Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jane Austen and the Idea of a Home

Believed to be Jane Austen's profile.

Thanks to Tea at Trianon, I found this blog, Jane's Austen's World, which opens a door to all kinds of information on Jane Austen, her writings, and her world. In my first exploration, I particularly enjoyed this post on Jane Austen's Description a House and a Home and also this article, "Jane Austen's Idea of Home," which encapsulates what I think many homemakers strive for: "What Jane Austen suggests is that physical facilities will be charming only when there is a correspondence between outward beauty and the inner life."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"It Was Very Hard"

Mrs. Florence Thompson with three of her five children.

Through this photograph taken by Dorothea Lange, this migrant woman and her children became an image that was synonymous with the worst suffering of the Depression years. In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience in taking the photograph:
I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.

When she took the photo, Lange was working for the Resettlement Administration, which became the Farm Security Administration, documenting the conditions of the poorest in the depression years--the homeless, the migrant workers, those on the move. Her photos were sent out to the country's newspapers for their free use.

You can listen to an interview with Florence Thompson and read her short biography here, along with other interviews of some people who had been photographed by Lange during those years. You can also see more of Dorothea Lange's depression photographs here on Shorpy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"There But for the Grace of God Go I"

Photos by Dorothea Lange via Shorpy.

The Whitfield family's kitchen, North Carolina, 1939. Mr. Whitfield was a sharecropper.

When I saw this kitchen on Shorpy, I was impressed with how clean and neat it was. I did a survey of kitchens in photographs on Shorpy, and although this was among the poorer kitchens, it was also probably the cleanest, including among tenement kitchens photographed. I do not believe that Ms. Lange photographed by appointment but photographed what she found. There is not much in this kitchen. A table, an oil cloth, a wood stove, a butter churner, a basin, a few pots, rags. But what is there is clearly where it is supposed to be, and everything, including the floor, looks like it is regularly wiped down. In fact, there is Mrs. Whitfield doing some wiping right there.

So, compared with many of the other kitchens you can view on Shorpy, many of which belong to poor people, this kitchen stood out. I think, "There but for the grace of God, go I," and ask myself, if I were the wife of a poor sharecropper with multiple children, how clean would my kitchen be? Would I be able to keep my house neat and clean? Would I be able to resist the temptation of despair? Would I be able to keep my life on the straight and narrow? These are questions I cannot answer for myself. But Mrs. Whitfield has answered those questions on the side of hope and courage.

Mrs. Whitfield tends to her youngest.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Maude Callen (1898-1990)

Mrs. Maude Callen.

"In the most special way, she is probably the greatest person I have been privileged to know: combining a marvelous wisdom and compassion, a strength of true humility and true pride, all given direction through knowledge and purpose in a sheer beautiful balance."
-- W. Eugene Smith, photograher

Taking the trek to see a patient.

Children take away food that Mrs. Callen had brought them.

Mrs. Callen helps a blind man in the store.

When Smith's story on Mrs. Callen appeared in Life magazine, contributions to her work poured in. With that money, $227,000 in all, Mrs. Callen and her husband built a clinic.

Maude Callen Part 1
Maude Callen Part 2
Maude Callen Part 3
Maude Callen Part 4
Maude Callen Part 5

"My Walden"

See My Year 1955 today for a beautiful reflection on the home.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Maude Callen Part 5: "In the Desperate Need of the Countryside"

Mrs. Callen helps bring someone into the clinic she had set up in her home.

Mrs. Callen in a temporary clinic in the church.

From Let Truth Be the Prejudice: W. Eugene Smith: His Life and Photographs:
The midwife, Maude Callen, was orphaned at seven and raised by an uncle in Tallahassee, Floria, who was a doctor. She married and went to South Carolina, where, at the request of the Episcopalian Church, she became a missionary nurse--converting the country people of rural Berkeley County into what the missionaries called 'iodine Christians' Mrs. Callen moved into a neglected area and set up a clinic in her own home. The image most people had when they saw the full story in Life was that Maude Callen was a heroine sprung up like Joan of Arc, from deep among her oppressed people; but she was a middle-class black girl, raised by an uncle of professional standing, who was shocked to find such ignorance and such needless suffering. Later, she was trained in obstetrics at Tuskegee; but in the desperate need in the countryside, and with a 'quiet passive aggressiveness,' she actually practiced medicine and established the first V.D. clinic and the first pre-natal clinic in the county. But her money was scant, her equipment meager, the pressure of work immense. Yet should would find time to intercede for her patients with the County Relief, and even with the Sheriff himself.

Mrs. Callen visiting the home of this crippled child. She interceded with the County Relief people to get the child placed in a summer camp for handicapped children.

Mrs. Callen talks to the sister of a tuberculosis patient on how he needs to be moved to a county sanitarium.

Mrs. Callen examines the throat glands of a sick boy.

Maude Callen Part 1
Maude Callen Part 2
Maude Callen Part 3
Maude Callen Part 4

Maude Callen Part 4: A Baby That Died

Mrs. Callen rushes a fevered baby to the hospital.

As related in Let the Truth Be the Prejudice: W. Eugene Smith: His Life and Photographs:
A mother had brought a seven-month-old child just before supper to Maude Callen's house; the baby had a fever of 104 degrees, and Smith went with Mrs. Callen as she drove the 27 miles to the nearest hospital--which was white. The baby, whose temperature was now 105 degrees, need an immediate transfusion. The two blacks who were present, Mrs. Callen the baby's mother, were the wrong blood type; the right type was available, but it was forbidden to use white blood for a black child; a 'visitor from the North' (he didn't say so in his own account of the incident, but from later evidence one knows it was Smith himself) knew his own blood type, which was identical with the child's. The whtie nurses audibly disapproved. In any case, the child died. Both Mrs. Callen and Smith were 'damnably angry.'"

