[u]ld answer these questions. I won t waste my time that way. I thought that the Commission would fail her, but instead they appointed her at once.
I don t know how to explain her devotion to the Confederacy. One of her most treasured possessions which I now treasure was a stickpin of which the head was a Confederate flag. But one day when some nurses were discussing the problem of possible negro patients one nurse said if I were asked to nurse a negro I would refuse to do so, whereupon Curry walked quietly toward her and plucked her cap from her head, saying you are no professional nurse if you would refuse to care for any patient. The only questions you should ask are what is the matter with him? And what can I do for him?
[During World War I, Curry was working at a tuberculosis sanitarium in Michigan] when it was decided to send over a writ under the British military reorganization. 60 She was in London for a time and then in Northwestern France near Etaples. She was never warm that winter, the work was very exhausting, and her sympathies were aroused beyond all possibility of expression. When we went into the war, she thought that she could help most by organizing an American unit and so she picked up and came home. She found that it would take some time to complete the arrangements to go back and as she had done little in the [way] of anaesthesia and as there was a brief course being offered at the Cleveland hospital she went at once to that city. She lived in a settlement and worked at the hospital. She never went back, however, because soon after she got to Cleveland she became the victim of a bad heart attack. I went on and brought her to Chicago, to the Presbyterian Hospital, where she had had her training. The case was far more serious than I had expected; the malady, whatever it was had attacked the bloodstream and there was no hope of recovery. That was toward the end of April and she lingered until the 24th of June [1918]. When she was buried, we asked that those who loved her would give money instead of flowers, and Col Roger Williams 61 was able to take over a considerable sum to be expended for uses connected with the care of American soldiers. She was a strange person, much more interesting than I and much more fundamentally honest. One day she looked [at] me quite seriously and said Of course, Nisba, you do mean all right, but you never had any common sense.
She was amazingly kind about [my wayward brother] Robert. I don t know whether or not I have told how tragically discouraged my Father became [about Robert s drinking and gambling], so that finally he yielded to the suggestion that he allow Robert to be apprenticed to a sailing vessel. That was I think in 1891. He was gone about a year and a half, but it seemed best to send him again after a number of months. This brought us up to the middle nineties. Then he disappeared and we knew nothing heard nothing until the winter of 1915, when I was called by some one in Springfield [Illinois] saying that Robert was there, quite down and out and was he really my brother. He wanted help in getting home. He had wandered the wide world over, on all kinds of boats, at all kinds of jobs in between. During his last illness, when we had not learned how serious his condition was, I brought paper and pencils hoping that he could give some kind of an account of his wanderings. He found it difficult to write, however and I arranged for him to dictate but that story can never be written. The tunnel under the east river that runs in Peru, the jungles of India were among the subjects giving a clue to his wanderings. I tried to help and it is comforting to know that he knew I wanted to help.
His going left me the last of the immediate family. There has been some very real weakness in my relations to my family. None of them has any real affection for me. They think that I have meant well by them, but beyond that they have little feeling for me. I think that perhaps it is because I have not had to ask favors of them. After all affection grows for those whom [we] serve rather than for those who serve us. But I have known families in which the dependent person was a true burden. It is a difficult question.
At the time she wrote her memoirs, Breckinridge was the last surviving member of her immediate family and was estranged from her extended kin. Her family nonetheless played an important role in encouraging her to pursue higher education and a professional career. In particular, W.C.P. had facilitated her education: at his insistence Breckinridge became a member of the first entering class of women at the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1880, then a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1884 .
I have I think told of the incident of my trying to register [at Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College] and being sent home, only to be sent back [by my father] to ask President Patterson 62 to examine a provision he had got inserted in the charter to the effect that a student enrolled in any Division could enjoy the benefits of any other division.
During the year I was a student there I was therefore always enrolled [in] the Education Department but took courses in English with Mr. Kerby, in Mathematics with Mr. White, in German [with] Mr. Helvet, [and] Physical Geography [with] Mr. Crandall, who was not only an able investigator but a great leader. 63
I cared a great deal about grades which were periodically posted. The three of us near the top of the class at one time were Rudolph de Roode, Tom Morgan 64 and I. I cared about grades because it pleased my Father to have me make good grades and justified his position with reference to the treatment of women.
At the University of Kentucky I had an instructor, the brother of the president 65 who did not like girls in his class, and one day he gave me a really difficult problem which I could not solve. That night, in my sleep it came to me but I said nothing to him. I thought that he would try again to humiliate me, and that was a day when the trustees were likely to drop in. Sure enough, the committee of trustees dropped in and sure enough he gave me the unsolved problem of the day before. I was so pleased that I probably looked a little triumphant and put my problem on the board and then explained to the visitors about the equation. I was maliciously complacent and he was really quite upset. He knew that nobody could have helped me, and at last he said, How did you do it? And I said politely I suppose I knew that you thought I couldn t do it and so would give it to me. At any rate it came to me in my sleep. I am glad you gave me another chance.
[By enabling women to attend A M and to take courses in any department,] my Father had salvaged from the State College rich resources. An abler and a nobler person would have taken fuller advantage of those opportunities. [But] the great charm that Wellesley had for me was that it was made or established for me or the likes of me. At Wellesley, I had the new experience of life in the country. The lake, the oak trees, the rare autumn colors, all meant sweet sensations I had not experienced.
As for the work, I was again very stupid. I had read Latin with Mr. Neville a finer scholar than Miss Lord, 66 and mathematics with Professor White an abler teacher and more learned mathematician than Miss G-. 67 So without asking for credits that would enable me to graduate at an earlier date, I became literally intoxicated over Conic Sections and breathless at the infinite curves to which I was introduced in Calculus.
I was fortunate to [study with] Miss Shafer 68 who was a great teacher of mathematics. She gave us problems to solve, if we could; very pretty problems she would sometimes say. And I would memorise the statement and work at it when I was doing other things. One day it was a very pretty problem which she doubted our being able to work out. I tried but gave it up and went to bed. But in the night my roommate found me in my night-clothes, bare feet and all sitting at the door and calling Oh Miss Shafer I ve got it! I ve got it!
