Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter IV - 241 Beacon Street: THe New Orleans Exposition - 1883-1885; aet. 64-66

The full outpouring of power that stops at no frontier,
But follows I would with I can, and I can with I do it!

J. W. H.

The winter of 1882-83 found her once more with a family of some size, her son and his wife joining forces with her at 241 Beacon Street. In Harry's college days, mother and son had made much music together; now the old music books were unearthed, and the house resounded with the melodies of Rossini and Handel. It was a gay household, with Crawford living in the reception room on the ground floor; play was the order of the evening, as work was of the day.

The new inmates brought new friends to the circle, men of science, the colleagues of her beloved "Bunko," now Professor Howe of the Institute of Technology, Italians, and other Europeans introduced by Crawford. There was need of these new friends, for old ones were growing fewer. Side by side in the Journal with the mention of this one or that comes more and more frequently the record of the passing of some dear companion on life's journey. Those who were left of the great band that made New England glorious in the nineteenth century held closely to each other, and the bond between them had a touching significance. Across the street lived Oliver Wendell Holmes; in[81] Cambridge was Thomas Wentworth Higginson; in Dorchester, Edward Everett Hale.

In a letter to her brother she speaks of "the constant 'tear and trot' of my Boston life, in which I try to make all ends meet, domestic, social, artistic, and reformatory, and go about, I sometimes think, like a poor spider who spins no web.... Marion has been very industrious, and is full of good work and of cheer. His book ["Mr. Isaacs"] has been such a success as to give him at once a recognized position, of which the best feature, economically, is that it enables him to command adequate and congenial employment at fairly remunerative prices...."

To Laura

My darling Child,— Your letter makes me say that I don't know anything, whether I have written or not, or ought to write, or not. Mammy's poor old head is very much worse than ever, and I don't get time even to read letters, some days. I can't tell why, except that there are many points and people to be reached, in one way and another, and I rush hither and thither, accomplishing, I fear, very little, but stirring many stews with my own spoon. It seems to me that I could not bear another winter of this stress and strain, which is difficult to analyze or account for, as "she needn't have done it, you know." Why she must do it, notwithstanding, is hard to tell, or what it is in doing it which so exhausts all nervous energy and muscular strength. Now, darling, after this prelude in a minor[82] key, let me thank heaven that, after all, I am well in health, and comfortable.

Wednesday, 10th, 2.20 P.M. I wrote the above at noon, yesterday, expecting Salvini to lunch.... Mrs. Appleton came in, and kept me, until 2 minus 20 minutes, at which time, nearly beside myself with anxiety, I tumbled upstairs, out of one garment and into another. Such was my dressing. Salvini came and was charming. After luncheon came a reception. Your little girls were there, looking delightfully. Porter was pleased to say that the little ones, hanging around the (old) grandmother made a pleasing picture.... No more from 'fection


In later January she has "a peaceful day at Vassar College.... In the afternoon met the teachers and read some poems, to wit, all of the Egyptian ones, and the poem on the Vestal dug up in Rome. At bedtime last night I had a thought of ghosts. I spoke of this to Maria Mitchell to-day. She told me that Mr. Matthew Vassar's body had been laid in this room and those of various persons since, which, had I known, I had been less comfortable than I was."

"February 18. Young Salvini [Alessandro] and Ventura to luncheon, also Lizzie Boott and Mrs. Jack [Gardner]. Salvini is beautiful to look at, having a finely chiselled Greek head. He is frank, cordial, and intelligent, and speaks very appreciatively of his parts, especially of Romeo."

[83]"To the Intemperate Women's Home where I spoke from the text, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"

To Laura

March 17, 1883. Darling Child,— Just let drop everything, and take me up on your lap. I'se very tired, writing, tugging at all sorts of things. Long silence b'tween us. Growing estrangement, eh? Richardses are better, eh? Which nobody can deny.... Have been hard at work upon a memoir of Maria Mitchell, which is well-nigh finished.... Am spleeny to-day: the weather being according....

To "Uncle Sam"

March 28, 1883.

My darling Brother,—
I owe you two good long letters, and am ashamed to think how long it is since you have seen my crabbed chirography. Of course, it is the old story. I have been dreadfully busy with all sorts of work, in all of which I take delight, while yet to quote St. Paul, "The good that I would I do not." To give you a few items, I have just finished a short memoir of Maria Mitchell, Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College. This was an interesting task, but had to be very carefully done. At the same time, I had to correct Maud's memoir of me, which is to be published in the same collection of biographies of eminent women! I think I am eminent for undertaking ten times more than I can do, and[84] doing about one tenth of it. Well—I have given three Sunday preachments at a sort of Woman's church which they have here. My themes were: "The Order of the Natural and the Spiritual," "Tares and Wheat," and "The Power of Religion in the Life." I was in New York last Wednesday, to preside over the mid-year Conference of the Woman's Congress.... I had a visit from Salvini the other day. He was most charming, and sent me a box for last evening's performance of "The Outlaw," in Italian: "Morte Civile." I went, with my Harry and Laura, I in my best attire. I had received some very beautiful roses, which I threw upon the stage, at the recall after the third Act. To-day I met Wendell Phillips in the street, and made him come in to see Marion, whose letter on English rule in India, printed in the New York "Tribune," he had liked very much. Phillips asked me how I came to live in this part of the city, and I told him about your gift of the house.... Marion is sitting by my fire, with Browning's "Jocoseria" in his hands, from which he has been reading passages. It sounds strange and silly....

