Monday, December 31, 2012

Inez Milholland: Beautiful Suffragist on a White Charger


      On March 3, 1913, a statuesque woman clad in a flowing white cape and riding a white horse was the leader of a giant women's suffrage parade down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

She carried a streaming banner reading, "Forward into light."  
Not quite 27 years old, Inez Milholland already had an impressive record of accomplishments.

She was a record-setting athlete in college, an attorney specializing in workers’ problems, and a forceful and charismatic speaker. A fighter for labor, she had been jailed as a suffragette in England.

      After inventing a successful pneumatic tube system for city mail delivery adopted in the United States and Europe, her father, John E. Milholland, became wealthy. In 1905, he created the Constitution League, a virtual one-man organization to fight the new “Jim Crow” laws in the South that made racial segregation legal.

His organization’s combative tactics in the courts and the press became the model for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He became the NAACP’s first treasurer. Her mother wrote a column, "Talks about Women," for The Crisis, the NAACP periodical.

      Inez Milholland was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on August 6, 1886. She grew up in Brooklyn and in Lewis, N.Y., a small Adirondack village west of Lake Champlain, where the family had a sprawling estate.

      In 1905, she entered Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, where she captained the field hockey team and held forbidden suffrage meetings. As a member of the track team, she set women's collegiate records in the shot put and basketball throw. A week after graduating in 1909 she sailed for England with her father.

      While in England, Inez applied to law schools at Oxford and Cambridge and at Harvard, Yale and Columbia in the U.S. Despite her high grades, the all-male institutions refused her. Inez enrolled at New York University's School of Law, which was encouraging applications by women.

      During the 1912 presidential campaign, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican running on the Progressive ticket, split the Republican vote and guaranteed victory to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

      Wilson's inauguration was scheduled for March 4, 1913. Suffrage leader Alice Paul decided to upstage the event with "a procession for women's suffrage" the day before his swearing in. When he arrived at Washington on March 3rd from his home in Princeton, N.J., no crowd was waiting at Union Station to greet him.

      "Where is everybody?" the surprised president-elect asked.

      "They're all over at the suffrage parade on Pennsylvania Avenue," aides told him. 

Suffragists Attacked
      In spite of its meticulous planning and precise execution, the orderly parade of five thousand women turned into a near riot. Male spectators jeered and shoved the marchers. Spitting on them and pelting them with burning cigar butts, the rowdy crowd's behavior made the event a national news story. Standing idly by, the police seemed almost indifferent, and the situation quickly became chaotic.

      Responding to a frantic appeal from Washington’s chief of police, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered the Fifteenth Cavalry to be summoned from Fort Myer across the Potomac. Troopers charged up the crowded avenue to clear it for the suffragists. The melee was an inauspicious start for an administration whose campaign had promised a reformist program called the New Freedom. A New York newspaper headline read, "Capital Mobs Make Converts to Suffrage."  

      In her busy life, Inez cut a wide swath through eager suitors. She had a brief platonic affair with Max Eastman until they both realized that their intense personalities clashed. They parted amicably.

      Her name was also linked romantically with that of Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor of wireless telegraphy. He regularly lost his heart to beautiful young women. She called him “Billy.”

      En route to England in May of 1913, she met and fell in love with 33-year-old Eugen Boissevain, an avowed suffragist. He was from a well-known Dutch family of French Huguenots who had emigrated to the Netherlands. Their wedding in London in July surprised their families and friends. Boissevin would make a small fortune during the war as a coffee importer,

      When the couple returned to the United States, they moved into the house in Harmon built by opera diva Lillian Nordica. The house still stands on Alexander Lane, a short street opposite the Croton Free Library.

The Peace Ship

      Late in 1915, Inez became a delegate on Henry Ford's "peace ship," the Oscar II of the Scandinavian-American Line, chartered by the automaker in a vain attempt to bring the warring nations of Europe to the bargaining table.

      Thomas Edison, John Wanamaker and Walter Lippmann all declined Ford’s invitation. Women active on behalf of suffrage, Anna Howard Shaw, Helen Keller, Crystal Eastman and Jane Addams, similarly turned down Ford’s offer of free passage. Even Clara Ford, the magnate’s wife, refused to go.

      Inez Mulholland accepted, saying, “The expedition may fail, but the world has been the better for gallant failures.” Some 160 Americans made up the passenger list, one third of them members of the press, including future ambassador William Christian Bullitt, representing the Philadelphia Ledger.

