The Hermit Kingdom

In my last post, Serendipity, I introduced Ora Tuttle of Norwalk, Ohio, who in 1907, at the age of 27, realized her life-long dream of serving as a missionary in a foreign land. And where would she be going? The mysterious “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea.

The headline in the May 24, 1907 issue of the Norwalk Daily Reflector announcing Ora’s assignment caught my eye for several reasons, chief of which was my fascination with Korean history and culture.

Korea Tiled Roofs

I first went to Korea in 1975, as a young Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division north of the capital of Seoul. On the bus ride from the airport to my unit, I stared out the window, transfixed by the high-hipped tiled roofs of the traditional homes. How did the inhabitants of those exotic dwellings spend their days? What customs did they observe? How did they relate to one another. What thoughts occupied their minds? I was hooked.

At that time, the country still struggled to recover from the horrors of the Korean War, and a large part of the population lived an agrarian life not unlike that of their ancestors one-hundred years before. I only spent a year in the country, and had little time to study the culture.

By the time I returned in 1986, to an assignment in Seoul, the nation’s economy had grown dramatically. Many old houses had been torn down and replaced by high-rise apartments. But my fascination with the old days remained. Now I had the time, and resources to travel and study, and I immersed myself in the culture, learning the language, and visiting every historical site I could find in an attempt to understand the country’s culture and history.

Gyeongbokgung Station

Gyeonbukgung Subway Station

In the newspaper, one day in 1986, I noticed an announcement of an exhibit of photographs of “old Korea” was being displayed at the Gyeongbokgung subway station in the northern part of the city. I headed there to see what it was about. What I found staggered me. In alcoves set in the walls of the station were photos depicting a land I had only imagined from visiting the traces of the old days that remained in the capital.

The exhibition promoted a book Korea 100 Years Ago in Photographs, published by the Catholic Publishing House. I bought a copy and studied the photos for months. What a treasure trove of images! There were, of course, the obligatory photos of famous people and important events, but the bulk of these images depicted the daily lives of ordinary people. And that was what drew me in.

Pounding Grain

This is my favorite photo in Korea 100 Years Ago in Photographs. Lifted from a daguerreotype glass plate from 1890, the vivid colors of their dresses gives life to these two, now long dead girls. Gazing at them, I feel an almost unbearable ache in my breast. Note that the English caption is brief to the point of being nearly useless. My limited language skills were sorely tested and my Korean- English dictionary got quite a workout as I perused this book.

 

This was the land that Ora Tuttle encountered when she arrived in Korea over one-hundred years ago. In fact, it is possible that she took some of the photos in this book — most were taken by missionaries. Her life in this land was so different from her previous life in Norwalk, Ohio, I wonder how she coped. But cope she did — for many years — as we will discover in future posts. How?

From childhood, Ora had prepared herself for the trials of living and working in a foreign land. In my next post, we’ll explore what inspired her to take on this challenge, and how she prepared for what would become her life’s work.

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Serendipity

Ora Tuttle Goes to KoreaIn late May, 1907, a letter from the Chicago Training School for Home and Foreign Missions addressed to Miss Ora Tuttle of Norwalk, Ohio, arrived at her sister’s home in nearby Fostoria. Ever since she had graduated from that school, Ora had been at her sister’s home, anxiously awaiting word of where she would be assigned. Did she hesitate before opening the envelope? Did she say a prayer? Or did she tear it open the moment it came into her hands? No matter which of those things she did, we know that she read the letter, and learned that she had been assigned to mission in the mysterious “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea. [1]

Ora Tuttle was twenty-seven years old, and had been preparing all her life for this moment. She had grown up in a prosperous family in a good part of Norwalk, and had received an excellent education for a young woman of those days. A graduate of Norwalk High School in 1897 [2], she had attended Ohio Wesleyan University the 1903-1904 school year. [3]

But secular education and career had not been the focus of her life. Her energies had always been devoted to the Methodist-Episcopal church in Norwalk. That is where she had found like-minded friends, and that is where she had realized her purpose in life. From an early age, she believed she had a call from God to serve Him as a missionary in foreign lands.

To prepare herself for her calling, Ora had joined societies at her church that supported missions, served on their committees, assiduously studied missionary work, and spoke to any and all about what she had learned and of her dream of becoming a missionary herself.

And now, she was actually going on a mission. She had realized her dream. From this day forward, she would live it.