To the same

Oak Glen, May 10, 1883.
... —I have been here alone all these days, with many gentle ghosts of past companionship, and with a task at which I work steadily every day. This is a life of Margaret Fuller, rewritten mostly from the memoirs already published, but also recast in my own thought. The publisher is in a hurry for it, and[85] I have to work without intermission, i.e., as long as I can, every day; but with all the diligence in my power, I cannot get along very rapidly. When I have finished my stint, I refresh myself with a little Greek, and also with an Italian novel which I have brought with me. The place looks lovely, and I sat, this afternoon, on the western piazza, near that angle where you and I used to sit, last summer, and enjoyed a bath of sunshine....

To Laura

Oak Glen, August 21, 1883.
My Much Neglected Darling,— I give you to-day my first hour, or half-hour, as the case may be, feeling that my long silence has been abominable, and must be broken, even if you should feel it to be your duty to throw an inkstand at my head, in return for my letter. It is partly Backbone's fault. Backbone has been so scrouged and put upon by the summer's work that he sometimes cuts up amazing. Said work is pretty well out of hand at this moment, the last chapters of "Margaret Fuller" being ready for the press.... I have so much felt the shocking uncharity of things in the way of diaries and letters which have been published within the last few years. Not the least bad exhibition in this kind has been made by Carlyle and his wife. I have just finished reading the three volumes of her letters and memorials, which were indeed interesting to me by the mention in them of persons whom I myself have known. Still, the spirit of the book is painful. It is[86] sad to see how she adopted, at times, her husband's harsh creed. I should think Froude, the editor, must be wanting in common taste and decency, to have allowed the letters to appear in all this crudeness. I am so glad that I never went near them, after that one tea-drink, a very bad one, forty years ago. Is this enough about the Carlyles? And is it strictly charitable? I dunno; I'm getting very old to know anything....

The "Life of Margaret Fuller" (in Roberts Brothers' series of "Famous Women") was a small book, yet it stood for much careful work, and was so recognized and received. The recognition sometimes took a singular form, e.g., a letter from a gentleman styling himself "Prof. Nat. & Geol.," who desires two copies of the "Margaret Fuller," and asks her to "accept for them a choice selection of 'Lithological,' Cabinet of Geological Mineral specimens, representing the Glacial, and Emptus period, also the Crystalline formation of the Earth's Strata, in Coolings, Rubbings, and Scratchings of the Drift Age."

The exchange was not effected.

To "Uncle Sam"

December 15, 1883.

Darling Bro' Sam,—
I must write you at once, or my silence will expand into a broad ocean which I shall be afraid to cross.... I have had a very laborious year, now screwed to my desk, and working at timed tasks, now travelling[87] widely, and scattering my spoken words.... Well, so much for desk-work, now for the witch broomstick on which I fly. The Congress was held in Chicago, in mid-October. From this place, I went to Minneapolis.... Harry and his wife are here, paying handsomely their share of our running expenses. The little house looks friendly and comfortable, and I hope, after a few more flights, to enjoy it very much. These will now be very short.... Boston is all alive with Irving's acting, Matthew Arnold's lectures, Cable's readings, and the coming opera. Père Hyacinthe also has been here, and a very eminent Hindoo, named Mozumdar. I have lost many of these doings by my journeys, but heard Arnold's lecture on Emerson last evening. I have also heard one of Cable's readings. Arnold does not in the least understand Emerson, I think. He has a positive, square-jawed English mind, with no super-sensible aperçûs. His elocution is pitiable, and when, after his lecture, Wendell Phillips stepped forward and said a few graceful words of farewell to him, it was like the Rose complimenting the Cabbage....

The year 1883 closed with a climax of triumphant fatigue in the Merchants' and Mechanics' Fair, in which she was president of the Woman's Department. This was to lead to a far more serious undertaking in the autumn of 1884, that of the Woman's Department of the New Orleans Exposition. The Journal may bridge the interval between the two.

"February 3, 1884. Wendell Phillips is dead.

[88]"To speak at the meeting in memory of Cheshub Chunder Sen at Parker Memorial Hall. Heard T. W. Higginson and Mrs. Cheney. H. spoke at length of Phillips and said too much about his later mistakes, I thought, saying nothing about his suffrage work, of which I took care to speak, when it was my turn. Several persons thanked me for my words, which treated very briefly of Phillips's splendid services to humanity."

[She spoke of him as "the most finished orator of our time," and as "the Chrysostom of modern reform."]

"February 6. Wendell Phillips's funeral. I am invited to attend memorial services at Faneuil Hall on Friday evening. I accept."

