Influential Women: Two Biographies

Influential Women: Two Biographies

by Emily Hahn

NOOK Book(eBook)

$20.99 $35.99 Save 42% Current price is $20.99, Original price is $35.99. You Save 42%.

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details

Overview

Portraits of pivotal American feminists and three of the most powerful women in twentieth-century China by the “quintessential New Yorker narrator” (The New York Times).
 
Once Upon a Pedestal: After living an unconventional and exotic life for decades, New Yorker writer Emily Hahn was in her late sixties when this book was first published in 1974. As the Women’s Movement continued to gain momentum, Hahn penned this “essential history of the remarkable women who led the feminist movement in America.” Her “excellent and eminently readable” biographical sketches include Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Fanny Wright, the Grimké sisters, Margaret Sanger, Jane Addams, Victoria Woodhull, Harriet Martineau, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Betty Friedan (Publishers Weekly).
 
“[The] quintessential New Yorker narrator whose adventures over the last forty years have intrigued, amused and educated . . . Emily Hahn is, herself, a role model. It is fitting and felicitous for her to give us an armchair guide to strong-minded American women.” —The New York Times
 
The Soong Sisters: In 1935, intrepid journalist and fearless feminist Emily Hahn traveled to China and sent dispatches to the New Yorker. Through her lover, the Chinese poet Shao Xunmei, she met and established close bonds with three of the most instrumental women in twentieth-century Chinese history, who happened to be sisters. The Soong family was arguably the most influential family in Shanghai, even more so as eldest sister Eling married finance minister H. H. Kung; middle sister Chingling married Sun Yat-Sen, the founding father and first president of the Republic of China; and youngest sister Mayling married Chiang Kai-Shek, who succeeded Sun as the leader of the Republic of China. Hahn’s chronicle of the family’s history, written while bombs were falling during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and published in 1941, while Hahn was still in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, is a vivid, comprehensive, and uniquely personal account of the sisters who would become known to the world as Madame Kung, Madame Sun, and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek.
 
“First rate reportorial job on three distinguished women . . . [a] tribute to their work and their individual heroisms.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504056755
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 597
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Emily Hahn (1905–1997) was the author of fifty-two books, as well as 181 articles and short stories for the New Yorker from 1929 to 1996. She was a staff writer for the magazine for forty-seven years. She wrote novels, short stories, personal essays, reportage, poetry, history and biography, natural history and zoology, cookbooks, humor, travel, children’s books, and four autobiographical narratives: China to Me (1944), a literary exploration of her trip to China; Hong Kong Holiday (1946); England to Me (1949); and Kissing Cousins (1958).
 
The fifth of six children, Hahn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and later became the first woman to earn a degree in mining engineering at the University of Wisconsin. She did graduate work at both Columbia and Oxford before leaving for Shanghai. She lived in China for eight years. Her wartime affair with Charles Boxer, Britain’s chief spy in pre–World War II Hong Kong, evolved into a loving and unconventional marriage that lasted fifty-two years and produced two daughters. Hahn’s final piece in the New Yorker appeared in 1996, shortly before her death.
 
A revolutionary for her time, Hahn broke many of the rules of the 1920s, traveling the country dressed as a boy, working for the Red Cross in Belgium, becoming the concubine to a Shanghai poet, using opium, and having a child out of wedlock. She fought against the stereotype of female docility that characterized the Victorian era and was an advocate for the environment until her death.
Emily Hahn (1905–1997) was the author of fifty-two books, as well as 181 articles and short stories for the New Yorker from 1929 to 1996. She was a staff writer for the magazine for forty-seven years. She wrote novels, short stories, personal essays, reportage, poetry, history and biography, natural history and zoology, cookbooks, humor, travel, children’s books, and four autobiographical narratives: China to Me (1944), a literary exploration of her trip to China; Hong Kong Holiday (1946); England to Me (1949); and Kissing Cousins (1958).
 
The fifth of six children, Hahn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and later became the first woman to earn a degree in mining engineering at the University of Wisconsin. She did graduate work at both Columbia and Oxford before leaving for Shanghai. She lived in China for eight years. Her wartime affair with Charles Boxer, Britain’s chief spy in pre–World War II Hong Kong, evolved into a loving and unconventional marriage that lasted fifty-two years and produced two daughters. Hahn’s final piece in the New Yorker appeared in 1996, shortly before her death.
 
A revolutionary for her time, Hahn broke many of the rules of the 1920s, traveling the country dressed as a boy, working for the Red Cross in Belgium, becoming the concubine to a Shanghai poet, using opium, and having a child out of wedlock. She fought against the stereotype of female docility that characterized the Victorian era and was an advocate for the environment until her death. 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Whistling Girls ..."

