Louisiana Woman – Laundry Chores

The young housekeeper--Washing day

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00651073/

The young housekeeper–Washing day, c. 1870. F.L. Stuber, photographer. Bethlehem, PA. 1 photographic print on stereo card : stereograph.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

While reading about Caroline Merrick and researching, I came upon the subject of doing laundry.  This was very much a part of nineteenth century living for women in the North.  I believe many women in the South had slaves that probably did all of the washing as most women lived on plantations.

The task of doing laundry was so laborious and burdensome; I have decided to include it in my final paper.  In considering how we do laundry today and reading about past methods, it seems unfair to complain about it with our modern conveniences.

For instance, women in the nineteenth century who labored as domestic workers (as we’re reading in Martha Hodes’s The Sea Captain’s Wife)  did not simply dust the knick-knacks in middle-class parlors. They also had to clean grime from fireplaces and clean mud tracked inside from the unpaved streets.

Washing clothes was done most frequently and was the most burdensome.  First, the soap had to be made.  This involved melting and boiling cooking grease and lard, ashes and lime.  Then it was cooked over fire until it hardened.  After this the water had to be hauled, a fire built to heat the water, then soaking, stirring and scrubbing the clothes against a washboard.  Finally, rinsed, wrung and hung to dry individually.

With all our modern conveniences today, there is no comparison to what the women of nineteenth century had to endure.

Source: Hodes, Martha. The Sea Captain’s Wife. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Astor Place Riot – Edwin Forrest as Emblem of the Middle Class

So if you’ve been following this particular blog, you’ve noticed how relevant I think class structure is to the culmination of the Astor Place Riot. In a somewhat tabloid-y account published about the event recently after it occurred, evidence of this idea can be observed and used to back that claim.

For instance, when the “horrors of that night” are described, one of the details given is that “An aged mother found her only son, the sole support of her declining years, in the agonies of death.”

Why would the writer deem it necessary to include that part about the “sole support” ? Because it was a common situation that readers could recognize? Was it just to create a more dramatic story for selling more copies of this piece? Why would that be a dramatic detail? It can’t be dramatic unless people care about it, and people aren’t really going to care about it, unless it can potentially affect them in some way, right?

This seems like a situation that could potentially be available to members of any class, which is important when you’re trying to sell as many papers to as many people as you can. Immediately after this, though, an introduction and description of Edwin Forrest is given, that leads me to interpret this detail in a more class-oriented way.

It is a pretty favorable report of his life before the riot. We learn that “he was born in humble life, and worked his way up from poverty and obscurity to wealth and fame, by the power of genius [italics mine].” Is this not the very definition of what it means to be “middle class” in the nineteenth century?  Well, even beyond that, really. This is the basis of that whole “American Dream” idea, which is maybe why patriotism seemed to play such a big role in this event as well.

In fact, in the very next paragraph, the writer informs us that one of the reasons Forrest became so famous was because he was “puffed in all the papers as the Native Tragedian — the patriotism of New-Yorkers was appealed to.”  When the description of Macready follows, it is notably shorter and less flattering.

Almost immediately the writer conveys the story about how there was a big stink made about how he had off-handedly insulted the entirety of America by making some comment about how he couldn’t get a certain kind of arrow that he needed for a prop in a performance.  This exploded in the papers. Such sensitive patriotism! It’s as if people are SO aware of WHO they (and everyone else) are (or are not) that everyone is primed and ready for immediately being on the defensive. People are very touchy about identity, which makes sense when considering the importance given to who gets to be a member of which social class (and who doesn’t).

Here’s a picture of some “Forrest Medals.” A few included phrases? “Born in the city of Philadelphia, PA” and “rose by his own efforts”:

Forrest Medals, Samuel Sartain, 1830-1906, printmaker.  line engraving ; image approx. 8 x 5 in., Forrest medals [graphic], Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection, http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/detail/FOLGERCM1~6~6~272676~118972:Forrest-medals–graphic—-Samuel-S?sort=Author%2CCD_Title%2CImprint%2CImprint&qvq=q:edwin%2Bforrest;sort:Author%2CCD_Title%2CImprint%2CImprint;lc:FOLGERCM1~6~6&mi=35&trs=51

