Esteemed thinker: John James Abert

enchanted island

We get used to things the way they are and when our usual gets shifted or changed our whole world seems to get out of sequence. Take for example driving; we are accustomed to the same route and without having to make a conscious effort we are able to get home without the aid of a map. However, if a tree on the very street you always travel was to suddenly be cut down, you would find that this once so familiar journey has been altered and might just question if indeed you are going the correct way.

Call it what you will: habit, comfort zone, routine… the same thing can happen if your desktop icons are suddenly misaligned. Like the road well-traveled, we are accustomed to finding specifics without much effort. But let the familiar computer screen suddenly go into its own snit…rearranging what we have taken the time to set up, like the driver whose road has lost its favorite landmark, we too are lost. John James Abert

Today’s blog brings you a more obscure but none-the-less esteemed thinker: John James Abert (b. 1788-1863) Abert was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). He graduated from West Point in 1811, but declined a commission. He enlisted in the D.C. Militia during the War of 1812, and rejoined the army as a topographical engineer with the rank of Major in October 1814.

In 1813, The Topographical Bureau was created as a branch of the U.S. Army Corps of and remained only a small, elite corps until John James Abert, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became its head in 1829. The major mission of the Corps was to map out the West, an unexplored undocumented region and unlock its secrets. For 32 years under Abert’s leadership, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which recruited the best soldier-scientists, or “Topogs,” Abert could find, made explorations that resulted in the comprehensive mapping of the American West.

James, who became a Colonel in command of the US topographical engineers in 1838, and one of the organizers of the National Institute of Science, which subsequently merged in the Smithsonian Institution.

I now bring to you a most fascinating letter written by Abert to the prominent naturalist James Audubon in 1847.  Take time to relish in the discovery of what today is indeed a rarity.

Dear Sir.

 I have sent you a copy of my son’s first expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The report of his second, from which he has just returned is, of course, not yet made out. I shall talk to him about the subjects of your letter. It was after an examination of your small edition of the birds of America that I considered the Quail a new one. There is certainly nothing like it in that work, unless it be out of place in the book and in that way has escaped my examination. A person of some knowledge in these matters, who has seen the skins, calls it a new bird, but there is no one of sufficient authority to depend upon.

 Yours truly,

J.J. Abert



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Esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield

Protesting is an exercise we have performed throughout the ages. People living in all lands around globe have declared and aired their disagreements sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. The method of protesting however has changed in comparison to the centuries prior to the current millennium.

The dumping of tea in Boston Harbor was a dramatic display of injustice by a defiant group of colonists, Sons of Liberty, in 1773. The call to join the efforts was rallied by word of mouth, a clandestine ploy where colonists went as far as disguising themselves as Native Americans and slipped aboard a British ship and relieved them of their cargo. In contrast, today’s call to protest often comes in the form of a text message where the silent voices are set free to cast their opinions world-wide, and in a matter of seconds their message is heard and repeated. And though the methods have changed over the centuries the demand for change is the similar.

Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield (1892-1965). Born in Jonestown, Missouri to a sharecropper family, he himself became a sharecropper as well as a Reverand. By the mid-1930s the Great Depression was taking an extraordinary toll on poor tenant farmers whereby the federal government and its new subsidies was making it more profitable for landowners to dismiss their farmers. Seeing the plight of African American tenant farmers like himself and other poor farmers he rallied support for change.

Owen Whitfield In 1937 Whitfield joined and later became president of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, a multi-racial group of advocates. In 1939 he brought to the attention of the cause to President Franklin Roosevelt, explaining in a letter the exploitation of the tenant farmers and requesting changes be met.

Whitfield was instrumental in helping bring about reform, most notably by way of organizing The 1939 Roadside Sharecroppers Demonstration, a peaceable protest in Southeast Missouri. More than fifteen hundred men, women and children piled their meager belongings along US Highways 60 and 61 in the lowlands, also known as the Bootheel. Tenant farmers had been ruined by environmental disaster, falling crop prices, poverty and disease, New Deal agricultural policies, and the mechanization of cotton production. Now landowners had decided to hire day laborers to replace their tenants. Families who normally expected to occupy a plot of land for a year or more face seasonal employment with no guarantee of work or shelter.