There was a time not so long ago when she was talked of as the most pampered female in the world, with the possible exception of some prize-winning Persian cat. She was drawn by Gibson, painted by Sargent, written about by Henry James, costumed by Worth, gently but lovingly mocked by Punch, and described — though, admittedly, with a certain distaste — by Kipling. A rose was named for her. Noblemen courted her. She was the American Girl.

It goes without saying that she didn't burst on the world full- fledged. There were many American women ahead of her, as there have been thousands since, but somehow that period, about 1890 to 1914, seems to stand out as the Girl's epitome, her finest hour. Since then, slowly at first, and then with mounting speed, something has happened to her successors, and as the long- stemmed American Beauty fades from the scene we might wonder why. After all, American women have lost none of the Gibson Girl's advantages and have gained some of their own in recent years. She is still the envy of the other women of the world ... or is she? What has happened to bring forth this latter-day women's protest?

It may be that one can't sum up the processes. Perhaps feminism just happens from time to time, lurking in womankind like the flu virus, for if we look at history we can see that there is nothing new about feminine protest. It even crops up in mythology and literature. Twenty-three hundred years ago the citizens of Athens — men, of course; women didn't have citizenship in Greece, and were not permitted to visit the theater anyway — rocked with laughter at Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata. In that play, you will recall, the women grew so tired of a long-drawn-out war between Athens and Sparta that they staged a revolt against the men, denying them sexual intercourse until peace should be declared. Then there was the myth about the Amazons: female warriors who fought like men, governed a nation of women only, and took mates temporarily, sending away all male infants at birth to be raised by their fathers somewhere outside the country.

But Lysistrata and the Amazons were figments of the imagination. Real-life Greek women lived much like women everywhere in all ages, mothering children and taking care of men. In ancient civilizations very few women became rulers and fewer were warriors or hunters, because fighting and hunting were men's work. Down through the centuries humans have continued to behave in much the same way — though in extraordinary circumstances, such as those in which Joan of Arc found herself, a few people must have given fresh thought to the subject. It is hard to believe that some women now and then, even when the Catholic faith was observed throughout the West, did not question the justice of St. Paul's philosophy.

Surely little girls of ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt, before they were brainwashed, must have rebelled when they were checked in their attempts to play the games boys played, and stormed in futile protest when they had to give way to their brothers in family disputes. Almost inevitably, life tamed them, but now and then a girl made history, and I cannot believe that such girls were confined to the class of queens like Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. The queens' records were engraved and so lasted; the little rebels have been forgotten, but they lived too. Here and there in fables and old-country anecdotes we catch the echo of a woman's voice protesting, as in the tale of some housewife outwitting her husband. The Arabian Nights have many such stories. Certainly feminine protest existed in old England — what about the following?

Whistling girls and crowing hens Always come to bad ends.

I find it significant, both because there were evidently girls who whistled and because of the propaganda against them implicit in these words. We know about Aphra Behn, the seventeenth-century playwright who often protested against woman's lot, and there was, too, "Mary Astell," who wrote a long book on the subject from which I shall quote in due course.

But American women, people used to say, are a new breed. Though the United States has taken its language and many of its customs from England, American women are not like Englishwomen. They are indulged and spoiled. They behave like queens. They bully their husbands, leading them around like pet dogs. Articles in British papers point, over and over, to statistics that indicate a high incidence of heart disease and early death among American husbands. The cherished theory held by the English is that our unfortunate men work themselves into early graves to satisfy their wives' demands for luxuries: bigger and better cars, huge houses or apartments, glittering dishwashers. Then, having killed off their husbands, the harpies sit back and live the life of Riley on the insurance. Look at them, say the English — and the French, and the Germans, and the Italians — swarming over to Europe in chartered planes, thronging the shops, playing bridge in luxury hotels. As if this were not bad enough, we have the statistics relating to divorce — the American laws which grant ridiculously generous alimony most husbands must pay even when they are not the offending parties. No wonder American women own 80 percent of the nation's wealth.

Then what on earth are they complaining about? What can be the matter with the greedy creatures?

Well ... it takes rather a long time to explain.

It all started, I think, with the comparatively recent beginnings of white America, which was founded as a colony — or, rather, as several colonies — and settled by a lot more men than women. At the outset there were not enough women to go around unless the male settlers mated with female Indians, and even then it was not so easy to get hold of Indian women as it might sound. The Indian men resisted conquest and usually fled, taking their women with them. As a result, wives were at a premium among the settlers, a situation which gave them an inflated value. As valuables, they were placed on pedestals, and the men of America got into the habit of thinking of their females as something special, something rare. Naturally this attitude did not prevent women from working. They did work, and hard, but the attitude cost the men nothing to maintain, and it had advantages that became increasingly evident as the settlements grew larger. A woman who grows up thinking of herself as a fragile treasure is not apt to put herself in danger of breaking, and on the whole, the ladies behaved much as they were expected to do. No lady on a pedestal, especially if she happens to have a fear of heights, is likely to rock it.