Edwin Forrest Medal, Copper, Joseph H. Merriam Medals Collection, http://www.medals4trade.com/collections/displayimage.php?album=1215&pos=9

Extras:

  • If you don’t know about this, you should. It’s a really useful tool for browsing primary sources in libraries all over the world: https://archive.org/

The Battle of Liberty Place – Badger’s Wounds

Justin A. Nystrom’s book New Orleans After the Civil War has given me a lot of good information so far. I learned that the Battle of Liberty Place struck a great blow against the Republican Government of Louisiana and also the state militia, which was disbanded just a few years after the battle. I also found out that Algernon Sidney Badger was wounded more seriously than I initially thought. He was shot four times and only survived because his enemies admired his courage and brought him to a hospital. Not only that, a former member of the Metropolitan Police, who was fighting under Badger at Liberty Place, attempted to murder Badger in his office in the Customs House several years after the battle. A final interesting note I discovered was that the heaviest fighting during the battle took place where Harrah’s casino now stands.

Louisiana Woman – Women’s Rights

National Anti-Suffrage Association, 1911 (?). Harris & Ewing, photographers. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97500067/

In looking up more information on Caroline Merrick, I found an article by Samantha LaDart called “Caroline Merrick and Women’s Rights in Louisiana” published in Loyola University (N.O) Student History Journal.   As it turns out, Merrick is somewhat famous not as obscure as I hoped.  But, just the same, I believe most people would not be that familiar with her unless they have studied much about women’s rights.

LaDart begins by spelling out how the southern woman was expected to be a model of virtue, a guardian of youth.  Also, she points out that the ideal woman in the South differed from her counterpart in the North.  As we have been reading in class, Northern women in the nineteenth-century experienced a shift of the female power in the home, to make the home a haven from the workplace.  LaDart explains the woman’s weakness in the South is her strength and her only right is to be protected.  With this right to protection she is obligated to obey.  So the southern woman was expected to be nervous, fickle, and delicate so the man will worship and adore her.  (Scarlet O’Hara?)

The article by LaDart,  explains the feminine ideal was an essential part of the psychology of the institution of slavery.   This struck me as I never associated the two, i.e., women’s rights and slavery.  Submission to the master from the household was expected by all family members so as not to threaten the whole and therefore slavery itself.

However, the Civil War challenged the “right to protection” and the “obligation” that went along with it.  During the war and Reconstruction women in Louisiana took on new roles for the first time.   LaDart brings out how these changes in roles began Caroline Merrick on the road to lead women’s rights in Louisiana.

Merrick did many things during the war such as nursing the sick and wounded for both sides.  She would often take dangerous voyages on the river for supplies.  Additionally, she nursed her family and slaves on the plantation during the war years.  Caroline Merrick enjoyed these new duties and she felt she had to use every faculty of her mind.

As an outcome of these new roles, women in Louisiana pushed for more responsibilities after the war; they could not go back to the pre-war days.  Merrick pushed for the rest of her life for women’s rights and they were slow in coming.  But progress she did make.  She fought for women’s representation and the right to vote.  She was the first woman to organize a woman’s suffrage association in Louisiana.  It was called the Portia Club.

I plan to go more into this very important part of her life in the final blog.  Hopefully, this whets the appetite.  Also, please note the picture above how men were opposed to women’s rights!

Source: http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1990-1/documents/CarolineMerrickandWomensRightsinLouisiana.pdf

Cayetano Mariotini: Slave Purchase Record

I have been trying to find additional primary resources on Cayetano while I am patiently waiting for some secondary books about the circus in the early nineteenth century to arrive.  I did some digging on Ancestry.com, and only found two records, but I have been debating whether or not to purchase the subscription.  I found a slave purchase record and a death certificate which I can not look at until I purchase the subscription.  This find led me to another website: http://www.ibiblio.org/laslave/  where you can access a lot of (FREE) information regarding slaves, for anyone who may need and/or are interested in this information.

Unfortunately, much of the primary information that I have found on Cayetano is pretty repetitive.   I hope when I finally get my  hands on one of the books that I have ordered, that I may find something new (fingers crossed).

According to Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s database Afro-Louisiana History and Geneology, 1718-1820, Billy was a black male of unknown age, sold by Joseph Saul to Cayetano Mariotini.  Billy was sold by himself (without other enslaved people or family members) for $800 on July 20, 1816.