[At Wellesley, I met African American student] Ella Smith 69 who [later] taught at Howard University. She had been the occasion of my working through the problem of racial relationships. I might as well clean up the subject of race relationships. I have no special equipment for dealing with the problem except as a human being and an American. It is true that I inherit an experience in 1799 when the second State Constitutional Convention was in session, [and] John Breckenridge attempted [to] secure the elimination of the word white [from] one of the list of qualifications for voters. Between 1792 and 1799, free persons of color had become able to vote, but he was unsuccessful. Again in 1848 when a third constitutional convention was called grandfather Robert Jefferson attempted again unsuccessfully to secure the elimination of the word white ; and in 1867, when [my father] had returned from his service in the Confederate Army, had taken his oath of allegiance, and was a candidate for the office of County Attorney and was asked if he would recognize Negro testimony, he answered in the affirmative, [and] was defeated for the office on that ground. 70 [When he visited Wellesley to speak about his experiences in slavery and his continuing fight for racial equality,] Frederick Douglass 71 the great Negro often said that my father was the white man with whom he could most freely and without consciousness of racial differences discuss problems of public concern. 72
On that first day my Father and Mother and I arrived with Mrs. Stone and May. 73 As we approached the entrance of Wellesley a handsomely dressed couple of the Negro race with an attractive daughter approached the door. Mrs. Stone asked my Father will you let Nisba go to school with a Negro? To which my father replied she got on all right with the boys; I think that she will get on all right with the colored. I cannot say that that settled everything, for a little later when the singers from Fisk University 74 came and some were placed at our table, (at that time we served ourselves at table) I found no difficulty in serving them [but] my own food I could not swallow.
Later in Junior year, the question was raised again. Ella Smith s right to have the same number of invitations to our Junior Promenade as her white class-mates was raised. Some argued-among these the president of the class, Christabel Lee, 75 who strangely enough had taught in a Negro school in the South-that [Ella] could claim [equality in] educational matters but not in social matters. I insisted and with Miss Freeman s 76 help successfully [argued] that every experience at Wellesley was educational. I was asked to be mistress of ceremonies at the Promenade which was the high event of the whole college experience. Things were going well, there was a steady procession of guests, whose names I learned, so that I could present them to Christabel. When Ella Smith came with her guests, they were very handsome, very handsomely dressed and very gracious and they were, Mr. Lee, Mrs. Lee and Miss Lee! Well, I got a sort of delirium tremens. I did not know what to do, but Christabel was quite equal to the situation. My name is Lee, too, she laughingly exclaimed and my crisis was past.
I never forgave myself for having gone to Wellesley instead of staying at home and graduating at the A M College , as they called it then. I am not disloyal to Wellesley and all it meant to me, but if I had only finished at Kentucky and then read law in my Father s office with two really great lawyers, my Father and John T. Shelby 77 -my life might have been more honest and simpler. I would have had those years with my Mother.
When Breckinridge graduated from Wellesley in 1888, her future seemed bright. Yet, like settlement house worker Jane Addams (1860-1935), she found it difficult to reconcile the social claim -her desire to create positive change in the world-with the family claim -the expectation that unmarried daughters would serve their parents. Instead of searching for a meaningful vocation, Breckinridge accompanied her ailing mother and politician father to Washington, D.C .
It is pitiful to recall how my college work had failed in every way to help me toward a profession. I had always pretended that I expected to follow my father and go into the law but I reasoned in such a stupid way and instead of going to Ann Arbor, 78 where progressive women like Miss Laura Clay 79 went, I went to Wellesley and devoted myself to Latin and Mathematics. I was no nearer earning my living when I came back from college than when I had left home fo[u]r years before. It was true that most of the Wellesley girls either came from well-to-do families or expected to teach, whereas I had promised myself to be a lawyer and had never thought of teaching.
At that time there were not many law schools open to women. My mother s health was frail, and the family expenses were high. The only law school open to women in Washington 80 had classes in the evening and that was when I could be of service at home. When I suggested that I try for a position in the Washington high school, my father agreed and took me to call on the superintendent of schools, Mr. Powell, 81 who was gracious and indicated that he would find a place for me. Mr. Powell was, I think, the brother of [John Wesley] Powell, 82 who had been and continued to be kind in assisting my brothers, Desha and Robert, to find opportunities for employment during summer vacations in the Geological Survey, which reduced our family expenses and gave the boys good experience and certain kinds of training.
I was appointed to [the] Mathematics Faculty of the Washington High School where I taught during the years 1888-89, 1889-90. My father tried to make it clear that he wanted me appointed because of my qualifications, not as a favor to him, and I did earn my salary. Part of the time during those years we lived on East Capital Street and the high school was [on O Street between 6th and 7th northwest]. The salary was certainly a real contribution to the family income and I greatly enjoyed my first earnings which I gave to Mama. Beside the teaching I did a good deal of housekeeping.
Papa was then representing the Sixth Congressional District-the Ashland District as it was generally called in Congress. He still kept a considerable practice for the salary, then $5,000, was not adequate for the support of a family like ours. I always thought that Congressman, like missionaries, should definitely sacrifice family relationships. Unless they have adequate independent incomes, it means either separation or severe dislocation of family life. My father was very dependent on my mother in every way, and I think that it never occurred to either that any plan not contemplating her accompanying him to Washington was to be thought of.
At one time they boarded at the Riggs House. 83 Miss Anthony 84 was also living there during one of her campaigns to win the vote for women. My father was never a suffragist, but as he had favored the development of facilities for the education of women and Negroes he was always for fair play. So that, while he was always perfectly frank about his views on the subject, he would help Miss Anthony plan her conferences with other members of the House of Representatives. Knowing that my mother was a woman who had all the rights she wanted, Miss Anthony would share with Mama her knowledge and skill in the area of fancy work or sewing. A new stitch in crochet or knitting, and embroidery, would be the occasion for a conference on entering or leaving the dining room. Then there would be the final arrangement for a hearing before [a] subcommittee on Capital Hill or some conference. As to the details of her campaign, [my father] would be entirely frank and as helpful as possible through that frankness. For a long time Desha took the same position toward the movement, helping the women to carry out their plans but not himself a convert. And then after a number of years, experience made of him an ardent and convinced advocate.

Issa Breckinridge with three of her seven children. Sophonisba is marked with an X. Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, Nebraska.
During those years I was active in the Washington Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumni, now the AAUW 85 and I helped my Aunt, Mary Desha, with the organization of the DAR. 86 I think that if at the headquarters in Washington five instead of four founders had been named, I might have been the fifth. The men had organized the Sons of the American Revolution and Auntie was determined that the contributions of women should not be ignored. Her portrait therefore hangs in the Daughters Building in Washington and her papers are in the Manuscripts Division of the Congressional Library. She had had to go to work when her father fell into distress and she had been a successful teacher in the Lexington schools. When Papa went to Congress she got him first to get for her an appointment to the schools in Alaska and when that was ended, probably by political influence, she secured a position in the Pension Office which she was holding when she died. She died in a way she would have liked, with her boots on, for she dropped in the street in Washington without pain and without warning.