"February 9.... I was very glad that I had come to this, the People's meeting, and had been able to be heard in Faneuil Hall, the place of all others where the People should commemorate Wendell Phillips. My task was to speak of his services to the cause of Woman. Others spoke of him in connection with Labor Reform, Anti-Slavery, Ireland, and Temperance."

To Laura

Just so, knowed you'd take advantage of my silence to write su'thin saucy. Until I got your kammunikation I felt kind o' penitent like—hadn't thanked for no Xmas nor nothing. Felt self to be shabby and piglike in conduct, though perfectly angelic in intention. Pop comes your letter—pop goes my repentance. "She's got even with me," I[89] said: "If she went into a tailor's shop to get a cabbage leaf, to make an apple pie, what does it matter by what initials she calls herself? Who's going to distress themselves about the set of her cloak? And she do boast about it preposterous, and that are a fact."

Here endeth the first meditation, and I will now fall back upon the "Dearly beloved," for the rest of the service....

To the same

241 Beacon Street, February 11, 1884. Oh, thou, who art not quite a Satan!

Question is, dost thou not come very near it?...

I have been very busy, and have orated tremendous, this winter. I didn't go for to do it, you know, but I cou'n' avoin it. [A household expression, dating back to her childhood, when a gentleman with a defect of speech, speaking of some trouble incurred by her father, said, "Poor Mr. Warn! he cou'n' avoin it!" This gentleman was a clergyman, and was once heard to assure his congregation that "their hens [heads] wou'n be crownen with glory!"]

"February 12. Hearing at State House, Committee of Probate, etc., on the petition of Julia Ward Howe and others that the laws concerning married women may be amended in three respects. We had prepared three separate bills, one providing that the mother shall have equal rights with the father in their children, especially in determining their residence and their education. A second ruling that on the wife's death, the husband, who now gets all her real estate, may[90] have one half, and the children the other, and that the widow shall have the same right to half the husband's real estate after his death. A third bill was devised to enable husband and wife to contract valid money obligations toward each other."

Through the untiring efforts of the Suffragists these bills were all passed.

"March 27.... I heard with dismay of the injury done to my Newport place by the breaking of Norman's dam. Was very much troubled about this."

To Laura

March 29, 1884.

My dearest Darling,—
Dunno why I hain't wrote you, 'cept that, while I was lame, the attitude of reclining with my foot extended was very fatiguing to me. The injury was very slight. I only knocked my left foot pretty hard (anglicé, stubbed my toe) hurrying upstairs, but the weak left knee gave way, and turned, letting me down, and feloniously puffing itself up, which Charity never does. It could not be concealed from Maud, and so Beach was sent for, and a fortnight of stay still ordered and enforced. On Tuesday last I broke bounds and railed it to Buffalo, New York, with my crutches, which were no longer needed. This was for the mid-year Conference of our Congress. Before I say more under this head, let me tell you that I returned from Buffalo this morning, much the better for my trip. I had a[91] lovely visit there, in a most friendly and comfortable house, with carriages at my disposition. A beautiful luncheon was given to us Congressers and I gave a lecture on Thursday evening, price $50, and sat in a high chair, thinking it not prudent to stand so long....

"April 4. In the latter part of the eighteenth century a Christian missionary, Chinese, but disguised as a Portuguese, penetrated into Corea, and was much aided in his work by the courageous piety of Columba Kang, wife of one of the lesser nobles. She and the missionary suffered torture and death.... Merchants, not diplomatists, are the true apostles of civilization.

"Questions for A.A.W. [i.e., for the annual Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Women]: How far does the business of this country fulfil the conditions of honest and honorable traffic?

"What is the ideal of a mercantile aristocracy?"

"April 7. General Armstrong called last evening. He spoke of the negroes as individually quick-witted and capable, but powerless in association and deficient in organizing power. This struck me as the natural consequence of their long subjection to despotic power. The exigencies of slavery quickened their individual perceptions, and sharpened their wits, but left them little opportunity for concerted action. Freedom allows men to learn how to coöperate widely and strongly for ends of mutual good. Despotism heightens personal consciousness through fear of danger, but itself fears nothing so much as association among men, which it first prohibits and in time renders impossible."

"April 15. A delightful Easter. I felt this day that, in my difficulties with the Anti-Suffragists, the general spread of Christian feeling gives me ground to stand upon. The charity of Christendom will not persist in calumniating the Suffragists, nor will its sense of justice long refuse to admit their claims."

"April 17. Sam Eliot was in a horse-car, and told me that Tom Appleton had died of pneumonia in New York. The last time I spoke with him was in one of these very cars. He asked me if I had been to the funeral, meaning that of Wendell Phillips. I was sure that he had been much impressed by it. I saw him once more, on Commonwealth Avenue on a bitter day. He walked feebly and was much bent. I did not stop to speak with him which I now regret. He was very friendly to me, yet the sight of me seemed to rouse some curious vein of combativeness in him. He had many precious qualities, and had high views of character, although he was sometimes unjust in his judgments of other people, particularly of the come-outer reformers."

"April 19. To get some flowers to take to T. G. A.'s house. Saw him lying placid in his coffin, robed in soft white cashmere, with his palette and brushes in his hands...."

