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Longing for Home
PUB DATE: 5/15/2016

Funny Story about Maggie Corbet Koetting

This post is written by a guest author, my mother Sue Morey, about her Irish Grandma.


Maggie and Harriet at the Jersey Shore

Sue Morey


The summer before I turned eleven, my family moved into a house that had belonged to my great-aunts on Milwaukee’s South Side. Since there was only one house between ours and my grandmother’s, I was able to visit her whenever I wanted. I spent a lot of time there that summer since I hadn’t made friends in my new neighborhood yet. I’d sit in her kitchen, watching her prepare dinner while she told me stories about her life. I especially loved the tales of her girlhood in Philadelphia.


My grandma, Maggie, had a best friend named Harriet. They were neighbors on a Philadelphia street of rowhouses. Both girls had a streak of mischief, so the stories were fun, especially for a girl like me who rarely got into mischief. Maggie was a petite Irish girl with fair skin, jet black hair and deep blue eyes. She envied Harriet’s height and statuesque figure, but not her red hair.


When they were young women, Maggie, Harriet and two friends took the train from Philadelphia to Atlantic City for a vacation at a resort hotel. They looked forward to strolls on the boardwalk, meals in the hotel dining room and dances in the ballroom.


The first order of business was meeting some suitable young men, preferably before other girls attracted their attention. Standing on the train platform in Atlantic City, they surveyed the prospects and spied a group of four nice-looking guys at the bottom of the stairs leading to the main hall of the terminal.  “I wish we could meet those boys,” Harriet said, ”but they’re not even looking our way.”


Maggie took up the challenge and ran quickly down most of the stairs, stopped to catch her breath, and then tumbled down the last few, careful to keep her long Navy blue skirt from flying up over her knees. She landed strategically (and unharmed) at the feet of the young men, who were only too happy to help her to her feet and make her acquaintance. Almost instantly, her friends converged on her with expressions of concern, accompanied with thanks to the boys for helping their friend. This clever maneuver on Maggie’s part not only resulted in help with the valises, but with dancing and dinner partners for the rest of their stay.


For Maggie, the biggest attraction of Atlantic City was the beach. For someone who lived in a crowded neighborhood of rowhouses lining street after street, escaping to the ocean was heavenly. Like most young women of her time, she never learned to swim well, but she was not afraid of the water and loved wading out until it reached her shoulders. Then she would lie on her back, paddling just enough to keep herself afloat and look at the open expanse of sky—a freeing experience for someone who lived in a rowhouse where seeing the sky was possible only by standing close to a widow in the front or back of the house. Floating like that required strength because in the early 1900s, girls wore heavy cotton bathing costumes—a blouse, pantaloons that fastened below the knees, and stockings. The cotton had to be heavy enough to satisfy the demands of modesty when the swimmer emerged from the water. Bathing costumes were almost always black or Navy blue—modesty again. Black stockings completed the outfit.


So when Harriet appeared on the beach in her black bathing costume accented by red and white striped bathing stockings, she attracted a lot of attention. After playing in the water, she would strip off her stockings and lay them out on the edge of the blanket to dry while she and her friends sunned themselves.


One afternoon, as the girls laughed and flirted with the boys passing by their beach blanket, a young man ran by and snatched Harriet’s prized stockings from the blanket. The girls shouted at him, but he kept running along the beach with the colorful stockings waving from his hand. Shocked and angry, Harriet despaired of ever seeing those stockings again.


In the dining room that evening, the girls sat at their appointed table, discussing what to do about Harriet’s stockings and how they would ever find the thief. Harriet was beginning to resign herself to going home the next day without her striped stockings when a young man with a roguish grin sauntered into the dining room. He wore a casual jacket, white shirt with a stiff collar and a tie. He took a roundabout route to his table, ensuring that everyone would notice Harriet’s stockings covering his calves below his Knickerbocker pants. The laughter grew as he paraded around the room, stopped at the table where Harriet sat with Maggie and their friends and gave a little bow.


At the end of the story, my Grandma paused in tenderizing the chicken breasts into submission. I can still see her shaking her head and laughing at the memory.


I don’t have any pictures of Maggie as a very young woman, but here are some pictures of her older.