Marion Talbot (left), dean of women at the University of Chicago, with her prot g e, Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, ca. 1909. Courtesy Special Collections Research Center, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago, Illinois.
It is one of the numerous things of which I shall always be ashamed that during her last years I had nothing to do with her. She evidently knew of the relationship in my father s life that was later to bring such disaster to his career; but when she tried to warn my mother and then to warn me, we refused to listen, and I think that when Mama died and afterwards when Curry and I came back, we were still refusing to see her.

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge in old age. Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, Nebraska.
As I look back, now, I see how complicated and difficult a burden my Father carried. My mother s health was so frail and she was so unaware of any deviation on his part. He was devoted, he was endlessly kind, and there could not in our minds be any question of his fidelity. It is not necessary to give the details of the scandal that afterwards broke and that gave his enemies the chance they had so long sought to send in his place to Washington a mediocre representative of certain special interests. 87 Hemp, that beautiful crop that suffered practical extinction in the United States because of the Japanese competition in supplying it, and is again just coming into its own, was the source of much bitterness. For he was a believer in tariff for revenue only, an associate of Roger Q. Mills of Texas, of Butterworth of Ohio, Billy Wilson of West Virginia, and he would make no concessions for his own constituents that he would not make for Kelley ( Pig Iron Kelley ) of Pennsylvania, or for Crisp of Georgia, who urged the protective principle under the aegis of the Democratic organization. 88
I had taught two years in the Washington High School after graduating, and the second year conditions in the school were bad, and several teachers and a number of pupils had typhoid fever. As I recall it, I think that I worked myself into a state of panic. That spring, too, there was a bad epidemic of influenza. Papa was stricken in the south and was very ill, and one Saturday when I was standing by Mr. Brown s stall in the Market House, my legs suddenly gave way and I fell against the counter of the stall. They carried me to a cab and I was quite ill for some time.
It is blurred in my memory now, but sometime early in May [1891] Curry and I found ourselves on a Red Star boat bound for Antwerp [Belgium], under the care of Mr. Griscom, 89 a very beautiful and kind person who happened to be president of the line. Curry was a grand little sailor, neither of us was sick and we enjoyed it all. I shall never forget the days ride down the Scheldt [River]. We were wending in and out toward the lovely spires of the Antwerp Cathedral. That night we spent in the Hotel there in a room that had been carved out of an earlier ball room, of which the ceiling was made of mirrors in elaborate patterns. Whether or not any one would understand my halting French I would know only when morning came. If they brought my petit dejeuner [breakfast], I d feel pretty safe. That was by no means the last time I d have such feelings of uncertainty. Many times in Paris, I would approach persons with a question, and know only by the resulting action whether or not I had been understood. Many years later in Prague [Czech Republic] I was even franker about my strangeness. There I got a phrase book in English Bohemian and German. If I needed help, I would approach a kind looking person and indicate the phrase or question to which I wanted a reply. Then the person questioned would find the reply and show me the English or German translation or perhaps indicate by signs the information or directions I desired. I have often been grateful for some words of wisdom spoken by my father, when I confessed that I had failed to ask some question because I did not want to show my ignorance. He said it is [better] to appear ignorant than remain ignorant.
While in Europe, the Breckinridge sisters continued their studies in Germany, Switzerland, and France. Their sojourn was cut short in June 1892 by news of their mother s illness. By the time they arrived back in the United States, Issa had perished. Keeping house for her widowed father and continuing to tutor Curry at home, Breckinridge also pursued her legal studies under W.C.P. s guidance .
Breckinridge s hopes of practicing law with her father were dashed when W.C.P. s longtime lover sued for breach of promise. With W.C.P. s finances and career in ruins, Breckinridge suffered poor health and poorer spirits until in 1894 she visited a Wellesley classmate in Chicago. There she met Marion Talbot, dean of women at the University of Chicago, who encouraged her to pursue graduate study at the fledgling coeducational university .
My coming to the University was pure accident. I had a classmate at Wellesley College who lived in Oak Park [Illinois]. After a number of weeks, possibly months, during which I lost a good deal of sleep and was under pretty continuous strain, both my father and Desha became concerned; and in some way it came about that I came to Oak Park to visit May Cook and her father 90 who lived in a frame house built before the Chicago fire 91 and still occupying a space a half block deep between Lake and Euclid and half a block wide. In the yard were wonderful great trees in which the red birds, Kentucky Cardinals, the bluebirds and mocking birds build nests to which May believed the same birds return year after year. Mr. Cook and May were both incredibly kind to me and I [came] gratefully back into normal relationships.
After a little [while], May spoke of the University. I had correspondence with Miss Talbot who had two or three years before suggested my taking one of the fellowships offered by the College Settlements Association. 92 It was when I told my father of that suggestion that he said, You know, dear daughter, Bowery boys 93 can be found everywhere. I was therefore not wholly a stranger to Miss Talbot, and when May and I went over to Kelly [Hall], we found not only Miss Talbot but Susan Peabody of Wellesley, 1886, and Ethel Glover of Wellesley, 1890. 94 I don t know how it was managed but I moved over to a room on the fourth floor of Kelly Hall and became a student in Political Science in the University.
That year, 1894-95, that I spent in Chicago I spent mostly in Room 309, Cobb Hall. I got the janitor to shorten the front legs of one of the big chairs, otherwise my feet would not touch the ground. The first days at the University were days of fumbling and experimentation. For one thing, I was not clear as to what I wanted to do. Instead of planning my work always toward the Law which my father had wanted me to follow, I had worked out the most foolish theory of taking other work before so that I would not be too narrow when it came to actual practice. I was, too, faced with the necessity of earning my living and the practice of the law would mean a considerable period when the earnings would be meagre. Miss Talbot suggested I look about and sample the rich facilities offered. I registered for History with Mr. Shepardson and Dr. Van Holst and Political Science with Mr. Judson, Mr. James, who afterwards went to Illinois, and Mr. Freund. I took Economics with Mr. Hill, with Adolph Miller and Mr. Laughlin. 95
I was very poor, I had almost no clothes, and that first year I found no way of earning. I was very shabbily dressed, but that never made any difference to Miss Talbot. I recall one evening when she took me to a reception at Mrs. Potter Palmer s. 96 Mrs. Palmer was everything that was gracious. She was a Kentuckian and knew the name, but when Miss Talbot took me about an[d] introduced me I could see in the great mirrors that faced you everywhere what a funny figure I made in my white wool dress of two years before-longsleeved and short of skirt.
