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Ann Kathleen Otto

Author

Progressive Women

September 9, 2015

I just finished reading Noon at Tiffany's again.  I read the historical biographical novel by Echo Heron when it was published in 2012. Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll Booth (1861-1944) was from Tallmadge, Ohio. Her well-preserved house is still occupied on a hill, barely visible next to a busy roundabout. Clara was a talented artist who designed many of the early Tiffany windows, lamps and other items. But no one ever knew because Louis Comfort Tiffany insisted on taking the credit.

Gender Issues 1910

Despite suffragette activities, women had few rights in the early 1900's. They were often depicted in literature as weak, dutiful, and inferior to men.  But by 1910, women's education was progressing. The first generation of women began entering professions. Most were from the middle class or prosperous social backgrounds and were interested in social issues. Anna, a main character in  Yours in a Hurry (YIAH)  is upset over the New York City shirt waist factory fire in which many women perished. She likes Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose platform, in part, because of his stand on social issues which would help women and families.

Daeida "Ida" Beveridge, developer of Hollywood and property owner in her own right, found that American women in the West had more rights than those in the East, as confirmed in 1912 when California's women achieved the right to vote.

Common threads in Clara's and Anna's Stories

I'd forgotten how similar Clara's story was to Anna's. Both came from small Ohio farm communities. Both professionals had supportive siblings. Both were disappointed by a manipulative man. Clara was lucky enough not to marry that particular man and have a child, which is what happens to Anna.  

Like journalist and aviator Harriet Quimby, discussed in an earlier blog, Clara has to continually prove that she is intellectually equal to the men in her profession. Unfortunately Clara can't take credit for her successes as Harriet can. Harriet's singular popularity was not appreciated by the suffragettes. She felt that action and individual achievement—not public group action—was the way for women to make their point.

Both Harriet's and Clara's reputations were often in question when working in male-dominated professions. There were rumors about Clara and Mr. Tiffany, and according to the letters Echo Heron saw he appeared to have had those intentions. Tales of Harriet's possible affairs with another aviator, John Moisant, her manager, and even her friend, D.W. Griffith are still around. Her biographer, Gia Bradley Koontz, found no proof.

Your Favorites

Biographies and historical novels about women of the 1890-early 1900's abound. Please share your favorites by replying on this blog or on Facebook, Twitter or Google. You can also post them on the great Facebook group page, the Historical Novel Society.

Sources:  

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History  https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/politics-reform/essays/women-and-progressive-movement

 Goldin, Claudia. 1980. The work and wages of single women,1870-1920. Journal of Economic History 40(1): 81-88. on the Harvard University site http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/2643864/Golding_WorkWages.pdf?sequence=2

Photo: Amazon.com

Next time: Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August still a great seller

 

 

 

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Anne, I am Clara Wolcott Driscoll's 4th cousin (related to Carolyn Mackey in addition to a plethura of other Wolcotts across this country). And I do presentations about Clara - have done 87 of them so far in the past 8 years from upstate NY to Palm Beach. Someone said you were writing a book about Clara? Echo Heron and I are friends and she said she had communicated with you. Just curious what you are doing.



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