Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States by Samuel Charters

Imagine traveling through a treacherous war zone, crossing the sea on a steamer to an unknown island. There is no pier and you are carried through the surf to the beach. The humidity and heat, the mosquitoes, are unlike anything you have ever experienced.

You see for the first time contraband slaves, ten thousand refugees without proper homes or food, but jubilant in their newfound freedom. You hear their songs, weird and otherworldly, in dialect foreign, so unlike the sentimental minstrel songs carried to the North. The plaintive Go Down, Moses with it's cry for freedom; The Lonesome Valley about the emotional preparation for baptism; Michael row the boat ashore; the upbeat Rock O' My Soul and Do Remember Me; Jacob's Ladder, Roll Jordon, Roll and The Stars Begin to Fall--sorrow songs of the plantations that today are well known but in 1861 had been dismissed by the denizens of the Plantation and were unheard by the general public of the North.

Samuel Charter's new book Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States chronicles the brief life of McKim and her role in the first documentation of the songs of slavery.

In 1861 nineteen-year-old Lucy McKim left her home in Germantown, outside of Philadelphia, on the biggest journey of her life. Lucy's Abolitionist Quaker father James Miller McKim was head of the Philadelphia Port Royal Relief Committee and was chosen to visit Port Royal in South Carolina where former slaves had sought refuge. He was to report back on conditions. The freemen needed immediate aid and help to prepare them for their new reality. He asked Lucy to serve as his secretary.

The island was surrounded by Confederate troops. It was a dangerous journey. Lucy gloried in the adventure. She had trained in piano and classical music and taught piano students in Philadelphia. She was delaying marriage to "live for herself" first. An ardent Abolitionist, Lucy felt the constraints of her sex, her uselessness compared to what men could do.

Seeing face to face the suffering of the slaves Lucy wrote, "How lukewarm we have been! How little we know!" Encountering the music of the freemen was a revelation. Lucy heard their hopes and dreams, their sorrow and loss in the music. She recorded seeing two "shouts" and one "praise," religious gatherings of the contraband.

She copied down the songs she heard. Within months of returning home she had published Poor Rosy, Poor Gal

Poor Rosy, poor gal,
Poor Rosy, poor gal;
Rosy break my poor heart,
Heav'n shall be my home.

Lucy married Wendell Garrison, son of Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. (Her best friend Ellen Wright, niece of Abolitionist and Women's rights activist Lucretia Mott, married Wendell's brother Lloyd Garrison.)

During her first pregnancy Lucy worked to prepare the songs for publication, knowing that motherhood would preclude finishing her work. She was assisted by William Francis Allen and Charles Pickard Ware. Additional songs were collected by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Emily Dickinson later sent her poems to him), Lucy Towne (who was trained in medicine and gave her life to educating the Port Royal freemen). This first collection of American slave songs was published in 1867.

Lucy's health declined with each pregnancy and miscarriage. She suffered from rheumatism and strokes. At the age of  34, paralyzed and unable to speak, Lucy refused food.

Charter's use of letters and diary entries brings Lucy to life. Lucy would be thrilled to know that the songs she recorded have become known to all Americans, and would be honored to have her brief life's work remembered in this biography.

Included is the full text of Songs of Slavery, complete with Lucy's musical adaptations and words to the songs, and with the introduction by William Francis Allen. Charters draws from Lucy's many letters and other documents, allowing her to come alive. Those interested in America's musical heritage and in women's history will enjoy reading it.

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States
By Samuel Charters
University Press of Mississippi
American Made Music Series
Publication Date April 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781628462067
$55.00 hardcover

Monday, March 30, 2015

Books to Come

What I am reading now:

Historical fiction set during the Revolutionary War
Historical fiction imagining the inner life of Virginia Wool

Scheduled for May are book reviews for

On my shelf to be read:

Dickens Quilting Progressing; Upcoming Book Reviews

I am trying to work more on hand quilting my Charles Dickens quilt. I have been taking it to my Tuesday quilters gathering.

In the next month many book reviews will be shared:

Songs of Sorrow by Samuel Charters, about Lucy McKim Garrison, early collector of Slave Songs

Abe & Fido by Mathew Algeo about Lincoln's relationship to animals, especially his dog

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon about Mary Wollestonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley

The Children's Crusade by Anne Packer, a highly anticipated family drama

Children of the Stone by Sandy Tolan, how music changed the life of Ramallah refugees
The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl, fiction about book thieves planning to steal a manuscript from Robert Louis Stevenson at his tropical island home
Recycled Hexi Quilts by Mary Kerr, using vintage quilts in making new quilts

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Where Monsters Lurk: Sara Gruen's At The Water's Edge

In January, 1945 while most families pray for the safety of menfolk at war, Madeline (Maddie), her husband Ellis (heir to his mother's Wanamaker fortune) and his best friend Hank scandalize Philadelphia society with their drunken antics. (Think Scott and Zelda.)

Madeline's distant father was a wealthy 'entrepreneur who dabbled in burlesque' and her manipulative mother a famed beauty and vaudeville star. Her grandfather was a Tammany Hall connected robber baron. She is not considered a proper marriage choice by her in-laws.

