The Real “Spirit of St. Louis”

…and, no this is not about a plane.

(We promised we would get back to Fannie Hurst and a Renegade never breaks a promise.)

Born of Jewish heritage to a successful businessman in Hamilton, Ohio in 1889, Fannie Hurst was a born author. Hurst was raised in St. Louis, spending her childhood and teenage years in the city. She attended local public school, graduated from Central High School and went on to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis in 1909.

While in college, Hurst published her first story “The Joy of Living” in The Mirror and knew she preferred “writing about life.” In 1914, another St. Louis lady, Anne Johnson, self-published a book she called Notable St. Louis Women. In the book, Johnson featured the young, but promising Hurst.

Here is the photo of Hurst from Notable St. Louis Women:

                                       I need to find a coat with a collar like that...

                                       I need to find a coat with a collar like that...

Of Hurst’s writing, Johnson wrote that she prefers “going about and getting in touch with the phases of life of which she writes is the most immediate means and naturally best.”

(No one ever said lady Anne Johnson was a poet.)

After college, Hurst moved to New York to pursue writing, despite her parents’ disapproval.

(THE HORROR!...but really, that’s pretty renegade.)

There, she pursued graduate work in literature at Columbia and continued her “life” writing theme.

Within her first year in New York, Hurst made $30 per story selling to Smith’s Magazine, ultimately receiving upwards of $800-1,000 per story in her later years of writing. In 1933, Hurst published the controversial Imitation of Life, making her a national star as it was adapted as a screenplay and made into a major motion picture in 1934 and again in 1959.

Grab some popcorn and watch the movie trailer for the 1934 version:

Whoops. The trailer is only a minute long. Hope you ate that popcorn fast because it's time for a homework assignment: Go research Imitation of Life and learn about why it might have been so controversial.

Back to Hurst: She continued to “study people” throughout her life’s works. Take for instance her writing on St. Louis history.

Here she provides a look at 1950s St. Louis landscape and community:

This excerpt was published in Lee Ann Sandweiss’ Seeking St. Louis, but first appeared as an article in the St. Louis Globe Democrat in 1955, and appeared again later in American Mercury magazine.

Hurst became known for challenging traditional gender roles and for celebrating working-class women and their need for opportunity, justice, and fair treatment. Throughout her life she published 17 novels, 9 books of short stories, and 3 plays. In all, 29 screen adaptations of her published work were turned into motion picture films.

Thanks for making us all look bad, Hurst. (Just kidding—we love her.)

Wanna Know More?

Read Imitation of Life and watch both versions of the move. (That was an official “visit your local library” plug.)

Anne Andre Johnson’s Notable Women of St. Louis: 1914. (It is generally agreed at the Renegade offices that this book will blow your friggin mind) Hurst is featured on pages 106-109, but if you read the other pages and you might just learn something else about St. Louis ladies! It's available for check out at the Saint Louis University library.

Lee Ann Sandweiss edited Seeking St. Louis: Voices from a River City 1670-2000 and featured the writing of Hurst and other literary-minded St. Louisans.

Carla Kaplan has a chapter, “Imitation of Life: Fannie Hurst’s ‘Sensation in Harlem’” in her book Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance. This book is BRILLIANT. Kaplan explores many women of Harlem, but this chapter places particular focus on Fannie Hurst. While this part of Hurst’s story does not take place in St. Louis, a reader interested in Hurst’s life and career will be interested in this book’s particular attention to her life, career, and notable influences.

Let’s talk sex(uality).

 

In 1958, Fannie Hurst (more on this St. Louis lady later…) began hosting a talk show out of New York, which featured several of the earliest discussions of sexuality during its time. While the show mostly featured gay men speaking, members of the queer community were, for the first time, speaking for themselves, opposed to being spoken about by a panel of “experts.” The 1950s was a time in which the queer community began to make major gains toward visibility.

A little break for some good old fashioned urban history: For women across the nation, the postwar economic boom, which created jobs, money, and opportunities for spending and leisure activities, allowed single women freedoms within public spheres they had never before enjoyed.

