Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Improve Your Mind While You Work...

     As women’s history month draws to a close I would like to highlight a group of extraordinary ladies. The Ladies’ Reading Club of Junction City, which grew out of the Ladies’ Aid Society, a group dedicated to the welfare of the Junction City community following the Civil War.

     In August, 1874, the community suffered from the Grasshopper Plague, and the Ladies’ Aid Society responded with a relief program. They wrote to friends and relatives back east about the crisis of their community and received 53 barrels of clothing and food. They distributed these barrels to 225 of their struggling neighbors from December 1874 to March 1875.

     In November, 1875, the Ladies’ Aid Society became the Ladies’ Reading Club when a group of fifteen ladies decided to listen to each other read cultural papers while they continued to do their aid work.  Eventually a more formal organization would be set up for the Ladies’ Reading Club; in the beginning there were, “no officers, no established rules, nothing to induce stiffness or formality. Just a time to listen to someone who had come prepared to share cultural ideas, while others served.”  The club was the only women’s literary club outside of a school in the area. They were a novelty and proud of that fact. In 1876, the first election of officers took place, and Mrs. James Humphrey was elected President. Following the election, the group constructed their first meeting place. At 5th and Adams, Centennial Hall was dedicated July 3, 1876.

     “The objectives have always been to direct thought to the great questions of the day, to foster a habit of looking at them from all points of view and to teach a consideration for the views and opinions of others, even though diametrically opposed to one’s own. All denominations, and all political faiths were represented in the club, yet it has been possible to scrutinize every creed and every political faith without descending to personalities. It is the pride of the Club that it’s self-poise and dignity can be maintained through even a discussion upon woman’s suffrage or prohibition, upon which questions and opinions are apt to be decided and maintained with warmth.” – A report by Mrs. James Humphrey in 1885

1900 group photo of the Ladies Reading Club. Photo property of the Ladies Reading Club.

     Each meeting started with 30 minutes of discussion on modern events, such as a discussion in the 1930s on Mussolini. Educational programs and presentations were given on everything from Women in Politics to the Purchase of Alaska to The Greek World.  Shakespeare and other literary classics were read aloud and then discussed, and each meeting was ended with “quotations,” where the women repeated pertinent ideas that had been presented that day. But throughout it all, the women always kept their hands busy, helping their community. During the Grasshopper Plague the women packaged provisions, and throughout the years of WWI, the women rolled bandages while they listened and discussed. Always, the concern for the community’s welfare was in the forefront of their minds.  

     The Ladies Reading Club believed that others in the community could benefit from the access to literature and educational programs. In 1876, with the dedication of Centennial Hall, the Ladies’ Reading Club set out to start Junction City’s first public lending library. Friends and relatives back east often sent books to their western relations and these books were the basis for the lending library. By 1891, their library had grown to include 684 books, 214 of which had circulated throughout the community that year.

     The Ladies’ Reading Club is the oldest Federated club in Kansas and one of the oldest west of the Mississippi. In many cases, membership became a family affair, with sisters, mothers and daughters all becoming a part of the organization. In the 1900s, Mrs. Charles Manley became president of the LRC, and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Charles Manley Jr. became President 20 years later, from 1927-1928.

     On April 8 1897, Capt. Bertrand Rockwell, the wealthy merchant husband of Ladies’ Reading Club member Julia Snyder Rockwell, gave the Ladies Reading Club their own Club House.  On the corner of 3rd and Jefferson, the house was in recognition of their serious and efficient works. The house still stands on its original site and is in use by the Ladies Reading Club to this day.

     The Ladies’ Reading Club is still active today. They meet in the same club house that was donated by the Rockwell’s over 100 years ago. Their projects are funded with proceeds from their annual Fall Festival, which features beautiful handmade items, delicious baked goods, a tasty lunch and their signature Pecan halves.  