To Florence

April 20, 1884.
... I went yesterday to poor Tom Appleton's funeral. It is very sad to lose him, and every one says that a great piece of the old Boston goes with him....[93] I dined with George William Curtis yesterday at Mrs. Harry Williams's. George William was one of Tom Appleton's pall-bearers,—so were Dr. Holmes and Mr. Winthrop....

Curtis's oration on Wendell Phillips was very fine.

"April 20. Thought sadly of errors and shortcomings. At church a penitential psalm helped me much, and the sermon more. I felt assured that, whatever may be my fate beyond this life, I should always seek, love, and rejoice in the good. Thus, even in hell, one might share by sympathy the heavenly victory."

"May 5. I begin in great infirmity of spirit a week which brings many tasks. First, I must proceed in the matter of Norman's injury to my estate, either to a suit or a settlement by arbitration unless I can previously come to an understanding with N."

A heavy affliction was soon to drive all other thoughts from her mind. On May 19, a telegram arrived from Italy saying, "Samuel Ward expired peacefully."

She writes: "Nothing could be more unexpected than this blow. Dear Bro' Sam had long since been pronounced out of danger.... Latterly we have heard of him as feeble, and have felt renewed anxiety, but were entirely unprepared for his death."

"May 20. Dark days of nothingness these, to-day and yesterday. Nothing to do but be patient and explore the past."

[94]"May 21. Had a sitting all alone with dear Uncle Sam's picture this afternoon. I thought it might be the time of his funeral. I read the beautiful 90th Psalm and a number of his bright, sweet lyrics. A sympathetic visit from Winthrop Chanler."

"May 27.... Dear Brother Sam's death has brought me well in sight of the farther shore. May I be ready when it is my turn to cross."

To her sister Louisa

Dearest Sister,—
I was already in debt to you for one good letter when this later one arrived, giving me the full, desired particulars of our dear one's last days on earth. You and Annie both write as though the loss were heaviest to me, and I only feel that I cannot feel it half enough. The pathos of a life of such wonderful vicissitudes! I cannot half take it in. What must he not have suffered in those lonely days of wandering and privation, while I was comfortable in my household!... God knows, I had every reason to love him, for he was heroically faithful to his affection for me. Now, I feel how little I appreciated his devotion, and how many chimeras, in my foolish wool-gathering head, crowded upon this most precious affection, which was worthy of a much larger place in my thoughts. His death is a severe loss to Maud and me.... We were always hoping to rejoin him, and to pass some happy years with him. A great object is withdrawn from our two lives. Nothing can take his place to either of us.... As I write, the tears come. Like you,[95] I long to sit and talk it all over with the two who are all I have left of my own generation. To our children, the event cannot be at all what it is to us. They are made for the future, and our day is not theirs. I was comforted, in your first letter, in reading of that pleasant, quiet talk you had with him, when, among other things, you read to him the lovely verses from St. John's Gospel, which have become a classic of consolation among Christian people. I believe that he is in the heaven accorded to those who have loved their fellow-men, for who ever coined pure kindness into acts as he did? One of the lessons I learn from his life is that it is very hard for us to judge rightly the merits and demerits of others. Here was a man with many faults on the surface, and a heart of pure gold beneath.... The thought of his lonely funeral and solitary grave has wrung my heart at times, but sometimes I think of it as a place where one might be glad to be at rest.... But now, dear, I have had all the heart-break I can bear, writing this letter. Let me now speak of the living and tell you where and how we are.... I left very unwillingly to come down here, and try to get my poor wrecked place in order. You know, of course, that the dam which was built to cut off my water, and against which I obtained an injunction, burst this spring, and destroyed my two ponds, my carriage, and a good part of my barn. I have tried, in a lumbering way, to get justice, but have not yet succeeded. I have had, too, a great deal of trouble in my presidency of the Woman's Congress, this year. Almost as soon as I open my eyes in the[96] morning, these black dogs of worry spring upon me. I long to be free from them....

"June 28. Senator Bayard to William A. Duncan about dear Bro' Sam: 'It is just one of those little kindnesses of which his life was so full. There is no doubt, as you say, that his later years were his best! The wine of life fined itself.... He was readily sympathetic, and did in Rome as Romans did, and kept time and tune to a great variety of instruments. But the kind good heart always beat truly, and the array of good deeds to his credit in the great book of account is delightful to think of.'"

To Laura

Newport, August 15, 1884.
Haven't I written to you? I have an idea of some long letter of mine not answered by you. But this may be one of those imaginary good actions which help to puff me up. Life, you see, gallops on to such a degree with me that I don't know much difference between what I have intended to do and what I have done....

I think novels is humbug. What you think? They don't leave you anything but a sort of bad taste....

"August 27. Simply good for nothing, but to amuse the little Hall children. A strange dead level of indifference. Do not see any difference between one thing and another. This, I should think, must come from a vagary of the liver. Worst sort of nervous[97] prostration—to prostrate one's self before one's nerves. To town in the afternoon, when the dead indifference and lassitude went off somewhat."