The following year Miss Talbot found a little job for me, assistant to the dean of women. This paid me, I think, $40.00 a month, and beside that she arranged for me to earn my room and board first in Kelly and then in Green Hall. I was never assistant Dean nor was I assistant Head of Green but always assistant to the Dean or the Head as the case might be. Between and among these modest assistantships, I scraped along. I was grateful for the opportunity to earn my room and board that way, and the contacts were always interesting.
Miss Talbot was then the Head of Kelly, and there was an unoccupied space between Kelly and Foster where Green was later erected. The money for the Women s Halls, Nancy Foster, Kelly, Beecher, and then Green was all given by women. The money for Foster was given by Mrs. Adams in memory of her mother, Mrs. Foster; Mrs. Beecher gave the money for Beecher Hall; and then Mrs. Kelly gave the money for Kelly Hall, and later for Green in memory of her parents. 97 Mrs. Adams gave a very beautiful portrait of her mother and also took great satisfaction in furnishing the hall in beautiful as well as comfortable ways.
The furnishing [of] Foster was a great joy to the students, but Mrs. Kelly asked one of the downtown department stores to furnish the first floor of Green and we were both shocked and distressed when the furniture appeared, with red in a great variety of shades. Miss Talbot and I felt so bad about it, that one day when Mrs. Kelly and the household decorator came to view the results, Miss Talbot asked me to receive them. I, therefore, went out, met them and was as appreciative as I could be. I tried not to show how I felt partly because it was not for me to be a critic of her efforts, and partly because Mrs. Kelly was so helpless in the hands of the salesman. Mrs. Kelly turned to me and said, Miss Breckinridge, what do you think? I then replied quite simply that I did not see how the salesman could fail to notice the lack of agreement and harmony among the various shades of red, whereupon, she turned to him and said, what do you say to that Mr.__? Well, he agreed that the curtains and rugs and furniture were of strangely discordant colors. What finally happened was that the curtains did remain but rugs and furniture, in which the prevailing color was a rich dark green, replaced the discordant reds and the rooms were really very satisfying.
In Kelly, there were students of all classes, but there was no question of discipline. The houses were dormitories and much more. The residents drafted and administer[ed] their own rules. One thing was fixed by the domestic arrangements. The maids came on duty at seven and went off duty at 10:15. That meant that the halls were closed at 10:15 because the only way anyone could get in was by ringing the bell in which case the head of the house had to open the door. This meant restriction if the student did not want the embarrassment of being let in by a Head who perhaps had been in bed. If the student was going to be out later than 10:15, she could get the key. If she got caught and knew that she would be late, the nice thing was to telephone in advance, in which case the Head would be prepared. This arrangement did not seem suitable for a hall of mature graduate women, and so I undertook to remain available with my door open so that whether it was a guest to stay later than 10:15, or a student who stayed out later, there was no inconvenience or restriction.
After a time, we worked out a plan by which students in all the halls came in by the same door, gave their names and noted the time with the person on duty that night. The list of those coming in late was available to the Heads of Houses and gave opportunity for a word of caution to the student. The residents of each hall [took] up statements as to the need of quiet hours during which residents could count on conditions favorable to work. Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening were recognized as not quiet hours, but it was understood that the conditions were still to be favorable to work or to rest in the student s own room. The by-laws having laid down this program, the house was organized with House Committees responsible for carrying it out, composed usually of two from each floor. If there was, then, disturbance on any floor, it was her official duty to ask the offending resident to be more careful and this had very rarely to be done for two reasons. Many residents worked in the libraries and laboratories, and those who work[ed] in their own rooms were quite frank in letting others know if they were disturbed. The standard of quiet was soon so definitely recognize[d] that little difficulty was encountered.
When the year was up and I could not afford to come back, I made a study of the Judicial System of Kentucky [while living at home in Lexington]. 98 This was a study only of the Statutes and the commentaries and personae. It is a ridiculously inadequate piece of work especially in view of the fact that my great grandfather Desha and my grandfather Breckinridge had had the same kind of a controversy over the Courts that Roosevelt and Moley had 110 years later. 99
In the spring of 1897, Desha offered to give me a trip instead of going to White Sulfur [Sulphur] Springs [West Virginia] or to New Orleans. I said that I d like to go to Chicago to take my [master s] examination, and he affectionately exclaimed, Well, go take your damned examination. In those days both faculty and candidate appeared at the examination in cap and gown. I borrowed a gown from Josephine Batchelder 100 who is very tall, possibly 5 feet 11; Mr. Judson who was about 5 feet six had slipped on a gown belonging to Mr. Alexander Smith 101 who was about 6 feet two or 3 inches tall, so that when the examination was over and we exhibited the surplus cloth about our lower extremities, there was much amusement. I reasoned that since the faculty were fair minded and would as a matter of fact take no satisfaction in failing a student of reasonable ability and industry, I had no cause for uneasiness. The students had, however, already developed the practice of becoming or appearing uncertain as to the outcome of an examination and to appear reasonably assured was to assume an attitude of superiority. The examination over, I went back home to share in my Father s domestic arrangements, to support the sound money campaign, to renew old ties.
Well, we elected McKinley 102 and I helped keep house. I spent a good deal of time in my father s office. Many young lawyers had come to the bar by way of reading law in his office and when I began going down with him it was not Blackstone he suggested my reading but Adams on Equity. 103 Now, while I had as a child gone off into court with him and had a clear picture of the contentious character of the law, I had really no basis for appreciating the method of presentation. Still I learned something and a little later in the year, I decided to go along and ask the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, 104 who had been a mess mate of my father s during much of the Civil War, to let me try [the] examination. He assembled two other justices and we sat in one of their chambers in the beautiful old court building. I don t know whether or not they were especially careful in the selection of their questions, but after a few hours they agreed that I was qualified to practice [before the Kentucky Court of Appeals], and right there administered the oath required of members of the bar, including the pledge that I had never fought a duel with deadly weapons. 105
The following Monday, I was presented to the Court in Lexington. During the hour devoted to motions Major Otis Tenney, 106 then the oldest member in years of practice of the Lexington Bar, presented me to the court. There was one member of the bar, Mr. Stephen Sharp, 107 who had been in my father s regiment during the Civil War and he brought me my first case, a Homestead case. During the first week, three cases involving special women s interests were brought me, but when Miss Talbot snatched for me a fellowship in Political Science which a man student had resigned, I came back to [Chicago]. Since my return to the University in 1898, I have never left without either a round-trip ticket or an arrangement that insured my return.
