Seeing Suffrage

The practical, victorious, but less-than-glorious fight for women’s suffrage

We are entering a period when, for the next year or so, many Americans will be celebrating the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide. The history of the ratification fight is often presented as glorious and ultimately victorious, a great confirmation that sometimes our political […]

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Carver’s rules for life, dethroning King Apostrophe, the author that Agatha Christie ‘remembered’: newsletter, July 12, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 12, 2019. {% if subscriber.first_name != blank %} Hello {{ subscriber.first_name }}, {% else %} Hello, {% endif %} The honey harvest was completed last weekend at the Stovall house, and we gathered almost eight gallons of honey from three hives, […]

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George Washington Carver’s rules for living a good life

The great scientist and agronomist George Washington Carver developed some simply formulated rules for living that he presented to his students. They’re worth passing on to you. Be clean both inside and out. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor. Lose, if need be, without squealing. Win without bragging. Always be […]

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Writing the national anthem, ripping off Dickens, publishing a Civil War memoir: newsletter, July 5, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,747) on Friday, July 5, 2019. I hope that everyone in America (and elsewhere) is having a happy Fourth of July and its aftermath. In America, we celebrate with fireworks, ice cream, baseball, cherry pie, cookouts, and just about anything else we can think of […]

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AntoniaFraser

Antonia Fraser’s writing day

Fortunately for writer and historian Lady Antonia Fraser, she was pronounced as “uppity” when she was a girl attending convent school. The nuns, for some reason she doesn’t specify, didn’t like her. They decided to punish by making her spend her Saturday mornings learning to touch type. “In consequence,” she writes, “I’m a touch typist […]

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Ernest Hemingway on writing

The spare writing style of Ernest Hemingway has been often analyzed — and too often imitated — by many observers and commentators. It is unique. There is nothing like it in the English language, and when Hemingway emerged as an important and eventually well-known writer in the post-Great War era of the 1920s, the style […]

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Book counterfeiting: it happened before Amazon came into existence.

What happens when you are a self-published author (as I am), and someone takes your books, republishes them on Amazon’s self-publishing site, and sells them at a higher price — depriving you not only of royalties but also very possibly creating ill-will among your readers? This hasn’t happened to me — at least, not that […]

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Is it time to dethrone King Apostrophe?

As a member of the Realm of the Apostrophe, you should stand up and declare your position. Are you loyal to our little king (“the squiggly one,” we affectionately call it), trying to follow all the confusing rules put out by his courtiers? Or are you one of a growing number of apostates, planning a […]

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Hemingway on writing, Fraser at writing, counterfeit books, and a podcast: newsletter, June 28, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 28, 2019. The great satisfaction of a project nearing completion came for me this week with the arrival of proof copies of Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will McTeer. McTeer left his home near the Great Smoky Mountains in […]

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Will McTeer and his Civil War memories

Will McTeer was one of more than two million soldiers who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War years of 1861-1865. He was not looking for a fight. He did so because he loved his country and what it represented and because he feared the Confederacy – an idea with which he, his […]

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Julia Ward Howe’s not so perfect marriage

When the Battle Hymn of the Republic’s stirring lines were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862, Julia Ward Howe seemed ideally position to receive the fame and accolades that she was about to receive for her poem. She was the mother of six children, and she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, […]

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A newspaper story becomes a famous poem, the domestic troubles of a famous poet, and a cure for our civil ills: newsletter, June 21, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,769) on Friday, June 21, 2019. The local library where I live — the Blount County Public Library — continues its vital work despite the county commission’s threat of underfunding its operation. The funding issues should be resolved in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Blount County Friends […]

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The personal civil war of Julia Ward Howe

We remember Julia Ward Howe for genius in composing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In the history of the English language, few poems have been repeated and sung as much this one — and perhaps none has generated so many book titles. But Howe is far more than the author of this great piece […]

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The House of Rest

Julia Ward Howe’s visions of glory, the fountain pen, more about libraries: newsletter, June 14, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,775) on Friday, June 14, 2019.   Beans on the stand, tassels on the corn, blooms on the cucumbers, tomatoes on the vine — the garden continues to amaze us with its seasonable miracles. The months of planning, planting, watering, weeding, and watching are being […]

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The solution to the things that divide us: ‘Love Your Enemies’

The New York Times has recently reviewed a book that I have not read but whose title I certainly agree with: Love Your Enemies. The book is by Arthur C. Brooks, who is among other things the former director of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C. The author of the review […]

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The fountain pen – the first portable writing instrument

For the first time in many months, I decided last week to make a fountain pen — not a ballpoint, which is what I usually do — on my lathe. During much of my working life, I used a fountain pen because I liked the feel of it and because I felt the writing was […]

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Walt Whitman’s calculated plan to achieve the fame he wanted

Walt Whitman (whose 200th birthday we celebrated briefly last week) was 35 years old in 1854 with no job and no prospects. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a poet — a famous poet. He was well on the way to being a poet. He had already written much of his seminal work, Leaves […]

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Walt Whitman chases fame, Verse and Vision, libraries, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, June 7, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 7, 2019.     Celebrations of great moments and memories in the history of the United States continue during these weeks with Memorial Day, followed by D-Day (June 6), Flag Day (June 14), and then July the Fourth. Each of these times calls for clear-eyed reflection and assessment […]

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Sir Walter Scott writes himself out of debt, more on libraries, competing definitions of journalism: newsletter, May 31, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, May 31, 2019. For the past six or seven weeks, we have left our beehives alone. This is the main honey-making season, and we did not want to do anything to disturb them. That changed this week when I opened them to make […]

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What good are libraries? How should they be run? Provocative questions from a reader

After my rant last week about the funding proposals from the county government for our local library, one of my very good newsletter readers and faithful correspondents (Frank C.) sent me these provocative questions. They were challenging enough that I thought I should share them with you to see if you had any reactions. Does […]

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