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Serendipity led me to this story. While browsing the May 23, 1907 issue of the Norwalk Daily Reflector for articles about the June graduation of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, the headline “Miss Ora Tuttle Goes to Korea” caught my eye.

temporary-derangementWhat about this headline captured my attention? First off, the name Tuttle rang a bell, although I wasn’t sure why. Then I remembered. In January, I posted a series of posts titled Temporary Derangement about the Tuttle ancestry of Sarah Barnett of the Class of 1907. That story culminated in a bit of narrative non-fiction about the December 1906 suicide of Sarah’s grandmother, Calista Harris, nee Tuttle. Was Ora Tuttle a distant cousin of Mrs. Harris? If so, how did the woman’s suicide affect her?

Emperor Sunjong

Sunjong – Last Emperor of Korea

That Ora Tuttle was heading to Korea aroused my curiosity, too. I lived in Korea for eight years intermittently from 1975 to 1999, first as a soldier and later as a businessman, and I developed a deep interest in Korean culture and history, especially of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the last years of an independent Korean monarchy before Japan annexed the peninsula in 1910.

In the Daily Reflector article, I noticed that Ora would be a Methodist missionary in Korea, another point of connection for me. Although baptized in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Ohio, I was raised a Methodist.

So there you are. As often happens in historical and genealogical research, looking for one thing leads you to something unexpected — and fascinating. I am now securely hooked by Ora’s story, and want to learn more about her. What events in her early life led this daughter of the Firelands to missionary work? How did she fare in that strange and mysterious land? What was her ultimate fate?

I’ll explore the answers to all these questions in my next series of posts, beginning with how I became interested the history and culture of the “Hermit Kingdom.”

Footnotes:

[1] “Miss Ora Tuttle Goes to Korea,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, May 23, 1907, page 1, column 4.

[2] “The High School,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, September 4, 1895, page 3, column 4.

[3] “Gone to College,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, September 15, 1903, page 7, column 2.

[4] “History of Epworth League Read at Banquet Last Night,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, April 18, 1907, page 2, column 1.

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Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator

Many Go to Bowling Green

At three p.m. on Friday, May 10, 1907, 110 years ago today, a crowd of fifteen Norwalk High School students clamored aboard a special rail car bound for an oratorical contest at Bowling Green, Ohio. Among them was one of their own, Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, who would compete against fourteen students from other Ohio High Schools.

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907

Stephen Young, Jr.

Stephen was scheduled last in the program. His subject was “The Darker Side.” He came in fourth, missing out on the princely  sum of ten dollars for first prize (and eight and seven dollars for second and third place). According to an article in the Norwalk Evening Herald the following day, “those from [Norwalk] who heard the orations speak of his efforts in high terms.”

The students arrived back in Norwalk in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Were they really impressed with their classmates performance? Was Stephen upset that he did not win the contest? Did it drive him to improve, and compete again?

Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in his career, would not succeed in all his endeavors. In fact, in politics, he failed more often than he succeeded. But he did rise to heights not achieved by his classmates. As a soldier, he would serve his country against Pancho Villa in Mexico and in two world wars. As a statesman, he would be elected to the Ohio Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. We’ll learn more about his career in future posts.

 

Sources:

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 10, 1907, page 1, column 2.

“Many Go to Bowling Green,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 10, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Contest Goes to Hicksville,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 11, 1907, page 1, column 4.

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 11, 1907, page 3, column 6.

Stephen Young person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

Stephen M. Young article in Wikipedia.

 

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Minnie Cleghorn: Athletic Girl Legacy

This will be the last of the Athletic Girl series of posts. Before we leave this subject, let’s take a look at Minnie Cleghorn’s legacy at Norwalk High School. How did promoting the ideal of the “Athletic Girl” influence the girls she taught over their lives? I can only speak knowledgeably about one, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham, who left diaries and other writings recording her life in 1907, and after.

harriott-wickham-1915-20-2

Harriott Wickham

A year after graduation, Harriott taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Peru Township, then attended Wooster College, graduating in 1914. She was a Suffragette, and during the “Great War,” she went door-to-door in Columbus and Cleveland doing surveys for the Labor Department.

After the war, she went west, teaching in high schools in the Dakotas and then Wheatland, Wyoming, where, like her former teacher Minnie Cleghorn, she taught English and Physical Education, and coached the girls’ basketball team.

Harriott and another teacher at her school took up a local rancher on an offer to homestead land so he could control the water rights. According to her account, this rancher figured two schoolmarm’s from Ohio would soon give up and go home, but they persevered: teaching school in the winter, and proving up their claims in the summer. Here is Harriott’s deed to the homestead, signed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, after she married.