Because of these opportunities, queer women began to gain a new visibility in public life and to construct new models of womanhood. (That’s fancy talk for challenging those stale gender roles, y’all!)

Recreational activities, dating, and lesbian-centered commercial venues emerge and thrive during this time. While consistently surrounded by threats of persecution, these spaces allowed queer women to develop a shared sense of community and identity.

Buildin’ up that collective consciousness, yo.

Despite bouts of positive visibility, however, the queer community faced considerable backlash and discrimination. Due to city efforts to create accessibility and prosperity, highways and other city attractions were built, disrupting some parts of the city.

Take for example Madame Touhey’s, a popular 1950s lesbian bar. A site crucial for community, the bar was demolished for construction of Bush Stadium, devastating a social aspect of the lesbian scene.

(BOOO “Urban Renewal” BOOO HISSSS)

St. Louis native and literary scholar, Nan Sweet published a brief history of lesbian heritage. Check it out:

                  The Lesbian and Gay News-Telegraph, November 1988

                  The Lesbian and Gay News-Telegraph, November 1988

Often seen as a “problem,” many lesbians struggled to maintain their sense of self while attempting to fit in with the greater community at large. One of those women was Frankie Hucklenbroich, a young, self-prescribed butch lesbian who struggled to navigate a place for herself in postwar St. Louis.

Here is a picture of Hucklenbroich:

                                   **goals**

                                   **goals**

Hucklenbroich’s 1997 autobiography, A Crystal Diary, tells the story of her “wild and predominantly illegal life as a street butch for twenty years.”

Peruse an excerpt from A Crystal Diary:

The prologue takes place in 1957 St. Louis just before Hucklenbroich left Missouri for California.

For queer women, the 1950s was a time of truly living, loving, and socializing, but one also characterized by seeking respite from violence, persecution, and discrimination. Even today, the queer community wages battles in favor of sexual liberation and self-discovery, continuing on the brave path set by women like Hucklenbroich.

Wanna Know More?

Obviously go read A Crystal Diary. In addition to the prologue, chapter two features a look back to Hucklenbroich’s younger years in St. Louis as she began to come to terms with her sexuality.

The Saint Louis LGBT History Project works to preserve local LGBT history. While some of their information is archived on this website, the rest of their archival materials are located with The State Historical Society at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Missouri Historical Society. The online portion of their archives features an LGBT historical timeline, history by topic, and overview of what their archived collection contains. Read more about the project here: http://www.stlouislgbthistory.co

Our City's Favorite Teacher

Born, raised, and laid to rest all here in St. Louis, Julia Davis lived a life of an average St. Louisan, but her impact on the city and its people was anything but typical. Born in 1891, Davis grew up in the city, received her education from the St. Louis Public School system, and then went on to teach for the district at Simmons Junior High School on St. Louis Avenue for 30 years until her retirement in 1961.

From a very young age, Davis was drawn to two things: teaching and African American history. As a small child she loved reading through the scrapbooks that her father had filled with clippings and photos of accomplished African Americans. Davis developed a sense of pride and curiosity about her heritage.

Davis is pictured here (back row, standing) alongside her colleagues:

Not only did she pursue this interest, but she encouraged her students to do so as well. Because of her teaching gift, Davis told the stories of African Americans in as many ways as she could. Her work became a model for researching and celebrating the lives and contributions of African Americans. 

 

“These were things that weren’t even mentioned in our textbooks. It was certainly a source of pride in self to find out that, even if our history books didn’t mention it, we had made contributions to our country.”  - George Hyram, student of Davis in the 1930s

Making young African American students realize the impact and importance of their predecessors was an effort she dedicated her life to. Davis created create annual black history exhibits at the public library and wrote 5 books on black history published by the St. Louis Public Schools used as part of their curriculum.

Davis had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian.

*Lady Boss Status*

Chuck Berry, the famed local musician, was one of Davis’s students and realized immediately that the kind of antics for which he had been noted just a few years earlier would no longer be acceptable in her classroom.  At her 100th birthday celebration, Berry said, “She’s a Baptist, but she was like a Catholic nun in the classroom . . . She taught in the avenue of perfection; we tried to come close.”Berry remembered Davis as being one of his most influential teachers. (I hope he invited her on stage at one of his shows...)