Due to death threats, Whitfield did not participate in the demonstration but rather rallied politicians in the north for support. His efforts were effective and the government did begin to initiate some changes beginning with housing; the Delmos Security homes were erected for 600 farmers.

Esteemed thinker: Maud Wood Park

votingThe media can be the maker or breaker of a person’s claim to fame. It has a dramatic effect on the attention of the populous, dramatically influencing who will succeed and who may not. Yet, it is not always accurate, often giving more attention than deserved to those individuals that may not deserve such notoriety. It has the power to guide and influence in a positive way, yet regularly chooses paths that would ordinarily dismissed as follies. How often have we been bombarded by irresponsible reporting, leading us through the briar patch and around the same thorny trail… and then at the end giving the most sensational reports to those who have, shall we say, the squeakiest wheel.

And then there are those deserving souls who are never heard of, never acknowledged; ones we think of as the unsung heroes. Let us hope that those who are lead around by the media have enough sense to filter for themselves what is worthy of our time and our attention.

maude wood park Today’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Maude Wood Park (1871-1955) born in Boston, Massachusetts. Graduating from Radcliff College, Ms. Park became a leading activist for the women’s suffrage movement, advocating for the 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote).

In 1916 her friend Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), persuaded Park to join the NAWSA’s Congressional Committee and to go to Washington to lobby directly for the federal suffrage amendment. Thus Park led the “front-door lobby” to win suffrage. As a result of her efforts Park became the first president of the League of Women Voters, an organization which preceded the passing of the Amendment, a nonpartisan organization to educate new voters.

Upon the passage of the 19th Amendment, Park continued to advocate for women, forming and running a most needed coalition, the Women Joint Congressional Committee. With leaders from several other women groups, they lobbied for and helped pass legislation of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act of 1921 and the Cable Act of 1922, which granted protected care for pregnant women and infants and granted independent citizenship for married women

Park continued to work tirelessly for the betterment of women, advocating for social reforms. I now present from her own Front Door Lobby a passage which gives you a heartfelt view of the passing of the 19th Amendment; a journey that began so very long ago which we should without doubt continue to laud.

“… So quietly as that, we learned the he last step in the enfranchisement of women in the United States had been taken and the struggle of more than seventy years brought to a successful end. We were all too stunned to make any comment until we were in the cab on our way to the Department of State, where we almost had to stick pins into ourselves to realize that the simple document at which we were looking was, in reality, the long sought charter of liberty for the women of this country…”

Second image: League of Women Voters, Maud Wood Park 1915

Orphan in America celebrates one year!

Happy Birthday celebration! From an idea to a novel one year ago! Thank you to all my friends around the globe! Cheers! 

“The world of literature has no boundaries for words are lighter than air!” nl avery
Orphan in America front cover_with badge

“Bringing back to the twenty-first century an epic novel of substance and style, Orphan in America is a compelling fiction that follows three generations across vast distances and the impact of a dark and unfamiliar episode of America’s past; the Orphan Train.”

In the UK find it here!
In the U.S. find it here!
In France find it here!
In Australia find it here!
In India find it here!
In Germany find it here!
In Japan find it here!

If you see my book let me know…for those who are artists understand…creating is forever a part of one’s soul.

Esteemed thinker: Nellie Bly

yellow journalismThe media has a dramatic effect on the attention of the populous severely influencing who will succeed and who may not. It has the power to guide and influence in a positive way, yet regularly chooses paths that would ordinarily be dismissed as follies. How often have we been bombarded by irresponsible reporting, leading us through the briar patch and around the same thorny trail… and then at the end giving exclusive coverage to those who have, shall we say, have the squeakiest wheel. Not always accurate or relevant, more time is allotted to individuals that do not merit the notoriety they inherit.

So, like a disease we had all thought had been eradicated, yellow journalism has been resurrected, gaining credence under the guise of information, whereby the best vaccine we can hope for is to inoculate with common-sense in hope that the subjected majority finds the means to the filter for themselves what is organically truthful.