 

Homestead Deed

Did Minnie Cleghorn’s work with her “Athletic Girls” leave a legacy of strong and confident women?”

If my grandmother history is any indication, I believe it did.

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Previous Athletic Girl Posts

Minnie Cleghorn – Norwalk High School Girls’ Basketball Coach

Shutout – Norwalk HS Girls’ Championship Game 1907

The Athletic Girl in 1907

Minnie Cleghorn: Oberlin College

Suzan Rose Benedict and a Dark Path to Smith College

Minnie Cleghorn: Life in the Fortress – 1907

 

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Norwalk High School and the Great War

U.S. Declares War

One hundred years ago today, April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany, upending the lives of all Americans living at the time. [1] Where were the alumni of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 that momentous day? How were their lives affected by this world-altering event?

robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907On the front page of The Norwalk Reflector Herald that day, just below the article announcing the war, was a small item notifying readers that one alumnus of the Class of 1907, Robert Venus, had spent two years at the Case School of Applied Science and now held “a responsible position with the East Ohio Gas Co.” [2]

Did his country’s entry into war change Robert’s life. Indeed, it did. He enlisted as an officer candidate in the Army and by July was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He would spend the next two years on active duty. I do not have any evidence that he served overseas, but no matter–he did serve. [3]

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The “War to End All Wars” disrupted lives all around the world, and ended the lives of millions. Robert Venus was not the only graduate of Norwalk High School whose life was turned upside down. As I often do when writing these posts, I turn to the diaries of Harriott Wickham, my grandmother, to see what she had to say. Here is what she wrote on April 22, 1974.

This evening have been watching a movie about W.W.I. How very long ago that seems now—like a different lifetime! It is really very clear in my memory though. Most of the boys I had known off in France! Bill [4] among them. Making bandages in the courthouse in Buffalo, Wyo. with other women. Getting a letter from my “then fiancé” [5] in France. Eleanor, [6] and I working in Columbus & Cleveland for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And especially remembering the long, long, two deep rows of rough boxes that stretched along the station platform at Columbus. Coffins filled with the bodies of boys who never even got to the front, but died of the flu epidemic at a training camp! One of the saddest sights of my life, I think! – Then, finally a night when we were awakened by the noise of sirens & shouting and chanting, — the “false armistice”! [7] But the real one a few days later, when there would not be any more “casualty lists” in the paper and the boys would be coming home alive!

It was another year before Bill would be home – but we didn’t know that then. And I think he really enjoyed that year – after the fighting had ended. He was quartered in a French home. When he had been crossing the ocean to France, a torpedo from a German submarine had grazed their ship—he heard the scrape of it! then it hit & sank another ship.

A number of our friends were killed in the war—one of them a fraternity brother of Bill’s at Ann Arbor—Lois Brush. I had been his guest at a Beta House party two years earlier. – He had no girl to ask & I was visiting Aunt Sue, [8] who was taking her doctor’s degree at Ann Arbor. A number we knew from Wooster & Norwalk were killed, though most of them came home safe. Damn Wars!! So stupid & unnecessary!

Stupid and Unnecessary! That sums about sums it up, doesn’t it?

 

Footnotes

[1] “U.S. Declares War Against the Kaiser,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, April 6, 1917, page 1, column 5. The Norwalk Reflector Herald was a successor to both the Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald which had merged in 1913.

[2] “Where They Are,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, April 6, 1917, page 1, column 5.

[3] In the U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918, 1st Lieutenant Robert Edward Venus of 45 Seminary Street in Norwalk, Ohio biography reads: 2 Lieutenant Quartermaster Corps 15 Aug 1917 from CL. 1 Lieutenant 28 July 1918. Fort Benj Harrison Ind 15 May 1917 to 14 Aug 1917. Quartermaster Corps to Discharge Cp Sherman O; Cp Johnson Fla; Baltimore Medical Department Honorable discharge 24 March 1919. Citation: The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18. Columbus, OH, USA: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1926.

[4] Harriott’s younger brother, my great uncle Bill Wickham.

 

William Wickham - WWI

William (Bill) Wickham in World War I

 

[5] Joe Gill. When my grandmother lived at our home near the end of her life, she told my mother that she received a “Dear Jane” letter from this man while he was in France. She said that it came as a big shock and she had a hard time getting over the rejection. I don’t know much more about him.