      Conflict arose even before the ship reached Oslo. Inez quit the party in Stockholm and traveled home after a detour to Berlin, where she charmed the German foreign minister.

A Fateful Campaign

      When Wilson ran for reelection in 1916, he remained lukewarm about giving the vote to women. Democratic states in the "solid South" were opposed to the idea, and he didn't want to risk losing their support.

      The tall, beautiful Amazon set out on a speaking tour of western states urging voters to reject him for failing to support the vote for women. After leaving New York on October 4, she was to speak in 43 different cities in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, California, Kansas and Illinois--all in less than a month. But Inez Milholland’s health was not good. Constantly tired, she insisted on adhering to her grueling schedule.

      At a rally in Los Angeles on October 23rd she collapsed on the platform. Her last words uttered in public were a cry from the heart: "President Wilson, how long must this go on?”  Taken to her hotel, she was discovered to have infections of her tonsils and teeth.

      Admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital later that day, her condition was diagnosed by specialists as aplastic anemia, a serious disease in which the body is unable to make red blood cells. The only remedy is repeated blood transfusions. Despite four transfusions the prognosis for Inez was not good.                         

      In his 1948 memoir Enjoyment of Living, Max Eastman recounted a touching deathbed scene. Her distraught husband was at her bedside. As the flame of life flickered within her, Eugen Boissevain asked, "Shall I come with you?"

      Inez knew exactly what his oblique question implied. "No," she whispered weakly, "you go on and live another life."

      Inez Milholland died at 10:55 p.m. on November 25, 1916, at the age of 30. The women's suffrage movement had lost a powerful voice, but it now had a martyr. Her father accompanied her coffin from California to the Adirondacks for burial.

      On learning of her death, Carl Sandburg wrote a poem. It read:

          They are crying salt tears
          Over the beautiful beloved body
          Of Inez Milholland,
          Because they are glad she lived,
          Because she loved open-armed,
          Throwing love for a cheap thing
          Belonging to everybody-
          Cheap as sunlight,
          And morning air.

      On Christmas Day in 1916, Alice Paul’s  National Women’s Party held the first memorial service in the Capitol. Statuary Hall was decorated with pennants of purple, white and gold, the Party's colors. Mabel Younger, a suffragist from California, was selected as keynote speaker.

      When Younger protested she was unequal to the task, the indomitable Paul responded, “Nonsense. Just write something like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”

      Less eloquent than Lincoln perhaps, Younger moved listeners with her vivid description of Milholland: “She went into battle, a laugh on her lips. Obstacles inspired her, discouragement urged her on. She loved work and she loved battle. She loved life and laughter and light, and above all else, she loved liberty.”

Eight years later, in August of 1924, the National Women’s Party held its convention in the North Country.       Ten thousand persons turned out in the small town of Lewis, N.Y. to honor the courageous fighter who did not live to see the women’s vote amendment become a reality.

      Inez Milholland’s grave lies atop a quiet knoll in the cemetery next to the Congregational church in Lewis. Almost a century after her death, few know where her grave is. Even fewer visit it these days.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Bitter Fight for Women's Rights


      No one has yet discovered what caused a bohemian enclave to spring up in the northwestern corner of Westchester County in the first decade of the 20th century.
The seed may have been sown when the New York Central Railroad decided to completely electrify its 33-mile Hudson Division line all the way to the village ofCroton-on-Hudson, making commuting easier.
An increasingly dire economic picture for hardscrabble farms and orchards in the hilly countryside north and east of Croton put many inexpensive rural properties on the market.
Real estate developer Clifford B. Harmon bought a major chunk of the Van Cortlandt estate from two descendants of the original manor owner. After selling a portion to the railroad for its shops, he divided the remainder into affordable small lots to create the tight little community he named after himself.
Soon a motley collection of artists, writers, journalists, poets, feminists, anarchists, socialists and labor leaders was trekking north from Greenwich Village, and fanning out through the countryside in search of seasonal rentals.
Three remarkable women joined this exodus and took part in the fight to gain women the right to vote by organizing, exposing male oppression and defying the law. Their names were Inez Milholland, Crystal Eastman and Doris Stevens. They had several qualities in common.
They were all passionately devoted to the cause of women's suffrage. One gave her life to the cause. Two were arrested and served time in jail. All lived in Croton, shopped in its modest stores and walked its hills. Their sacrifices deserve to be recognized and remembered by a village rich in history, but devoid of historical markers attesting to its bohemian past. Their stirring stories will be recounted in coming issues of Postscripts. 