1913 June 4th Wedding
1940s Margaret
Margaret 1961
Margaret and Lisa 1967

Railroad Hospitals

WWI Nurses

I’m working on a second book in which the main character is Fianna. We met Fianna when she was a child in Chicago and a neighbor of Seamus and Ireana. I don’t have a title for the book yet, but Fianna, after a rather turbulent childhood (you need to read the book for the details) becomes a nurse and serves in WWI.

Santa Fe Railroad Hospital

Well, as you know I do tons of background research and reading while I’m writing. During my investigation of healthcare services of the time I came across an interesting fact that trauma surgery started with Railroad Hospitals. Railroads in the 1800s and early 1900s were really dangerous places to work with terrible employee injuries. In addition, railroads crossed huge expanses of the American continent where there were no medical services. Both employees and travelers needed medical care, so out of necessity the Railroad Hospital was born.

St. Mary Corwin Hospital, Pueblo CO

The Railroad Hospitals were similar to hospitals founded by other industries. I got my Intensive Care nursing experience at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo Colorado. St. Mary Corwin started in 1882 as the hospital for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, and merged with the Sister’s of Charity in the 1940’s to form St. Mary Corwin. When I worked there in the 90’s the steel mill was in decline, but the hospital was still proud of it’s roots and the history of providing care to the steel workers.

Railroad Surgery Journal

The Railroad Hospitals developed trauma surgery, and had it’s own organization which was the first medical specialty organization. They developed hospital cars, clinics and freestanding hospitals. The railroads also worked with Robert Wood Johnson to develop the first first aid kits which were deployed on the rail line to allow lay people to provide first treatment with clean supplies.

The reason the Railroad Hospitals were interesting to me was because the railroad surgeons and nursing staff were the first trauma professionals, and they were an important part of the WWI response to the huge numbers of wounded. I’m not going to spend time in the book detailing the work Fianna does with the Railroad Hospitals prior to going to France to care for the wounded, but she will refer to her training and how it helped prepare her for the demands of war time nursing.

Thankful for The Arizona Artist Guild

Over the past four or five years the Arizona Artist Guild has developed multiple outreach programs. The members of the guild believe that creating art is good for people, and promoting art is a way for artists to contribute to the communities in which they live. The guild holds outreach programs for senior refuges who don’t speak English, Senior Native Americans, Veterans and girls who live in a residential home [Streetlight Girls] for victims of sexual trafficking. The guild raises money for supplies and the artist members provide free art making instruction.  The goal of the programs is to provide art instruction so that people have something besides their problems to think about, have a chance to socialize and have an activity to enjoy. We don’t think we can cure what might be wrong with people, but we think that we can enrich their lives.

I am a member of the team that works with Veterans and the lead of the team that works with the girls. They are very different groups. The Veterans are making really interesting art. The girls are having fun with glitter.

Girls Mask November 2017

Both are terrific groups to work with. This past Saturday we had a Veteran’s class and they made art and had a Thanksgiving dinner. Tons of fun. If you are a Veteran in the Phoenix area check it out. You are welcome to come have a  good time with us.

Veteran Art November 2017


Veteran Art November 2017

In addition to the outreach programs the Arizona Artist Guild has plenty of activities that support artists including classes, monthly meetings with critique, shows, open studio, all sorts of stuff. Check it out, the art is terrific. They have made me feel really welcome even though I’m not a professional artist.

Interesting facts about Muslims in WWI

Field of Poppies near Ardley

11/11/2017 the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI. I’m also doing some research for my next book which takes place during WWI. I’ve found out some things I hadn’t ever read in history books. One of the things is about Muslims in WWI. The latest estimate is that about 800,000 Muslims fought for the Allies and about 89,000 died in combat. During WWI India and other Muslim countries were colonies of United Kingdom. The British had reservations about the Muslims fighting and carried on surveillance looking for ‘Islamic Fanaticism’, but the worst they found was letters from a few deserters urging their country men to join them in leaving the war. Desertion was not a Muslim issue, but a response to the horrific trench warfare and feelings of the utter desolation at the senseless loss of life.

The Muslims were honored in France this week for their contributions to the allies. The news outlets covering the events hope that a better understanding of history of the long association between Muslims and Europeans will lead to a better understanding of the current issues and a more nuanced response to our differences.

