Why I Want To Hi-Five Clara Barton

 

Clara Barton

I am in the midst of another round of research, this time looking into certain aspects of the Civil War, when I stumble across a letter written by Clara Barton that makes me wish I could go back in time and hi-five her.

I am sure many of you recognize the name of Clara Barton. Additionally, I would say most of you associate her name with nursing. What you may not know is that she also founded and ran an office which searched for the missing soldiers of the Civil War. Today the building where the office was located is a museum and the museum has made several valuable pieces of history available online for public viewing. Included in these are several primary sources, such as letters written by family members requesting Ms. Barton’s help in locating their loved ones.

This may sound quite sad to read, and I would imagine most are, however, one particular set of correspondence left me with a huge grin on my face and (as I mentioned before) wanting to give Clara Barton a very 21st-century hi-five.

The letters to which I am referring include:

  • a letter from a Eugenica Hitchins, who is searching for her brother (April 17, 1865),
  • a letter from the “missing” brother (Oct. 16, 1865), and
  • Clara’s retort (Oct. 23, 1865).

Yes, retort. It seems this particular brother wasn’t overly bothered with letting his family know that he was still alive and felt quite mortified by having his name “blazoned all over the county.” He callously demands to know “what he has done” to deserve this. He goes so far as to say that those concerned for his welfare should simply “wait until I see fit to write them.” I kid you not. Oh, and did I mention, his mother had also been looking for him until she died and his sister made a deathbed promise to their mother that she would find him?

The beauty, the glorious, fantastic part of this story, however, comes in Clara’s retort. You absolutely have to read it in full to truly appreciate it, but here’s a highlight for you:

“‘What you have done’ to render this necessary I certainly do not know. It seems to have been the misfortune of your family to think more of you than you do of them and probably more than you deserve from the manner in which you treat them.”

Oh, and it goes on from there. You can practically feel the heat of her righteous fury simmering on the page (or screen as it may be).

I am telling you, this is a lady I want to be friends with!


Originally published: February 4, 2016

 

Let’s chat!  Did you know about Clara Barton’s post-war efforts? If you had to guess, what would you say was this man’s reason for not contacting his family? What do you suppose happened after he received Clara’s letter? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Did You Know? – Ultimo & Instant

Did You Know Chalk Board w Rustic Wood Frame & Daisy

As a historical researcher, I still occasionally come across a word which I don’t recognize, but in the beginning, there were two words I saw repeatedly in the newspapers which absolutely drove me bonkers. I could not, just from the context, figure out exactly what they meant. I could guess. But guessing in this business isn’t ideal and hardly satisfying.

The two words were “instant” and “ultimo.” Now, of course, I was familiar with the word “instant” as we commonly use it today. However, the way it was being used in the articles didn’t appear to have anything to do with speed or immediacy.

For example, an article might say: “Mrs. Fancypants departed for town at precisely ten minutes past noon on the 6th ultimo and arrived in town at 3pm on the 18th instant.”

Say what now?

I asked the librarian in charge of the archives, but even she didn’t know what those words meant in that context.

However, a quick Google search easily solved my confusion.

It turns out that, when used this way, “ultimo” means “of last month” and “instant” means “of the current month.”

So the example sentence above could be rewritten as: “Mrs. Fancypants departed for town at precisely ten minutes past noon on the 6th of last month and arrived in town on the at 3pm the 18th of the current month.”

So there you go.

The next time you’re digging through old newspapers, you’ll know exactly what the reporter is trying to convey.

#nowyouknow

Let’s chat!

Have you ever come across old-fashioned words you didn’t recognize or didn’t understand the way they were being used?

TWEETABLE:

Ultimo & Instant – These words may not mean what you think they do. 

Name That Decade

Name That Decade

I love pretty much anything to do with history, but it’s no secret that my favorite part of history is nineteenth-century American history. Today, we’re going to play a game to see how much you know about the different decades of the nineteenth century in America. I’m going to give you a clue and you have to decide whether that clue belongs to the 1800s, 1810s, 1820s, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, or 1890s.

Fashion

The cage crinoline or hoop grew to widespread use by the middle of this decade, relieving women of numerous petticoats and expanding skirts to their maximum size. Also, the steel hooped crinoline was patented.

Cultural Trends

These three decades encompassed phrenology’s first heyday, during which employers could demand a character reference from a local phrenologist to ensure that a prospective employee was honest and hard-working.

Inventions

In this decade, William Blackstone of Indiana built his wife a washing machine as a birthday present. It was the first washing machine designed for convenient use in the home.

Major Events

This decade saw the rise and fall of The Great Rebellion.

Historical Figures

Mary Dixon Kies became the first American woman to be granted a patent in this decade.