Not So Equal
      Although the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads, "All men are created equal," women quickly discovered that the founding fathers meant exactly what they said in those ringing words: Equality applied only to men--or more specifically, only to white men. Women would have to wait almost 150 years before the principles espoused in that historic document were applied to them.
The Declaration of Independence also says that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Despite this high-sounding sentiment, women were excluded from the voting booth.
In the 1840s feminists began to protest the unfair treatment of women by men, beginning with laws that blocked women from owning property. In addition to not being allowed to vote, a married woman could not sign contracts, control her own earnings or inherited property, or be the legal guardian of her children.
The first women's suffrage amendment to the Constitution drafted by Susan B. Anthony was introduced into Congress in 1878, but failed to pass. By 1912, six states, all in the Far West, had granted women the right to vote. They represented only 38 of 531 electoral votes.
The struggle for women's suffrage in the U.S. reached a peak during the First World War. Alice Paul, a self-effacing activist and social reformer, deserves credit for devising the strategy that won the right to vote for women. Impatient with the ultra-conservative policies of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (which later became the League of Women Voters), with Lucy Burns she founded the Congressional Union, soon renamed the National Woman's Party. Not a political party, it was actually a feminist pressure group organized to sway Congress.
Their differences were largely tactical. Paul’s strategy was to hold the political party in power responsible for the failure to achieve the vote for women. This, of course, was the Democratic Party and President Woodrow Wilson, elected in 1912 and re-elected in 1916. Furious with Wilson for refusing to meet with suffragist delegations, Paul, a Quaker and a firm believer in civil disobedience, decided on a bold tactic.

The Silent Sentinels Appear
      On the morning of January 10, 1917, a strange sight greeted passersby on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Holding banners, women called "Sentinels of Liberty" appeared in front of the White House. "Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?" read one banner. "How long must women wait for liberty?" read another. Alice Paul announced that the picketing sentinels would remain day and night until women achieved the vote, regardless of the weather or public reaction.
Initially, the government regarded the silent, implacable women as little more than a nuisance. By June, losing patience, the government began to jail militant suffragists.  Unable to specify what laws had been violated by their peaceful, round-the-clock vigils; the government charged them with "obstruction of traffic"--at best, a misdemeanor. Most arrested women were jailed for three days.
Now, Paul began a second stage of militancy. Pickets displayed new banners critical of Wilson. One was especially galling, calling him "Kaiser Wilson," a play on the name of the German ruler, Kaiser Wilhelm.
The government's response to this was to impose harsher sentences of 60 days. Moreover, these were served not in the district jail but in the filthy and rat-infested Occoquan Workhouse across the Potomac. This almost medieval institution was ruled by a sadistic superintendent, Raymond Whittaker, who threatened that he would end the picketing “even if it cost some women their lives.” One prisoner, Peggy Baird Johns, a newspaper writer, suggested that fellow prisoners should demand recognition as political prisoners.
The government showed its growing irritation with Alice Paul by slapping her with a seven-month sentence and Lucy Burns with six months, the severest yet handed down. When Paul began a hunger strike, she was placed in the psychiatric ward and fed forcibly through a tube inserted in her mouth or nose three times a day.

