Edna St. Vincent Millay and the voice of feminism, more about William Roughead, and lots of reader reaction: newsletter, April 1, 2022

April 1, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,234) on Friday, April 1, 2022.

You newsletter readers are carrying much of the load for this week’s newsletter. I have received several substantial and interesting comments on articles I have included during the past couple of weeks, and I want to share them with all of you. I am deeply gratified whenever you write to me—even (especially) when it is to correct a mistake I have made—and I trust you will continue to do so.

Update on the library: I mentioned last week that I had been helping the local library with its radio-frequency tagging effort, and I am glad to say that the efforts the librarians and volunteers made last week have moved the project forward. Most of the main stacks were tagged, and the library is now working on some of the smaller collections. It will take weeks before everything, including more than 10,000 DVDs, gets a tag, but that is well on its way to happening.

So, happy reading and have a great weekend.

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Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,244 subscribers and had a 33.7 percent open rate; 6 persons unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay, the early voice of 20th century feminism

When she was 19 years old in 1912, Edna St. Vincent Millay had few prospects. She had just graduated from high school in Maine, but her family did not have enough money to send her to college.

Her sister, Norma, worked as a waitress at a local inn that summer, and Edna stayed with her a good deal. In the dining room one evening, Edna decided to play the piano and recite a poem that she had written.

The poem was titled “Renascence.” It was a 107 rhyming couplet poem that described her spiritual awakening. It had been published in a book, The Lyric Year, an anthology of poetry, and it had been widely acclaimed as the best poem in the book.

She was a very competent piano player, and one of her dreams—despite her innate shyness—was to go on stage as an actress. These talents came to the fore, and she played and recited for the dining room audience. A member of that audience happened to be Caroline Dow, the head of the YWCA national training school in New York. Dow recognized Edna’s talent and potential, and she offered to support her college career.

The next year Millay entered Vassar College as a 21-year-old freshman. It was the ticket that she needed to a life that became one of the most celebrated in all of 20th century American letters.

Millay found Vassar to be intellectually stimulating but socially restrictive, far too restrictive for the bohemian lifestyle that she had been developing since childhood. She carried on numerous affairs while she was at Vassar both with her fellow students and also with men whom she met and was attracted to. Her repeated violation of the college’s rules almost prevented her from taking part in graduation ceremonies. It was only with the intervention of the president of the college that she was able to graduate. He wanted rid of her.

All the while she wrote prolifically and was able to publish some of her poetry. After graduation, she moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and soon joined in the free-wheeling social life and leftist politics of the era. She attracted a coterie of lovers both male and female, and her poetry was published in important journals such as Vanity Fair.

In 1921 she left on a two-year stint to Europe where she wrote poetry and served as the foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair. Her poetry attracted a large and favorable audience, and in 1923 she became the first female to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

It was also in 1923 that she met the man she was finally willing to commit, in whatever way she could, a marriage pledge. His name was Eugen Boissevain. He was a rich Dutch merchant and newspaper publisher who had been married to the famous suffragist Inez Milholland until her death in 1916. Eugen loved Edna wholeheartedly and was accepting of her openness to relationships with other people.

Two years after their marriage, Boissevain and Millay bought a 600-acre blueberry farm they named Steepletop near Austerlitz, New York. They put substantial effort into fixing up the farm and building new buildings. Millay came to love gardening and considered this place to be a refuge from her ever-broadening public appeal.

In addition to writing for the theater and the operatic stage and to continuing her output of poetry, Millay became an accomplished and engaging public performer. Her concerts and readings drew large and enraptured audiences. The southern journalist Ralph McGill wrote after attending a performance in Nashville, “She wore the first shimmering gold-metal cloth dress I’d ever seen and she was, to me, one of the most fey and beautiful persons I’d ever met.”

Millay also involved herself in politics, becoming deeply identified with the unsuccessful movement to prevent the execution of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1927. Along with many others, she was arrested during a protest march in Boston.

Public tastes evolved, however, and Millay’s poetry lost much of its following in the 1930s. Millay was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1936. The injuries she sustained combined with other physical ailments and increased consumption of alcohol, as well as the deadlines for her writing, slowly debilitated her physically and emotionally. Her husband died of a stroke in 1949, and she died a year later of a heart attack.

Despite the decline in her popularity late in her life, Millay is today recognized as a giant early voice of feminism and the “New Woman” of the American 20th century.

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce: Riot, R.I.P., Rite, Ritualism, Road

RIOT, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.

R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace, attesting an indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.

RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.

RITUALISM, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass.

ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.

All roads, howsoe’er they diverge, lead to Rome,

Whence, thank the good Lord, at least one leads back home.

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The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.  https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”

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Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing

The father of modern true crime writing is back.

William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.

His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.

Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.

The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include:

Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contain the editors’ introduction and the first few pages of the chapter.

We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.

We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.

During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.

Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.

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Group giveaways

Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, April Crime Thriller Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of April. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.

The giveaway includes more than 30 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors. The link for this giveaway is https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-crime-thriller-giveaways/glkpa6m4vw.

It helps me if you use this link to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books.

