Tag Archives: women

“The Ideal Woman,” by Mary K. Buck, 1849-1901

by Mary K. Buck (1849-1901), poet of renown from Traverse City

Mary K. Buck, whose poetry we’ve featured before,  comes again to grace our pages with her thoughtful pen. Buck was a strong advocate for women and letters, and we think she would be pleased to be remembered in conjunction with Women’s Equality Day. A day often forgotten in women’s history, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26th, when we remember the passing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Ladies’ Library Association, pre-1892. Mary K. Buck is on the far left, back row.

Buck did not live to see the Woman’s Suffrage movement achieve its penultimate goal, but in her lifetime, she touched the lives of many Traverse City women looking to learn and achieve. She was one of the founders of the Ladies’ Library Association, she supported the authorship of many of her friends by editing their works, and she co-authored two books in her lifetime with journalist M.E.C. Bates.

This poem, The Ideal Woman, comes from her book, Songs of the Northland, published posthumously by her husband in 1902. What does this poem say about how women viewed each other at the turn of the last century? Clearly, the Suffragette and socialist cry of “sisterhood” extended even to remote Traverse City. It makes one wonder: What did those ladies talk about at the Ladies’ Library Association meetings?

The Ideal Woman

Who shall describe her, since each mind doth hold
Its own conception of that fair ideal
To which our longing tend? Or who shall say
Which type were best of those we most admire?
Each one, perhaps, shrines in her inmost heart
The image of some loved one who to her
Holds highest place on earth, yet it may be
To eyes more critical devoid of grace.
(It needs a loving knowledge to discern
The inner beauty ‘neath a surface plain.)

Yet though your thought and mine may differ wide,
Some points there are on which we shall agree-
Some attributes all true hearts must admire;
Then bear with me while I shall seek to show
The vision sweet that stands as my ideal:
A woman strong in body, fair of form,
And radiant with the vigor health bestows;
Her face is beautiful with that rare charm-
The loveliness that shines from starry souls;
A mind of broad and varied culture, keen
Of intellect and quick of sympathy;
But best of all a heart o’erfilled with love,
And charity embracing God’s wide world.
Slow in her censure, ready with her praise.
Seeing the good, yet steadfast ‘gainst all wrong.
Demanding justice for another’s rights,
But modest in her claims for self alone.
Her dress? That which doth best become her and
Her circumstances; so, seeing her, we say,
“How well she looks,” and not “How fine her dress.”
Sweet piety is hers and doth pervade
Unconsciously each act. A trust in God
And faith in holy things befit her well.
For as a lovely flower without perfume
May please the eye but disappoints the heart,
So woman without piety must lack
The crowning grace.

“Old-fashioned,” do you say?
Ah, it may be, for women there have been
In every age so gracious, pure and good
That loyal hearts do homage to them still;
And on Time’s roll of honor they shall stand
For ages yet to come. “Old-Fashioned” these!

Though high or lowly be her lot, she rules,
A queen in her own realm, or court, or cot.
When public duties call she shuns them not,
But best fulfills her mission in her home-
A wise and tender mother, loving wife-
“Her husband’s heart doth safely trust in her,”
So Solomon described her, long ago.
A faithful friend who will no trust betray-
Her friendship is a boon one well may crave.
Not perfect quite- some sweet faults still remain
To link her with our common human needs,-
But gentle, gracious, lovable and true.
O, brave “New Woman,” standing calm, serene,
To watch the dawn of the new century,
Wilt thou fulfill for us the grand Ideal?
The power is in they hands to choose and mold
They destiny at will. What shall it be?
The heritage of countless years is thine-
The toil and travail of thy sisterhood.
That which they sought with tears, almost with blood,
Is freely thine if thou wilt take and use-
The open door to Learning, Science, Art;
The right to think, to labor, to achieve!
Use then thy power with humble, rev’rent heart,
And give the world its noblest womanhood.

Mary K. Buck, portrait, undated.