"August 29. We dined at the Booths' to-day, meeting Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jefferson and William Warren. A rare and delightful occasion. Jefferson talked much about art. He, Booth, and Warren all told little anecdotes of forgetfulness on the stage. Jefferson had told a love-story twice, Booth had twice given the advice to the players [in "Hamlet"], Warren, in 'Our American Cousin,' should have tried to light a match which would not light. He inadvertently turned the ignitable side, which took fire, and so disconcerted him that he forgot where he was in the play and had to ask some one what he had last said, which being told him enabled him to go on."

"September 25. Finished to-day my Congress paper. I have written this paper this week instead of going to the Unitarian Convention, which I wished much to attend.... I did not go because I thought I ought neither to leave home unnecessarily, to spend so much money, nor to put off the writing of the A.A.W. paper.

"I shall look a little to see whether circumstances hereafter will not show that it was best for me to follow this course. My Dæmon did not say 'go,' but he sometimes plays me false. I have certainly had the most wonderful ease in writing this paper which, I thought, would occupy a number of weary days, and lo! it has all written itself, currente calamo."

"October 5. Is the law of progress one of harmony[98] or of discord? Do the various kinds of progress, moral, intellectual, political, and economic or industrial, agree or disagree? Do they help or hinder each other?"

To Laura

Newport, Rhode Island, October 9, 1884.

My darling Laura,—
My poor wits, in these days, are like bits of sewing silk wound on a card. You unwind a little and straightway come to an end. The wonder is, there are so many ends. Here is a precise picture of our days as passed at present. Morning, I wake early, lie and think over my past life, with little satisfaction. Bathe. Breakfast. Walk with Maud, Sonny[95] tugging alongside. Maud goes much further than I do. Sonny and I return, take a basket and gather dry twigs to brighten the evening fire. I visit my mare in her stable—a good custom, as my man is not over-careful of her stall. Maud comes back, I exercise her voice. I go to books, she to desk. Study Greek a good deal, reading Thucydides and Aristophanes. Dinner, coffee, more reading and writing, unless we go to town. Evening, music, reading or cards, worrying about ——, bed. I have not mentioned my own much writing, because you will understand it. I am trying to compass a story, but have my fears about it. My paper for the Woman's Congress is entitled "How to broaden the Views of Society Women." Darling dear, what more can I tell you? Isn't this too much already? Now, do spunk up and have some style about you.... Be cheerful and resolute, my love, life comes but once, and is soon over....

"October 13. To New Bedford, for the Suffrage meeting; trains did not connect at Myricks, where, after some delay and negotiation, I with difficulty persuaded the conductor of a freight train to take me to New Bedford in his caboose. This saved me time enough to go to the Delano Mansion, restore my strength with food, and put on my cap and ruche. The Delanos were very kind. I read my Congress paper on 'Benefits of Suffrage to Women.'"

"November 23. To Louisburg Square to my old friend's funeral [Hamilton Wilde].... Around and before me were the friends and associates of the golden time in which his delightful humor and bonhomie so often helped me in charades and other high times. It was ghostly—there were Lizzie Homans and Jerry Abbott, who took part with him and William Hunt in the wonderful charade in which the two artists rode a tilt with theatre hobbies. The gray heads which I had once seen black, brown, or blond, heightened the effect of the picture. It was indeed a sic transit. I said to Charles Perkins—'For some of us, it is the dressing bell!' Oh! this mystery! So intense, so immense a fact and force as human life, tapering to this little point of a final leave-taking and brief remembrance!"

Now came the New Orleans Exposition, in which she was to be chief of the Woman's Department.

It was already late when she received the appointment, but she lost no time. Establishing her headquarters at No. 5 Park Street (for many years the home of the "Woman's Journal" and the New England Woman's Club), she sent out circulars to every State in the Union, asking for exhibits, and appealed to the editors of newspapers all over the country to send women correspondents for a month or more to the Exposition. She called meetings in Boston, New York, Providence, Philadelphia, and Hartford, at all of which she spoke, imploring the women to bestir themselves, and, late as it was, to make an effort to get together a proper showing of women's work for the great Fair.

Beside all this, she kept up through the autumn an active correspondence with the Exposition authorities at New Orleans.

The Exposition was scheduled to open on the 1st of December: it did actually open on the 16th. She writes:—

"A steamer had been chartered to convey thither the officers of the Exposition and their invited guests. Seated on the deck, the chief of the Woman's Department and her fellow-workers watched the arrival of the high dignitaries of the State and city, escorted by members of the military, and by two bands of music; one, the famous Mexican Band. All the craft on the river were adorned with flags and streamers. The Crescent, which gives the city its familiar designation, was pointed out, and the 'Father of Waters' was looked upon with admiring eyes. The steamer brought[101] us to the Exposition grounds, and here a procession was formed in which the ladies of the Woman's Department were assigned a place which they had some difficulty in keeping. The march led to the Main Building. The opening prayer was made by the Reverend De Witt Talmage. At a given moment a telegram was received from the President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, declaring the Exposition to be formally open. Immediately after, the son of the Director-General, a fine lad of twelve years, touched the electric button by which the machinery of the Exposition was set in motion.