Please go to the links for the pictures of allied Muslim soldiers. There were no pictures on wikimedia, so I can’t post the pictures.

Eat Drink and Be Merry

Fall in Slovenia

It is now fall, YIPPEE! Of course this time of year in Phoenix means that at night we can open the doors and air out the house. It is still in the 90’s during the day, so it isn’t really fallish like on the east coast. There is everything pumpkin spiced though so you know the season has changed.

Old Vine in Malbor

If I were in Slovenia today I’d be celebrating the Old Vine Festival. The first grapes will be ceremoniously harvested from the oldest vine in the world. The vine is in Maribor Slovenia and has been producing wine grapes from the same vine for 500 years. The ceremonial grapes are evaluated for wine making and the grape harvest will begin. I’ve had Slovenian wine and it is terrific. They do have pinot and Cabernet and other grapes that I knew and then they had a bunch I’ve never heard of, but enjoyed tasting. I just wish I was in Slovenia instead of ordering wine from Blue Danube Wine Company.

The festival will feature live music by Eurovision contestant Darja Švajger. I don’t understand the words, but check out the video, her voice is beautiful. They’ll be eating  traditional cheeses, which are unique to each region. Four cheeses are even listed as EU protected status for their uniqueness. Slovenia is also known for a multitude of baked goods, yum, sounds much better than pumpkin spiced drinks. I’ll be having a Phoenix fall day, but I’m wishing I were in Slovenia today.

Why do we celebrate Labor Day anyway?

Pullman Strikers outside Arcade building

I’m enjoying my labor day off, but the day means more than just a time for us hard working people to have a little rest. Turns out that the Pullman Strike that made it hard for Irena and Semus to make it back to Durango in the end of ‘Longing for Home’ was the catalyst for the Labor Day holiday.

Pullman car ‘Christine’

Workers at the 1890s Pullman Palace Car Company factory made high end railway cars for the rich and famous. Working for George Pullman wasn’t a bad job for the 1890s. However, workers were required to live in the Pullman housing and were paid in script that was only good in the company stores and for paying their rent. It was an arrangement that made the workers dependent on the company. Arrangements like Pullman’s were common in industry and mining during the 1800s.

Pullman Town

It was a good thing for Irena and Seamus that when they first moved to Chicago they chose to work in meat packing instead of for Pullman. They suffered during the depression of the 1890s, but they weren’t trapped like the Pullman workers. George Pullman saw his profits dropping and cut his worker’s pay nearly 30%, but didn’t cut their rents or the prices in his stores.


Workers tried to meet with Pullman, but he refused. The Pullman workers had the sympathy of most of Chicago. Other business magnates urged George Pullman to talk to his men and even the Chicago police took up a collection to assist the workers.

On May 11th 1893 the Pullman workers went on strike. The Mayor of Chicago, John Hopkins, wasn’t a fan of George Pullman and so didn’t step into stop the unrest. Many of the Pullman workers were members of the American Railway Union (ARU). ARU members across the country refused to handle Pullman cars or service trains that had Pullman cars until the companies severed ties with Pullman, essentially shutting down all rail traffic. The strike lasted from May 11th until July 20th. While the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois were pro-labor, the railway owners and President Grover Cleveland were not.

In an unprecedented move, President Cleveland ordered troops into Chicago, over the objection of the Governor and the Mayor, on July 3rd. Strikers acted out by rioting. The troops served as a flash point for laborers who had worked for decades under severely oppressive circumstances. The riots spread across Chicago and on July 7th National Guardsmen shot into the crowds, killing 30 and injuring dozens more. The strikes eventually calmed, though labor tensions remained.

National Guard Firing on Pullman workers

There is disagreement about if President Cleveland was really the guiding force behind the Labor Day declaration. At any rate, just six days after the end of the strike, he signed the bill designating the first Monday of September as Labor Day. I’m not sure it appeased the workers.

I hope you enjoyed a little something to think about while you spent a short holiday at the end of your summer.

