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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Find the full review at Story Circle Book Reviews – here is a little excerpt. The second part of the book takes place in Durango, Colorado. It is here the characters mature and develop the depth that stays with the reader long after reading. They buy a run-down cabin with good structural bones; it is on the outskirts of the town. They develop a sense of family with their neighbors; it is like a small United Nations village with so many different countries of origin represented on their street. The work together and thrive; it is an American melting pot. Meanwhile her father and her half-sisters lose their restaurant, and suffer financial difficulties as they move with the Slovenian community to another part of the west, no more Americanized than when they first immigrated. I believe the main point of Longing for Home—to truly find a home, it is necessary for immigrants to let go of their pasts and blend into their new lives in America.
I’ve talked on this blog about the Irish Famine: The Great Hunger in the 1840s that cost a million Irish lives and displaced millions more. When I last posted about the famine I wasn’t aware that the Choctaw Nation had responded to the Irish in need.
In 1847 the Choctaw sent 710$ (5,000$ in today’s money) to the Irish, a people they didn’t know. What makes this story so compelling is that the Choctaw were in desperate need themselves. In 1830s they had been marched from Mississippi to Oklahoma in a trail of tears. The Choctaw were still desperately poor in the 1840s, but they were moved by the plight of the Irish and sent them money. 710$ was, of course, not enough to address the desperate need of the Irish. However, it was a powerful message to the Irish that they weren’t alone.
The Choctaw could have lumped the Irish in with all the other white people bent on genocide. They didn’t though, they opened their hearts and recognized what the Choctaw had in common with the Irish. They found compassion to reach out to others who were suffering.
Ireland has just commemorated a monument ‘Kindred Spirits’ to the Choctaw gift. The memorial is a beautiful bowl of feathers. If I ever go to Ireland I’ll definitely go to County Cork to see the monument.
The sharing spirit of the Choctaw nation is an amazing example of solidarity and hope that has inspired me this week. I hope you click on the links for more information and find this story inspiring as well.
Want to read a page turner historical fiction? Interested in late 1800’s Irish and Slovenian immigrants? Check out what Story Circle Book Reviews had to say about ‘Longing for Home’.