Julia Davis was invited to speak at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing on November 13, 1959. The Homer G. Phillips Hospital was an exclusively black hospital in the city of St. Louis and was considered by many to be the most tangible achievement of St. Louis’ black community. To many, the hospital had become the most widely known symbol of success for the African American community. 

Because of the symbolic nature of the institution, it was only fitting that Julia Davis was selected to give the keynote address. Davis crafted an uplifting speech that looked to the future of healthcare through technology and spiritual healing.

Here is a copy of the speech she gave:

But perhaps most influential of all of all, Davis drew attention to the “human race” and looked for a healing of racially inscribed wounds through the forging of connections between fellow St. Louisans and to the nation and nations beyond.

The St. Louis Public Library broke with tradition by dedicating a branch in honor of a living person. On February 14, 1993, the new Julia Davis Branch was officially opened on Natural Bridge Road.

Wanna Know More?

Katie Moon wrote a series on Julia Davis on the Missouri History Museum blog “History Happens Here.”

The Julia Davis papers are housed at the The State Historical Society of Missouri on the campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The Julia Davis Branch library has a small archive of material related to Davis.

Check out the National Register of Historic Places Inventory: Nomination Form on Homer G. Phillps Hospital, St. Louis, MO.  Photographs above: by Mary M. Stiritz in March 1982. Courtesy of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, Inc. featured in the nomination form.

Justice for St. Louisans!

We all know what landmark decision was passed in 1920, right? Does the 19th amendment ring any bells? Well, it should! The 19th amendment was passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified in 1920, granting women the right to vote. In St. Louis, women across the city were gathering, organizing, and protesting for their right to vote long before 1919, and one organization in particular continued in their fight for social justice long after suffrage.

Ever heard of the National League of Women Voters? They were a group of bad-ass women dedicated progressivism, self-education, and nonpartisan persuasion in order to effect change.

Basically, they were seeking justice and opportunity for all. Here is some cheese: 

But seriously! The League was formed in February of 1919 at a Chicago convention, and the St. Louis chapter was formed just a month later. 

Buckle up! I’m about to give you the fastest history of the League ever: 

(Most effective if you read this out loud really, really fast.)

1920s: College-educated women joined the League to volunteer and become “more informed citizens” and they investigated political issues and local candidates through their production of voter guides. 

1930s: Focus on efforts concerning St. Louis public housing and schools.

1940s: During the World War II era, most of the League’s efforts centered on the war effort. (Like good citizens, duh.)

1950s: This is where the League gets really busy. They have efforts focused on economics, foreign relations, international trade, housing and urban planning, and public schooling.  One particular focus of the League was “Missouri Problems” (We had some issues, y'all).  Many of these "problems" concerned equality, school districting, equal access to education and libraries, the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, and . . . (this is the best part!) . . . abolition of segregation in state-supported schools and universities. 

PAY ATTENTION! Equality and inclusion were concerns very important to the St. Louis League and were topics that set them quite apart from other National League divisions.

*1 billion flexing arm emojis*

The St. Louis League division was an integrated chapter, while most other divisions had separate Leagues segregated by race. While not all member of the League supported desegregation efforts, as a majority, the St. Louis League sought to protect its African American members, even refusing to meet in segregated spaces, or at sites of experienced discrimination.

Here is a cool thing to look at…

In 1954 the League designed a pamphlet they circulated amongst their members and local political officials in order to gain support in their effort to begin organizing a Human Rights Commission. At a cause owed to this pamphlet and the women behind the effort, a Human Rights Commission of Missouri was eventually established in 1957. VICTORY!!!

One active member of the League was Frankie Freeman, a lawyer fighting for equal treatment in the eyes of the law right here in St. Louis.

Born in 1916 in Danville, Virginia, Frankie Freeman was dedicated to civil rights causes and became committed to reform in St. Louis. In 1948, Freeman served as a junior attorney in a case against the St. Louis Board of Education accusing them of providing racially unequal access to curriculum programs.