My Doctor s thesis I did, not with Mr. Judson or Mr. Freund in my own Department, but with Prof. Laughlin in Economics. He wanted the history of the Legal Tender doctrine in the United States. He was a genius in suggesting topics and in developing material. He cared, too, a great deal for correctness and form and elegance in presentation. The centennial celebration brought the opportunity of publication and, while the thesis was a brief account of the law, the decennial publication was a dignified volume. 108
These were indeed rich and fortunate years. They had, in addition to the fortunate experiences already mentioned, brought me the opportunity of working closely with Prof. Freund so that I, with others who enjoyed the same rich opportunity, acquired an invaluable technique in so summarizing legislation and judicial opinions that large amounts of material could be presented within modest proportions. Prof. Freund s Police Power, 109 now a classic, was a very early, perhaps the first, example of this method of presentation.
Although I was given the PhD degree magna cum laude no position in political science or economics was offered me. The men in the two departments, Boyd and Willis and Ferty and Wesley Mitchell and SJ Mitchell and others went off to positions in College and University faculties. Miss Talbot then got Mr. Judson to appoint me Docent but no one registered for such courses as I [offered. Instead] I earned my room and board at Green Hall as assistant head.
[During this time] we had the question [of race relations] nicely raised in the University Halls of residence when Georgianna Simpson, 110 a very able and learned woman of color who had been in residence at the University one summer was assigned a room in Kelly Hall. She was a graduate of a College for Negro students from which she had taken both the bachelor s and master s degree. She had studied both in England and in Germany and was already a specialist or a scholar in the field of comparative Philology.
Unaware that she presented anything in the way of a problem she appeared on the opening day of the summer quarter which was a Saturday at Kelly. Sunday morning, the head of Kelly, Miss Poreyfo came in to Green to see me. At that time, the great majority of students in the halls in the summer were from the south and Miss [Poreyfo] foresaw difficulties in the situation and asked my help. I had not met Miss Simpson but I thought that I could explain the situation to her and that we could work it out. I thought that she would probably follow my suggestion and arrange to seek other accommodations.
This is, however, not what happened. She told me how much it cost her to come to the University, how heavy her work would be and how much she wanted to economize in time and strength. She realized that the situation was difficult but she was unwilling to move. As a matter of fact she had a strong race consciousness so that she was much less happy when in association with white persons then when with persons of her own racial origin, but she wanted to save her time and strength and the halls offered the best opportunity for doing this.
I agreed that she had every right to stay but asked her to have her dinner in her room because I feared some unpleasant happening if she came to dinner with a group mostly from the southern states who had not been prepared for that development. This she willingly agreed to because her trunks had not been delivered and she had only the costume in which she had been traveling. After dinner therefore I assembled the residents in the parlor and told them of the situation assuring them likewise that any who felt that she had taken her room under a misunderstanding would, I was sure, have their payments refunded. I said that those who did this would have every assistance in finding other accommodation.
Four students did move out. One lovely girl from Tennessee said that she hated to do it but she supported her mother and her Board of Education would never let her come back if it were known that she had eaten in the same room and possibly at the same table with a colored student. It would mean the loss of her job. Miss Denis (Willy) 111 a very interesting scholarly person from New Orleans where she taught at Sophie Newcomb College, asked if she could stay in the hall but arrange to have her meals in Kelly Hall and this was done.
And so the situation remained. Miss Simpson was thoroughly well-bred a scholar and a lady, the four southern students moved out but four other southern students who had applied for rooms in Green moved in and life went on as usual until the following Thursday, when I was summoned to the President s office, where Pres. Judson told me that the halls were for white students and Miss Simpson must leave. I pointed out that the announcements distributed by the University with reference to the Houses said nothing of this but he was immovable, and Miss Simpson moved out. This requirement did not in any way affect her determination to complete her work for her doctorate, and this she completed at the end of [1921]. After taking her degree she returned to her professorship at Howard University where she taught until the time came for her retirement.
In 1904, having been given some credit for the Political Science work, I was granted the degree of J. D. by the Law School in its first graduating class. The record there was not distinguished but the faculty and students were kind, and the fact that the law school like the rest of the University in the words of the Charter accepted men and women students on equal terms was publicly settled. There were that year about 10 students in the law school and so I invited the whole school one evening to come to Green and asked the whole house to assist in entertaining them.
There were opportunities to go elsewhere. For a time it was quite the thing to invite me to take positions as Dean of women. Several College or University presidents came to interview me. Between my association with Miss Talbot and my Kentucky origin, I seemed to offer certain qualifications on which presidents of coeducational institutions laid stress. Salary and rank they could provide but not the opportunity for continued research combined with teaching that made life a continuous adventure, and with the opportunity to develop new resources for service in the city. But it seemed to me that the university presidents were at that time more concerned with the outsides of their women students heads then with their gray matter and so long as I could be in contact with Mr. Freund, Mr. Laughlin, and Miss Talbot, I was only too glad to scrape along, getting a room and board by assisting at Green Hall and doing clerical work in Miss Talbot s office.
Then, Miss Talbot got me my great chance. She recommended that a new department be established, entitled Household Administration, and that I be given the chance to organize courses dealing with the legal and economic aspects of family life while she devoted herself to the sanitary aspects of the household, and that our courses be grouped [with] the ones offered in the School of Education in the Department of Home Economics. They were given by Mrs. Alice Peloubet Norton, Miss Frances Swain, 112 and Miss Jennie Snow. [Miss Talbot] wanted the Legal and Economic aspects developed, and I boldly undertook five courses: The Legal and Economic Position of Women, The State and the Child, Modern Aspects of the Household, Organization of the Retail Market, and Consumption. For a sixth course, Mr. Laughlin asked me to give a course on the Legal Aspects of Labor.
