White Carnations

 by G. Murphy Donovan (May 2012)

Howe in 1870, as a day to think about disarmament; a way to honor sons fallen in battle. Ward’s idea never had much national traction. The modern incarnation had to wait for Anna Jarvis to lobby Woodrow Wilson who proclaimed Mother’s day a national holiday in 1914. Entrepreneurs readily saw the commercial possibilities and the second Sunday in May became a cash cow for card makers, confectioners, flower vendors, and telephone companies. It’s more than a little sad to believe that children would now need a holiday to inspire a call to their mothers.

Phoebe Ann Moses (1860-1926)

market hunter, selling ducks, grouse, and pheasant to restaurants and hotels. By the age of 15, Miss Moses had paid the mortgage on her mother’s farm. Phoebe Ann never had the opportunity to go to school.

journalism.” In 1903, after Annie Oakley had left a successful run with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show; two Hearst newspapers printed a story which alleged that Oakley had “stolen trousers from a negro” in order to purchase cocaine. The implausible story was carried by 55 other newspapers nationwide.

supporter of Adolph Hitler and National Socialism.

Fawn McKay (1916-1981)

Brodie. Only Fawn’s mother attended the wedding. Neither family approved of the match.

Reynolds vs. United States (1878) which held that religious freedom protected beliefs – not actions or illegal practices.

theodemocracy,” a kind of Zion where male church elders were free to justify otherwise illegal practices, such as polygamy, under the guise of religious freedom. Fawn Brodie’s first book was a great success, but she was excommunicated by church elders for her candor.

hypocrisy, was the same. Through the agency of Sarah (Sally) Hemings, at once slave and Jefferson’s concubine, Brodie established that Jefferson was both a figurative founding father and a literal father of slaves. Miscegenation had been illegal in Virginia since 1691 and remained so in Jefferson’s time. Jefferson gave his mixed race children freedom as adults. Sally Hemings remained a slave during Jefferson’s lifetime.

reunions at Monticello. Long before feminists picked up the thread, Fawn Brodie established a modern cultural marker: the personal is political.


So what is the legacy of these women? Phoebe may have taught us that journalism is not the first draft of history so much as it might be the last draft of truth. And Fawn reminds us that great men, many of whom believe themselves beyond convention and law, do not escape the judgments of honest history. White carnations, indeed!

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