Diary 1862, part 3: Over the River and Through the Woods and Up to the Quarry and Over to Earlville

See part 1 and part 2 for background on Catharine Siglin’s 1862 diary.

From 1989 to 1994, I went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. For the first year, I lived in Chicago, about fifteen minutes away from school via el train. After that, I lived in the western, and then the far western ’burbs. Whether by car or by commuter train, the trip was over an hour each way – a longer than average commute for the area at the time, but not wildly out of line.

Continue reading Diary 1862, part 3: Over the River and Through the Woods and Up to the Quarry and Over to Earlville

Diary 1862, Part 2: The writer’s identity

See part 1 of this story for the background on this family diary and why I questioned its authorship.

Whoever the writer is, it’s certainly not Catharine’s husband Amos, unless he’s in the habit of referring to himself in the third person.

Continue reading Diary 1862, Part 2: The writer’s identity

A Strange Object of Nostalgia

In the mid-1990s, I spent some time temping as a legal document coder. Those were the days when it was so expensive to scan and OCR documents that it was cheaper to hire armies of temps to read documents and type the names in those documents into a database optimized for searching names. One of the first such databases I learned how to use was the DOS version of Inmagic.

A number of libraries use Inmagic. When the product evolved into the Windows world, the manufacturers made the DOS version available for free, so that libraries with small or zero software budgets could use it.

I have a project where I thought it would be useful to get a quick idea of word frequencies in a text, including names. (More on this project shortly.) I wondered if the Inmagic freeware was still available. It is – click here. Kudos and thanks to its current owners, Lucidea.

It’s surprising how this interface takes me back to that time.

Notes from #WHN2018

Hard to choose a manageable number of snippets to share from the inspiring, info-packed Women’s History Network 2018 conference at the University of Portsmouth last week. Here are a few with obvious connections to my work and/or Theatre Unbound’s:

  • The image above is from Victoria Iglikowski’s talk “RAIDED! What items seized in government raids can tell us about the Women’s Social and Political Union.” Ms. Iglikowski is from the UK National Archives, which owns the police records of the April 1913 raid on the WSPU offices in Lincoln’s Inn House. The Good Fight opens with this raid, so I was very eager to hear the talk. Not only did the police have the department listing, with the locations of each department and its employees, they also seized a bag of hammers, which was near the desk of office manager Harriet Kerr. The hammer handles were inscribed “WSPU” and were clearly intended for breaking windows. The police asked Miss Kerr what the hammers were for. She remarked that many of the WSPU employees were interested in home repair. Not only is this an excellent comeback, it’s evidence that the real Miss Kerr was something of a smart aleck, which pleases me, since my rendition of Miss Kerr is definitely a smart aleck.
  • Katharine Cockin’s talk “Edith Craig (1869-1947): Directing the Theatres of War for Women’s Suffrage” gave an overview of Craig’s career as well as information about the organizational nature of the Pioneer Players, which staged suffrage dramas. Prof. Cockin’s slide deck included a photo of Craig with playwright Christopher St. John. Theatre Unbound produced St. John’s translation of Hrotsvitha’s Dulcitius in 2005, but I had never seen a photo of her. I’m not sure, in fact, that I knew she was a woman at the time we produced the script. Seeing the photo gave me an extra surge of gratitude for the many women who have worked hard to preserve and disseminate the work of women artists.
  • I gave in to my fangirl impulses and asked for a selfie with Elizabeth Crawford, author of The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Her entry on Grace Roe cemented my interest in Roe as a pivotal character. The entry ends with a quote from Roe: “Christabel was the apple of my eye.” Oh, my heart.

    AB with Elizabeth Crawford
    AB with Elizabeth Crawford

Talking the Good Fight

Tomorrow I head to Portsmouth, England to attend the 27th Annual Women’s History Network Conference. 2018 is the centenary of the granting of the Parliamentary vote to some categories of women in Britain. I’ll be giving a paper called “Women Cannot Fight, Therefore Women Cannot Vote: Staging the Suffragette Bodyguard,” describing the development of The Good Fight. The keynote speakers for the conference, June Purvis and Elizabeth Crawford, wrote two of the books I relied on heavily for the play. I feel a little bit like a fangirl.

An animated time capsule

My husband recently unearthed and transcribed some flip-book animations I made a long time ago. I had forgotten all about them. Seeing them again makes me marvel that I ever had time to do something so exacting just for fun. But as it happens, I’ve been working on some visual art tasks recently, including building props for Theatre Unbound’s A Gertrude Stein Christmas. I’ve been doing stuff like making swatches of herringbone stitch, and gluing styrofoam packing squiggles onto papier-mache sheep….So maybe things haven’t changed that much in the time it took to forget I made these.

Once more into the Good Fight

I’m just back from Chicago, where I went to attend the first table read of the Babes with Blades production of The Good Fight. It’s a tremendously sharp team, and I can’t wait to see what they create.

I’ve done some rewrites on the script since Theatre Unbound produced it in 2012, largely based on feedback from its presentation at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in 2014, guided by dramaturg Heather Helinsky. Most notably, the show no longer opens with Mrs. Pankhurst’s speech from the dock.
Continue reading Once more into the Good Fight

Cleo’s roses (and other flowers)

Lately I’ve been helping my mom go through some of her mother’s things. I’ve learned that Gramma liked to take pictures of flower arrangements.

Sometimes the flowers have some context. This one is labeled “Cleo’s Birthday 1981 from Joy” (Gramma’s name was Cleo), and I recognize Gramma’s dining room furniture.

Others are in places I can’t identify.

Continue reading Cleo’s roses (and other flowers)