The chance to organize those courses in the Department of Household Administration was an incredibly rich opportunity. The Legal and Economic position of Women for which credit would be given by the departments of Political Economy [and Economics] gave the opportunity of reviewing the position of women in the family group as well as in industry and the professions. This was at a time when the factory system was developing rapidly and occupations for women and girls characterized by long hours, low wages and dangerous working conditions prevailed widely. There were elements of real difficulty present. There were, in fact, two groups of women whose needs were very different. In the area of higher professional or commercial employment, the opportunities were restricted. Some states, such as Illinois, refused to admit women to the practice of the laws without express legislative authorization. It had been necessary for Myra Bradwell, who was learned in the law, to secure an act forbidding the exclusion of women except from underground mining before she was granted a license, to practice in Illinois, 113 although in Indiana and Iowa no question had been raised. Women were excluded from medical schools and from the practice of medicine. When women began to demand first the emancipation of the negro and then the right of women to speak in public and to exercise the franchise, they were met with ridicule and often with violence.
Those five courses I gave that first year [provided] an opportunity to use every kind of material of which I could make use. The legal, the economic, the historical and the social implications were all appropriately considered. The students who registered for them at first were members of Home Economics Faculties in other Universities. In that first class, for example, there were Miss Terrell from the University of Vermont, Miss Van Meter from the State University of Ohio, Miss Berry from the State University of Minnesota. 114 Members of the faculties of departments of Household Science came [and] graduate students, and I developed the courses and also established relationships with the agencies. In connection with the Women s Course, I made contact with those, who like Agnes Nestor, 115 were trying to organize trade unions. Soon the problem of the immigrant girl or woman and her needs was brought to our attention by an immigrant man who had tried to bring over his sister and had had word that she had arrived in New York. She never reached Chicago, however, and he was convinced that she was the victim of the White Slave Traffic. 116
Among the students who took the course on women was Edith Abbott. 117 I shall never forget the fright she caused me when I said something about the way in which women had carried the work of the world while men were doing the fighting and hunting. Do you mean to say [that women worked]? She asked. I thought I did, I replied. I must look into that, she replied. And her looking into that resulted in her first publication, Women in Industry , which appeared first as articles in The Journal of Political Economy . 118 We had to rely on the Journal of Political Economy and Sociology both of which were hospitable and welcome[ed] our materials. Miss Talbot encourage[d] the establishment of contacts with the city, the Juvenile Court was not alien territory because I had been a student in Prof. Freund s and Judge Mack s 119 classes in the Law School and Mr. Freund made further contacts easy through the Woman s Trade Union League. 120 I came first to know the immigrant girl who was under bidding the workers attempting to establish decent wage standards as, for example, in the glove industry where Agnes Nestor was beginning to see the possibility of organizing the glove workers and Mary Anderson, the shoe workers. 121
In any case, it is now fifty years since I came to the University. I think that I have always been afraid of life. There are two men whom I remember as having really loved them. 122 Neither really loved me, though, each for the moment [thought] that he did. Both married women who were clever[er] than I was and both made happy gracious homes.
I want to acknowledge the heavy obligation under which I lie to Miss Talbot, Marion Talbot. I owe her all I am. I was a miserable person almost down and out when she rescued me and put me on my feet and clarified my thinking about my future. No words can express the obligation I feel to her.

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge s memoirs ended just as she embarked on her career in social welfare reform, where she promoted protective legislation for women workers, advocated pensions for poor single mothers, and developed a foster care program for African American children. This work eventually led Breckinridge into international reform circles in the multinational promotion of child welfare. In 1930 Breckinridge was an official U.S. representative to the Sixth Pan American Child Congress, held in Lima, Peru. Building on decades of child welfare advocacy in Latin America, the United States, and Europe, Breckinridge and her fellow delegates demanded a strong welfare state that provided health care, education, financial assistance, and legal protection for children. The congress concluded by offering an official resolution that the protection of children [is] a duty of the State -a declaration that was consistent with Breckinridge s own principles. 123
Breckinridge became a key player in the development of the welfare state in the New Deal era. In addition to serving on numerous advisory committees to the U.S. Children s Bureau, which administered such key social insurance programs as Aid to Dependent Children (later Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Breckinridge collaborated with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration to establish standards for the training of emergency social workers and worked to establish civil service merit hiring throughout the new federal welfare system. Because Breckinridge and Abbott tailored the requirements of the School of Social Service Administration to federal civil service standards, their former students occupied key positions in the emerging welfare state. 124
Breckinridge s national and international visibility led to her selection in 1933 as the United States first woman delegate to an international diplomatic meeting, the Seventh Pan American Conference, held in Montevideo, Uruguay. Her work there brought her into conflict with other women activists, revealing the fault lines of modern feminism. Following the achievement of suffrage, the National Woman s Party proposed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). From its inception, the ERA was an inflammatory issue. Like most activist women in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, Breckinridge feared the amendment would endanger gender-specific legislation, such as so-called mothers pensions, protective legislation for women workers, and public health programs for mothers and infants. As the chair of the League of Women Voters Committee on the Legal Status of Women, she became a point person for the League s outspoken opposition to the amendment. 125
When U.S. feminists engaged in transnational activism in the 1920s and 1930s, they brought the debate over equal rights into the international arena. After the failure of the ERA in the United States, National Woman s Party stalwart Doris Stevens founded the Inter-American Commission of Women to advance equal rights on an international platform in the form of the Equal Nationality Treaty and the Equal Rights Treaty. At Montevideo, Breckinridge and Stevens vied for supporters for their opposing positions. Although the delegates adopted the Equal Nationality Treaty, they tabled the Equal Rights Treaty, allowing both feminist factions to claim a qualified victory. 126
By the mid-1930s threats to world peace overshadowed debates over women s rights. In keeping with her longstanding pacifist stance, Breckinridge opposed U.S. entry into the war. She argued that just as law governed interpersonal relationships to prevent duels and murder, it should also govern international relations to prevent destruction and war. Once the United States entered World War II, Breckinridge responded in characteristic fashion. She criticized the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans and discrimination against African American soldiers in the U.S. military. She supported aid organizations in war-torn countries and helped German Jews, dissident intellectuals, and British children enter the United States and obtain homes, jobs, and citizenship. At war s end she supported the United Nations and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948, the year of her death. 127