"Returning by land, we found the streets gay with decorations, in which the colors of the orthodox flag were conspicuous."

Maud was with her, and shared her labors, as did her devoted friend Isabel Greeley. At this time the floor of the gallery destined for the women's exhibit was not laid. By December 29 the officers of the department were able to hold a meeting in "an enclosure without doors or suitable furniture." When all was supposed to be ready for the exhibits, it was found that the roof leaked badly, the timber having so shrunk under the action of the sun as to tear away the waterproof felting. Moreover, there was not enough money to carry on the business of the Department. Funds had been promised by the Board of Management, but these funds were not forthcoming, the Board itself being in difficulties. Our mother had foreseen this contingency.

"Ladies," she said, "we must remember that women[102] have sometimes built churches with no better instruments than thimbles and a teapot! If the worst comes to the worst, we must come before the public and endeavor with its aid to earn the money necessary to complete our enterprise."

This foreboding soon became a fact, and early in January she found herself in rather a "tight corner." She had sent out the call for exhibits to every State in the Union; with great effort the women of the country had responded most generously. She now felt herself personally responsible for these exhibits, and determined that, coûte que coûte, they should be well displayed and the Woman's Department properly installed.

There was no money: very well! she would earn some. She arranged a series of entertainments, beginning with a lecture by herself. There followed a time of great stress and anxiety, which taxed to the utmost her mother-wit and power of invention. Faculties hitherto dormant awoke to meet the task; she devised practical, hard, common-sense methods, far removed from her life habit of intellectual labor. She had moved into a new apartment in the house of life, one nearer the earth and not quite so near the stars. She often quoted during these months Napoleon's saying, on being told that something he wished to do was impossible, "Ne me dîtes pas ce bête de mot!"

In spite of endless vexations, it was a time of tremendous enjoyment; every nerve was strained, every gift exercised; the cup of life was brimming over, even if it was not all filled with honey.

"January 13, 1885. Preparing for my lecture this evening. Subject, 'Is Polite Society Polite?' Place, Werlein Hall. I was very anxious—the lecture appeared to me very homely for a Southern audience accustomed to rhetorical productions. My reception was most gratifying. The house was packed and many were sent away. Judge Gayarré introduced me. Joaquin Miller came first, reciting his 'Fortunate Isles.' I said in opening that even if my voice should not fill the hall, my good-will embraced them all. Every point in the lecture was perceived and applauded, and I felt more than usually in sympathy with my audience."

"The second entertainment devised for the relief of the Woman's Department was a 'Soirée Créole,' the third and last a 'grand musical matinée' at the French Opera House, for which we were indebted to the great kindness of Colonel Mapleson, who granted us the use of the house, and by whose permission several of his most distinguished artists gave their services. Monsignor Gillow, Commissioner for Mexico, also allowed his band to perform."

The difficulty of persuading the different artists to sing, of pacifying their separate agents in the matter of place on the programme and size of the letters in which names were advertised, of bringing harmony out of all the petty rivalries and cabals between the different members of the troupe, required a patience worthy of a better cause. Meanwhile there were other troubles. Most of the women commissioners appointed by the different States proved loyal comrades to their[104] chief in her great and distressful labor; but there were others who gave her endless trouble.

"February 6. Our concert. The weather was favorable. Lieutenant Doyle came to escort me to the theatre. My box was made quite gay by the uniforms of several navy officers. The house was packed. We took $1500 and hope to have more. I particularly enjoyed the Semiramide overture, which the band gave grandly. Rossini's soul seemed to me to blossom out of it like an immortal flower."

These entertainments brought in over two thousand dollars. This money enabled the women to install such exhibits as were ready, to pay for a time the necessary workmen, and to engage a special police force for the protection of their goods. The United States ships in the harbor also espoused the cause, Admiral Jouett, of the flagship Tennessee, and Captain Kane, of the Galena, sending experienced craftsmen whose ready and skilful work soon changed the somewhat desolate aspect of the gallery.

The arrangements were as simple as might be, the greatest expense being the purchase of showcases. The tables were of rough pine boards covered with cambrics and flannels, the draperies of the simplest and cheapest, the luxury of a carpet was enjoyed only here and there; but the excellence of the exhibits, and the taste with which they were displayed, made the department a pleasant place. The winter was cold; the wooden walls of the Government Building let in many[105] a chilling blast; but there was a stove in the office of the chief of installation, and with its help the daily cup of tea was made which kept the workers alive.

Each State and Territory had a separate opening day for its exhibit. These days were marked by public meetings at which compliments were exchanged, addresses made, and the exhibits turned over to the management. It was considered obligatory for all the commissioners to attend these meetings, and the women spent many weary hours trying to hear the addresses of distinguished individuals whose voices contended in vain with the din of the machinery. The Mexican Band played, and relieved the tedium of the long sittings; but the women commissioners were upheld chiefly by the feeling that they were drawn together from all parts of the country, and were taking an honored part in a great industrial and peaceful pageant, whose results would be important to the country and to mankind at large.