     While doing research, a 1914 J.J. Pennell photo was brought to our attention titled the Black Ladies Reading Club.  From what we can find they served the African American community in the same functions as the Ladies Reading Club and improved their minds as they worked. Unfortunately there is very little documented information about the group. If you have information about this group please contact the museum 785-238-1666 so that we can record their story.
Black Ladies Reading Club, 1914. J.J. Pennell photo property of the Spencer Library. Members include Mrs. Ida Perkins (left) and Ida Morris (right) in the front row. Valinda White is third from the left in the second row. Ellen Johnson and E.M. McCord stand on the left and right ends, respectively, of the back row.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

J. Abbie Clarke Hogan-Junction City's Famous Violinist

March is Women’s History Month making this a great time to share the story of J. Abbie Clarke Hogan.
Sanborn and Harriet Clarke came to Junction City from Michigan in 1872. The family moved to Wakefield in 1874 where they welcomed their second child, J. Abbie Clarke on February 1, 1875.  The family returned to Michigan when Abbie was about a year old but returned to Junction City in 1878.
The Clarke family loved music and enjoyed sharing their love with the community. Every Sunday morning their church would send a wagon to pick up the family pump organ so that Mrs. Clarke could play during the service.  Mrs. Clarke also gave piano lessons in the community. When Abbie was five years old her mother attempted to teach her how to play the piano. Abbie was not interested in the instrument and her mother soon gave up the lessons. 
When Abbie was eight she heard a traveling violinist. She was captivated by the music and immediately asked her parents for a violin. Her mother was shocked because the violin was a “man’s instrument” and not at all proper for a young lady. But Abbie persisted and in a fit of exasperation her mother said that if she wanted a violin she would have to buy it herself. Abbie promptly marched downtown with her savings and bought herself a violin.
The next problem was finding a violin teacher in the wilds of Kansas. In a strange twist of fate K. Dome Geza, a Hungarian violinist trained at the Vienna Conservatory, had become stranded in New York at the end of a concert tour. Down on his luck he met a very persuasive army recruiter and ended up being sent to Fort Riley where he served as the Chief Musician of the 5th Cavalry Band.
The Clarke’s convinced Geza to teach Abbie. He taught her for three and half years until fortune favored him and he left the Army to become the head the music department at Bethany College.  Mr. Geza thought that Abbie showed a lot of promise and he advised Mrs. Clarke to take Abbie to Germany and have her audition for the violinist Joseph Joachim.
 Just before the audition Abbie injured her hand, despite the injury Abbie performed admirably.  Mr. Joachim was not impressed with her technique but he agreed that she did have talent and he would teach her.  Abbie lived in Germany with her mother and sister, LuCelia. She attended the Royal Hochschule. She was so talented that she performed a solo with the Royal Hochschule Orchestra at the age of thirteen; making her the youngest member of the orchestra.  After two years in Germany, Abbie returned to Junction City. 
Abbie was eighteen years old when she won a statewide music contest in Hutchinson, Kansas. The winner would represent Kansas at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. While in Chicago preparing for her fair performance, she auditioned for and won a scholarship at the Chicago Musical College.  Abbie stayed in Chicago to attend college. She graduated with honors in 1894. After graduation she traveled around the county performing as a soloist with many well-known groups. But she never forgot her home.
In the fall of 1896, at the age of 21, Abbie worked with the local school district to organize a high school orchestra. During this time, Abbie was still touring around the country so her sister LuCelia, also an accomplished musician, took responsibility of the high school orchestra.
In August of 1898 Abbie took a break from her musical career to marry, Thomas Hogan, who was in the milling business with his uncle, Mr. Fogarty. They made their home in Junction City and were blessed with two boys, Cornelius born in 1899 and Theodore born in 1903. When Mr. Fogarty passed away in 1901 Thomas took over managing the mill. The Hogan’s bought the mill in 1907.
Marriage, children, and business responsibilities kept Abbie close to home but she still made time for her music. To keep her schedule manageable she only performed in the Midwest. Her other passion was working with community and high school orchestras. With her help curriculum was developed for music education in Kansas.
J. Abbie Clarke Hogan with High School Orchestra. Hogan is standing in the front row.

Abbie was also very active in the community. She was a member of the Ladies Reading Club and gave concerts to raise funds for the clubs many activities and good works.  She also volunteered at Fort Riley by bringing music to injured soldiers. 

Later, in another twist of life, Abbie was passing through Wakefield in September of 1950 and learned that the old hotel was going to be auctioned off.  She stayed and bought the hotel with the intention of tearing it down and selling it for salvage. But she just couldn’t tear down the beautiful old building, so she moved into it. One day some workers at Fort Riley asked if they could stay at her hotel and the next thing she knew she had a new career.
Abbie helped run the hotel among her other interests until her death in May of 1964. The Hogan Hotel, originally built in 1905, was bought by the Corps of Engineers and torn down to make way for Milford Reservoir. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

To Be Chic and Dainty...