 

Joe Gill

Joe Gill – 1907

 

[6] Harriott’s sister Eleanor Wickham, my great aunt and godmother.

[7] On November 7, 1918, three days before the actual event, UP mistakenly reported that the German’s had signed an armistice. This sparked wide-spread, if short-lived, celebrations. How wrenching it must have been to learn that it was not true. For a detailed account of this little-known event, visit the New York Sun Blog.

[8] Suzan Rose Benedict. In 1914, she became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

 

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Minnie Cleghorn: Life in the Fortress – 1907

In my last post, we explored how Suzan Rose Benedict experience with women’s athletics while attending Smith College from 1891 to 1895 might have influenced fellow Norwalk High School teacher Minnie Cleghorn to start a girls’ physical education program. Today, we’ll check in with Miss Cleghorn to see how she fared with her athletic program at Norwalk High School, and with her life in general.

When Millie began the school year the fall of 1906, it was without her very good friend Suzan Benedict, who was now back at Smith College as an Assistant in Mathematics. This was Suzan’s first year teaching at Smith. The previous year, she had earned a Masters in Mathematics at Columbia University in New York City. [1]

How do I know that Suzan and Millie were very good friends. Well, for one thing, in 1906, Millie was living in Suzan’s house at 80 Seminary Street in Norwalk, known as “The Fortress” to the young people of the time, and had been since at least 1904. [2] And she continued to live there after Suzan left for Columbia. Not only were they good friends, they were business partners, too. In addition to teaching mathematics at Norwalk High School, Suzan was a realtor, and in 1901, she and Millie went in together with other teachers at Norwalk High School to buy land in a new development north of town. [3]

 

80 Seminary - 1880

“The Fortress,” 80 Seminary Street, Norwalk, Ohio, 1881. Doctor David Benedict stands on the front lawn. His wife Harriott is sitting on the front steps. Suzan Rose Benedict and her friends play croquet to the left of the house. Sadly, this stately home was torn down around 1995 after a fire.

In 1907, Minnie was forty-three years old. Since 1897, her first year at the high school, she had lived in Norwalk during the school year, visiting her mother and father in Wellington often, and spending her summer vacations there. [4]

I do not know where Minnie lived when she first arrived in Norwalk, but by 1904, she had taken up residence in the Benedict home at 80 Seminary Street. [5] Perhaps she had moved in before, but that is the earliest mention I can find of her being there. On June 11, 1900, she was not listed as a resident when Census enumerator Fred Husted visited the home. [6]

If in 1907, Suzan Benedict was not living at 80 Seminary, who was? David Benedict had died of a heart attack in 1901, [7] but his wife Harriott was still alive, although I believe that at this time she suffered from what has been called the “Benedict Curse:” Alzheimer’s.” [8] Mrs. Benedict’s caregiver would have been her eldest daughter Mary, who like Suzan and Minnie, had never married, and a granddaughter, Eleanor who was a sister of Harriott Wickham, Class of 1907. [9] A few years earlier, another Benedict daughter, Hattie, had moved into the house with her husband William Benham. [10]

After she started living in the Benedict home, Minnie became more active in the Norwalk community. At school, she led the high school orchestra, and was the sponsor of the school newspaper. Outside school, she became active in the Women’s Temperance Union and the Junior Auxiliary at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and organized a book club that met weekly at the Benedict home. [11]

Of most interest to us, is her involvement in athletics. Sometime, soon after she arrived at the school, she took over the girls’ athletic program. Or more likely, instead of taking it over, she started it. The only photo I have of her is a group shot of her “in the ranks” among her student in the 1906 girls’ gym class as they did calisthenics, probably Swedish Gymnastics, which involves light calisthenics, and was popular at Smith College when Suzan Benedict attended there.

 

1906-nhs-girls-gym

Minnie Cleghorn (third from right in white blouse) during a 1906 girls’ gym class in school hall on the 3rd Floor of Norwalk High School.

By 1904, Minnie had organized girls’ basketball teams that competed in intramural and extramural matches at Norwalk High School. [12] Although women’s college teams played Senda Berenson’s “line game rules,” high schools were more likely to play a five-player boys’ game, often named the ‘YMCA game.” Many high schools also allowed “interference rules,” where players could block and attempt to take the ball away. Most high schools in the Midwest played the YMCA game using interference rules. [13] Norwalk newspaper articles of the girls’ games reported rosters with five positions, two forwards, a center, and two guards, so I assume the Norwalk team followed the norm and played by YMCA rules.

