When We Have Questions
Project Newsletter Winter 2002.
Identifying people and explicating references in the texts we publish raise numerous and varied questions. There are, for instance, 750 people identified in volume three and 210 quotations traced to their source. For answers, we rely on many unseen collaborators, including authors living and dead; dozens of librarians, archivists, and historical society staff; and scores of professionals and amateurs who make information available on the World Wide Web. In this sampling of where we turned for help to complete volume three, some of our collaborators are made visible.
We start with our own files—an accumulation of odd and useful things created when work began on the microfilm edition. Some of the most valuable and timesaving items in the files come from the dozens of scrapbooks that Susan B. Anthony gave to the Library of Congress in 1903. For example, when Anthony spoke to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 1880 she referred to a year when the final days of Congress degenerated into drunken chaos with the exception of one man—an African-American representative from South Carolina. "It may have been a slander," she told the committee, "nevertheless it was a newspaper report, and I use it as an illustration." She had clipped that "newspaper report" and pasted it into her scrapbooks, where we could find it to save hours of work learning which year, who was sober, and whether there was any truth to the story at all. While working on the microfilm edition, staff also assembled good histories of suffrage newspapers that now allow us to explain their rise and fall.
World Wide Web.
With increasing frequency, we turn to the World Wide Web, where many of our questions can now be answered very quickly. The database of state and federal judicial opinions in LexisNexis allows us to find on line the legal references that pepper Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speeches. Chasing down quotations sent us into such electronic texts as the King James Bible, the complete works of William Shakespeare, and Jacob Abbott, The Teacher. Moral Influences Employed in the Instruction and Government of the Young in the edition of 1873. With its immense resources for genealogical work, the web has transformed our ability to identify people of only local reputation. Local histories and sources are the basic tools for this research, but Americans' geographical mobility means people do not always stay where Stanton and Anthony first met them. Sometimes the web can track them down. When we searched the web for the young, up-and-coming lecturer Eva L. Pinney of South Newbury, Ohio, who vanished from our own files and made no appearance in local histories that we could find, we learned her vital statistics from an unexpected source: she was buried with her sister's family in East Granby, Connecticut, still single at the time of her death in 1916 at age sixty-five—all from the inscription on her gravestone found on the web. Like other scholars learning to distinguish reliable and careful work on the web from slapdash and inaccurate work, we confirm the accuracy of what we find by turning to old-fashioned books and primary sources.
We still favor books—old ones and new ones. The title cited most often in our third volume is the Congressional Record, in which we located petitions and memorials, debates, roll call votes, and other evidence of the interchange between the disfranchised woman suffragists and their so-called elected representatives. When it came to understanding Elizabeth Cady Stanton's early and critical response to the Woman's Crusade—the troublesome protest against liquor that broke out in nine hundred towns in 1873 and 1874—we turned in equal measure to books by modern scholars like Jack S. Blocker, Jr., and Genevieve G. McBride and valuable older books by participants, such as Annie T. Wittenmyer, History of the Woman's Temperance Crusade published in 1882. We read a lot of local history—usually at the New York Public Library—and benefit equally from nineteenth- century and contemporary works. The History of McLean County, Illinois, published in 1879, won our hearts with its comment on Susan B. Anthony's host in 1877: "No one in Le Roy ever thinks of starting a society, company or any public undertaking, without Charley Barley's assistance." Similar loving care went into Gone Home: Directory of the Deceased and Items of History of Holt County, Missouri, 1837-1981 by Eileen Derr. She shared our interest in Anne Irvine, and the "Items of History" in her title include many notices of Irvine's organizing talents.
Remarkable numbers of people respond to our queries. Public librarians in Norwich, Connecticut, and Chelsea, Massachusetts, for example, looked up names in city directories from the 1870s that were impossible to retrieve from distant libraries. Not all of our questions have answers: no one in Brookfield, Missouri, could find the Taylors with whom Anthony stayed, and a search by the city archivist in Grand Rapids, Michigan, could not find the precise reference about women's protest against variety theatres that we sought. Compiling answers from different collaborators is often vital to getting results. The archivist at Cornell College in Iowa could tell us when Eugenia Wilde entered the school and earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees, and when as Eugenia Olney she died. The president of the Hinsdale County Historical Society in Lake City, Colorado, could retrieve Eugenia's obituary and document her life with the newspaper editor Henry C. Olney before and after the couple hosted Susan B. Anthony in Lake City in September 1877. Similarly, staff at the New Orleans Public Library retrieved an obituary of Emery Norton to help us track his wife, but it took the staff at Pennsylvania's Monroe County Historical Association to find the obituary of his wife, who died at the couple's home in Stroudsburg.