Music

In this decade, Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” (originally titled:  “Defense of Fort McHenry”) and set it to the tune of Anacreon in Heaven.

Art

In this decade, American painter John Singer Sargent’s portrait of “Madame X” (also an American) caused a scandal upon its debut in Paris.

Statehood

Colorado officially became a state in this decade.

Travel

The golden spike was driven to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads in the final year of this decade.

Mail Service

The U.S. Post Office issued its first postage stamps in this decade. One (5 cents) depicted Benjamin Franklin. The other (10 cents), depicted George Washington.

Food

Recipes for a cake named “angel food” began appearing in cookbooks during this decade. Also, printed references to desiccated eggs (dried eggs) began to appear.

ANSWERS:

Fashion – 1850s (Learn more.)

Cultural Trends – 1820s-1840s (Learn more.)

Inventions –  1870s (Learn more.) (Check out this fascinating video!)

Major Events – 1860s (Learn more about the final battle.)

Historical Figures – 1800s  (Learn more.)

Music –  1810s  (Learn more.)

Art –  1880s (Learn more.)

Statehood –  1870s  (Learn why it took so long.)

Travel –  1860s (Learn more.)

Mail Service – 1840s  (Learn more.)

Food –   1880s (Learn more about the history of angel food cake or dried eggs.)

How did you do? Did you have fun? If you’d like to see more posts like this, let me know!

TWEETABLES:

Test your knowledge of nineteenth-century American history with this fun quiz! (CLICK TO TWEET!)

Can you Name That Decade? #AmericanHistory

Did You Know? – When Girls Become Women

Did You Know Chalk Board w Rustic Wood Frame & Daisy

“[Researchers] found that in 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5. Similar sets of figures have been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a year.” – McKie, Robin. “Onset of puberty in girls has fallen by five years since 1920.” TheGuardian.com. 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2017

Additionally, studies have shown that malnutrition can cause a delay in the age of puberty onset.

Why am I sharing this? Well, because it directly affects my novel set in the gold rush era of Northern California.

I never directly state my heroine’s age in the novel. However, events near the beginning of the book are (more or less) triggered by visible signs of puberty in my heroine. This necessarily dictates her approximate age for the rest of the book. (Take the approximate age of puberty, use the current chapter date to calculate the time elapsed since she reached puberty in the first chapter and you have her approximate age).

In initial critiques, I got a lot of pushback that my heroine was too young because readers were associating her physical changes with the ages at which girls experience those changes today. Most people, it seems, are unaware (or don’t make the connection) that girls of the past were so much older when these changes occurred for them.  Nor were they aware that the poverty-induced malnutrition my heroine suffered might have delayed the onset of her puberty.

It’s amazing how such small pieces of information can dramatically change our perspective on a story.

#nowyouknow 😉

Why I Want To Hi-Five Clara Barton

Clara Barton

I am in the midst of another round of research, this time looking into certain aspects of the Civil War, when I stumble across a letter written by Clara Barton that makes me wish I could go back in time and hi-five her.

I am sure many of you recognize the name of Clara Barton. Additionally, I would say most of you associate her name with nursing. What you may not know is that she also founded and ran an office which searched for the missing soldiers of the Civil War. Today the building where the office was located is a museum and the museum has made several valuable pieces of history available online for public viewing. Included in these are several primary sources, such as letters written by family members requesting Ms. Barton’s help in locating their loved ones.

This may sound quite sad to read, and I would imagine most are, however, one particular set of correspondence left me with a huge grin on my face and, as I mentioned before, wanting to give Clara Barton a very 21st century hi-five.

The letters to which I am referring include a letter from a Eugenica Hitchins, who is searching for her brother, a letter from the “missing” brother, and Clara’s retort. Yes, retort. It seems this particular brother wasn’t overly bothered with letting his family know that he was still alive and felt quite mortified by having his name “Blazoned all over the county.” He demands to know “what he has done” to deserve this. He goes so far as to say that those concerned for his welfare should simply “wait until I see fit to write them.” I kid you not. Oh, and did I mention, his mother had also been looking for him until she DIED and his sister made a DEATHBED PROMISE to their mother that she would find him?

The beauty, the glorious, fantastic part of this story, however, comes in Clara’s retort. You absolutely have to read it in full to truly appreciate it, but here’s a highlight for you:

“‘What you have done’ to render this necessary I certainly do not know. It seems to have been the misfortune of your family to think more of you than you do of them and probably more than you deserve from the manner in which you treat them.”

Oh and it goes on from there. You can practically feel the heat of her righteous fury simmering on the page (or screen as it may be).

I am telling you, this is a lady I want to be friends with!