Confederate Veteran, Vol. XI, No. 5 Nashville, Tenn., May, 1903.

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EVOLUTION OF THE WOMEN OF THE SOUTH

Mrs. T. J. Latham

Mrs. T. J. Latham, President of the Tennessee Division, U D. C., read the following pacer at the last State convention:

"If I were a painter, I would trace

On canvas fair a beauteous face

Crowned with a wealth of Titian hair,

Cheeks whose crimson would compare

With a Western sunset ever rare,

Lips that only partly close

As the dew-fed petals of a rose,

And eyes that shine, as one draws near,

Like stars at midnight bright and clear."

"In painting the portrait of the women of the early South I would dip my brush in the blue of sincerity, the white of purity, and blending in rainbow tints the environments of her life. I would paint her as I found her---sweet, lovable, gentle, clinging in confidence to those of her family, and with a deep trust in her friends. A heart open to mother and father, a woman to give her whole heart to her husband, and one at once worthy to become the head of a household, the mother of well-born children, and a wife of whom it may be said, 'The heart of her husband doth trust in her.'

"Nowhere existed a purer and loftier type of refined and cultured womanhood than in the early South, and the hospitality and social intercourse of our grandmothers and their friends were highly cultured and refined. Their modesty was womanly and native. They were unaccustomed to the gaze of the world, and shrank from publicity. Men were the breadwinners; women, the homekeepers. The graces in which the Southern women excelled, and which I would fain paint on my canvas, were neatness, grace, beauty of person, ease and freedom without boldness of manner, mind innately refined and cultivated, brilliant in gay wit and repartee, with thought and character spotless and pure, a laudable pride of family, and an untiring devotion to home, friends, kindred, and loved ones. When finished I would drape this picture in soft white stuff of cobweb texture, such as we see in dreams, and I would call it a type of the sweet long ago.'

"Then I would set me another easel---another canvas ready for paints and brushes. But this time palette must needs have the crimson tints of war, tubes of black for many heart sorrows, and all these colors that portray courage, endurance, loyalty, ambition, and success, for the years are many since my 'Type of the Sweet Long Ago' made the world better and brighter by her being in it. The world has progressed; so also have our Southern women. But the virtues that adorn and ennoble the picture of my second easel find their origin in that womanhood which for forty years has been the product and the pride of the Southern people. These years in passing have brought to the Southern women many changes; they have put into activity the stronger qualities of character and mind, that were latent until stirred by trials, hardships, adversity, and, in some instances, poverty. How often we see it that many women weak in prosperity prove themselves towers of strength in adversity. Thought and action go hand in hand. Heart and brain in unison accomplish wonders.

"In many States women have asked for property rights; they have petitioned for voice in the making of laws against licensed liquor, and for many other highly salutary enactments. They have- knocked at the doors of State universities and been admitted; they have been the moving spirit in establishing industrial and reform schools for girls; they have caused able women to be placed on boards of public institutions; they have taken an interest in municipal affairs, with the result of public libraries, public drinking fountains for man and beast, police matrons, public parks, and clean streets. In Colorado they have an organization for the consumption of home products, and by pledging themselves to purchase all articles made in Colorado in preference to foreign goods, provided the price and quality are the same, they have given an impetus to all lines of work, from market gardener to extensive manufacturer. This is worthy of emulation by the women of every State in the Union.

"Education to-day is broader, and every woman is free to develop her own personality. We boast that any American boy may become President of the United States; so also may we add that any American girl may become mistress of and grace the White House.

"Our free schools are becoming more perfect day by day; industrial schools are being built and industrial departments are being added to our free school courses. In the Sophia Newcomb Annex of the Tulane University, New Orleans, is given instruction in decorative art. Virginia has the Miller Manual Labor School in Albemarle County. In Washington, D. C., in Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, and other States, these industrial courses are open to girls mainly through the efforts of Southern women. Our Miss Jennie Highee has done as much in the interest and to promote education in our State as any one, and there are Mrs. Pilcher, Miss Pearson, Mrs. McClung, and others.

"Cooking is now considered a fine art, and our girls are gratified to be able to say that they have taken a thorough course in the intricacies of the culinary art.

"It has been said that there are many more literary women now than formerly, yet among the papers and old letters safely hid away in grandmother's trunk may be found sweet thoughts couched in pretty verse, and bright literary flowers pressed between the leaves of a prayer book or hymnal. We readily see hereditary genius in the granddaughter, burning all the brighter in that the literary fire in grandmother was kept smothered.