Continuing with her streak of bad-assery, in 1954 Freeman served as the leading attorney of the NAACP case, Davis et al v. the St. Louis Housing Authority, which resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that disbanded the enforcement of segregation in housing.

Yes, you read correctly—this nation-wide, landmark ruling resulted from a case that began in St. Louis! 

Here is a St. Louis Argus clipping announcing Freeman’s appointment to the Housing Authority, one of her many accomplishments:

“Two Named to Top City Government Positions: Mrs. Freeman Is Council For Agencies” of The St. Louis Argus on May 4, 1956. Freeman is the lady with those bomb spectacles.

“Two Named to Top City Government Positions: Mrs. Freeman Is Council For Agencies” of The St. Louis Argus on May 4, 1956. Freeman is the lady with those bomb spectacles.

Quick run-down of a few of her major accomplishments:

(Most abridged list ever)

In 1955, she became the first associate general counsel of the St. Louis Housing Authority and Land Clearance Authority.

In 1958, Freeman became the first black women to be named a charter member of the Missouri advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and in 1964 she was nominated by President Johnson to serve as a member on the commission.

In 1982, Freeman helped found the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights.

In 2007, Freeman was honored in with an induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta.

In 2015, President Obama invited Freeman to serve as a Member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars.

 

Oh, and did I mention that she lives in St. Louis and is still a practicing attorney? May I remind you that she is 99?

That’s it. Everyone get up and go make a difference today.

Wanna Know More?

Check out this book on The League of Women Voters by Avis Carlson: The League of Women Voters in St. Louis: The First Forty Years 1919-1959. St. Louis, 1959.

Or visit the State Historical Society’s seriously extensive collection of the Leagues archives. Much work is to be done here!

Of course Katharine Corbett talks the League and Freeman in In Her Place: A Guide to St. Louis Women's History. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1999. (Can you tell the Renegades love this book??)

A few online articles have been written about Freeman, such as:  Rick Desloge’s “St. Louis Character: Frankie Freeman” from the St. Louis Business Journal on July 2, 2006 and The History Makers website, “Hon. Frankie Freeman.” 

Freeman wrote an autobiography of her life and career with the help of  Candace Connor:  A Song of Faith and Hope: The Life of Frankie Muse Freeman

 

OKAY, NOW LADIES (YEAH?) LADIES (YEAH?) Let's kick off Women's History Month...Renegade style!

Charlotte Peters really knew how to shake it like a Polaroid picture . . . Well, okay, maybe not really, but she didn’t become known as the “Queen of Television” for nothing!

 

So, who in the heck in Charlotte Peters, anyway? Well, picture this: housewife meets T.V. host meets comedian meets singer. That was Charlotte Peters. Oh, and did I mention its 1953?                                                                                *mind blown*

Check out this newspaper article about Peters:

Did you just read what I just read? In case you weren’t paying attention:

The reporter wrote, “Charlotte, strangely, got into TV by impulse. She was ‘just a housewife,’ when KSD-TV ran an amateur talent contest. She entered just for laughs—and won. Her appearance caused such a commotion, she was given her own 15 minute show. Eventually it led to the big sensation she’s become.”

      CHARLOTTE PETERS: ENTERS CONTEST AS A JOKE. WINS.                              (Enjoy this meme of Oprah circa 2004)

The show began in 1953 as To The Ladies, but the studio quickly ditched that name for Charlotte Peters Show and gave it an hour time slot. Charlotte Peters sang, danced, and interviewed various local and national celebrities. She was a riot! And basically all of St. Louis was watching. I mean, by 1955 over half of American homes contained at least one television, so why wouldn’t they have been watching?

Here is a copy of the entire scrip from one of her shows:

Memory check: the show was an hour long. Confused as to why the script is basically a page long? Peters and her team only wrote 10% (!!!) of the show before they went on air—the remaining 90% Peters MADE UP AS SHE WENT ALONG. SORRY FOR YELLING BUT SERIOUSLY.                                                         Let’s talk about improvisation.

Peters not only won the talent contest that landed her the show, but she also won like all the popularity contests of the 1950s. There was a two-year waitlist for tickets to the show.                                                                                  TWO YEARS. *faints*

And this isn’t even the best part. (MORE?!?)