The Journal tells in February of the "opening of the colored people's department; very interesting. A numerous assemblage of them showed a wide range of types. Music, military, drumming especially good. Saw in their exhibit a portrait of John A. Andrew which looked like a greeting from the old heroic time."

The Woman's Department was formally opened on March 3, though it had really been open to the public since early January. The day was one of the gayest in the history of the Exposition. The gallery of the Government Building was bright with flowers and gay with flags. Admiral Jouett had sent the ship's band as a special compliment; the music was delightful, the speeches excellent. We quote from Mrs. Howe's address:—

"I wish to speak of the importance, in an industrial point of view, of a distinct showing of women's work in the great industrial exhibits. There are few manufactures in which the hand and brain of woman have not their appointed part. So long, however, as this work is shown merely in conjunction with that of men, it is dimly recognized, and makes no distinct impression. The world remains very imperfectly educated concerning its women. They are liable to be regarded as a non-producing class, supported by those to whom, in the order of nature, their life is a necessary condition of existence itself.... Exhibits like the present, then, are useful in summing up much of this undervalued work of women. A greater moral use they have in raising the standard of usefulness and activity for the sex in general. Good work, when recognized, acts as a spur to human energy. Those who show how women can excel are examples to shame those who do not try. They lay upon their sex an obligation to stronger endeavor and better action, and society gains thereby.

"Still more have I at heart the association, in these enterprises, of women who are not bound to each other by alliance of blood, or affinity of neighborhood. Greater and more important than the acquisition of skill is the cultivation of public spirit. 'Pro bono publico' is a motto whose meaning men should learn from[107] their infancy, and at their firesides. How shall they learn it unless the women, the guardian spirits of the household, shall hold and teach, beyond all other doctrines, that of devotion and loyalty to the public good?

"I value, then, for the sake of both men and women, the disinterested association of women for the promotion of the great interests of society....

"You were stirred the other day by the bringing back of a battle-flag whose rents had been carefully mended. I tell you, sisters, we have all one flag now, broad and bright enough to cover us all. Let us see that no rent is made in it.

"All that the best and wisest men can imagine for the good of the human race can be wrought if the best women will only help the best men."

One of her most arduous tasks was the arranging of a course of twenty-four "Twelve-o'Clock Talks," which were given every Saturday from the middle of February till the close of the Exposition. How she labored over them her companion daughter well remembers: remembers too what success crowned the effort. The subjects varied widely. Captain Bedford Pym, R.N., discoursed on Arctic explorations; Charles Dudley Warner told the story of the Elmira Reformatory; the Japanese Commissioner spoke of woman's work in Japanese literature. These talks were free to the public, and proved so popular that eight years later the same plan was carried out in the Woman's Department of the Chicago World's Fair, and again proved its excellence and value.

As if all this were not enough, she must found a Literary Association among the young people of New Orleans. She named them the Pans, and among their number were several whose names have since become well known in literature. Grace King, Elizabeth Bisland, and others will remember those evenings, when their bright youth flashed responsive to the call of the elder woman of letters.

In all the stress and hurry, we find this entry:—

"My dear father's birthday. I left the Exposition early and walked to visit dear Marion's grave in Girard Street Cemetery. A lovely place it was. He is buried above ground in a sort of edifice formed of brick, the rows of coffins being laid on stone floors, each single one divided from those on either side of it by a stone partition. 'Francis Marion Ward, died September 3rd, 1847.' Erected by William Morse, dear Marion's friend."

"May 16. Gave my talk to the colored people, soon after two in the afternoon in their department. A pretty hexagonal platform had been arranged. Behind this was a fine portrait of Abraham Lincoln, with a vase of beautiful flowers [gladiolus and white lilies] at its base. I spoke of Dr. Channing, Garrison, Theodore Parker, Charles Sumner, John A. Andrew, Lucretia Mott, and Wendell Phillips, occupying about an hour. They gave me a fine basket of flowers and sang my 'Battle Hymn.' Afterwards the Alabama cadets visited us. We gave them tea, cake and biscuits and I made a little speech for them."

Winter and spring passed rapidly, each season bringing fresh interest. The picturesqueness of New Orleans, the many friends she made among its people, the men and women gathered from every corner of the world, well made up to her for the vexations which inevitably attended her position. Looking back on these days, she said of them: "It was like having a big, big Nursery to administer, with children good, bad, and middling. The good prevailed in the end, as it usually or always does, and yet I used to say that Satan had a fresh flower for me every morning, when I came to my office, and took account of the state of things."