"Necessity has forced some literary women from the retirement of domestic life. Whatever has been the incentive, we bless them that have brought us in touch with such writers as Miss Murfree (Charles Egbert Craddock), Will Allen Dromgoole, Ruth McEnery Stuart, Mary Johnston, Sara Beaumont Kennedy, Anna Robinson Watson, Mrs. McKinney, of Knoxville~ Hallie Erminie Rives, of Virginia, Sarah Barnwell Elliot, Mrs. Sneed, Ellen Douglass Glasgow, Augusta B. Evans, Catherine Cole, Grace King, Miss Cicor, of New Orleans, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

"In art we know that Caroline Brooks, whose Vanderbilt group at the World's Columbian Exposition created such favorable comment, and whose bust of Admiral Dewey was presented to him during his visit to St. Louis, is a Southern woman. In Helena, Ark., she began her career, and, as she expressed it, found her fortune in her churn.' She has become the world's greatest molder in butter, her work having been a special feature at the Omaha Exposition. Mrs. Brooks works out all her own conceptions in butter before beginning her marble work. A visit to her cold storage rooms is one of much interest. Among the many other artists, I mention Mesdames Herrick, Ross, and Shurtleff, of California, who excel in ceramic art. Mrs. Cora Whitmore, of Memphis, excels in china. Figure work is her specialty. Misses Yandell and Pattie Thum, of Kentucky, Mrs. Newman, of Murfreesboro, whose painting, 'Breaking Bread,'had honorable mention at the Paris salon. Matilda Lotz, of Knoxville, whose skill was appreciated by Rosa Bonheur, and to whom the famous artist willed nearly all her property. Sarah Ward Conley, of Nashville, designed the beautiful Woman' Building at the Tennessee Centennial. Mrs. Fannie May Longman and Mrs. Annie Stephenson Morgan, of Memphis, whose abilities are recognized as the finest in the State; also Misses Martha Day Fenner, of Jackson, Anthony, of Brownsville, Mary Solari, Margaret Ash, Minnie Lanier Rains, Fannie Gober, and Mrs. Carrington Mason, all of Memphis, gifted artists.

"In music Southern women have taken high rank in the world, and those who can stir the noblest impulses by sweet harmony of sound are indeed benefactors of the human race. Miss Lillian Chenowth, a gifted Mississippi girl, since her solo at the McKinley Memorial at Washington, is in so much demand that it is impossible to meet dates offered her. Mrs. Joseph Reynolds, of Memphis, was president and instructor of a band of music when only eleven years old, and is a most proficient teacher and performer. Margaret Freeling, known as 'Mad Non,' of Jackson, Tenn., created a sensation in Italy with her wonderful voice. Mrs. C. P. J. Mooney and Mrs. E. C. Latta are gifted singers. Many others deserve mention.

"In drama we need not go farther than our own loved Tennessee to find talented women who have achieved enviable success. Among those prominent are Maud Jeffries, Marcia VanDresser, Mrs. Tim Murphy (Saunders), Maud Fealy, Florence Kahn, Bessie 1\Iiller, of Memphis, and Kate Cheatham, of Nashville.

"Self-support is laudable, and many of our most popular women in society are self-supporting. There are successful doctors, merchants, inventors, farmers, editors, lawyers, trained nurses, miners, educators, stock raisers, financiers, etc. In fact, when we see the success Mrs. Eilitch has attained with her botanical and zoological gardens, the skill with which Mrs. Goodnight, of Texas, manages her ranch, with its magnificent herd of buffaloes, Mrs. Cosgrove, one of the most successful dealers of real estate of Joplin, Mo., Mrs. H. W. R. Story, known as the woman fruit grower of Southern California, and who has the largest walnut groves in the world, we cease to believe that there are limitations to the aspirations and achievements of Southern women. For the Southern women the years are blended, the environments and conditions, as the artist blends his colors. Now I would that I could blend my colors and paint my second picture in the evolution of the women of the South, portraying the transition from 'A Type of the Sweet Long Ago' to 'A Southern Woman of To-Day.' Under the inspiration of such representative women as are assembled here, leaders in literature, art, club life, music, and every field of culture and utility,

"If I were a painter, I would trace

On canvas fair a woman's face."

Well, ladies, frankly I know not better how to make that picture perfect than to produce a composite portrait of the faces I see before me."

 

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This site last updated 01/16/2011                                      Col. Thomas Hardeman, Jr.  UDC Chapter 2170 Macon, Ga.

 

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