From Michigan in Literature, Andrews, Clarence, 1992:

An unusual entry is Mary K. Buck’s Songs of the Northland (1902), published posthumously.  Mrs. Buck (1849-1901) was born Marjanka Knizek in Bohemia and came to Traverse City, Michigan, at the end of the Civil War.  She attended college, became a schoolteacher and a contributor to several nationally circulated magazines.  She also collaborated with Mrs. M. E. C. Bates on a volume of northern Michigan stories, Along Traverse Shores.

Cigar for the Winner of our June Mystery!

Where is this building, stamped, “Traverse City Cigar Box Company 1920?”

We expect all our readers will get this one, so here’s some extra credit: What do you know about the cigar industry in Traverse City? When did it flourish? How many companies and employees were there? What kinds of people worked for the industry?

You might not win a cigar for your answer, but you’ll certainly go down as a legend amongst Grand Traverse Journal readers!

Congratulations to reader Margaret, who gets a virtual stogie for her answer!:

“When the lumber industry collapsed during 1920 and the Oval Dish Company closed down, they had been the largest employer but moved out of state. This is when the Cigar Factory flourished. Employees were unskilled workers, especially women who lived in the area and provided steady employment. Every man smoked cigars!! There were 10 companies in TC during that time. Yuck. Where did I find this info? The Historical Archives from TADL.”

For those who weren’t able to identify the building, it is now called “The Box,” and sits at the northeast corner of Boardman and Eighth Streets.

Sara T. Chase-Willson: An Early Woman Physician with Modern Ideas

by Julie Schopieray, author and avid researcher

Medicine was in her blood. The daughter of a Civil War surgeon, Sara Thomasina Chase was the first-born child of Dr. Milton Chase who settled in Otsego, Allegan County, Michigan, after the war.  Giving his children a good education after finishing her secondary schooling in Otsego, Sara entered the Ypsilanti Normal School. She graduated in 1891, then taking a position at the Traverse City High School teaching English and science. Teaching until 1896, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and entered medical school at the University of Michigan. After her graduation in 1900 at the age of 34, she went back to Otsego and practiced with her father. In 1906, she returned to Traverse City, taking over the office of her cousin, Dr. Oscar E. Chase, while he went back to the University of Michigan for more training. She set up office in the State Bank building where she advertised her practice. 

This 1903 article from the Traverse City Evening Record gives us a glimpse of her ambition and dedication to the practice of medicine as a woman in a man’s world.

Dr. Chase entirely disapproves the old idea, which once was quite prevalent, that a professional woman could not be a womanly woman. She is a physician of no mean ability, and has considerable skill with the needle. She is thoroughly accomplished in household science. She is very fond of outdoor exercise, being an especially fine horsewoman. Still they are outside interests to her, after all, as her heart is in her profession, and it is this that receives first and best thought. [TCER 15 May 1903]

Known to be as good a physician as her male counterparts, she was  be able to handle just about any situation. In 1908 she traveled five miles past the village of Cedar in a blizzard to tend to a patient. The Traverse City Record Eagle reported, “Dr. Sarah T. Chase has a hard trip yesterday afternoon, driving five miles beyond Cedar in the blizzard. She went to Cedar on the train and was met there by a driver. Ten miles in such a storm required nerve even in a man.” (7 Feb. 1908)

Always wanting to improve her skills, in the summer of 1909 she took a six-week break from her practice and attended a special summer school course at U. of M.

Active with the Congregational Church, she served as Sunday School teacher. She often gave lectures on children’s and women’s health at events of the Woman’s Club and Central Mother’s Club. Her lectures were about topics important to the women of Traverse City and covered subjects such as the proper feeding of children and babies and “What to do Until the Doctor Comes,” a lecture about first aid.  As chairman for the public health committee for Grand Traverse County, she often gave talks about various health topics relevant to all citizens:  “The Air We Breathe and the Value of Ventilation,” “Children’s Diseases,” “Suppression of Tuberculosis” as well as sensitive women’s health topics, such as  “Sex Hygiene,” and “The Responsibility of Girlhood to Womanhood.”  The notice for the last talk stated: “No men will be admitted to this lecture.”