March is Women’s History Month, so in honor of the month, our “Cool Things in the Museum” display is featuring one of the first razors specifically designed for women in the 1920s. It’s funny how many daily habits and chores we go about without thinking about their origins. When did people start flossing their teeth? Who decided cereal was a breakfast food? But most importantly, who decided that women needed to shave their underarms?
                Believe it or not, the habit of female shaving is actually fairly recent. For centuries, shaving was purely a ritual for men. So, who started this new social rule? Who do we have to blame for the extra hassle? Blame it on the flapper. Yes, the icon of the 1920s, the American flapper, began the rise of women’s shaving habits.
                Up until World War I, women were expected to be covered from neck to wrist. Their underarms were never seen, so why bother removing hair? But, after World War I, women’s fashions began to change drastically. Hemlines rose to the knee and sleeves disappeared altogether. Harper’s Bazaar ran the first advertisement displaying a woman with “naked” arms in 1915 and by the 1920s, sleeveless dresses became the highest fashion.
When Nellie Manz was elected president of the Rebekahs in the 1920s, she wore a dress made in the latest style to the local meetings. Her dress can also be seen this month in the Cool Case.
When Robina Manley Hedges was married in Junction City on August 10, 1929, her dress perfectly highlighted all the details of 1920s fashion.  Her dress (seen here) featured a shorter skirt, a sleek line and a sleeveless top. 

 With the new fashion fashion grew a new grooming habit for women: shaving.  The first razors specifically designed for a lady were sold in the 1920s. The Curvfit, found in the Cool Case at the museum, was one of these razors. Their advertisement read: “For Personal Daintiness: Here’s the key to true personal daintiness. CURVFIT removes unsightly hair from underarms and limbs speedily, efficiently and safely. To be chic and dainty…you must be hair free!”  And women have taken this rule seriously because ever since then, razor companies have marketed razors specifically tailored for women.
                So ladies, next time you complain about the cost of a new razor, or the hassle of shaving, just remember—blame those 1920s flappers!
                Stop in to the Geary County Historical Society to see this early example of women’s razors in our new “Cool Things at the Museum” exhibit.  This monthly rotating display will feature fun and “who-knew?” items that we find in our large collection. You never know what you might see!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Peggy Hull War Correspondent started her career at the Junction City Tribune

March is Women's History Month so this seems like an appropriate time to feature war correspondent Peggy Hull and her ties to Geary County.  

Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough, later known as Peggy Hull, was born September 30, 1890 on a farm near Bennington Kansas to Ed. and Minnie Eliza (Flinn) Goodnough. At a young age her family moved to Marysville, Kansas. During her teenage years the family moved to Junction City, Kansas.

Peggy was 16 years old when she applied for a job at the Junction City Sentinel newspaper. Editor, A.D. Colby, told her he had already hired a reporter, but if she wasn’t worried about her fingernails and was willing to set type, she had a job.  Peggy took the job as a typesetter and it wasn’t long before she had the opportunity to demonstrate her reporting skills.

            There was a fire in Junction City and with no other reporters available Peggy got permission to cover the story. She proved herself to be a capable reporter and continued working for the Sentinel for two years as a reporter and typesetter.

From 1909 to 1916 she worked for newspapers in Colorado, California, Hawaii, and Minnesota. When World War I broke out Peggy knew she had to be there to cover the story. Her editor originally denied her request because she was a woman but later changed his mind, and in June 1917 she left for a US training camp in France.

There was professional conflict between her and the male correspondents. Many thought that a woman could not handle the pressure of reporting so close to the front. At that time the few women who did make it to the front were accompanied by an officer at all times so they did not get any closer to the action than what was believed necessary. This made their jobs even more difficult as it restricted where they could go and what they could report on.  Her critics eventually succeeded in getting her recalled to the US under the pretense that she did not have the proper credentials to be in a war zone.

That did not stop her and in the summer of 1918 she traveled to Washington, D.C. to petition the War Department for permission to become an official war correspondent. The War Department was strongly against having female reporters in the field, but in October 1918 she was given her official war correspondent status, making her the first female war correspondent accredited by the United States Government.

Her career spanned 31 years and allowed her to travel all over the world. She once stated, “I'll never tire of doing this work, and as long as we have American boys in isolated parts of the world, I want to write their story for them."  Her stories had a great impact on her audience and made her a popular writer. The stories had a very human aspect and focused on subjects such as the men, their families back home, the mess hall food, and other day to day things.  

 A soldier wrote to Peggy during the war: "You will never realize what those yarns of yours… did to this gang… You made them know they weren't forgotten."

In 1953 Peggy retired to Carmel Valley, California. She died of breast cancer in 1967.