Reactions

Check out last week’s newsletter

Jim D.: I found a story in your last Friday’s newsletter (March 18) very intriguing. I thought I knew a little about William Buckley—I remember well his episodic debates with Gore Vidal—but I never heard the story of Edgar Smith. I always admired Buckley for his passionate and well-reasoned defense of conservatism, though I disagreed strongly with his positions. Now I see him in a whole new light. He undoubtedly felt embarrassment and regret at his having defended and advocated for Smith after the latter struck again and the truth of the original murder became known. Still, I admire Buckley for believing in the innocence of a fellow man and doing all he could to right a perceived wrong. Yes, he was duped, but his mistake was born of compassion. For that he merits our understanding and our compassion.

Vic C.: This is a thank you note for volunteering at the library. One of the great pleasures I had as a teen was taking the bus to get to the subway, riding it for about 15 minutes and then walking 4 blocks to the main building of the Free Library of Philadelphia. It has been many years since I last visited there, but I still remember a sense of awe when walking up the steps and through the doors of that very large building. I had learned how to use the card catalog at an early age and the feel of walking my fingers through them, looking for the one(s) I wanted remains, as does the somewhat musty odor. There were so many books that you were left with the impression that the rows and rows of shelves were virtually endless. For an avid reader like me, it was pure joy and, even when I went there to do research for a homework assignment (avoiding the crowds in the comparatively miniscule library at school), I was always coming home with books to be read that had absolutely nothing to do with my formal education.

When I was in my 30s, I was fortunate to live one block from a branch of the suburban library system. Rain or shine, I went there looking for something to read. My first stop was always the small bookshelf holding the latest additions. Skip forward several decades and the drawers with the 3×5 cards were gone; locating a book had gone digital. Despite my expertise with computers, for me, there was a certain amount of cultural shock. Though it may not be totally appropriate to regard it as “sic transit gloria mundi,” I certainly feel a certain amount of regret for the loss of the banished and so carefully typed index cards.

Dan C.: I do not know if you know the Army tradition of naming their helicopters after American Indian tribes and chiefs was made official in Army Regulation 70-28 (created in 1969 but since rescinded). The Army General in charge of Army Aviation in 1947 did not like the designation of the first two aircraft, the Hoverfly and the Dragonfly and named the H-13 (the one made famous by M*A*S*H*) the Sioux, after the tribe that took out the 7th Cavalry (and Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, since he was only a Brevet General over a decade earlier during the Civil War). Though it is now only tradition, the Army’s latest helicopter, the UH-72A Lakota was officially blessed by the Lakota tribe elders in 2012, just as all the other newly christened Army aircraft have been for decades. Some people feel that the naming convention is cultural appropriation (they seem to always be white liberals who speak for the culture without ever checking to see if that culture feels it is being appropriated or not). Unlike sports teams (or maybe it was like them), the naming was in honor of the fiercest fighting force the Army had ever faced (27 Native Americans have won the Medal of Honor).

Most people think of the UH-1 (Utility Helicopter) as the Huey (UH – Huey, get it?), but its actual name was the Iroquois.

Jennifer S.: Thanks for your help with the RFID project. I’m happy for my library friends that things seem to be going well.

I was interested in your piece on Black Hawk; thank you for filling in so many details about him. It reminded me of your conversation a while back about sports team mascots drawn from indigenous peoples names and nicknames. The Chicago Blackhawks are in an interesting situation because they were actually named after the founder’s Army division (86th Infantry), but that division was, in turn, named for Black Hawk himself. The Chicago hockey team’s logo represents a profile of an indigenous man, and attempts have been made to make this as authentic a portrait as possible, given the constraints of logos. (Compare this to the cartoonish Cleveland Guardians’ former mascot, or the outright slur of the Washington football team!

Still, I’m mindful that for many people, the use of indigenous imagery and names, including this one, represents a very painful history of persecution and ongoing invisibility. About 7 years ago, an Ojibway artist in Canada, Mike Ivall, created an alternate logo for the Chicago team, which is a hawk’s profile, not a person’s, using the same team colors and general style. It’s a very striking logo and one that resolves at least some possible issues of the team name. (That very good logo was later purchased by a Canadian youth hockey organization, the Maplesoft Hawks.) Chicago has retained their “Black Hawk” profile. I wonder, given the founder’s reason for choosing this name, if they should just change the profile to the face of an Army soldier instead? I remember your discussion of “Hammers” as a possible Atlanta baseball mascot. Perhaps a soldier mascot for Chicago hockey would be a similar solution.

Here’s the website of the Maplesoft Hawks, with Ivall’s logo on display:

http://maplesofthawks.com/index.php 

Here’s an article about how Ivall’s logo came about: 

https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/culturally-appropriate-chicago-blackhawks-logo-by-first-nations-artist-goes-viral

Here’s a piece about how much some indigenous (and other) people love Ivall’s logo and wish it were the Chicago team’s logo:

https://chicagoist.com/2015/11/19/culturally_appropriate_blackhawks_l.php

Here’s an opinion essay about how the Blackhawk name and logo represent a history of colonialism:

https://chinations.org/statement-chicago-blackhawks-name-and-logo-symbolize-a-legacy-of-imperialism-and-genocide/

(It should be noted that like any population of people, indigenous and First Nations people are not uniform in their opinions.)

Obviously, there’s tons more! I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole!

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and wash: The Packhorse Library

The “packhorse library” will be the topic of a future item soon.

Best quote of the week:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Eleanor Roosevelt, writer and First Lady (1884-1962)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

Helping those in need

Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: The return of William Roughead, The Godfather’s 50th, and a strange story from the Sixties: newsletter, March 18, 2022

 

 

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