Not content just to maintain her practice—or to be pigeon-holed into women’s care only—she became involved in local health-related issues that mattered to the entire community. In 1911 she was instrumental in petitioning the state to pass a bill “requiring licenses for the sale of patent and proprietary medicines by itinerant vendors.” In simple terms, the bill would require licenses for traveling elixir salesmen. She served as meat and milk inspector for the city and reported to the city on sanitary inspections of farms and slaughter houses. As part of her county responsibilities, she acted as secretary for the county Tuberculosis Society.  Dr. Chase was one of the first woman members of the Grand Traverse County Medical Society. In 1907 she accepted the position of secretary of the Society when her associate, Dr. Myrtelle M. Canavan, left for Boston after her husband’s death. She was also a member of the Michigan State Medical Society and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.).

Tuberculosis hit Traverse City hard in 1915.  Dr. Chase worked tirelessly as head of the board of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, a group she helped found.  That organization aimed to improve health conditions by working with others in the medical field and offering free clinics in the city to educate the public about the dreaded disease. She used experimental treatments, publishing her positive results in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine.

In 1920 she accepted a job at the Kalamazoo State Hospital as assistant physician, where she worked until 1922, moving to Port Huron and taking the position of “Great Medical Examiner of the Ladies of the Maccabees”, a post she held for the next seven years.  She assisted with Maccabees clinics for children and was on the board of the Anti-TB Association.

While in Port Huron, she was reacquainted with Harlow Willson, whom she likely knew as a young girl in Otsego. He had been living in Boyne City with his wife Maybell and their children, working as a postman. After the two were divorced in 1924, Dr. Chase and Harlow were married in May, 1926.

A progressive woman, she did not give up her maiden name, instead preferring to use a hyphenated name: Dr. Sara T. Chase-Willson. They were both sixty years old at the time of their marriage– her first and his second.  After their marriage, Harlow and his mother ran Willson’s Garden shop on River Road, while Sara worked for the Ladies of the Maccabees.

During her years in Port Huron, Dr. Chase was actively involved in the Ladies Library Association, fought for child labor laws, and served as an active member of the Ottawawa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R).  She was a committed member of the Theosophical Society, and, as an expert in that movement, gave speeches on the history of Theosophy. In 1929 she resigned from her position with the Maccabees, but remained active in medical causes.

Around 1941 she and her husband moved to Boyne City where they opened another garden shop and florist business. In 1946 Dr. Chase fell in their home and broke her hip, but fully recovered and continued her volunteer work.  After her husband’s death in 1950, she sold her  Boyne City home and retired to the Maccabee Home in Alma where she died three years later at the age of 87.

___________________________________________________________________

It was unusual for a town the size of Traverse City in the early 1900s to have two female physicians. Sara Chase was not the town’s first woman doctor, but she and Dr. Augusta Rosenthal-Thompson each had tirelessly worked serving the people of Traverse City. Their careers only overlapped by a few years toward the end of Dr. Rosenthal-Thompson’s time in the city, but these two pioneers of medicine– amazing women in their own ways–each had an impact in the community, paving the way by their influence and demonstrating that women could successfully work in a career dominated by men.

You can read more about Dr. Rosenthal-Thompson in the book Who We Were, What We Did,  by Richard Fidler.

Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal. She is currently working on a biography and architectural history of Jens C. Petersen, once a Traverse City-based architect, who made his mark on many cities in Northern Michigan and California.

Betty Beeby: Iconic Artist of “Up North,” 1923-2015

Betty Beeby, interviewed by the Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan, on May 7, 2003, at her home in Eastport. Learn more about the Women’s History Project at their website, https://whpnm.wordpress.com/

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1923 when they didn’t have images of the baby-to-come. When they told my father that he had twins, he was so overjoyed that he did cartwheels down the entire corridor of Henry Ford Hospital.

