Friday, January 11, 2019

Katie Ellen – "Lucy Stone" (2017)

I don’t believe in getting married
It’s a socioeconomic prison

(That’s what he said.)

*     *     *     *     *

Many of the notable people that Wikipedia says are natives of my hometown – Joplin, Missouri – were born in a hospital in Joplin but grew up in a nearby town.

One such person was Jane Grant, who was born in Joplin in 1892, but went to school in Girard, Kansas – a town with fewer than 3000 residents that’s about 45 minutes northwest of Joplin.   

Jane Grant
I don’t recall ever passing through Girard, much less stopping there.  I got as far as Pittsburg – a much larger college town that had a number of bars where 18-year-olds could legally drink 3.2% beer – but no farther.

It turns out that Girard was a hotbed of socialism in the early 1900s.  Appeal to Reason, the largest-circulation socialist newspaper in the United States, was printed in Girard.  Its editor commissioned novelist Upton Sinclair to write The Jungle, which was serialized in Appeal to Reason.

Eugene Debs, who was the Socialist Party’s candidate for president in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920, lived in Girard for a number of years.

But I digress.

*     *     *     *     *

I don’t know if Jane Grant’s parents were socialists, but her father was a miner – so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was.

Grant moved to New York City when she was just 16.  She told her parents that she wanted to learn to be a music teacher and then move back to Girard, which she later admitted was a big fib:

Although teaching voice was considered a cut above school teaching, I wanted no part of it.  At an early age, I had decided against both teaching and marriage.  In my secret heart I meant to remain in the East once I got there.  I would be a singer – perhaps go on stage.  But my secret must be carefully guarded, I knew, for no such idea would be tolerated by my mother’s religious family.

She was hired as a stenographer by the New York Times, but eventually became a reporter – the first female to be a full-time reporter for the Times

When the famed Times theatre critic Alexander Woollcott went to France to report on World War I, he arranged for Grant to became a singer with a USO-type organization.  He introduced her to Harold Ross, who wrote for Stars and Stripes, a weekly newspaper written by American soldiers for American soldiers.

*     *     *     *     *

When she returned to New York City after the war, Grant became one of the group of writers who dined regularly at the Algonquin Hotel and later became famous as the “Algonquin Round Table.”

Jane Grant and Harold Ross
Grant married Harold Ross in 1920.  The next year, she and journalist Ruth Hale founded the Lucy Stone League, which was named after the first married American woman to retain her birth name after marriage.

Hale wrote a pamphlet that explained why the Lucy Stone League was founded:

We are repeatedly asked why we resent taking one man’s name instead of another’s – why, in other words, we object to taking a husband’s name, when all we have anyhow is a father’s name.  Perhaps the shortest answer to that is that in the time since it was our father’s name it has become our own –  that between birth and marriage a human being has grown up, with all the emotions, thoughts, activities, etc., of any new person. . . . Even aside from the fact that I am more truly described by the name of my father, whose flesh and blood I am, than I would be by that of my husband, who is merely a co-worker with me (however loving) in a certain social enterprise, am I myself not to be counted for anything?

Ross did not share his wife’s beliefs:

I never had one damn meal at home at which the discussion wasn’t of women’s rights and the ruthlessness of men in trampling women.  Grant and Ruth Hale had maiden-name phobias, and that was all they talked about, or damn near all.

*     *     *     *     *

For several years, the couple lived on Grant’s paycheck and saved Ross’s salary until they had enough to get their new magazine off the ground.

The cover of the first
issue of the
New Yorker
The New Yorker was not a big hit initially – a wealthy friend came through with a well-timed offer to invest in the magazine just when Grant and Ross thought they would have to suspend publication – but eventually became a financial and artistic success.  Its contributors included the many of the best journalists, critics, short-story writers, poets, and cartoonists in the world.

Grant and Ross divorced in 1929.  She visited Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union several times in the thirties in her capacity as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times

*     *     *     *     *

Grant married William Harris, a Fortune magazine editor, in 1939.  The couple moved to Litchfield, Connecticut, and founded White Flower Farm, which became one of the largest and most successful mail-order gardening businesses in the United States.

I’ve given amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farms as gifts for years.  (If you've received one from me, you must be a very special person.)  They produce spectacular flowers:

*     *     *     *     *

Grant rebooted the Lucy Stone League in 1950.  The League pushed the Census Bureau to allow married women to use their maiden names as their official names in census records.

In 1968, Grant published a memoir titled Ross, The New Yorker, and Me.  It was dedicated to her second husband, who had encouraged her to write it.

Jane Grant's memoir
Jane Grant died in 1972.  Her widower funded the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon, and donated his wife’s papers to the university.

*     *     *     *     *

When pop-punk band Chumped broke up in 2016, front woman Anika Pyle and drummer Dan Frelly formed Katie Ellen, which took its name from a moniker used by Pyle’s great-grandmother, who – like Jane Grant – was a feminist who pursued a career in journalism.

“Lucy Stone” was the lead single from Katie Ellen’s debut LP, Cowgirl Blues, which was released in 2017.

Click here to listen to “Lucy Stone.”

Click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment