I have been wanting to transcribe and post this typed letter I found in my mother’s attic for quite some time now.  I know it will be of interest to my family members, and perhaps of interest to a small portion of the general public interested in feminist / suffragette history.  It was written to my grandmother when she was a young woman who had just graduated from a graduate program in interior design in Boston.  Her Aunt Lou was Lou Rogers, AKA Annie Lucasta Rogers, a rather well known suffragette cartoonist living in New York at the time.  (Family lore has it that she adopted the moniker “Lou” after many attempts to have her work published as “Annie” were rebuffed.  The gender neutral name apparently opened more doors.)  I find this letter so moving and inspirational that I just had to share it.  Perhaps part of the magic of it is that relics of Aunt Lou are rare in our family, even though we are a family of hoarders.  We squirrel away every letter and teaspoon and pass it on the future generations.  But as Aunt Annie lived far away in the foreign land of NYC and had no heirs, I had never come across anything of hers.  I have always been intrigued by my great aunt Lou and as such was just tickled to find this.  Remember it was typed, and I have left the typos in place.  It reads as follows:

56 Greenwich Ave

May 14 1925

Dear Lois,

Am very sorry It took me so long to write again.  But I have ad(sic) a most mean and miserable spell of the Grippe, and didn’t cre(sic) whether anybody lived or died, survived or perished.  Now I’ll give you my suggestions about what seems to me might be in the way of a little extension course of your schooling, probably it might be not much else.  One of the very first lessons you have t(sic) learn in making your bigness in the world of business, is how to sell yourself.  There is only one way to do that —nobody can teach you, you have to pitch in and learn by hard experience.  The more you make contacts with people and attempt to get over to them the thing you have to sell the more speedily you’ll get your cue about it.  Now, why don’t you get up a series of short talks on a few of the most practical subjects you can dig out of your training– such as dyeing curtains, painting old furniture, arrangement of rooms etc, even the need, the children have of gay color to live with, sleep with  etc, such things as cost little for most people to experiment with and consequently will catch their attention the minute you speak—-such things as the need of painting the inside of your kettle cupboard a gay color for the heartening effect on yourself, etc,: the need of every woman to surround herself with color, vital, health giving suggestions, like kitchen curtains that have charm etc.  Show how a little dye can make the old ones into a brand new effect. — the effect of this on the tempers of the family– all that sort of thing, and make it ring true and straight home.  Get up a few of these simple talks and hunt out places to give them in Montreal.  Offer to go into the homes of people and give suggestions along these simple and practical lines.  You’ll learn an enormous lot.  Start with your own church.  Have your mother arrange a little tea and launch you.  Never mind at all about the high faluten back ground of your training, such as period furniture and all that.  Go after the every day people who don’t know anything about that and don’t care.

There must be endless opportunities for giving such talks amongst the various women’s organizations up there.  Don’t be afraid to but in and ask to do this..  Don’t expect any fee unless you are called on to do a real job.  Take your pay in solid experience with people and getting your confidence and ideas simplified and ordered in your own mind.  When you start in right where you happen to be on a definite line of work, you never know into what really profitable channels you will land.  I should write out these little speeches, make them not more than two hundred words, and take about a dozen to The City Editor of the big papers there, and tell him you want a chance to wake up the people of Montreal to the possibility of making their homes more attractive.  Tell him what your aim in life is, where you have been studying and any thing else you please. Just convince him you have something to say and its worth while for the people to read.  Now remember these things you put in must be the simplest kind of things, and just as everyday and practical as I told you — kettle cupboards and the effect on the tired busy housewife, of a dingy dreary hole under the sink, the small cost of making the hole into a gay and attractive place to look into.  and all that.  Don’t mind rebuffs.  They don’t count.  What you are after is your own poise and what you learn about different kinds of people.  If you want to write down some of these things and send them to me I will give you prompt criticism.  I am enclosing an article I wrote once for Pictorial Review along this line that may give you some idea of what I mean.  If you are to succeed up to your capacity, you must be able to write, talk, and demonstrate.  If you could make some funny little drawings to go with your little articles– they must not be more than two hundred words– newspapers have very little space, and each article must not have more than one idea.  That is,— and article on “what does your kitchen sink look like Is it shabby , When was it painted last ect.(sic) Draw a funny picture of the way the family approaches the sink before painting, and how they look after.  The simplest kind of little line drawings with ink. that will fit into a column of newspaper space.  If you can get something like that going in a Montreal newspaper– and in the summer time, when they are looking for something fresh and rather light weight, you have a better chance, you’ll surely get yourself an opening of the right sort some where. I mean people give a person who can pull off those stunts credit for brains and business acumen.  Now another thing.  I should go straight to the mangers of the biggest stores there are there, and I should suggest to them that you stage a few talks on the use of their various materials that are suitable for curtain stuffs and chair coverings, paints etc to their women shoppers.  Taking the goods them selves and telling the women how they can make their houses over by a little judicious expenditure.  Tell them what colors go with what and don’t be afraid to say right over and over the simple homely things about the effect on them selves of a fresh charming color.   And how much too bad it is that with all these beautiful fabrics at so little cost we let our interiors be so drab etc.  Bring in the fact that even in this great commer city (new york), the new buildings are being built with glorious color everywhere.  Invite questions from the women, answer their problems.  You should get a small salary  for doing this kind of thing.  The store will think more of you for asking it.  I am sure that if you plan your campaign carefully you will get the managr(sic) of some store on that scheme.  If you could swing the newspaper stuff and the other at the same time it would really be a magnificent stunt.  One would play into the success of the other.  (handwritten here, and underlined in pencil)I’d go to the newspaper first)