We came Up North to Torch Lake every summer. My great-grandfather got the first land that was ever deeded in Torch Lake.

My father was a Captain in WWI when he saw a program my mother put on in one of the high schools. He was so impressed because she was the manager, and she sat down in the audience during the whole program. He said, “Anybody that isn’t backstage during the performance sure knows how to delegate.” He was pretty impressed with that, and she nabbed him.

I went to Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit. I was not the best student because I was always drawing pictures instead of paying attention. I had to take a streetcar to school, which took about an hour. I’d practice drawing people as they were riding the streetcar.

At Cass, I had the fnest teacher that anyone could have. She was an older woman dedicated to her students and her job. She had aisles of art books she’d bought herself. You could borrow any of her wonderful books.

Miss Davis took me to meet the Booths. They were newspaper people with a gorgeous, palatial mansion in Grosse Pointe, with original paintings by Lautrec, Degas, and so on. They talked to me about what I wanted in art, and were influenced enough to give me a scholarship to Pratt Institute, one of the finest art schools in the United States.

I lost my pocket money in New York, somewhere between Brooklyn and Grand Central Station. I was so upset ‘cause my folks didn’t have a lot to spare. But I had a nice roommate who was also poor; so we subsisted on bacon drippings on toast and things like that.

I was in a movie theater on December 7, 1941.  Suddenly, in the middle of the movie, all of the lights came on and they said, “All armed servicemen report to their stations.” It was quite a shock. We went back to the school and found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

The school authorities asked students to help with the inventories of the neighborhoods. We interviewed people about how many people were in each home, what were the ages, whether there were any cripples, what kind of heat they were using, and so forth because if we were bombed, if there was a fire, if anything was hit, the government needed that information. At the time we didn’t realize that German submarines were just off the Manhattan coast.

My first job was actually freelance, designing a cover for the Architectural Forum. After which they asked me to stay on with the staff and move over to Rockefeller Center. In any art department I worked in, I was usually the only woman. It was good pay, exciting work. I don’t know why more women aren’t going into it.

At night, I would volunteer at the United Nations Air Force Club where soldiers were coming in from all over the world. I was asked to paint a mural in the basement recreation room. I painted the Spanish dance for them.

For that work I was invited to the Tea Dance at Delmonico’s, which was high society. They brought this handsome man over to our table. They said he was also from Michigan, so we got to know each other. He wined and dined me, took me to places like the Russian Bear. I took him home to meet my parents. Jim said to my mother, “I want to marry your daughter.” And she said, “Oh, good! Let’s do it now!” She loved to party. It was an instant thing.

I quit Time-Life because Jim was stationed at Newport, Rhode Island. We were billeted at the Agassiz Mansion with other officers and their wives. I was pregnant while Jim was overseas, so I went home to Detroit.

In those days you stayed in the hospital ten days after having a baby. A woman down the hall from me was hysterical because her soldier husband in Texas wasn’t allowed to come back. The hospital asked if they could move me into her room to quiet her down. As soon as she found out my husband was in the South Pacific, she got along fine.

I moved back to my parent’s house with the baby. The cable my parents sent to Jim about the baby took two months to reach him. Jim came back when our baby was six months old, and saw him for the frst time. I still get pretty choked up to see young sailors seeing their babies for the frst time.

After Jim’s service time was over, we both wanted to live on a big body of water. Lake Superior was the biggest one we could find. Because Jim was originally a pharmacist, he was given a job with the Squib Pharmaceutical Company, traveling to hospitals back and forth across the Upper Peninsula

The winters up there were not easy. I was out in this little log cabin with a new baby, not far from the Marquette prison. I had no telephone. Every night I had to go outside, go down into the basement, and shovel coal into the furnace. Jim would come back on the weekends. Then Jim got a job in the pharmacy in Marquette. We used to sail with some people on a wonderful boat. They asked if we would like to be caretakers of the Longear Estate. The Longears owned most of the copper mines, thousands of acres in the Upper Peninsula. We put the kids in school. I had to drive them eight miles out to the gate to meet the bus. The bus driver carried a shotgun. In bird season, she’d stop the bus, shoot some birds, throw them at the kids’ feet, and then drive on. Our kids thought that was common practice.