Brutal Treatment
      On November 10, 1917, 33 women picketing the White House to protest Alice Paul's treatment were injured.  Two soldiers brutally assaulted picketing Boston matron Agnes Morey and jabbed her broken and splintered banner pole between her eyes. Dora Lewis, a Philadelphia grandmother, was manhandled by three young hooligans.
At the jail, Lucy Burns was targeted for especially rough treatment. She was beaten and her wrists were handcuffed high on her cell door. In sympathy, another prisoner, Julia Emory, stood in the same position.
Among the arrested pickets was Dorothy Day, a candidate for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Her 1952 autobiography, The Long Loneliness,described the inhumane treatment of prisoners at the workhouse as she experienced it.
Guards twisted her arms above her head and then twice threw her down over the arm of an iron bench, bruising her back and shoulders. By morning, she was sick and hysterical. No medical treatment was offered to any of the injured women.
In March of 1918, the Federal Court of Appeals decided that the women who had been arrested in 1917, many of whom had served several months in jail, had been tried and imprisoned under no existing law, yet no redress was made to them.
Starting on New Year's Day in 1919, "watchfires" burning in small urns became a fixture in women's rights demonstrations. (The first watchfire was started with kindling wood brought from the sites of historic battlefields.) It was announced that the fires would be kept burning until victory was achieved.
Julia Ward Howe's stirring "Battle Hymn of the Republic" has a line about "the watchfires of a hundred circling camps." It became an anthem of the suffragist movement. The fires were not only symbolic; they also gave warmth in bitterly cold weather.
Alice Paul continued to keep pressure on Wilson to speak out for women's suffrage by nonviolent acts of militancy wherever he went. When the president came to New York in March of 1919 to speak at the Metropolitan Opera House, a contingent of women bearing banners marched to the building on Broadway between 39th and 40th streets. Intercepted by 200 of New York's "finest," the women were knocked down and clubbed into bloody submission. Charged with "assaulting the police," they were eventually released.
The militant women's unrelenting efforts finally bore fruit on May 21, 1919, when Congress took the first step and passed an amendment giving women the right to vote. An affirmative Senate vote followed on June 4. It then was up to 36 of the 48 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state, making the vote for women the law of the land.
Ironically, the text of what became the 19th Amendment contained exactly the same words Susan B. Anthony had penned 42 years earlier in 1878.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eliena Krylenko: 'Glad to Have Lived''


Readers for whom the name Eliena Krylenko is not immediately recognizable may recall that she was Mrs. Max Eastman. Their romantic story began in this fashion:
In 1922, abandoning his financially troubled magazine, The Liberator, Max left Croton to explore the changes wrought in Russia by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Instead of going directly to the Soviet Union, he headed first to an international conference in GenoaItaly.
It was a fateful detour. In Italy, he would meet the woman who would become his second wife and return to the U.S. with him.
On a second-floor balcony of the luxurious old Imperial Palace Hotel in nearby Santa Margherita, he watched American sculptor Jo Davidson work on a bust of Russian diplomat Maxim Litvinov. From a window on the floor above, four giggling secretaries peered down at the handsome American.
When Eastman looked up, the heads disappeared. A red rose came tumbling down from the window. He picked it up.
That evening as he was standing in his hotel lobby, Max saw one of the secretaries come downstairs “with a skipping step, her hand sliding lightly along the banister. She was not exactly pretty, but looked so jolly, with her short nose, twinkling gray eyes and tiny front teeth, that I watched her with a feeling of reminiscent mirth."
She was introduced as "Miss Krylenko." Eastman knew that Nikolai Krylenko was the first commander-in-chief of the Red Army, Minister of Justice and chief Soviet prosecutor. Nikolai, she admitted, was her brother.
Ironically, sixteen years later, after ruthlessly prosecuting staged trials in Moscow, Nicolai Krylenko and his entire family, including Eliena’s three sisters, another brother, an aunt, a cousin and five or six nieces and nephews would disappear in Stalin's vengeful purges.
Pointing to the rose he was wearing in his buttonhole, Eastman asked, "Was it you who threw it to me?"
"Oh, no!" she replied. Seeing the effect of her dismissive remark, she added with a laugh, "It was my idea, though."

To Russia
      After traveling through France and Germany, it took Max four months to reach Moscow. He quickly looked up Eliena Krylenko at the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and discovered that she was also a skilled cook, painter and poet. Entranced by Eliena's free spirit, playfulness, vivacity, and muscular yet lithe and agile body, their relationship soon blossomed into a traditional Max Eastman love affair in which each partner could take other lovers.
Recognizing Max's penchant for romantic attachments with other women, Eliena, told him: "You can tell me about all the other girls you have loved, and those you may love in the future--or not tell me, just as you wish. I won't be jealous in either case. I don't want to possess you. All my love asks is to see you happy."
Max soon became fluent in Russian and arranged with Leon Trotsky to translate his monumental History of the Russian Revolution into English. After Lenin's death early in 1924, a ruthless Josef Stalin took power. With Trotsky's influence in decline, Eastman decided to leave Russia and take Eliena with him.
Arranging for the trip was not easy. Max was regarded as a dangerous radical at home and by most of the countries in Europe. In addition, his U.S. passport had expired. Litvinov solved these problems by appointing Eastman to the staff of a Soviet delegation heading for London that summer.
Soviet passports were not valid in the West, so Eliena could not accompany him unless he married her. Moreover, the secret police refused to allow her to leave unless she agreed to work for them abroad. She steadfastly refused. Litvinov advised her to be practical and sign the agreement--and then to forget about it once she was out of the country.
It was a curious wedding. Afraid they would miss their train, Eliena went home to pack their bags, while a solitary Max was married in a little dingy registry office with two hastily summoned witnesses. He was 41 and she was 30. Despite its inauspicious beginnings, the marriage would last a lifetime.
After spending three years in France, Max and Eliena returned to the United States in the spring of 1927 aboard the French liner De Grasse. On arrival in New York harbor, the passengers assembled in the ship’s dining salon, with American citizens in one line and aliens in another. Standing at the end of a long line, Eliena waited while customs officers sought the proper forms.
Max later recounted how the chief customs officer, a great big man, seeing her standing there looking like a small child on the verge of tears, walked up to her.  Putting a protective arm around her shoulders, he said, “You can come in, little lady. Just step along. We'll fill out the papers when they come.”
Max wrote, "I was proud of my country, I must say, and Eliena fell in love with the United States for good and all."