As documented in her memoirs, Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge s wideranging social activism-encompassing social welfare, woman suffrage, and civil rights, as well as unionism, internationalism, and pacifism-had its genesis in her Kentucky childhood. Her family s legacy of public service; her relationships with family members; her access to higher education; her youthful exposure to inequities of class, race, and gender; and her contacts with prominent feminists and fellow activists such as Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, Alice Freeman Palmer, Susan B. Anthony, Marion Talbot, Agnes Nestor, Edith Abbott, Julia Lathrop, and Jane Addams-all shaped her career trajectory and her commitment to reform. As an adult she would become one of the best-known activists of the early twentieth century.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
Autobiography of an Educator and Civil Rights Activist
I n September 1904 Mary McLeod Bethune arrived in Daytona, Florida, with her husband and four-year-old son, $1.50 in her pocket, and a bold plan to open an African American school for girls. She had been preparing for this day most of her life. A graduate of Scotia Seminary and Moody Bible Institute, twenty-nine-year-old Bethune had worked with Lucy Craft Laney, met Booker T. Washington, and taught in mission schools from Sumter, South Carolina, to Palatka, Florida. She had experience, dedication, and a dream that was crying for birth. With no place to stay, Bethune rented a cottage on the edge of a dumping ground and went to work at turning her humble abode into an elementary classroom. On October 4 the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls opened its doors to five students, ranging in ages from six through twelve. Keeping the doors open became an immediate concern. The rent was already overdue-she had promised to pay it as soon as she was able-and so Bethune turned to fund-raising to make ends meet. I began to train these little girls in the art of song, she recalled. The first payment on the place was raised by staging concerts and festivals. 1
Word soon got out, and Daytona s African American community drew close around the fledgling school for girls. Ministers, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Masonic Lodges, and local business owners offered support. Women donated food and clothing, volunteered as teachers, and raised money selling chicken dinners and sweet potato pies. Men made benches out of old orange crates. As more African Americans moved to Daytona to work on the railroad, in the timber industry, or at one of the city s beach resorts, they heard about Bethune and sent their daughters to her school. Bethune soon built a reputation for herself as an educator, a community leader, and a civil rights pioneer in the segregated South. 2
Born on July 10, 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of Patsy McIntosh and Samuel McLeod, former slaves who had toiled in the unforgiving cotton and rice fields of Sumter County, South Carolina. Patsy and her mother, Sophia, had been owned by Annie Ross and James Gamble McIntosh. Theirs was a harrowing existence, one in which they had paid dearly for by fighting back against the sexual violence perpetrated by white southern men on the plantation. In the 1840s Patsy married Samuel McLeod, a slave from a neighboring plantation, and gave birth to fifteen children. Over time, James McIntosh sold some of the children to local farmers, then gave Patsy to his daughter, Rebecca McIntosh Wilson, as a wedding gift. The Wilsons lived in nearby Mayesville, but it made little difference to Patsy and Samuel McLeod, whose broken family was now spread across Sumter County. After the war Patsy worked as a cook for the Wilsons until 1870, earning five acres of land for her service. The couple later purchased an additional thirty acres, their landholding status putting them on a surer financial footing than most freed people in South Carolina. In their simple log cabin near Mayesville, Patsy gave birth to three more children, Mary Jane among them. 3
The McLeod family worked hard on the land, turning their small farm into a self-sufficient future. Patsy supplemented the household income with her midwifery skills and Samuel with his expertise in carpentry. As a child of freedom, Mary longed for a different future, and, surprisingly, Sumter County offered her just that. In 1882 African American teacher and missionary Emma Jane Wilson founded the Trinity Presbyterian Mission School just five miles from the McLeod farm. The McLeods belonged to an African Methodist Episcopal church, but they were eager to send their promising daughter to school. It was at Trinity that eleven-year-old Mary first learned to read and write. Trudging through the rice fields to class, she learned by day, then passed on her knowledge to family members at home. Wilson recognized her young student s potential and secured a benefactor to sponsor Mary s attendance at Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, the first school for black women in the South. 4
At Scotia Seminary, Mary found herself in an oasis of learning, far from the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan and Red Shirt violence that raged through her native South Carolina. She thrived under the direction of Scotia president David Junkin Satterfield and his wife, Nellie, and a seminary that prided itself on punctuality and industry. There were morning prayers and Sunday church services, and students took turns working in the kitchen, laundry, and grounds. Unlike her fellow classmates, Mary spent her summers working as domestic help in northern homes. Partway through her studies and inspired by the Satterfields example, she resolved to become a missionary. Upon graduating, she attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, a school that provided education and training to ministers, teachers, and missionaries. Her Scotia benefactor, Mary Crissman, agreed to pay for her tuition, and she arrived in the Windy City in July 1894 amid the Pullman strike and the ensuing violence between federal troops and union workers. 5
If Scotia was a world away from Mayesville, Moody was another leap again. Mary found herself in a rapidly growing city, where she was the only black student at the school. She learned that some whites supported African American education but not total equality. Living with a white roommate shaped her commitment to interracial work and her determination to make others see that color, caste, or class distinctions are an evil thing. It was also at Moody that she engaged in her earliest mission work. She joined the school choir and gave regular performances at the local police station and Pacific Gardens Mission. A profound religious experience at this time merely confirmed what her family always knew: she was chosen by God to work among her people. Upon completing her two-year course, Mary applied to the Presbyterian Home Mission Board for a post in Africa. The board sent her instead to Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia. I resolved to be a missionary there, she wrote, among my own people in the south. 6
The assignment proved to be one of the most significant in her early life. At the Haines Institute she worked with African American educator Lucy Craft Laney, principal of the school she had founded in 1883. Laney was a teacher and fund-raiser extraordinaire, whose network of friends and faculty included W. E. B. Du Bois, John and Lugenia Burns Hope, Mary Jackson McCrorey (associate principal of Haines from 1896 through 1916), Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and Madame C. J. Walker. Black educators, she insisted, must teach students and their families to change a whole community and start its people on an upward way. Mary was inspired by Laney, whose philosophy profoundly influenced hers. While she would eventually visit Booker T. Washington at his famous Tuskegee Institute, her ideas differed markedly from his. Industrial education may have been attractive to northern philanthropists, she reasoned, but voting rights and citizenship carried equal weight in her educational model. Mary resolved to preside over her students as a modern matriarch, head of the family. 7