Tell the manager frankly who you are what your training has been and what you are after.  Make him feel that you are genuinely interested in seeing women educated to the value of more charm in their homes etc.  Have ready for him to read a typed set of headings on your talks.  Before you do this, look over the store and make up your mind what the possibilities are in his goods, so that you can say, now this piece f(sic) calico, or that kind of material that you have in such and such a department could be, and should be brought to t(sic) special attention of shoppers.  Take his furniture department and look it over.  Offer to give a talk on furniture and what kind are fitted for what etc.  There are several good commercial reasons whgy(sic) he should fall for this kind of thing.  He has to be doing new things all the time to increase his trade, nd(sic) this is a live interesting thing, that ties up the interests of the housewife to his goods etc.  I am suggesting this kind of a campaign right now, Lois, because you have a home to live in and don’t really have to worry this summer about your food and a roof, which may be your lot after a while.  If you make a determined try out along these lines this summer, butting in with a grin where ever you can see the least possibility for a chance to demonstrate what you have learned and get new information for yourself by handling the practical problems that show up, you will come out of the summer with a solid body of experience that will stand you in splendid stead, and there is a strong possibility that by the time you are ready to come to New York you may have established a connection there in Montreal that will help you enormously in your fight down here.  The greatest quality in the whole world is the ability to dig into the conditions immediately around you and make people, things, events come your way  If you can do that, you will get to the top and nothing can stop you.

You knew didn’t you that Justine, was refused entrance to the University of New Hampshire, because she hadn’t the proper fit  She would not take their refusal, and hung on to their coat tails until they finally let her in.  She finally argued them off their feet.  Now that was sheer grit and personality.  She was afraid of nothing.

Its the kind of stuff that success is made of.  and you have it.  So go back home with your jaw wagging.  I remember I thought when I started in to draw that I should get to doing big political cartoons the first thing.  I soon discovered that I should have to do common ordinary joke stuff before I got a chance at the big things.  I had to do what offered and watch my chance, and then get pounded over and over until my own brain and feeling and skill was ripe enough to be worth much to anybody.

You have to learn like all the rest of us, that there are a whole lot of experienced people ahead of you greedily snatching at every job along your line that there is.  You’ve got to be ready to pick up pins and watch for your foothold around or over or under the other fellow.  It will certainly come.

Now don’t let anybody laugh you into feeling that since you have trained yourself for a grand job, all this is beneath you.  or any other look-in that seems very far from what you are after is solid experience in handling yourself amongst people and business.

If, you can dig up a single thing out of this campaign I half way mapped for you which will lead toward New York this fall it will be great.  Remember you never can tell what may come out of this by way of connection that may mean big things for you.

I would try out a radio station also, and see if you can’t get a chance to talk over that.  Be sure to have definite stuff to show these people.  Have your plan you present pretty clear cut and direct and in good form, so that they can easily see what you are driving at.  You’ll find that you will build up some fine speeches.  What pople(sic) say to you make material.  The questions they ask and the answers you have to give off hand gives you real stuff.

Well, I hope this idea sounds good to you.  It will certainly keep you busy.  If you go at it with your usual gusto you are bound to win out.  Write to me what you think of it.

(handwritten:)

with love

Lou

I think Aunt Lou must have been pretty disappointed when she did not go to New York, but got married and moved to Winchester, MA instead.  Her romance with my grandfather started to heat up right around the time this letter was written.  I can’t help but wonder what would have become of Lois had she taken her Aunt’s advice instead.   We shall never know of course.  And I certainly wouldn’t be here to wonder about it if she had.  So there you have it.


Think with your hands

October 29, 2009

Just a quick link.  I love Ted in general, it’s such an interesting site to troll around on.  This lecture by Tim Brown hit a few chords with me.  I love the phrase “think with your hands”.  I have certainly found that in my work.  I can sit and think myself in circles, but it is not until I actually start working in 3 dimensional space that the process starts to really start chugging along.

I do think it is a bit problematic, however, to promote this creative work = play meme.  Too much of that gets misunderstood by the non-creative population, who add it to their “creatives don’t ACTUALLY do any work” file in their head.  I think what Brown is actually getting at, here, though, is that the play approach allows you to do MORE work, and achieve better results.

Check it out…

Summer Break!

August 1, 2009

We are all going away to Maine for a while. We will be far away from computers. So…. see you in the fall!

There’s lots going on around here right now.  Most of it happening outdoors, away from the computer.  I’ll post soon, I promise!

😉

Rain.

June 23, 2009

This “summer” has been pretty wet.  My snap peas have grown to over 6 feet tall, growing well taller than the chicken wire I’d set up for them to climb, and then flopped over from their own weight.

Our dog hasn’t fully dried out in about 3 days.

The basement is starting to smell mildew-y and the kids are going BONKERS from not going outside.  So, what to do?  We’ve made a fake snowstorm with styrofoam peanuts, exhausted the joy of playing with corn meal, made finger puppets, beaded necklaces, busted out the marble run.  All these things have been fun, but tomorrow we must get out of the house. Cabin fever is setting in quickly.

Truth be told, we’ve been traveling a lot the last couple weeks, which is why I haven’t posted much lately.  Road trips and visits to the grandma’s houses are good in the rain.  But only for so many days.  We’ve now spent 24 straight hours in the house.  Which is enough.  NOW WHAT?

Perhaps an outing to the library?  The YMCA?  IKEA?  Maybe we’ll do some tie-dying or something.  That sounds fun.  Stay tuned.