That’s the story of Minnie Cleghorn’s life in Norwalk High School, and her involvement in fostering the Athletic Girl at the school, as I know it. To conclude this series on the Athletic Girl, in my next post we’ll take a look at Minnie’s legacy at Norwalk High School, and how she impacted the future lives of her female students.

Footnotes:

[1] “About College,” (Smith College Monthly, Volume 13, Number 1, October 1906) p. 66. Also: Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke, Pioneering Wemen in American Mathematics: the pre-194 PhD’s(American Mathematical Society, 2009), 27, and Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke, “Supplementary Material for Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD’s,” 74:  http://www.ams.org/publications/authors/books/postpub/hmath-34-PioneeringWomen.pdf. Suzan Benedict remained at Smith College the remainder of her life, rising to Chairman of the Mathematics Department. In 1914, she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and was Class Dean at Smith for the Class of 1926. A summary of her life is at “Suzan Rose Benedict” in Wikipedia.

[2] “The Norwalk Directory,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, April 1, 1904, page 5, column 2.

[3] “Greater Norwalk is Assured,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 6, 1901, page 1, column 4.

[4] Minnie’s father James Cleghorn died in 1899. His obituary is at “Wellington,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 10, 1899, page 4, column 2.

[5] “The Norwalk Directory,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, April 1, 1904, page 5, column 2.

[6] 1900 US Federal Census: Kenton Ward 2, Huron County, Ohio; Roll: T623 1288; Page: 10B; 11 Jun 1900.

[7] See “Post # 17 The Later Years,” part of the Little Doctor on the Black Horse series on this website for an account of David Benedict’s last years and his death.

[8] I often heard stories of the “Benedict curse” while growing up; most of the Benedict daughters were afflicted by it, as were generations after them (to include my father). However, if Harriott Benedict suffered from Alzheimer’s, it probably should be called the “Deaver Curse” (her maiden name). I have been told by family that she suffered from this horrible disease, and that account seems to be supported by a diary entry written on the day of her death in 1909: I am glad that I am among the elder children, so that I can remember Grandmother as she was before this sickness.

[9] Mary (Mamie) Benedict, never married. Her niece Eleanor Wickham (my godmother), lived with her aunt from a young age under strange circumstances, as explained by Eleanor’s sister, Harriott Wickham (my grandmother), in a 1976 diary entry. The reason for [my mother’s] illness was caused by their stealing Eleanor from her – when I, as a little tot was very sick, & Eleanor was sent over to her grandmothers, where Aunt Mamie became so attached to her that she went in a tizzy when they tried to take her home Aunt Lil finally came over & told Mother that she was being very selfish not to let “poor Mamie” keep her’ & that she was taking her back as Mother had another child & she (Mama) was being very cruel to “poor Mamie,” who (incidentally) was driving them all crazy with her crying. Grandpa & Grandma (who had always spoiled “poor Mamie”) would not interfere – as, of course they should have!

It was their fault that poor Mamie was so spoiled. She had been a seven month baby, but was a perfectly healthy person (physically) though not (I think) mentally. Not mentally deficient, but never really grew up! – to stand on her own feet. Too timid – she just got her way by crying – and making everyone uncomfortable.  I was shy as a young child, but Mama made me stay in her clothes closet “if I had to cry.” She would say “I’m just not going to let you grow up like your Aunt Mame!” I never have been able to cry since, except in private – and not often then! I feel reasonably sure, also, that she (Aunt Mame) infected Eleanor with her unreasonable distrust of men! If she had grown up in her own home, I think E. would probably have married. When I was growing up, we visited Aunt Eleanor at 80 Seminary Street many Sunday afternoons. I remember her as an elderly, rather aloof woman who spoke with the same flat unemotional voice as my grandmother, but lacked her warmth of spirit.

[10] William Benham was Hattie’s second husband. Her first marriage was Henry Owen in 1881. Henry suffered from tuberculosis, so the couple moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where Henry was superintendent of the water works. In 1885, they returned to Norwalk for his father’s funeral, and he contracted pneumonia and died. Hattie remained in Norwalk after his death, and in 1897 married William Benham. The couple lived in William’s home on Main Street until sometime before 1905 when they moved into the Benedict home at 80 Seminary Street. Hattie never had children. See her WeRelate person page for details of her life.