Maria Mitchell – Solar Scientist 1878

Solar Eclipse 2017

Last weekend Charlie and I were lucky enough to go to Wyoming for the solar eclipse. It was absolutely amazing. Much better than the partial solar eclipses I’ve seen in the past. There was something heart stopping about seeing the sun go totally black during the middle of the day. The white corona was stunningly beautiful. It was mesmerizing for the just over two minutes that we were able to see it with our naked eyes. I’m so glad we went.

The US experienced a total solar ellipse in 1878. In 1878 women were discouraged from going to school. In 1873 Dr. Edward H. Clarke published a scholarly article entitled ‘Sex in Education’  which claimed that educating women would route blood away from the reproductive organs and to the brain. The decrease in blood flow was supposed to decrease women’s fertility and make them masculine. Not everyone believed that education was bad for women’s health.

Vassar College

Vassar college, a women’s educational institution,  first admitted students in 1865 and one of the first professors was Maria Mitchell, an astronomer. Professor Mitchell had discovered a comet using a telescope at her home before working at Vassar College and was already a famous woman scientist.  She was known for getting her students up at night (a definite no no for well bred young women) to study the stars.

Maria Mitchell at her telescope

The 1878 solar eclipse was a huge scientific event. American scientists, including Thomas Edison, were heading to the path of totality.  Professor Mitchell led an expedition of women students from Vassar to Denver to view the eclipse and to take scientific measurements during the event. More important than the science though was the publicity of the event. Professor Mitchell used the trip and the scientific papers published about the event as a way to demonstrate that women could be serious scientists. Oh, and in 1885 the Association of Collegiate Alumnae proved that education doesn’t make women infertile.

I am a serious woman scientist with a PhD in Nursing. I love finding other women in history who paved the way for me. So, I am glad to be able to highlight Professor Maria Mitchell here and say thank you.

Submissions the the Phoenix Airport Museum

In honor of the Arizona Artists Guild’s (AAG) 90 year anniversary, Phoenix Airport Museum is presenting an exhibition of artworks from its members. The show will be in Terminal 4, Level 3 from October 28, 2017 – May 13, 2018. I  submitted three pieces for considerations. I am up against some tough competition, but am hopeful that some of my work will be selected. I have been having a great time playing with happy ovals and am going to continue to do so for a while. Thanks to Charlie Wayman for the great photos.

‘Desert Play’ Acrylic Mixed Media 16″ X 20″
‘Ocean Play’ Acrylic Mixed Media 16″ X 20″
‘Lavender Play’ Acrylic Mixed Media 16″ X 20″

Honeymoon History

Lisa and Charlie Niagara Falls 2017

My husband Charlie and I were recently in Niagara Falls which was a wildly popular honeymoon place. Charlie and I didn’t take a honeymoon when we got married in 1984. Neither did the Characters in Longing For Home. Neither Charlie and I nor Irena and Seamus had the money to take a honeymoon. We just got married and went on with our lives.

Mary Koetting and grandson Joseph A Koetting

Honeymooons as wedding trips gained popularity in the 1800s. At first they were Bridal Trips where the couple would travel to visit family who weren’t able to make it to the wedding. It was more about becoming a part of the spouse’s family than about becoming a couple. The Bridal Trips reflected the cultural significance of marriage which was about making family alliances much more than it was about romantic love. My ancestors  Mary Adelheid Kopmeir Koetting and Joseph Bernard Koetting were married in the 1860s. They were not a good couple, she was very religious and I have blogged about him being a scoundrel. However, they were both from prominent Milwaukee families who had a wish to be united.

Florence Nightengale Family Home Embley Park

After a while couples extended the Bridal Trip to include a holiday with just the newly married couple. When I think of a honeymoon I think of a short trip followed by a return to home and work. In the 1800s the wealthy often took very long trips. Florence Nightingale’s parents took a several year tour of Italy and Greece when they were first married and returned to England with two children. Florence was named after the city of her birth.

Erie Canal

In the 1800s the US wealthy people would go to Europe, but Niagara Falls was also popular. Aron Burr’s (3rd Vice President) daughter took her honey moon in Niagara Falls. It was the opening of the Erie Canal that make Niagara really popular. By 1825 travelers could easily go from Albany to Buffalo, and newlyweds flocked to the falls with the beautiful view and lovely parks for walking and holding hands.