The longer women remained in this immobilized state the more boring they became, but to their husbands this was no drawback, since men found friends among their peers, other men, and didn't have to depend on women for companionship. Those few exceptional cases who did were the fathers of lonely pioneer families who relinquished keeping women on a pedestal: they were forced to talk to their wives as equals because there was nobody else around. But such men were in the minority, and most wives remained where their husbands placed them, in their homes, a little lonely perhaps until the children grew old enough to be companionable, but contented enough, as canaries in their cages are contented if they are well fed. However, women are not canaries. Sooner or later some of them began to think, all the more inevitably because they could read, and the seeds of thought were there in the books. Such seeds sprouted and grew up and caused trouble. It might fairly be said that literacy is the root of most of our troubles today. Certainly it had a lot to do with the revolt of the women.

The record begins in the annals of various foreigners who came to America in the early days and then went home to write their impressions of our women. It can be traced further in a study of the books that American women read; from them we learn something of what began to stir in their minds — or, in some cases, what may have kept those minds comfortably asleep. Finally, we will glance at some of the women themselves, who became aroused enough to clamber down from their pedestals and take part in the world's happenings. Today it is a truism, but a century and a half ago it was not, and it took a determined female to make her mark on public affairs. Still, there were females determined enough to do so. Women were so active in the abolitionist movement, for example, that it was sometimes thought of as theirs exclusively, though that was not true. Many of the same women campaigned as well for temperance, and did it so effectively that in the end the dries had their way and forced legal prohibition of alcoholic drinks. Not that it worked, but the fate of the Noble Experiment is another story. My point is that women brought the law about. But it was with even greater effort and clout that they turned to the franchise, on the reasonable theory that other feminist demands could be met and all their grievances as a sex obviated if only they had the power themselves to change laws. It took them years to achieve this goal, but in the end they got the vote. And if even now we do not live in the Utopia they promised themselves, it is not for want of their trying.

Pedestals are definitely out.

CHAPTER 2

"All Men Would Be Tyrants ..."

The first two Englishwomen to set foot on American soil were landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. They were Mistress Anne Forrest and her maid Anne Buras, two of a shipload of five hundred immigrants sent out by the London Company to settle the country. England had claimed a share of America ever since Columbus first discovered the New World, more than a century earlier, this in opposition to Spanish claims; but the two countries had yet to confront each other on American territorial matters, and the only opponents encountered by the early settlers were Indians. The company made haste to provide more women in later ships — healthy, strong young females, most of them unmarried, destined to be wives for the men who had already arrived. One ship alone in 1619 brought ninety women to Jamestown. The men who married them were required to reimburse the company for their brides' transportation costs, and probably felt they had a bargain, since there was no other source of likely ladies for them, the enmity usually felt between Indian and settler rendering interracial marriage impracticable. John Rolfe's marriage to Pocahontas was one of the few exceptions.

It was a hard life, especially in those first days of settlement, for the people had not been wisely picked for the pioneering venture. Instead of hardy country folk who knew how to work the land, many were townspeople who knew little or nothing of clearing, digging, or hunting, and the equipment the company sent with them was equally unsuitable. The men came ashore expecting to make their fortune overnight by picking up nuggets of gold, which, they had heard, were lying around everywhere. There was no gold, and the people, miserably housed and fed, had little idea of how to improve their lot. Soon they were assailed by diseases, by typhoid and other fevers, and many died during that first winter. By 1610 only sixty of the original five hundred were left, though the company continued to augment their numbers with fresh victims.

Paradoxically, the rival Plymouth Company, whose charter gave it the right to develop the northern half of the Atlantic seaboard, considered less choice than Virginia because of the inferior soil and harsher climate, did better at colonizing. The passengers on the Mayflower hoped to end their voyage at Jamestown, but the ship was blown off course and arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 with the Pilgrims and a number of indentured servants, all of whom were far better suited than the Jamestown lot for the rigors of life in the colonies. From the beginning, too, there was a greater proportion of females in the New England settlement than in Jamestown. Of the 101 passengers on the Mayflower, twenty-nine were women and girls — eighteen married women, eleven girls. A boy was born at sea and a girl appeared as the ship sailed into Cape Cod Bay, but one of the women, young Mrs. Bradford, drowned about the same time, so the number was still twenty-nine. The Pilgrims' record of survival was better than that of Jamestown, but even so, by the time spring of 1621 came around in New England only four women and eleven little girls were still alive.