National networks offered Peters contracts, and even film producers approached her. Peters is quoted confessing that she “ . . .turn[ed] everything down because it mean[t] she’d have to leave St. Louis.”

                                                    **probably an actual quote**

                                                    **probably an actual quote**

Charlotte Peters Show aired until 1970, making it one of the last surviving, locally produced variety shows of its time.

Wanna know more?

Check out Louise Munsch—one of Charlotte Peter’s entertainment predecessors. Munsch hosted the first ever “women’s show” radio program in the St. Louis region. Just for Women covered a wide variety of social, political, and popular topics and came to serve as a model for future radio programs.

 In Her Place: A Guide to St. Louis Women’s History by Katharine Corbett (2000)

Charlotte Peter’s family donated her papers to The State Historical Society of St. Louis, which are available for viewing by the public at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Taking Over The Whole Damn City!

We've been having so much fun over here lately and are still in complete disbelief over the THREE sold-out bus tours.  Any day now we'll be announcing the next fun tour, as well as dates for more Whole Damn City.  

Here are some of our favorite shots from last weekend:

Yeah - that last photo wasn't from our tour...I just think it's super cool.

New Renegades!

After toiling away for 2 years as the lone Renegade, getting my little tour-heart broken a time or two,  I'm super excited to announce the addition of two new ladies to my tour crew.  Julie Johnson, of #stlheartcards, will be leading photography tours of various historic neighborhoods...teaching not just history, but how to use that camera-thingy to capture the city around you.  Adriana Perrone, an architect who is just about the bee's knees in my book, will be joining us in helping launch Renegade into the stratosphere.    

Let's go get our tour on, y'all!

Rainy day Grant stuffs

Hanging out with my history boyfriend, Ulysses Grant this afternoon, reading an interview done with his wife, Julia, many years after his death.  This inspires me to share two of my favorite little facts about their relationship that I love:

1)  He successfully proposed to her, for the billionth time, while crossing a flooding Gravois river, on a horse.  You also cross this river all the time if you travel Gravois near Grants Farm, but I bet no future prez's proposed to you.  Or maybe...you should give that guy a chance!  

2) On their wedding day, he came to see her (scandalous!) that morning and gave her a gift...a little photo of himself.   In the interview I'm reading today...Julia D Grant says that she lost the photo at some point, but the frame remained one of her prized possessions.  

 

 

 

 

I'm just gonna set this here and let you ponder

After doing some really deep google-clicking this morning…I stumbled upon this.  

This guy…named Rene Auguste Chouteau (you know…just like STL’s FOUNDER)  alive and kicking it federal judge-style in California.

Looks a helluva just like the half-brother of the original Rene Auguste Chouteau, who is decidedly NOT alive & kicking it:

Theories?

If Jon Hamm went sledding at the 1904 World's Fair

While digging around (some might call it research, but that sounds boring), I found a new history hottie, and while he can't compete with Mr. Ulysses, he's damn dapper:

Look at the way he holds that sled...just look at it.  (Photo circa 1905, found in Forest Park; Loughlin & Anderson)

Look at the way he holds that sled...just look at it.  (Photo circa 1905, found in Forest Park; Loughlin & Anderson)

If you're thinking to yourself....where in the hell is that hill?  It's Art Hill, y'all.  Just, you know, topped with some big 'ol World's Fair buildings that were made mostly of plaster-of-paris .  Our beloved art museum is hiding out behind there, I promise! 

The Renegades are busy getting a brand-spankin' new version of their Forest Park tour together...rest assured...it will be as irreverent and not-lame as before, but now with even more irreverency (my word...kiss it grammer police) and non-lameness.  You should probably book it now, before everyone else does, this one is gonna be amaze-balls.

 

 

Can we hang out? I know you're dead and all, but THAT HAT.

If life allowed, there would be 1,082 witty & sassy Renegade blog entries so far.  Subjects (i.e. rabbit holes) studied so far today alone:

1.  Orphan Trains.  Attempted to read books and articles about the 150,000-500,000 (eh, but who's counting) orphaned children shipped via train from the East Coast to the Midwest during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  This topic was quickly abandoned, because Renegades can't be seen crying into their bacon sammies and bottomless cups.  Geez, history...way to be an asshole.