Nellie BlyToday’s blog brings to you the esteemed thinker: Nelly Bly, (1864-1922) born in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Jane Cochran was her given name however after her unique start to a most illustrious journalist career she used the pseudonym, Nelly Bly. In 1885 she sent an angry reply to the Pittsburgh Dispatch, regarding an article titled “What Girls Are Good For”. The editor was so enamored with her writing that he offered her a reporter’s job.

Nellie Bly broke the male barrier in journalism during an era when women reporters were relegated to cover only “women’s issues.” She became one of the most famous and influential American reporters, earning recognition for her fine undercover work in a mental institute 1887 for her exposé on the conditions of asylum patients at Blackwell’s Island in New York City. She gained international recognition by traveling around the world following the fictional character from Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Nellie Bly was a unconventional reporter who went undercover to seek out the truth and wrote her articles not with sensationalism but with facts. From a follow-up article titled in The New York World, 1887, “Untruths In Every Line”. I submit to you a few lines from Nellie Bly’s own words.

“On my first arrival in New York the editor of the Sun said to me in an interview, “There is nothing so valuable as a reporter who gives facts; who, when told that two and two make four, puts it four instead of three or five.” I have always been particular in stating only facts in all my work, but never did I confine myself so closely to this rule as in my story of “Behind Asylum Bars.” As the Sun undertook to prove that I really passed ten days as an insane girl on Blackwell’s Island, I would like to correct the many mistakes and misstatements which I found throughout the six columns recently published about me in that journal . . .”

First image: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building, 1910 October 12

Esteemed thinker: Georgia O’Keeffe

crayonsIf you have ever wondered how some of your classmates may have grown up to be corporate executives one has to look no further than into your childhood. Take a mental sabbatical down memory lane and find your elementary school classroom. Picture a day the teacher asked you to take out of your desk or remove from your cubby the new box of crayons your parents bought for you. Maybe it was purchased the “Five and Dime,’or maybe it was from the toy store. Now, look at yours and then check out your neighbor’s desk. Theirs is not an ordinary box of crayons with just a handful of colors; but the jumbo pack of 64 with the built in sharpener. This is the box of crayons that was coveted by most of the kids. It’s the one that dared to be shared but in order to get inside the sacred lid had to be negotiated. This was the box owned by the student that could wield negotiations with others as if they were at the end of the conference table. To borrow a color would perhaps require relinquishing a turn on the swing, giving up being line-leader, or even handing over a chocolate chip cookie.

Owning such a box of crayons was more than a palette of colors to create pictures to impress the teacher, it was entrance into a world that allotted ‘carte blanc’ privileges; and like flying first class it could even get you window seat on the school bus!

georgia o'keefe Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker” Georgia O’Keefe, (1887-1986) who was born and raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Considered one of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, she began her career by studying at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and the Art Students League in New York (1907–1908), where she learned the techniques of traditional realist painting. By 1915 she had begun to develop her own artistic personality, a series of abstract charcoal drawings.
Her relationship as an artist was immediately recognized by Alfred Stieglitz, photographer and owner of the famous 291 gallery; one of the few places in the United States where European avant-garde art was exhibited. Their relationship blossoms into a well-known love affair and eventually they wed.

O’Keefe’s colorful paintings are world renown, depicting landscapes, flowers, and animal bones generated from her time in New York, Lake George area and New Mexico. She was able to create intricate detail, color shadows and distinct nuances on canvas. Her passion for her art and life can be seen in all her work.
I now invite you to read a most colorful excerpt from a letter written to her photographer friend Marie Chabot in 1941. It is not difficult to imagine how she viewed the world.

“It is breathtaking as one rises up over the world one has been living in, looking out at and looks down at it stretching away and away. The Rio Grande, the mountains, then the pattern of rivers, ridges, washes, roads, fields, water holes, wet and dry. Then little lakes, a brown pattern, then after a while as we go over the Amarillo country, a fascinating restrained pattern of different greens and cooler browns on the square and on the bias with a few curved shades and many lakes. It is very handsome way off into the level distance, fantastically handsome – like marvelous rug patterns of maybe ‘Abstract Paintings’…”

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie's II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930, Oil on canvas mounted to board