We bought a drugstore in Kalamazoo in the fifties, and I painted again. I started as an artist, but when you have children you put that aside for a bit.

We bought a house on Lover’s Lane. A woman gave my children two beautiful big, white, rabbits. She said, ‘You won’t have to worry about separate cages, they are both males.’ We had eighteen rabbits within two months. Friends asked us to take care of their three cats while they traveled. Two weeks before they returned, each cat had a litter; and I was pregnant too. Living on Lover’s Lane I thought, “Do I have to move off of this street?”

I did the Captain Kangaroo artwork for CBS television; that was a wonderful experience. I got a big job illustrating the Child’s Story Bible. It was all in color, which was such a treat after doing mostly less expensive black-and-white art. I particularly loved illustrating book covers, jackets of famous authors. Eardmans paid me to skim through books to find the visual images for Steinbeck, T.S. Elliot, Hemingway, Updike, and Faulkner. They wrote with such skill that I really became interested in the words that portrayed people, that made you say to yourself, “I never thought of that.” I know it’s a good book when it’s a discovery.

That’s why I like painting and drawing; I go out and am amazed at the things that I see. I start to draw, and realize, “Oh…I never thought of that.” It’s entirely different than if you are just looking. You start to really see that drawing puts a value on everything, and a price on nothing. Everything is exciting. It’s a discovery, which is really important in drawing. Once you start, you discover more and more of what you are seeing.

We moved Up North because Jim retired, and I was asked to paint the mural at Fort Michilimackinac. I came up with nine ideas for this 50- foot wall, and they chose one idea. They asked me to create my proposed mural on a 10-foot width. If they liked it, they would have me paint it on the wall.

Image courtesy of Crooked Tree Arts Center, Petoskey, Michigan. https://www.crookedtree.org/betty-beeby-russell-bolt-masters-of-the-brush/
Betty Beeby in 2014. Image courtesy of Crooked Tree Arts Center, Petoskey, Michigan. https://www.crookedtree.org/betty-beeby-russell-bolt-masters-of-the-brush/

Jim always believed in me. He built this 10-foot stretched canvas on a frame that was always on display while I was painting the mural. I was up on the scaffolding for the whole summer. I didn’t have handholds or anything. I found myself wanting to step back to see how things were looking. I said, ‘I’ve got to have more boards up there.’ I was starting to have nightmares. Jim helped me strike a grid of vertical and horizontal chalk lines. That grid worked really well. I was up there for sometimes eight, ten hours getting things sort of mapped out.

The mural room was under the bridge (Mackinac). You could almost feel the vibrations in this room. It was a beautiful place just to rest and be serene. At night they had the mural lit. You could drive by the glass doors and see it.

About five years ago they covered the mural with a wall that goes all the way to the ceiling, and they built a store there. You don’t have to sell every place, you know.

Betty died on August 16, 2015, at the age of 93.

Diagnosis TB: the Childhood “Illness” of Dotty French

by Dotty Wilhelm French, originally published in the Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan newsletter, January 2015

When I was a child, I lived down the street from my grandmother, Kate Smith Wilhelm, who died of tuberculosis. Her death was to affect my growing-up years.

Kate was born on South Manitou Island in 1868. The islands were settled before the mainland as a place where merchants sold supplies and wood to ships, the major form of transportation around the Great Lakes in those days. Kate left the island and came to the mainland to work.