The difficulties with which the unfortunate managers were struggling made it impossible for them to keep their promises of financial support to the Woman's Department. Things went from bad to worse. Finally she realized that she herself must find the money to pay the debts of her department and to return the exhibits to the various States. She wrote a letter to John M. Forbes, of Boston, urging him to help her and her assistants out of their alarming predicament. Through Mr. Forbes, the Honorable George F. Hoar, Senator from Massachusetts, learned the state of the case. The sum of $15,000 had been named as that necessary to pay all just claims and wind up the affairs of the Department. At this time a bill was before Congress for an appropriation to aid the Exposition. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Hoar, a sum of $15,000 was added to this bill with the express clause, "For the Relief of the Woman's Department." The[110] bill was passed without discussion. The news was received with great rejoicing in New Orleans, especially in the Woman's Department, "where our need was the sorest." The promise brought new life to the weary workers; but they were to be far more weary before the end. The Exposition closed on the last day of May. Summer was upon them; the Northern women, unused to the great heats of New Orleans, longed to close up their business and depart, but the money had not come from Congress, and they could not leave their post. Days dragged on; days of torrid, relentless heat. Our mother must borrow money for the Department here and there to bridge over the gap between promise and fulfilment. Worn out by fatigue, anxiety, and the great heat, she fell seriously ill. Those nearest her begged her to go home and leave to others the final settlement of affairs, but she would not hear of this. She would get well: she must get well! Rallying her forces, mental and physical, she did get well, though her illness for a time seemed desperate.

At long last, when June was nearly half over, the money came, and with it the end of her long task. Accounts were audited, checks drawn, exhibits despatched; and with farewell greetings and congratulations, "the whole weary matter ended." Her report as President of the Woman's Department tells the story:

"The business of the Woman's Department having thus been brought successfully to a close, it only remains for its President to resign the office she has filled, with some pain and much pleasure, for more than six months,—to thank the officers of her staff[111] for their able and faithful services, the vice-presidents, and the lady commissioners in general, for the friendly support she has had from them almost without exception....

"The classification by States she considers to have justified itself, partly through the more distinct knowledge thus gained of the work of women in localities widely distant from each other, partly in the good acquaintance and good-will developed by this method of work. The friendly relations growing out of it still bind together those who are now thousands of miles apart, but who, we may hope, will ever remain united in a common zeal for promoting the industrial interests of women.

"Finally, she would say that she considers herself happy in having taken part in an Exposition of so high and useful a character as that which has latterly made New Orleans a centre of interest in the civilized world. She takes leave with regret of a city in which she has enjoyed much friendly intercourse and hospitality; a city in whose renewed prosperity she must henceforth feel a deep and lasting interest."

To Laura

Oak Glen, July 19, 1885.
How I left New Orleans, how I came North, how I let myself down here, is no doubt known to you thro' inference. How hot New Orleans was before I left it, you cannot know, nor how sick I was once upon a time, nor how I came up upon iced champagne and recovered myself, and became strong again. Ever since[112] I came home, I have slaved at my report of the Woman's Department. Weary pages have I written. Life seems at last to consist in putting a pen into an inkstand, and taking it out again, scribble, scribble, nibble, nibble (meal-times), and go to bed between whiles....

So ended one of the most interesting and arduous experiences of her life. She always held in affectionate remembrance the city where she had enjoyed and suffered so much, and the friends she made there.

To Laura

Oak Glen, November 4, 1885.
You little hateful thing!

Herewith returned is the letter you wrote for. I had a mind to send it to you, beast that you are, without one word, just to pay you for that postal. Of course, I meant to write you immediately afterward in a separate envelope, telling you that I still love you. But there! I reflected that you could have a bad feeling if you opened the envelope and found no greeting from me. For the sake of posterity, Madam, I declined to give you this bad feeling. I do also retain some proprietorship in a certain pair of eyes which are like Sapphira's. Oh! I mean sapphires, and I don't want to dim them with any tear diamonds. "You flatter yourself," replies the Good-Natured One,[96] "to think of my shedding tears about anything that you could[113] say or do, or leave unsaid or undone." Just so. All right. I have got beefsteak for dinner to-day. What do you think of the weather, and does your husband know when your blacking is out?

Now, my sweet darling, your old Mammy is just back from a tremendous jaunt. I had a beautiful time in Iowa, and am as well as possible. Only think, travelling and at work for one calendar month, and not a finger ache, 'cept one day, when I had a slight headache. And I brought home over $200 earned by lectures....

To the same

The Berkeley Nuisance, New York,

December 26, 1885.
... What have I been doing for the last eight weeks? Never you mind, my little dear. Mostly putting a girdle round the earth by correspondence, and some-ly worrying about my poor relations. Don't you flatter yourself that I ever thought of you under this head. But the ——, and the ——, and the ——, taken together, are enough to give one a turn at the worry-cat system. Well 'm, I had also to see the distribution of the whole edition of my New Orleans Report, and I can only compare this to the process of taking down a house, and of sending each individual brick somewhere, labelled with your compliments; supposing the bricks to be one thousand in number, it would take some time to distribute them, Harry Richards will be able to tell you how much time, and how many[114] masculine oaths would go to each hundred of the articles. Well, that's enough about that. You have had one of my bricks sent you, and hang me if I believe you have read it. Sweetison (a new little 'spression which I have this minute invented), I stayed at Oak Glen until Monday last, which was the 21st. Then I came here by the way of Boston, and arrove on Tuesday evening. Our quarters, or rather eighths, are small, considering my papers and Maud's clothes. The food is fine, the style first-rate, the rigs imposing to a degree, but, ah! I kind of hate it all. New York is too frightfully dirty! and then so stereotyped and commonplace. Boston losing its prestige? Not as I am at present advised....


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