America Again
      Back home, Eastman found that he had been ostracized by party decree. There would be no fraternizing with Trotskyites. “My old friend and co-editor, Bob Minor, now a neighbor in Croton just across the road, would pass me in the morning with his eyes on the treetops. Once when we met face-to-face in Floyd Dell's living room, he bowed ironically low, and neither spoke nor extended a hand."
Rejected by most liberals who accepted the Stalin-dictated Communist Party line, Eastman was forced to support himself on the lecture circuit, and by writing magazine articles and books.
In the summer of 1929, the Eastmans were introduced to the delights of Martha’s Vineyard by the Robinsons, Boardman and Sally, their next-door neighbors in Croton. At the rural west end of the island, a summer colony of artists and writers had bought an old farm and used its barn for dining and partying. The farmhouse, woodshed and chicken house served as sleeping quarters for the group.
Max and Eliena eventually rented a converted sheep barn even farther west, near the promontory called Gay Head, to which they returned annually. In 1941, they bought land nearby on which they built a house overlooking the sea, and gave up their house in Croton.
Most photographs of Eliena do not do her justice. According to Eastman  biographer William L. O'Neill, "Max did have one splendid photograph of her, a huge picture that hung over his desk both in Croton and Gay Head, showing Eliena running naked out of the surf, beaded with water, shot with sun, her dancer's body taut as a bowstring."
It was Eliena’s remarkably bright and cheery personality that touched everyone she met. In France in 1926, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald summed it up with his observation, “When she smiles, everybody smiles. When she comes into a room, the room is lighted.”

Many Talents
      Eliena Krylenko had many talents. A skilled linguist, she taught French for several years at the progressive Walden School, a private day school in ManhattanIn Croton, she kept busy writing poetry--in four languages.
She was also a serious dancer. But her husband, Max Eastman, thought that painting was her "most remarkable gift."
As a painter, she completed more than 70 portraits of celebrities and neighbors, including Eric Knight, author of Lassie Come Home, who rented the farmhouse at Finney Farm, economist Stuart Chase, who lived on Ledge Loop on Mt. Airy, the poet E.E. Cummings, W.E. Woodward, bestselling author of such works asBunk and Meet General Grant, and liberal lawyer Arthur Garfield Hays.
Eliena had little formal art training, although in Paris she worked with French artists Jules Pascin and Jean Charlot. When he visited Croton, Pascin painted a portrait of Eliena, and she reciprocated by painting a portrait of him. Max admitted that "hers was not successful, but his picture of her is a treasure of grace and energy."
She acknowledged that her painting was also influenced by George Biddle, a Croton neighbor and artist, and by Thomas Hart Benton, Max’s friend, best known for his flat, realistic "regional" style of painting.

