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Books and Beyond

Last year I brought home a sack of used books from the library book sale, after I worked for a couple of hours at the sale table and helped other people buy some choice titles. One of the books I brought home was “Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815-1897,” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It’s a paperback of 490 pages, and a good way to read this book is just a few pages now and then, because it’s packed with dates, travels, people, women’s rights. The index is names of those in the book, and I also penciled some notes at the beginning of each chapter to help me find specific details. The illustrations in the book are photos or drawings of family and friends.

One of the dates to highlight is January 1887 — the 19th annual convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington D.C., where Stanton gave an address. The year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Elizabeth devoted her life to women’s rights.

Her travels took her to England and Europe, and also to many places all over the United States –as far west as California, and as far south as Texas. For her 77th birthday (1892) she was in Portsmouth, Iowa, to visit her son Gerrit Smith Stanton. This is in Shelby County where I’ve done some research because my great grandmother’s brother from Pennsylvania lived there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have a dream that they met. She also visited and gave speeches in Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Sometimes she was in a horse and carriage and other times on the train. A lot of her traveling was from 1869 to 1881, summer and winter.

Here are some of the people she knew: Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Greenleaf Whittier, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. On pages 204 and 205, she writes about her “little Quaker friend Amelia Willard.” She helped Elizabeth for thirty years, doing housework and helping take care of the six children of the Henry B. Stanton and Elizabeth Cady Stanton family. This is when they lived in Seneca Falls, NY. They had married in October 1839. He was a lawyer and an anti-slavery speaker. During their marriage ceremony, she would not permit using the word obey.

My next focus was John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892). He was present at informal gatherings where Stanton was, many times in Massachusetts. I have a very old book of poems by Whittier! Its copyright is 1892 (original c 1848), and whoever owned the book before me pasted lots of poems and articles by mainly unknown names in the front matter pages and back pages of the book. The date Oct. 23, 1909, is penciled on the inside back cover. Years ago I bought this book at the bookstore on Main Street in Brookings, S.D.

I did find that many of the 18poems pasted in the book were written by a Minnesotan or a South Dakotan. One poem is “A Christmas Wish to All Minnesota Members.” The two names given were members of the Degree of Honor.

Another feature of the book is if you go though the book page by page, you will see many dried four-leaf clovers inserted. My Grandma Renner’s big Holy Bible she was given in 1887 has in its pages some newspaper articles, plant leaves, and some cut hair which may be hers. Do we still do this in books today?

I knew from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s book that Whittier was a Quaker, and on page 186 of his book I found the poem “The Quaker Alumni.” Many of his poems are strongly anti-slavery, but an online site about him says that he did own slaves. He didn’t have much formal education.

In his poem titled “The Jubilee Singers,” the last three lines are

Voice of a ransomed race, sing on

Till Freedom’s every right is won,

And slavery’s every wrong undone!

(page 302)

Fisk University in Nashville, TN, still has Jubilee Singers, the African-American group he was writing about.

It’s another book to take time going through — 352 pages. Like Stanton’s book, there’s a lot of history. One of the titles, “Hymn for the Celebration of Emancipation at Newburyport” is one of many poems he wrote against slavery. Newburyport is in Massachusetts where Whittier lived for many years.

Here is another poem with so much meaning. The title “Hymn” is described as “sung at Christmas by the scholars of St. Helena’s Island, S.C.”

The last verse is

Come once again, O blessed Lord!

Come walking on the sea!

And let the mainlands hear the word

That sets the islands free!

(page 208)

When I looked online for more information about St. Helena’s Island, I found that this place is where Martin Luther King, Jr. drafted his famous “I have a dream speech.” He gave the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug.28, 1963. He was shot and killed in 1968.

I still read Alan Alda’s books, and on page 33 of Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, he writes about meeting M.L. King Jr., when King came to a production of “Purlie Victorious” that Alda was acting in. Alda shook hands with him, and had his photo taken with King. This was in the 1960s.

Traveling in books is good for all of us now.

New hours at the Marshall Library –Monday and Tuesday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Drive-up window Monday-Friday 4-5:30 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m.-noon, marshalllyonlibrary.org.

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