After a year at Haines, she moved back to Sumter County in 1897 and taught school at the Kendell Institute, nine miles from her family home in Mayesville. There she met Albert Bethune in a church choir. The couple married in 1898 and moved to Savannah, Georgia, where their only child, Albert Jr., was born in 1899. Months later Mary McLeod Bethune accepted an offer from Presbyterian Minister Coyden Uggams to establish a mission school in Palatka, Florida. Bethune embraced the work-aside from teaching she also worked with prisoners in the county jail and families at the nearby turpentine camps-but soon discovered it was an unsuitable location for her girls academy. Ever the shrewd politician, Bethune believed that her school must be located close to northerners and within a growing black and white population. While she couched her rationale in visions from God, she was keenly aware that northern funds sustained schools such as Haines and Tuskegee and helped curb local opposition to black educational reform. 8
During her four years at Palatka, Bethune continued to search for the perfect school site. She settled on Daytona. Located directly south of Jacksonville on the northeastern coast of Florida, the city offered independence for Bethune and her school and a broad base of northern philanthropy. Henry Flagler s Florida East Coast Railway wound its way along the coast, making Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach winter havens for the likes of James Norris Gamble of Proctor and Gamble, John D. Rockefeller, and Thomas White of the White Sewing Machine Company. Clubwomen were also active in the community. In 1895 Daytona Beach s privileged white women established the Palmetto Club, whose motto, Why Stay We on Earth Unless to Grow, inspired a host of civic, public health, and educational reforms. The time was right. Compared to other African American private school founders, Bethune had traveled widely and observed more educators. She and her family moved to Daytona in 1904. 9
The Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls had humble beginnings, and in Bethune s first years as founder and principal she confronted poverty, segregation, and violence on a daily basis. More African Americans were lynched in Florida per capita than in any other state; from 1877 to 1950, 331 blacks were lynched there at a rate of 0.6 percent per 100,000 residents. One of Bethune s former students recalled a 1907 lynching in which a black man s body was dragged through city streets as a warning to others about minding their place. In that same year Bethune s marriage collapsed, and Albert left for South Carolina. Suddenly, the Daytona principal became a single working mother with a school to run and a young child to support. 10
But nothing stopped Bethune, even when personal and political circumstances, segregation, and white southern violence gave her little reason for hope. Following Laney s example, she threw herself into fund-raising and worked tirelessly to break down the walls between blacks and whites. Bethune held Sunday afternoon community meetings featuring music and lectures with a lack of segregation in the seating arrangements -a direct breach of Jim Crow laws. Inspection days offered visitors an opportunity to tour the school, meet students, and see the teaching program in action. Over time, Bethune counted James Norris Gamble, Thomas White, and the Palmetto clubwomen among her most dedicated supporters. 11
By 1910 the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School boasted an enrollment of 102 students and a teaching faculty of six. During one of Bethune s fund-raising trips to New York, she met Frances Reynold Keyser, an activist who worked at the White Rose Home for Colored Working Girls and served on the executive board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The pair became a formidable team. Keyser moved to Florida, where she and Bethune engaged in club and settlement house work, founding the Florida Federation of Colored Women s Clubs and the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women s Clubs. Keyser also became a key figure at the Daytona school, helping develop the curriculum and secure funding. Bethune s dream was now a reality: her institute was a place where African American girls took academic subjects along with vital instruction on citizenship, voting rights, and their duty to their race. Dressed in blue dresses and black sailor hats, Bethune s students prayed each morning and evening, while their principal contested American views about what black women could do. I longed, Bethune later wrote, to see women, Negro women, hold in their hands diplomas which bespoke achievement; I longed to see their accomplishments recognized side by side with any woman anywhere. 12
While Bethune often talked about her early days in interviews and speeches, A Yearning and Longing Appeased is one of the few autobiographical accounts she wrote about this period in her life. It was composed sometime in the 1930s, possibly later. Like fellow school founders Nannie Burroughs and Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Bethune borrowed from a narrative prized by most twentieth-century Americans: the triumph of the underdog through hard work, dedication, and Christian faith. Still, Bethune subverted this narrative in significant ways. She was the daughter of former slaves who educated black women on their political rights in the segregated South. She was a leader in the African American community and stood firm in the face of racial violence. And she was a school founder and principal at a time when most African American women scratched out a meager living as domestic help. Bethune claimed her place: as a descendant of African royalty, she had been inspired by a long line of strong and capable women. Her mother, Patsy McLeod, managed the family farm and possessed keen intelligence and great refinement. Other women, including Emma Wilson and Lucy Craft Laney, gave her the educational tools, philanthropic experience, and spiritual insight to fulfill her vision. By following her yearning and longing, the young African American student from Mayesville, South Carolina, became one of the great educators and civil rights pioneers of the twentieth century. 13

This documentary selection features Mary McLeod Bethune s unpublished memoir, A Yearning and Longing Appeased. From the Mary McLeod Bethune Papers, the Bethune Foundation, Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida. Published with the Foundation s permission .
A gripping desire to serve and achieve permeated my being from early childhood, though at that immature stage, I knew not the name for the strangely exalted feeling and sensation that enveloped me. Certainly strains of my mother s blood 14 of African royalty blended with my own warm blood which jointly lent to an ever swelling stream of a great consciousness of purpose. For I had a yearning and longing for higher things. 15
My mother was a direct descendant of a ruling family in West Africa, where even to the present time succession and kinship are reckoned through the mother. True to the conditions of Negroes in the south during pre-Civil War days she was a slave of a southern family by the name of McIntosh in South Carolina. 16 Adhering to the custom in those days of the slave s taking on the surname of his owner, she was known as Patsy McIntosh. My mother was possessed of keen intelligence and great refinement. She had a will of her own, was very constructive, with great vision. She was the business manager of the family. Hers was the power to inspire and direct. To a degree I was the product of her inspiration.
My father, Samuel McLeod was also a slave in one of the wealthy, powerful families of South Carolina. 17 I remember him as being sympathetic, big-hearted and indulgent. After the emancipation of the slaves, 18 he took up the trade of carpentry and earned his living at that occupation.
One of the seventeen children 19 born to my parents, I was the first free child of our humble family. I was born in a three roomed log cabin on a cotton and rice farm about three miles from Mayesville, South Carolina. The older children, who had been born in slavery followed the various occupation patterns of any farm region such as farmers, carpenters, bricklayers, and laborers. They had very little schooling, as schools for Negroes were very, very few in those days.
My mother and father worked hard and earnestly in the rice and cotton fields that composed our surroundings. While very young, I somehow sensed the tragic economic conditions of my beloved parents and sought to assist my mother in the fields, swiftly and cheerfully. 20 I felt my attitude might alleviate much of the mental anguish that I felt must have been hers in that tr

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