Ellis's father finally turns his son out of his Rittenhouse Square mansion. Unable to face hotel life, Ellis wants to regain his father's approval. His grandfather had photographed a loch monster, later labeled a hoax. Ellis decides to reclaim the family's good name by proving the monster is real. He takes Madeline and Hank on a dangerous war time journey across the Atlantic to Scotland.

Madeline has been insulated from the grim reality of the war until their the ship takes on survivors from a bombed military ship. The confrontation with burned and blasted bodies begins her moral wakening.

Drumnadrochit is a dismal place and the inn primitive. The locals have no fond memory of Ellis's grandfather. Ellis is superior and disdainful, Hank is a charming rake. Madeline tries to keep her dually-addicted husband happy. He is a mean drunk. As his behavior alienates Madeline he realizes he needs a way to control her--and her money.

While Ellis and Hank chase after the elusive monster, disappearing for days at a time (with the rationing books) only to return drunk, Madeline must fend for herself. To keep busy and 'earn her keep' she learns how to assist the staff in the most basic tasks until she becomes accepted as 'Maddie'. She comes to admire the manager, Angus, who was badly scarred in the war but is vigorous and fearless. His back story of loss becomes central to the plot and the fantasy element.

At The Water's Edge is at heart a historical romance--with elements of Gothic and fantasy. The focus is on Maddie's coming of age, learning that there are monsters hiding in plain sight, discovering her capacity for self determination, and encountering true love. The book sweeps the reader along with plenty of plot interest. (Perhaps too much plot interest.) The women are better portrayed than the men.

Warning: there are sexual encounters and brutality against women. The relationship between Ellis and Hank is not spelled out, but there are cloaked references to their being be gay lovers.

Daily life in wartime Scotland was nicely portrayed with rationing, black out shades, air raid shelters and gas masks. I was curious about the air attacks described in the book. I had not known that Scotland was bombed by the Germans. It turns out there were 500 air raids on Scotland.


I find it interesting how many books are coming out set during WWII, particularly in the romance/Women's fiction genre.

I received a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

At The Water's Edge
Sara Gruen
Random House
ISBN: 9780385523233
$28.00 hard cover
Publication March 31, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remember This? Part II: 1965

The March 1965 issue of Woman's Day was likely laying on the coffee table in my childhood home fifty years ago. It's no wonder I love the advertising artwork and feel comfortable with the trends. There was a great article on new hair styles with diagrams for cutting and rollers.
We wore 'falls' to achieve this 'new' hairstyle:
 It reminds me of Meghan in Mad Men. I sure remember wearing a scarf or headband with this look.

 Oh, those rollers! I had slept in large ones and I don't know how I did it.
No one can forget those iconic Breck Girls. 
Basements were being tricked out for youth parties. That bright pink wall color is unbelievable.
'Early American decorating' was undergoing a 'tweak'. The painted furniture reminds me of today's trends. 

 There were ads for home sewers.

 And patterns for spring suites in spring colors.

 Embroidered pillow patterns.

I never heard of "Frank Fritters." I guess they didn't catch on in my part of the country.
Nor did Mom ever make me a Jelly Stack.
 I do love 1960s art. These two were pics in a pullout section of recipes.
 I will spare you the Brains Barbizon recipe.

Bermuda Casserole
  • 4 Bermuda onions cut in 1/4" slices
  • 6 slices day old bread
  • 1 cu finely crimbled blue cheese
  • 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk or light cream
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • salt
  • hot pepper sauce
  • butter
  • paprika

Parboil onion slices for 10 minutes. Trim crusts from bread and cut bread into small squares. Butter a shallow 1 1.2 quart baking dish. Put onion in dish and cover with bread squares. Sprinkle with the cheese. Mix milk and eggs and season with salt and hot pepper sauce. Pour over ingredients in baking dish. Dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Serves 6.

And these illustrated a page on Potato dishes from Finland.

  • Cold cooked potatos
  • onions
  • fat
  • mean leftovers
  • sliced cooked sausages
  • cucumber pickles
  • apples
  • grated Cheddar cheese
Chop all the ingredients, but cheese, into 1" cubes. Saute the onion in a small amount of fat until golden. Add the other ingredients and sate until golden. Before serving sprinkle the dish with grated cheese. Serve with fried eggs and ketchup.

 A shared advise column called Neighbors has this lovely tea illustration. Mary Weberg of Paulina, OR suggested keeping a blank recipe file card in one's purse. When you want a friend's recipe you hand it to them.

"When you use a recipe, of course you think of the person who gave it to you and the occasion of the giving."

An article on Georgetown was illustrated in line art. The original pages were pink!

An advertisement for Bell Telephone.

 This is a sweet illustration for a three column article on March gardening.
 Note the pill box hat on the beauty counselor. I never heard of this business.
Yowser! There were theater reviews in this woman's magazine! The Subject was Roses on Broadway starred Irene Dailey, Martin Sheen and Jack Albertson. The review by Hollis Alpert went on a whole page after this page:

Oh, my! I am feeling pretty old. I should follow Margret Merril's advice and damp a cloth in lemon jelvyn freshener and press over my face, lie back and let the lemon tone and refine my skin. Followed up with oil of olay I will have a day-long dewy look.