My grandfather, Anthony Wilhelm, had opened the A.J. Wilhelm Department Store in 1886 and, in 1891, he hired Kate as a clerk. In 1896, Kate and Anthony were married.

I was born in 1925 and lived just three houses away on the same street from my grandmother and I visited her often.

In 1932, Kate died of tuberculosis, the biggest killer in those days. When she did, the doctor said that, because I was so thin, that I must have contracted childhood TB from my grandmother.

The treatment for TB in those days was fresh air and sunshine, plus plenty of sleep. I had to take a nap every afternoon, although I often pretended that I was asleep.

To provide the fresh air and sunshine for my recovery, my parents bought property next to friends and built a cottage at Crescent Shores on Long Lake. Very few people had cottages in those days and those who did had no electricity or phone, and had to pump for water at the cottage. But my parents wanted to be sure that I stayed healthy and, as you were supposed to in those days, become chubby instead of stick-thin!

After graduation from high school in 1943, I went to the University of Michigan. In those days, students were checked for height and weight. I weighed 100 pounds and was 5 feet and 2 inches tall. I had very long legs and arms and a small body. Legs and arms do not weigh much.

The modern dance class French missed out on. “University of Michigan Modern Dance Club; BL006881.” http://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhl/x-bl006881/bl006881. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.
The modern dance class French missed out on. Image taken at the Barbour gym, 1938. “University of Michigan Modern Dance Club; BL006881.” http://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhl/x-bl006881/bl006881. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

After my exam, they said that I was too thin to take the required modern dance class and that I should take archery and golf instead. I was the envy of all the girls living in Betsy Barbour dormitory.

I graduated from Michigan in 1947, the year that Traverse City celebrated becoming 100 years as a city. Everyone wore the oldest-fashioned clothes that they could find for the celebration. The men grew beards. I wore a beautiful, 100-year-old blue dress, that fit my thin frame well.

I returned to college that fall and got a degree in Occupational Therapy. Part of the training was to spend time in each type of hospital, e.g., children’s hospitals, regular hospitals, and TB sanitariums.

While going a rotation at the Detroit TB Sanitarium (around 1948), the doctor called me into his office. He told me that I never had TB. My Mantioux screening test, which is a tuberculin sensitivity test for screening for TB, had been negative. I had never even been exposed.

All those childhood days treating me for TB- just because I was slender. Today they would say I was just fine!

"The Pines," Traverse City High School yearbook, 1943. This yearbook and additional years are available at the Traverse Area District Library.
“The Pines,” Traverse City High School yearbook, 1943. This yearbook and additional years are available at the Traverse Area District Library.

The Great Knickers Controversy of 1922

It was June, 1922, Traverse City, Michigan and trouble was brewing: Accompanied by a parent, two 14-year old girls appeared on Front Street, wearing knickers, apparently “displaying their wares” (showing too much) or else wearing other articles of clothing with “fashionable trimmings.” (clothing too suggestive).  Local police had been instructed what to do if confronted with obvious displays of immorality: Order the offenders off the streets.  And that is exactly what happened: the two girls with their adult chaperone were told to “get off” the streets of Traverse City.

The McCall's three-piece knickers suit for fashionable young women; This image appeared in the Traverse City  "Record-Eagle" on April 27, 1923.
The McCall’s three-piece knickers suit for fashionable young women. Knickers were also called “sporting pants”. This image appeared in the Traverse City “Record-Eagle” on April 27, 1923.

The women of the town did not take kindly to dress restrictions imposed by city officials.  The mayor, Lafayette Swanton, quickly made himself clear that it was not the knickers in themselves that caused the trouble, but the licentious behavior that often accompanied immodest dress.    A local minister, Dr. Klyveh, backed him up: “If the mayor is after the girls and women who are parading the streets with unbecoming conduct, every citizen of Traverse City should back him.  It is of no concern whether girls wear knickerbockers or skirts.  If their conduct is unbecoming, they should be kept from the streets, arrested if necessary, and every voter who believes he elected the mayor to perform certain civic duties should call him up and offer his co-operation.”  He went on to decry the habit of young people parking in cars, all the while displaying immoral behavior that shocked passers-by.  In many towns, he proclaimed, “promiscuous parking” is prevented by the authorities, Grand Rapids even going so far as to arrest young men who offered rides to young women.

Dr. Lafayette Swanton, Mayor of Traverse City in the early 1920s. Image courtesy of Michael Annis via Findagrave.com.
Dr. Lafayette Swanton, Mayor of Traverse City in the early 1920s. Image courtesy of the Annis Family Association.

Local women did not accept the connection between knickers and immorality made by Mayor Swanton.  They planned a protest parade, began discussions in women’s clubs, and brought the subject up at church.   Reacting to the firestorm of criticism, the Prosecuting Attorney for the city, Parm C. Gilbert, printed an apology on the front page of the Record-Eagle, apologizing to the affronted parent, Upsal Hobbes.  Worried about the impact of Swanton’s actions, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, W. J. Hobbes, declared, “The mayor is all wrong.  His knicker campaign is absolutely ridiculous.  Not only is it ridiculous, but it is damaging.  My own daughter wears knickers.  I wish my wife did.  They are not only nice, modest and decent, but they are pretty.”

The mayor, himself, offered no apology, but did say this in clarification,

Knickers are welcome in Traverse City.  Let’s not have this misunderstood.  No orders have been given to arrest the wearers of that sort of apparel and they will be unmolested so long as they conduct themselves properly on the streets of the city.  My instructions to Chief of Police Blacken were to see that women in knickers who acted in an unbecoming manner were denied the privileges of the thoroughfares.  The instructions still stand so it is up to the wearers whether or not they shall be told to keep from the streets.

That statement was made to the Grand Rapids Herald.  The knickers controversy had gone viral—in modern parlance—many newspapers in the Midwest had picked up the story.  For Swanton, it was important to tell the world that Traverse City, a resort destination throughout the region, would welcome resorters who wore knickers to town.  It would be bad business not to do so.  Later in the interview, though, he confessed that he was opposed to one-piece bathing suites worn at public beaches.  There were, indeed, limits to the mayor’s sensibilities.

Women plant workers at Greilick Manufacturing donned "woman-alls" (overalls for women) in 1918, article published in the Traverse City "Record-Eagle," 17 May 1918.
Women plant workers at Greilick Manufacturing donned “woman-alls” (overalls for women) in 1918, article published in the Traverse City “Record-Eagle,” 17 May 1918.

What happened with the knickerbockers controversy?  It melted away.  Women could wear knickers downtown, one-piece bathing suits were not forbidden at Clinch Park, and, presumably young men in motor cars would offer young ladies rides.  Only three years earlier women in factories started to wear overalls, a change that merited a front-page story in the Record-Eagle.  It was a time women began to experience freedom at home, at work, at play, and the change grated with those who had grown up with different cultural values.

One thing the controversy did accomplish: knickers’ sales skyrocketed.  Stores were backordered for days.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal. 

Header images courtesy of “MDafoeMay1924Crop”, licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MDafoeMay1924Crop.jpg#mediaviewer/File:MDafoeMay1924Crop.jpg; “Knickerbockers for child of four” image is in the public domain, available through Wikimedia Commons.

Reminiscing on Nursing at Munson Hospital: What Nursing Means to Me

In honor of Frances (Fran) Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N., who recently passed on February 16, 2015, your editors are pleased to publish Fran’s short piece, both a moving tribute to the profession of nursing and her time spent at the medical hospital here in Traverse City. Fran was born in March 1921, and graduated from Traverse City High School in 1940. She attended the Traverse City State Hospital School for nurses, earning her registered nurse designation in 1943. She was promptly hired in General Duty Nursing at James Decker Munson Hospital, where she remained for 30 years. While raising her two young daughters she worked part-time occasionally, but never quit the field.