With the development of rail lines and roads Niagara Falls became a premier honeymoon site from the 1920-1950s. My in-laws spent their honeymoon there. It is still a honeymoon spot and is quite beautiful.

Horseshoe Falls

While it would have been nice to have a honeymoon, I think Charlie and I have done fine without one. We are traveling now that we are older and have a little more money. So if you are getting married, but not planning a honeymoon, don’t despair, you still have a chance of a good life together.

When the Irish Were the Undesirable Immigrants

Irish Woman 1849

The great wave of immigration from Ireland in the 1840s and 1850s overwhelmed the US and led to a swell of nationalism and racism. The Irish who came prior to the great famine were fairly well accepted, they tended to be Protestant and fairly well off. They distinguished themselves from the Catholic Irish by calling themselves ‘Scotts-Irish’. The Irish who came during the great famine were a different story. They were poor, Catholic, and considered less than human. The Irish of the 1840s and 1850s were despised in the US.

The Jeanie Johnson

The poverty of the Irish immigrating to the US during the potato famine cannot be overstated. They were starving at home, both from the failure of the potato crop, their primary source of nutrition, and from the English occupation of Ireland. The English exported food from Ireland during the famine in the name of protecting investors and promoting a free market society. The Irish who could manage to cobble together enough money for a fare crowded onto cargo ships and slavers for a three week passage to America. Some Irish even got funding from their English landlords who wished to export the ‘Irish problem’ to the US. The ships were overcrowded with poor sanitation and inadequate food and water. They were soon dubbed ‘coffin’ ships for the high death rates of passengers.

NYC slum 1890

The Irish arriving in the US were refugees. They had no belongings, no funds to invest in farms or business, and very few skills. Many of them also only spoke Irish, separating them from the English speaking American population. Most of the 2 million  Irish immigrants settled in cities. The staggering numbers of Irish overwhelmed the cities they settled in.  For example, Boston had 100,000 residence and swelled with 37,000 Irish immigrants. and took the most menial jobs, angering the Americans who were already at the bottom of the economy and feared that the Irish would undercut the wages. Irish men build canals and worked in factories while many women became servants. Not only did the Irish take jobs they took any available housing and turned neighborhoods into slums as landlords divided old houses and warehouses into small un-ventilated apartments. The slums, with poor schooling and underemployment, festered violence, mental illness and alcoholism in the formerly respectable, but now desperately poor Irish, further increasing the backlash from the non-Irish residence.

Washington Monument Under Construction

In addition to being poor refugees in need of social services, most of the Irish who immigrated during the great hunger were Catholic. At the time the US was a predominately Protestant country. The Pilgrims came, in part, to escape what they felt was the Catholic, or ‘papist’ influence in Europe. The prejudice against Catholics continued forward and was rampant in the 1800s. The papers and cartoons of the time were rampant with wild accusations about Catholics: Nuns were prisons and sexual victims of priests (with any babies being killed and buried). Even more damning was the assertion that Catholics reported to the pope and were immigrating to the US in order to set up a Catholic nation. Multiple anti-Catholic organizations formed and led to Nativist anti-Catholic riots. In one of the odder anti-Catholic episodes the Know-Nothings took the marble the Pope had donated to the Washington Monument, dubbed ‘The Pope Stone‘, smashed it and dumped it in the Potomac. The Vatican donated another stone in 1982.

The Usual Irish Way

Finally, the Irish were considered not quite human. English scientists of the time proposed that the Irish were closer to apes than to humans, drunk and dimwitted and that the subjugation of the Irish was for their own good. Racism, against Native Americans, African Americans and other people of color was not only rampant, but widely accepted. The Irish were lumped in with the other ‘non-white’ and therefore less human and considered people not entitled to rights. The issue was divisive enough that in 1855 Abraham Lincoln wrote in a letter: “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

St Paddy’s Day Charleston 2016

The Irish persevered and worked their way into society. Now the Irish are accepted as an important part of American society and many non-Irish celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. I’d like to say that the Irish remembered the discrimination they endured and not inflict it on others. However, once they gained some power the Irish discriminated against the Asians. It really makes me think about how we are building hysteria about others who aren’t like us now. It may be the American way, but it doesn’t have to be.