Maude Callen Part 1
Maude Callen Part 2
Maude Callen Part 3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Maude Callen Part 3: Midwifing

Mrs. Callen waits with a mother who will soon give birth.

Preparing for the birth.

The baby will go into the box that is lined with a towel. Mrs. Callen told mothers they should not put the infant into the bed with other children or with adults, since the infant could get suffocated. Hence, the makeshift cradle.

Instead of a receiving blanket--receiving newspapers.

Mrs. Callen delivers the infant.

Cutting the umbilical cord.

Stanching the blood from the umbilical cord.

Ready for a happy mom.

Maude Callen Part 1
Maude Callen Part 2

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Jolly Tramp

View of the Sea at Sunset by Claude Monet

The Jolly Tramp

By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

“Lady, if you will give me food,”
The jolly hobo said,
“I’ll paint your picture in the clouds,
Tonight when the sun grows red.”

“I am an artist from Heav’n,” said he,
With a twinkle in his eye;
And so I fed him buckwheat cakes
And gingerbread and pie.

A hoe was missing when he went,
Three silver forks were gone,
The patent sprinkler disappeared
From off our thirsty lawn.

But that night when the picture-clouds
Across the west trooped by,
“Oh come and look!” the children called
“There’s mother in the sky!”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Maude Callen Part 2: Giving Vaccinations

The word has gotten around to get your vaccination.

One brave and trusting little girl.

One little boy who is not too happy, but note the keen interest of his adorable little sister. Maybe she is thinking that some day she would like to be a nurse.

You can do it.

Taking vaccinations out to the farms.

See Maude Callen Part 1: Nurse and Midwife

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Maude Callen Part 1: Nurse and Midwife

Mrs. Maude Callen, midwife and nurse, comforts an elderly man who is paralyzed.

This moving photograph appears in the Family of Man, and I have always wondered about its context. The mystery was solved when Donna very kindly sent me a link to the photographs of W. Eugene Smith, taken in 1951, of the work of Mrs. Maude Callen, a nurse and midwife who ministered to a rural community in South Carolina. The photo essay appeared in Life magazine. You can see all of the photos here.

Bringing new dresses to two little girls.

Mrs. Callen was a certified nurse. As can be seen from the photos, she not only brought medical help to many isolated people in poor areas of rural South Carolina; she also brought food, solace, knowledge of how to keep the safe home and hygienic, new dresses for little girls, and help in linking up with help in the broader world. The midwife was always an important person in communities. She was someone who went out of her way for others--at all times of day or night, interrupting whatever else she might be doing, to help a mother bring life into the world. To me, someone who dedicates their life to the help of others in the way that Mrs. Callen did, is akin to the saints.

Fixing the bandage on a toddler who has a head injury. The family lives in the log cabin.
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:35-40

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"A Certain Element of Dress"

From My Year 1955:
One can see little bits here and there of the changing times. I am constantly amazed by the growing and changing things occurring here in 1955. Amongst the happy plastic people we always picture for this decade, we see the ruffling of the feathers of the great bird of change getting ready to take wing. I think, as many of you must feel, that with that flight was lost many honest and simple things which we, as humans, find ourselves longing for. Courtesy, trust, love of the fellow man, love of home and family even fashion and formality. I see that we, none of us, want to return to a time of segregation and distrust, but there is a certain element of dress which leads to courtesy and kindness that seems to be lacking from our modern world. Maybe I am just, as so many before me have, romanticising the past, but I KNOW that when I make sure I look 'done' before leaving the house I get a different response from people (mostly positive) and that I, in turn, am more positive. With my increasing interest in my home as a place of comfort and style and my skills in the kitchen, I find myself wanting to know my neighbors and get involved in my community. To share these things. This is really something new to me. It somehow seems to be magically linked with these other things which can seem superficial: your wardrobe, your homes decor, your cooking skills.

This, of course, could be only an instance specific to myself, but I wonder, if others were to follow suit, how long before they would find themselves changing into the patterns of the past? I know that with my family and friends when we are gathered together at a table with linen napkins nicely set with homemade multicourse meal, we act differently. And I don't mean formal or uncomfortable, but we converse more. We aren't plopped down with pizza boxes in front of the tv, but are having great conversations and even, without their knowing it for I watch them, my friends and family are just adapting to the setting. Napkins find themselves on laps, mouths are wiped before glasses touched to them, without any comment, just naturally occurring. And it is not as if we are play acting some great fluffy tea party, but just enjoying ourselves in a way that feels very 'grown up'. It's funny because I have always thought my generation was the generation that would never grow up, but now that I sort of feel I am doing so, I really like it. Of course, I say this while I am 'pretending to live in the past'. But, maybe my generation, and the other generations of today, have that childlike quality to play at something until they see it is, in fact, good to be a grown up. To care about others as well as yourself. To want to help out those less fortunate. To welcome a neighbor to the area not caring if they think you are 'cool' or not. I want to be responsible for others and kind.( I put the grocery carriage back at the front of the store to save the young boys trips to the parking lots.) But, I find myself doing it naturally and then noting to myself that I am more courteous and conscientious. It is not forced!