Frances Virginia Fall Beattie, R.N.
Traverse City, MI

Licensed in the State of Michigan, Registration number 31774, Employed at James Decker Munson Hospital, General Duty Nursing.

“You are a pretty nurse and you are a good nurse!”

The voice came from a little brown wrinkled Indian lady.

“Thank you, my dear!”

Inside I felt good–also, very humble and somehow the day’s work seemed lighter. We cherish things like this and store them away in our memory, hoping that we too will give encouragement and praise to those we are caring for.

beattie002
Frances V. Fall, graduated from State Hospital School of Nursing, August 19, 1943.

I was trying to recall just when I decided I wanted to become a nurse and why. It was in my first or second year of high school. It was just a gradual feeling deep inside of wanting to help others. There was no dramatic inclination and I had no glamorous ideas about the nursing profession like some girls have. At the time I decided definitely, I had been a visitor to the hospital just once.

I remember as a senior student nurse, I was holding a child about eighteen months’ old, while an emergency tracheotomy was being performed. Before the operation was completed, the child died. As soon as I could leave, I fled to the utility room with tears streaming down my cheeks. Yes, there are heartaches to be sure, but the joy of seeing patients improve and get well, more than makes up for the heartaches.

A pillow turned or staightened, a bedside table moved where more convenient for the patient, a glass of juice; yes, a smile and a cheery word or two, these little things mean so much to the person confined to bed.

Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)
Frances V. Fall (Beattie) and classmate Fern Rinehart (Collins)

This is a challenging profession! Take the critical patient or the one with a long convalescence–sometimes we spend weeks and months in caring for these patients. The patient becomes discouraged, we get weary. But we keep a cheerful smile. Time goes on and very little improvement. Then comes a gradual improvement until the patient goes home. We wonder how they will get along. A few weeks later, we look up to see a smiling face at our side, looking the picture of health. Yes, you say to yourself, this makes it all worthwhile. This is why I like nursing.

“Mr. Thomas, what did you do to your bed?”

“Wal, I don’t know. I’s crawled back into bed and I can hardly get under them sheets. Then I feel somethin’ like paper that I’m on and oh, is so tight. I thought, what’s wrong, never been tight like dis before, so I pulled it all loose.”

By then, everyone in the room was laughing and when we told him he had tried to get under the draw sheet, he laughed and laughed, his big white teeth looking so very white in his shiny black face.

After twenty years of nursing, I can truthfully say to you young people, I would do it again and I encourage you to enter the nursing profession. Life is not easy come-easy go, the things worthwhile, we strive for and acquire.

Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).
Frances, Standing at entry to Munson dorm (now a State office building).

There will be times while in training that you will become discouraged, you will wonder if it is worth the effort, but it is, Don’t give up! Once you have become a registered nurse, you have something which you can make use of the rest of your life. If you marry and raise a family, you will be better equipped to face the future having had the training.

There is a variety of fields in which to practice and you will find the one you like best. There will always be a demand for nurses and you will always have work if you want it. There is sadness, gladness, weariness and fun, a great variety, but it all adds up to a wonderful life. Won’t you join us?

Leading Ladies of Traverse City Exhibit Announced

The History Center of Traverse City is excited to announce Fall 2014 “Legends of the Grand Traverse Region”: “Leading Ladies of Traverse City.”  Exhibits will reveal the history of three 19th- and 20th-century womens’ organizations:  The Traverse City Woman’s Club, the Ladies Library Association and the Friendly Garden Club.

Well into the twentieth century many professional fields were closed to women.   Across the country, women of talent and expertise found other ways to influence their communities, and Traverse City was no different. Locally, women participated in  public service organizations, such as the groups featured as this fall’s “Legends.”

Legends’ “Leading Ladies of Traverse City”   will debut on Wednesday, Sept. 17th, and run through October 18th. Information on our Grand Opening Celebration,  Thursday, Sept. 25th, will be forthcoming.