2.  Elizabeth Minor Meriwether.  Total badass.  Personal friend of Susan B. Anthony (of coin collecting fame), personally kicked out of Memphis by General Sherman, first woman to cast a vote in Tennessee, novelist, reporter, public speaker...just all around cool history chick.

3. Marguerite Martyn.  Long-time writer at Post-Dispatch in early 20th Century, illustrator, suffragette...again, she made being a cool STL lady long before you had your picture made at an Alive party.

3.A.  Something called the Lid Club that the lady above enjoyed writing about.  Has nothing to do with hats at the mall.

4.  Zoe Akins.  Poet, friend of Sara Teasdale (famous poet, you dummy), playwright, and early Hollywood screenwriter.  Also....THIS HAT.  THOSE EYES.  

Photo credit: Kajiwara Photo.  

Photo credit: Kajiwara Photo.  

Life calls, and I gotta go.  Peace be with you, Renegades....and go on a friggin tour already.  You'll like it, I promise.  

The 711.00, again

These uber-early turn of the 20th Century plans are the epitome of the cheesy phrase "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars."  Super stupid if you think about it, because, if you land among the stars you were waaaaay off on your trajectory...but whatevs.  This is a history blog.

Enjoy:

What do you think?  Would your cheesy logo that randomly includes the Arch look as cool with that building instead? (I'm looking at you, Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center...you should be ashamed of yourself)

THE 711.00 SHELF IS WHERE IT'S AT, YO

I'm writing this post from a sunny spot near Tower Grove, surrounded by nothing but bricks, history, and Spring.  Ugh, right?  I mean, seriously.  What is this city's problem?  Why does it have act like this?  Flaunting its bad self all over the place. 

A few weeks ago I was nestled in at the Central Library, upstairs in the St. Louis Room (spoiler: It's all St. Louis stuff).  My current research method is pretty intense...pick a shelf and take everything off of it, one by one, and then bug my research pardner Chris to JUSTLOOKATTHIS.  

So, yeah.  My current fav is the 711.00 section...it's heavy on the planning stuffs, which means lots of grand plans for the future...written in the past.  Here are a few of my favorite things from my last expedition:

Found in a 1960s guide to St. Louis written for a nursing college.  Next to last line is my favorite...sexualizing this sexy city is not a new thing.

Found in a 1960s guide to St. Louis written for a nursing college.  Next to last line is my favorite...sexualizing this sexy city is not a new thing.

Cover to a Southwestern Bell promotional book. The air was apparently really that dirty then. 

Cover to a Southwestern Bell promotional book. The air was apparently really that dirty then. 

From the same Southwestern Bell book...you can have fun playing Not How It Ended Up with this...it's fun! Also - I'm really glad the air got better, aren't you?

From the same Southwestern Bell book...you can have fun playing Not How It Ended Up with this...it's fun! Also - I'm really glad the air got better, aren't you?

Damn. That's purty.

Damn. That's purty.

See you next week-ish, y'all, with some more awesome finds from the 711.00.  Unless you're going on a tour (which a lot of you are, yay!!) and I'll see you on the sidewalks and bus aisles.  I'll be the one yammering about something or another...you can't miss me.  

We are now offering public tours throughout the week!  Need a good date night?  We promise good, um, results if you go on this one....Hot Nights In The City

Lady Parts (a hidden history)

Part of the inspiration for Renegade was the desire to hear and share something new. And sometimes, when you want something, you gotta make it yourself...and I wanted to hear new stories. While it would be nice if my talents lay in sewing beautiful clothing and cobbling shoes, my superpower is talking animatedly about things I love. And I love St. Louis. So there.  Renegade.  

So, today, let's give Lewis and Clark, Henry Shaw, Auguste Chouteau, and good ol' Laclede a rest...and dig around for some kick-ass ladies in STL's history.  You in?  Good...first up...this lady:

Photo from Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914, credited to Gerhard Sisters...whom I totally plan to learn about.