[11] Around 1904, articles mentioning Minnie’s extracurricular activities began appearing in Norwalk newspapers. For instance: reading club, “Among the Clubs,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, November 7, 1905, page 3, column 4; advisor to the high school newspaper, “High School Newspaper,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, November 23, 1905, page 4, column 3; temperance society involvement, “Temperance Service,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, November 25, 1905, page 1, column 6; and member of the Norwalk lady’s orchestra, “Ladies Rehearse,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, April 6, 1905, page 1, column 3.

[12] “Norwalk Girl Won,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, December 19, 1904, page 2, column 3. Eleanor Wickham played in this game.

[13] Robert Pruter, “Chapter 8: The New Athletic Girl and Interscholastic Sports”, The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control: 1880-1930, Syracuse University, 2013; 149.

 

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Suzan Rose Benedict at Smith College

In my last post, we followed the dark–and tragic–path of Suzan Rose Benedict in her journey from Norwalk, Ohio to Smith College. In this post, we’ll see how she fared at Smith, and how her experiences with women’s athletics might have influenced Millie Cleghorn when she introduced girls’ physical education at Norwalk High School.

In the fall of 1891, at the age of eighteen, Suzan joined the Class of 1895 at Smith College. [1] The school already had a long tradition of  promoting women’s athletics, but physical education for women there was about to make a dramatic change. The year she arrived, the college had just opened the Alumnae Gymnasium, with Swedish gymnastic equipment and a swimming pool, and outside the gym, a tennis court. [2] Physical education was mandatory, so I expect that Suzan took part, despite her heavy course load in science, mathematics and foreign language (German).

But did she participate in organized sports? I have found no record in the college archives that she did, but do know that she played sports in Norwalk. In the photo below, clipped from the image in the header of this website of her home in 1881, she and her friends are playing croquet beside the house. From later diary entries of her niece Harriott Wickham, I believe Suzan also enjoyed tennis.

Suzan Benedict and Friends Playing Tennis

Suzan Benedict playing croquet with friends in 1881

Halfway through Suzan’s first year at Smith, the gymnastics teacher fell ill and had to leave. In her place, in January 1892 the college hired Senda Bernenson, a recent graduate of the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Senda was energetic and immediately became popular with students and fellow faculty at Smith. Her goal was to develop the best physical education program possible.

At that time, in addition to gymnastics, for many years students and faculty had enjoyed horseback riding, hiking, boating, swimming, bowling, fencing, roller skating, golf and other more individual pursuits. Tennis and baseball were also played, but the rules for those games did not allow for much competition. True competitive team sports were not considered proper for women at the school.

The same month Senda arrived at Smith, James Naismith, an instructor at the YMCA Training School at Springfield, Massachusetts, published an article describing the rules of a new game he had invented the previous year: basketball. According to her later account, after reading this article, Senda revised the rules Naismith described in his article to avoid physical roughness, and introduced the game to her students that spring.

Basketball was a big hit, and the freshman-sophomore match quickly became one of the most popular events of the year. A fellow student of Suzan Benedict’s in the Class of 1895 described one of these matches in her journal.

“The balconies were filled with spectators and the cheering and shouting was something tremendous. The Freshman held one side, decorated with lavender in every shade and shape, while the opposite side was radiant in the brilliant green of ’95 . . .  when Miss Martin [student captain] received the golden S the girls raised her on their shoulders and marched with her about the hall.” [2]

Suzan Rose Benedict

Suzan Benedict around 1890

I have found no record of who played for the class of 1895, so I do not know if Suzan Benedict was on the field. But I have no doubt that she was in the gymnasium the night of the game described above. After graduating in the spring of 1895 with a Bachelors in Chemistry, she returned to Norwalk and began teaching mathematics in the high school that fall. [3] Although she did not, to my knowledge, teach physical education, she must have remembered fondly those exciting basketball games at Smith, and shared those memories with her colleagues.

So, when Minnie Cleghorn arrived at Norwalk High School two years later, she had a source of inspiration to guide her as she introduced physical education there. We’ll see how that turned out in my next post: Minnie Cleghorn: Life in the Fortress – 1907.

 

Sources:

[1] “Suzan Rose Benedict,” Wikipedia

[2] Betty Spears, “Senda Berenson Abbott: New Woman: New Sport;” A Century of Women’s Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four, edited by Joan S. Hult and Marianna Trekel; National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, 1907, Reston, VA; 21, 27.

[3] Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke, “Supplementary Material for Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD’s,” 74:  http://www.ams.org/publications/authors/books/postpub/hmath-34-PioneeringWomen.pdf

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