Document Location: Orleans (including Chapitoulas).[Jefferson 1825]
Document Date: 1816-07-20
Document Number (from the document): 413
Notary Name: Lynd

For the full record see:

http://www.ibiblio.org/laslave/individ.php?sid=68198

Astor Place Riot – Theater History as Class History (pt 2)

Heather S. Nathans in the theater department at the University of Maryland makes some good points about how these actors’ styles can represent and develop the whole British vs. America thing in the build up to the riot. Edwin Forrest’s style was this sort of “open and honest” way of performing that was much more emotionally accessible than the traditional English sort of “cold and removed” sort of way that William Macready used in his performances. This ends up translating into the way the actors are represented in a social context as well.

Nathans points out that Forrest “appealed to a kind of American sense of manners and naturalness and emotional accessibility, the same way that Andrew Burstein writes about in Sentimental Democracy, when he talks about these kinds of virtues of emotional openness coming to embody Jeffersonian democracy. You move away from the intellect, because intellect, not everyone can access. But honest, deep emotion—that, everyone can access.”

Forrest actually hisses during one of Macready’s performances (sort of an embodiment of that “American” passion) which is kind of the starting point of the ensuing public battle and one of Macready’s reactions is to write in his diary about how trivial and annoying that was (which kind of shows the more British subdued emotional coldness and withdrawal).

Then she goes on to say that “the performer who is touching these emotions—the performer who seems genuinely in touch with his passions and can unleash those in this unrestrained way on stage—he can embody these kind of ‘American’ virtues, whereas someone like Macready, who has a more formal aspect to him, and maybe is a more intellectually driven performer, doesn’t appeal in the same way and seems cold, seems restrained.”

The reason I think it’s important to note these things is because it really illustrates that, when things are building up to the riot, America is representatively pit against the British and by association, the oppressors against the repressed and the rich against the poor.

I really like the way Bruce McConachie, chair of theater arts and professor of theater arts at the University of Pittsburgh, kind of brings these ideas together.  Some of the staunchest Forrest supporters are Tammany Hall Democrats, and their voters were “working class voters [that] think of themselves as strongly patriotic” and in some of the propaganda they produced they referred to Macready as the “pet of princes” and “denounce [him] as a symbol of aristocratic oppression. Not simply English oppression, but the oppression faced by working men, patriotic working men, by their employers.”

The image below pretty clearly, I think, shows the difference between who was on which side. The men on the side with the militia are very obviously better dressed than the working-class-looking men that are being shot at. (So it wasn’t just acting style vs. acting style, or even British vs. American, but very much rich vs. poor. You can SEE it in the picture that was published to portray the current event!)

http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?strucID=715976&imageID=809559&word=riot%20new%20york&s=1&notword=&d=&c=&f=&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&sLevel=&sLabel=&num=0&total=38&pos=5&e=w

Astor Place Riot, 1849

Astor Place Riot, 1849

Also, as it turns out, many of the people killed were Irish immigrant members of the working poor. (Remember that these are the people who are Edwin Forrest supporters and are feeling the most patriotic about being American.) This is fairly ironic, then, considering that Macready is actually Irish as well. I feel like this really just further demonstrates how this violence and protest really weren’t just about a preferred actor or even nationality, but about the inequality of the class structure and exploitation of the poor in the burgeoning American economy of the urban Northeast.

The Battle of Liberty Place

After reading some more of Justin A. Nystrom’s book New Orleans After the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom, I learned more about Algernon Sidney Badger’s role at the battle of Liberty Place and I also found Republican Governor Henry Clay Warmoth to be a fascinating character as well.

With A. S. Badger in command, the metropolitan police force was extremely well armed with not only a few Gatling guns and cannons, but a gunboat as well. I also discovered that A. S. Badger was fairly seriously wounded at the battle of Liberty Place.

Henry Clay Warmoth was the Governor of Louisiana from 1868 until 1872 and during this time it seems he caused quite a stir in Louisiana and New Orleans politics. Despite shady political tactics and questionable morals, Warmoth was able to create quite a following during his reign. I am quite interested to learn more about Henry Clay Warmoth and his political rise and fall.