Two Masterpieces
      In 1937, the Eastmans engaged an Ossining house painter, Offie Edward Cherry (known to everyone as "O.E."), to redecorate their Croton house. Upon becoming aware of Eliena Krylenko's artistic ability, Mr. Cherry proposed that perhaps she could paint pictures for display in local bars. When tavern owners showed little interest in her paintings, he suggested that local churches might be a fitting place for her work.
The congregation of Ossining’s Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church at 148 Spring Street agreed to have her paint two oil paintings to be displayed in their church. A stipulation was that one of the paintings should depict the Crucifixion of Jesus. The other subject was left to the artist's discretion; Eliena Krylenko chose the Sermon on the Mount.
The paintings were completed in the summer of 1937 for mounting on the wall on each side of the church's organ in the sanctuary of the modest red brick gothic church building. Each covered an area of 40 square feet. They were unveiled and presented to the church by the artist at a formal ceremony on Sunday, September 12, according to an article in the next day’s New York Times.
Guests included the choir and congregation of Ossining’s First Baptist Church at the intersection of Route 9 and Main Street. The Rev. Raymond H. Edwards was the guest speaker, and Miss Louise James was at the organ.
Speaking at the dedication, Eliena said, “I think of Christ as just an unusual “common man” representing kindness and humility, as preaching against hypocrisy and greed, and as teaching the rich to renounce their riches.”
The Sermon on the Mount depicts a white-robed Jesus lecturing to disciples on a hill to the west of the Sea of Galilee. Eleven in number, they are grouped around Jesus under a serene summer sky. Their robes of yellow, deep blue, scarlet and orange are bright spots of color in an otherwise muted scene. A small settlement, probably Capernaum, can be seen in the distance.
In contrast, the somber Crucifixion has taken place under an angry sky at Golgotha, "the place of skulls," also known as Calvary, on the outskirts of ancientJerusalem. Behind Jesus are the two robbers crucified with him, also still nailed to the cross. His mother, the apostle John, and a few lingering faithful wait below the cross. Departing behind the hill are other spectators who witnessed the Crucifixion.
Both paintings are on large sheets of canvas. To suit the architectural requirements of the original sanctuary, it was necessary to remove an upper corner of each painting; these triangular pieces were later replaced.
Although Ileana worked on the paintings without any agreement for compensation, the congregation insisted on taking up a collection to pay for the materials. The amount collected was $62.46.

Disease Strikes
      Years later, early in April 1956, while in California, Eliena began to experience severe abdominal pain. The Eastmans returned to New York, where a physician found signs of malignancy and recommended a hysterectomy. Exploratory surgery showed that the cancer had spread throughout her body, making an operation futile. Even X-ray treatment was not an option. In fact, there was not the slightest chance of recovery.
The doctors insisted that Max not tell his wife the truth. He agreed to withhold information about her condition until after an exhibition of her paintings in New York City.
Eliena remarked to him that she did not feel she was recovering from the surgery as quickly as she should. Max told her, "Darling, you are not recovering. I must tell you the truth. You have a cancer, and the doctors hold out very little hope."
He could not detect the faintest hint or flicker of change in her outlook, he later would recall. From that day to the day of her death he "never saw a look of dismay or woe cross her face." Eliena only asked to return to Martha's Vineyard "to die in the sunshine by the sea.” Aided by a nurse and the loyal Eula, originally their Croton housekeeper, Max tended Eliena with selfless devotion.
In his 1964 autobiographical work, Love and Revolution, he wrote, "Our beloved Eula came from Ossining to cook and care for us and sit at the table with us." The challenge for historians was that he had not revealed Eula's last name.
There has long been a connection between Ossining’s African-American community and Croton. Addie Cherry, wife of the house painter hired by the Eastmans, operated the Home Town Employment Agency in Ossining and surely was familiar with "Eula," having referred many household workers to families in Ossining and Croton.
 “Eula,” it turns out, was Eula Mae Daniel, born in FayettevilleN.C., in 1912. A longtime resident of Ossining, she is fondly remembered by her family and the many friends and acquaintances she touched.
She raised ten children: four natural sons, and four adopted daughters and two adopted sons. She died on May 14, 1989, at 76 years of age, and is buried at Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, as is her husband, who died in June of 1998, according to information from their son, Ted Daniel, of Ossining.
When she sensed the end was near, Eliena wrote a touching note of thanks to friends and neighbors. To Max she said, "In these two months you have repaid all I ever did for you." Eliena Krylenko died on October 9, 1956, and is buried on Martha's Vineyard.
Of this attractive, talented and admirable woman, Eastman biographer William L. O'Neill noted that in his research he “never found a scrap of paper or a living person that speaks ill of her."
Doris Stevens, a prominent feminist and Croton neighbor for many years, wrote in a letter to Max after his wife's death: "Be comforted knowing that you helped Eliena to realize her many creative gifts." A grieving Max Eastman later wrote of her: "It belongs here to say that she died as she had lived, glad of every day that remained, glad to have lived."