Photo from Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914, credited to Gerhard Sisters...whom I totally plan to learn about.

Name:  Caroline Risque (later her last name was Janis...but Risque is so amazing, we're gonna ignore that part)

Lived:  1883 - 1952

Did:  She basically did all the things all women wish they did: Spending her early 20s in Paris, studying art, eventually becoming an accomplished sculptor and painter, and in St. Louis, hung out with smart ladies like Sara Teasdale.  She attended Washington University School of Art, and was later Head of the Art Dept. at Burroughs School. Which, if you don't know, is fancier than the school you went to, I promise.  

I like her as an example of early 20th century woman...if she was alive today, you know you'd wanna be her friend, but she'd probably be too cool.  She's buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, in an unmarked grave next to other family members.  I found her in an amazing (in a super nerd way) book, Notable Women of St. Louis, written in 1914 about , um, notable women in STL at that time. It's not a history book...it's basically a Who's Who of Lady Awesomeness for 1914.  

My favorite quote from her:

To have the tenacity of purpose and the love of the work so one will spare no amount of pains or labor to get a thing done, combined with the best interpretation of form, beauty, etc. is what one must have for success.

BAM.  Now go out and do awesome things, y'all.

 

Reference:  Johnson, Mrs. Chas. P, Notable Women of St. Louis, 1914.  

 

What do grilled cheese and architecture and history have in common?

Here's some quick and dirty history to make you sound smart the next time you're headed to watch some baseball:

This building...

General American Life Building - corner of Market and 8th

General American Life Building - corner of Market and 8th

...which looks like a juicy grilled cheese sandwich, being picked up slowly…dripping architectural cheddar on the sidewalk, has multiple layers of awesome.  First of all, as far as modern buildings downtown go, it's one of the ones that matter.  (I defer actual information to those that actually know things)

But even more importantly. this block was originally the center of the Chinese community in early St. Louis, for over 100 years.  YEARS, y'all.  Known as "Hop Alley" (possibly an opium reference, possibly a reference to Cantonese mis-pronunciation) until the 1930's, it was a dense residential and commercial district, most noted for a robust industry of Chinese hand laundries.  

Wanna know more?  Click here to head over to a blog that my blog is totes crushing on.

Reference:  Ling, Huping. Chinese St. Louis. 2004.  

 

HEY! THERE'S HISTORY IN MY DRAINAGE DITCH!

I take few things as seriously as I take french toast, naps, and the nagging feeling I get when I’m made to feel that County life ain’t no life at all.  So today, we’re going to skip across the city line, and find a good story about Webster Groves.  You in?

Prologue: Webster is one old-ass suburb*.

photo (1).JPG

Damn, now that’s a nice drainage ditch, right?  It’s got all the elements…mega-cracked concrete, a nice trickle of something liquidy, and a few strategically draped Straub’s plastic bags (we ARE in Webster, after all).  But, it was not always so perfectly awful…in fact, it was a focal point to a vibrant African American community that surrounded it.  Get ready, y’all this is gonna blow your mind.

North Webster, after the Civil War, was home to a tight-knit community of working-class African Americans that supported the households and businesses in what we now know as Webster Groves.  The community also included churches, physicians, academics, and the first public high school for blacks in St. Louis County, and it remained so until legal segregation in the 1950s.**

Back to the drainage ditch:  This ditch is actually home to what is known as Shady Creek, which at the turn of the 20th Century was a beautiful creek with lots of fishing, recreation, etc. When not picturesque, it was flooding and giving kids typhoid, so it was rerouted.  Crazy, right?

Next thing you know, I’m gonna tell you the River des Peres flows UNDER the River des Peres.  WHAT. ARE. YOU. TALKING. ABOUT.

 

*Sorry mom, for the cursing.

**Like, seriously, lots of cray cray history up in here.  The library has a grillion books on the subject, one of my favs is: “Webster: A Pictorial History” by Rehkopf, Wainwright, Zegel, & Lester. 1991

***Also, so, so much history…but really only one great book: “North Webster: A photographic History of a Black Community” by Morris. 1993