Overall, north and south, the shortage of English females on the Atlantic seaboard was not to disappear for a long time, as even after a century most newly arriving immigrants were of the male sex. Though rarity improved the standing of the women in some respects, colonial law was based on the English common law, according to which women had fewer legal rights than those of the men.

"By the laws of Massachusetts as by those of England a married woman could hold no property of her own," wrote Edmund S. Morgan in Puritan Love and Marriage. "When she became a wife, she gave up everything to her husband and devoted herself exclusively to managing his household." She was really a part of him: if he pulled up stakes and moved, she was supposed to go along without demur — as, in fact, she is expected to do today, according to common usage. Even now, when a woman marries she leaves home as a matter of course.

"Leave thy father, leave thy mother, and thy brother," sings the man in Francis Thompson's "Arab Love Song":

Leave the black tents of thy tribe apart ...
And thou, What needest with thy tribe's black tents,
Who hast the red pavilion of my heart?

What needest indeed, and where else was a woman to go, especially then? Even today it is a problem. As a girl said to me recently: "We're the only minority I know that has absolutely no homeland. Africans can go back to Africa, Jews to Israel, but where can women go?"

Yet, even with disadvantages of this sort, the career of wife or housekeeper was the least degrading course open to an English or American woman of colonial times, and many found compensation in the married state. In a wedding sermon the Reverend John Cotton of Boston outlined his ideas of the duties of a wife: to stay at home, look after the children, and manage the supplies brought home by her husband. A few exceptional housewives were trusted by their men to manage the family finances, but, as Professor Morgan wrote, even these intelligent, trustworthy females were deemed incapable of harder mental activity. The delicate little brain of a woman, if over-taxed, was likely to give way entirely. Such was the fate of Mistress Ann Hopkins, wife of Governor Edward Hopkins of Connecticut, who spent too much time reading and writing. As a result, said Governor John Winthrop in his History of New England, she went insane.

Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her, but he saw his error, when it was too late, for if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way to meddle in such things as are proper to men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them successfully and memorably in the place God had set her.

Fortunately, there was little danger of most women in North America going insane from such a cause during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even among men literacy was not universal. Statistics quoted by James D. Hart in The Popular Book show that in Massachusetts and Connecticut between 1640 and 1700 the number of people who could so much as sign their names varied between 89 and 95 percent, but these figures do not include slaves, indentured servants, most hired men, and most women.

Indentured servants in America, often also called bondsmen or bondswomen, were people who bound themselves to work unpaid for a certain period for whoever would pay their passage out from England. Some were lawbreakers who had been given the option of coming to the colonies instead of going to prison at home. A few were "shanghaied" by ruffians for pay. But most were comparatively respectable, adventurous young people. They led a hard life. A bondsman had to obtain his master's permission to marry or work outside for pay, and if he broke the rules he was liable to an increased term of bondage. Nevertheless, some bondswomen made advantageous marriages, and it was in hopes of such a fortunate outcome that most girls sought indenture in the first place.

Hart observes a slight improvement in the general level of female literacy as time went on: "Of the few women who had official business between 1635 and 1656, 42 percent were able to sign documents; their number increased to 62 percent between 1681 and 1697." Presumably, however, few of the ladies carried their talents beyond this exercise, or were tempted by the available literature to learn to decipher it. Had they done so, they would have had a fairly wide choice among the religious books that formed their husbands' favorite reading.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Influential Women"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  • Cover Page
  • Once Upon a Pedestal
    • Title Page
    • Acknowledgments
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
    • Chapter 4
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6
    • Chapter 7
    • Chapter 8
    • Chapter 9
    • Chapter 10
    • Chapter 11
    • Chapter 12
    • Chapter 14
    • Chapter 15
    • Chapter 16
    • Chapter 17
    • Chapter 18
    • Chapter 19
    • Bibliography
  • The Soong Sisters
    • Title Page
    • Apology
    • Acknowledgment
    • Permissions
    • Introduction
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
    • Chapter V
    • Chapter VI
    • Chapter VII
    • Chapter VIII
    • Chapter IX
    • Chapter X
    • Chapter XI
    • Chapter XII
    • Chapter XIII
    • Chapter XIV
    • Chapter XV
    • Chapter XVI
    • Chapter XVII
    • Chapter XVIII
    • Chapter XIX
    • Chapter XX
    • Chapter XXI
    • Chapter XXII
    • Chapter XXIII
    • Chapter XXIV
    • Chapter XXV
    • Chapter XXVI
    • Chapter XXVII
    • Chapter XXVIII
    • Chapter XXIX
    • Chapter XXX
    • Chapter XXXI
    • Chapter XXXII
    • Chapter XXXIII
  • About the Author
  • Copyright

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews