English: Photograph of writer Edith Wharton, taken by E. F. Cooper, at Newport, Rhode Island. Cabinet photograph. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Edith Wharton was born nee Edith Newbold Jones on January 24, 1862 in New York City to George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander. She was related to the Rensselaer family who were thought of to be of high class and prestige. Have you ever heard the saying “Keeping up with the Joneses“? That was based on her family. She met many public figures like Theodore Roosevelt.
She married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton in 1885 and they lived in Philadelphia, at his estate, The Mount. She married into the same social class; Edith loved to be creative and designed the gardens around the estate and well as the interior design of the house. Teddy Wharton was twelve years older then she, and a regular sportsman. In 1897 she co-authored and wrote her first book with Ogden Codman called The Decoration of Houses. In 1905 she wrote The House of Mirth. She had been writing many short stories during this time including ghost stories. Unfortunately in 1908 her husband suffered from depression which was discovered to be incurable. She divorced him in 1913.
In her spare time when she wasn’t working on the house or gardens she was writing. Sometimes she would write short stories, other times, books on design. She wrote about the world and society she knew about. She moved to Paris, France after the divorce.
She assisted in the war effort with the relief effort. She was a supporter of French imperialism. In 1920 she wrote The Age of Innocence which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1921.
In 1923 she received an honorary doctorate degree from Yale University. That was the only time she returned to the states.She returned to France. In 1937 she died of a stroke. She died leaving over 85 stories and many books for us to read. She found the irony in life.
English: portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Elizabeth Blackwell is awarded her M.D. by the Geneva Medical College of Geneva, New York, becoming the United States’ first female doctor on January 23, 1849.
She was born in Bristol, England; her family owned a sugar refinery. She was the youngest of three girls. Her father was a Congregationalist or separatist so they were considered later on to be Puritans. In 1828 they moved to America, and by 1836, they had established the sugar refinery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father did not survive the trip, and died three weeks later. The move put them into tremendous debt.
Blackwell and her sisters opened a school called The Cincinnati English and French Academy for Young Ladies. They provided room and board for the girls, and taught them the most important subjects for girls at that time. The tuition became their source of income for their family. The school didn’t last and she ended up private tutoring.
Blackwell became involved with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1838 due to her sister’s influence. In 1839 she met William Henry Channing who was a Unitarian minister and she became interested in her education and other areas of reform. She studied art, wrote short stories, went to lectures, and other intellectual pursuits.
She didn’t decide to study medicine until one of her dear friends was in the hospital. Her friend was uncomfortable with her male doctors and their bedside manner. The disease was very painful and thought to be perhaps uterine cancer. Her friend liked when her friend was in attendance.
Although Blackwell’s interest in intellect and education were powerful, they didn’t help her feel teaching feel very rewarding. By October 1847 she was accepted to Geneva Medical College, now part of Upstate Medical University, in upstate New York, as a medical student. In order to be accepted they put it to a vote to 150 male students. Her education later took her to Europe.
After she graduated she set up practice in New York City. She did have some patients. She published a book called The Laws of Life with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls in 1852, and gave lecturers. She set up a small dispensary near Tompkins Square in 1853. Her sister Emily also obtained a medical degree, and she assisted other women pursuing careers in the medical field including Marie Zakrzewska.
When Civil War broke out in the United States she assisted the North and the nurses, and worked alongside Dorothea Dix in training nurses. She was working for social reform. She was friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Florence Nightingale. Blackwell stuck to her beliefs, and when she reached out, she found others that would help her in her pursuit to help others.
On January 21, 1908, the Sullivan Ordinance was passed in New York City by the board of aldermen making it ‘against the law for a hotel or restaurant proprietor, or anyone else managing or owning a “public place” to allow women to smoke in public’ as expressed in the title of a New York Times article from 1908.
Eleven women were present at this meeting, and fifteen men were present, including Katie Mulcahey.
A forward thinking Dr. Charles J. Pease wanted it to be a crime for “any person or persons” to smoke in a public place where women were present who could be forced to inhale the fumes.1 One Alderman opposed it claiming it wouldn’t be legal. They couldn’t prevent the men from smoking if that was what they choose to do. That was their right.
John Henry Smith, a member of the public said they should be paying more attention to the poor rather than wasting time discussing smoking. If they were to do anything why didn’t they stop boys smoking who were under the age of 21?
Alderman Doull claimed that was unconstitutional.
The ordinance passed.
The reporter spoke to the women who attended the meeting to see what they thought about the Ordinance, and they felt the board should not have been passing anti-smoke ordinances.
The board really didn’t think ahead as to whether or not women would break the law. The women were supposed to behave as they were told and that they wouldn’t argue about and they would just obey the law. The worst that would happen is that her husband or father would punish her.
Katie Mulcahey who attended the meeting was later cited for breaking the Ordinance and fined $5. She refused to pay and was arrested. The ordinance never mentioned any fines so she was released the next day. The ordinance also didn’t say anything about women not being able to smoke in public places.
This was definitely an Ordinance written with a play on the word ‘public’. Since anyone managing or owning a place is really privately owned, but opened to the public.
In this case language is everything.
1This is word for word from the New York Times article above published in 1908