There's a lot of World War I fever going around during the 100th anniversary of the Great War. Many books on the topic have been written in the last few years and I've read some for a future project. I agree with others that the best book on the events leading up to the war and the period until the 1st Battle of the Marne in September of 1914 is still Barbara Tuchman's 1962 Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I. I've used a 2014 article from the The Daily Beast by James Warren and two books, July 1914 by Sean McMeekin and Dreadnought by Robert Massie for this blog to re-visit Tuchman's achievement.
Historians still debate the Great War’s causes and consequences. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophie in June 1914 at Sarajevo, Austria- Hungry, wasn't considered a war-worthy event by his family or the rest of the world. After all, the archduke married beneath him, an act his family never forgave, and the royals were visiting an unfriendly country with Serbian dissidents.
Tuchman covers the historical part of the war that is harder to understand than the assassination or the resulting war itself—July 1914. Many historians agree that it's a complex period when diplomacy was strained by a system of alliances and understandings worked out among many nations to deter war. But, national chauvinism was fostered by generals trained to secure military advantage in times of crisis rather than to work with diplomats to defuse problems. Each day brought new challenges, and no one knew how to negotiate without losing face, so German forces marched through neutral Belgium, and on to France.
In the end, all five major European powers and their allies participated in a bloodbath that eventually caused the death of 20 million soldiers and civilians, destroyed three empires, and laid the groundwork for World War II. It was truly a lost generation.
What enables one person to be able to take many interacting threads and be able to figure out how each weaves into the larger tapestry of a complex event such as a World War? Tuchman is said to have the acuteness of mental discernment and good judgment to know what to use among the myriad of documents involved. She selected just the right details and quotes. Her work provides such strong characterizations that it's hard to believe it's non-fiction.
She never earned a Ph.D. or formally taught history. Tuchman called herself a writer whose subject was history. The Guns of August was on the New York Times bestseller list for over 40 weeks and won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1963.
Novice writers like myself who sometimes question themselves can take heart with Tuchman's comment on writing: "I just sat down and started all by myself. It never occurred to me that I couldn't do it as well as anyone else."
Source: The Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/29/barbara-tuchman-s-the-guns-of-august-is-still-wwi-s-peerless-chronicle.html
Next time: Using Song Lyrics in a Story
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.
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.
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
Next time: Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August still a great seller