A New Church
      In 1996, having become too cramped in its original quarters, the church’s congregation engaged architect Frank Brainard of Niles, Ohio, to design a new church at 304 Spring Street. Completed in 1997, the handsome new building occupies the site of the former Ossining Hospital. (The four-story building across Main Street was the hospital’s nurses’ residence.)
Eliena’s two paintings are displayed on the front wall of the large downstairs assembly hall in which Sunday School services are held. Despite the passage of 75 years, Eliena’s twin masterworks have retained their original charm and interest.
Tucked away safely within the new Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church, the twin paintings are significant parts of Westchester’s artistic heritage and reminders of the county’s rich bohemian history.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, December 03, 2012

Louise Bryant: Life Goes On


     After Jack Reed's death in 1920, Louise remained in Russia. 
Traveling to the farthest corners of the new Soviet Union, and elsewhere in the Middle East, her bylined news stories were featured in the Hearst newspapers.
On a visit to New York in 1921, Louise tried to interest movie makers in Jack Reed’s book on the Russian revolution. One executive she approached was Paramount’s William Christian Bullitt, a wealthy Philadelphian who had worked closely with President Wilson during World War I.
No movie deal resulted, but Bullitt was smitten by her. When Louise accepted new assignments to cover events in ItalyFranceGreece and Turkey, Bullitt trailed after her like a puppy. He was still married to his first wife, who would not consent to a divorce.
Louise’s skills as a reporter were superb. One of her scoops would be her exclusive January 1923 interview with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

A Third Marriage
A two-year relationship followed. They were married in Paris in December of 1923. Bullitt was 32. She was then 38; he believed her to be 29, another of her little deceptions. A daughter, Anne, was born in February of 1924.
They lived and traveled wherever their fancy--and Bullitt's money--took them. Bullitt suffered from impotence and consulted Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, in Vienna.
In 1925, Bullitt and Louise attended a housewarming in Croton given by artist George Biddle and his wealthy Texas wife, Jane Belo. They were celebrating the purchase of Longue Vue Farm, the Gloria Swanson estate on Mt. Airy Road.
Also present was Francie Elwyn, who with her husband, Dr. Adolph Elwyn, professor of neuroanatomy at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia's medical school, had bought the Boardman Robinson house.
"It was a wild party," she later recalled. "How pretty Louise was, with dark hair and blue eyes." When Bullitt danced with another woman, a jealous Louise went after her with a pair of shears, saying, "Lay off my husband!"
About this time, Louise became aware of health problems She began having a severe and persistent pain in one thigh. As time went on, other parts of her body were affected, growing lumpy and painful.
Doctors in London diagnosed her ailment as adiposis dolorosa, a progressive disease in which fatty tumors form under the skin. First identified in 1892 by Francis X. Dercum, a doctor in Philadelphia, a cure still has not been found for Dercum's disease.
She began drinking heavily, probably to ease the pain. Bullitt's response was to begin a divorce action in 1929 in Philadelphia. He was a formidable adversary.
Louise’s biographers all agree that William Christian Bullitt treated her shabbily in the period leading up to their divorce. He charged her with excessive drinking and the embarrassing public scenes that resulted. He also charged that she had a lesbian relationship with artist Gwendolyn Le Gallienne, a daughter of the English essayist and poet Richard Le Gallienne.
Kitty Cannell, Louise's friend, claimed that Louise was introduced to the lesbian community in Paris at her husband's request. "Bill Bullitt did this with deliberate intent. He wanted to destroy Louise," she insisted.
As was usual in Pennsylvania in uncontested divorces, Bullitt's testimony was given before a Master--in this case Francis Biddle, an old family friend and brother of Croton’s George Biddle. Bullitt neglected to say in his testimony that his wife had an incurable disease.

Alone Again
The divorce was granted in 1930. Bullitt was given custody of their daughter, and made it difficult for Louise to see her.
Although she had not been invited, Louise turned up during the winter of 1930-31 at a party at the stone house George Biddle had built below Longue Vue Farm. It was "not exactly a housewarming--about a dozen couples were invited to see it," Biddle explained.
Louise created a scene, the host later recalled. "Emotionally she had gone to pieces because of this disease she had. She became irresponsible, would get very angry. It was this disease that destroyed her. It was very sad that night.”
Recollections of the events of that evening differ. Biddle thought Bryant had "put on a lot of weight." Floyd Dell's wife, B. Marie, mistakenly believed she had been cured of what she described as "her elephantiasis.”
"I can see her now as she looked that night," B. Marie later recalled, "dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt with fancy studs and a man-tailored dress coat of black velvet. A handsome outfit. She looked very nice, but her behavior was wild, as if she were all doped up."
"She ran out and down Mt. Airy Road," Biddle remembered. "Everyone was worried about her. It was very upsetting. She came back about four in the morning. It was the last time I saw her. A tragic woman."
When Bullitt was appointed the first ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1933, she hoped to get a glimpse of her daughter on her way to Moscow, according to diplomat George F. Kennan, who spotted Louise waiting forlornly on a train platform in Paris.
The final year of Louise's life was spent in Paris. Wracked with pain and in the grip of alcohol and prescription drugs, she died while climbing the stairs of a seedy Left Bank hotel on January 6, 1936, at the age of 48. She is buried in the Cimetiere des Gonards just outside of Paris in Versailles.
Time remembered her as "a pretty, sharp-witted woman." The New York Herald Tribune described her as an “unusually competent journalist."The New Masses called her "a rebel woman of great charm and courage."  After her death, doctrinaire American Marxists tried to diminish her image.
Before he died in 1973, Croton's George Biddle summed up Louise in an interview with her biographer, Virginia Gardner. "She was no cold intellect--she was intuitive, she had a sense of her audience, and she could hold them.
"And, very typical of a person with that Irish charm, she was loyal, she was violent in her emotions, she was partisan. At her best, she was captivating, an able journalist, fierce in her loyalties--a straight shooter."  
Until the end Louise never lost her zest for life, even though penniless and alone. Her courage in the face of adversity was legendary. By defying convention and demanding an equal place in a male-dominated world, Louise Bryant proved that she was a genuine 20th-century heroine.  
In his 1939 autobiography, artist Art Young, a close friend from The Masses, quoted Louise's last communication, a postcard dated a month before she died: "I suppose in the end life gets all of us. It nearly has got me now--getting myself and my friends out of jail--living under curious conditions--but never minding much.” She closed with, “Know always I send my love to you across the stars. If you get there before I do--or later--tell Jack Reed I love him."

Louise Bryant's death made it easy for her divorced husband to move up the diplomatic ladder. Bullitt resigned as ambassador to Russia in 1936 to become ambassador to France. Back in Washington after the 1940 French defeat, he desperately wanted to be named Secretary of State. Standing in the way was Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who had helped to formulate President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Latin American Good Neighbor Policy.
Welles and Roosevelt had both attended Groton and Harvard, and their families were old friends. The easy relationship Welles had with FDR made Bullitt insanely jealous, especially since Welles seemed to be next in line for the State Department post.
Bullitt had heard rumors that Welles, a heavy drinker, was bisexual. When drunk, he did or said things he later could not remember. Bullitt spread the rumor that in 1940 Welles had propositioned the porter of a Pullman sleeping car in which he was traveling. Bullitt attempted to tell FDR, who refused to listen to his scurrilous gossip.
In his 1969 Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiographical work, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, the highly principled Dean Acheson took note of Bullitt's rumor-mongering campaign against Welles. Describing William Christian Bullitt as Welles's "malign enemy," Acheson remarked dryly that Bullitt's was "a singularly ironic middle name."
Welles resigned in 1943 when it became clear that the rumors had reached the ears of opposition senators and newspapers unfriendly to Roosevelt. Convinced that Bullitt had been the one who spread the homophobic stories, FDR summoned him to the White House.
According to Croton's George Biddle, who heard the story from his brother Francis, then the attorney general, the patrician Roosevelt angrily let Bullitt know in no uncertain terms how he felt about his vendetta against Welles.
"Bill, you'll get to heaven and Welles will be coming up behind you," FDR told him. "You'll take St. Peter aside and say, 'You don't want that fellow here--look at these ugly rumors.'
"And St. Peter will beckon to Welles and say, 'Come on in, we don't care anything about that gossip,' and to you he'll say, 'Now you're to spend ten thousand years in purgatory and then go direct to hell.'"
FDR said, "Bill, you've tried to destroy a fellow human being." Gesturing with his thumb, he added, "Now, get out of here and never come back to the White House."
Tired old Secretary of State and anti-Welles co-conspirator Cordell Hull attempted to get FDR to appoint Bullit to a government post but was turned down emphatically each time.
"Just desserts," Louise would have called it.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?