A Country Rag--River Bend

A Country Rag


Rivers Side

by Jeannette Harris

Midi: Americana Jazz

Confessions -- I come from a long line of educated, independent women. My ancestors (English, Welch, French, later German) first arrived in the New World, according to extant and sweetly written family letters, around the time of the American Revolution, dispersing over generations to the limits oceans allow east, west, north and south. They fought from their homes and over seas to preserve, to expand ideals of responsible citizenship. The women were "gentlemen farmers," entrepreneurs, artists, educators, musicians, managers, poets. They fought to vote, worked in local politics and charities, travelled, studied alternative cultures and religions, forged a bright path of restraint, courage, wisdom and freedom. I'm grateful for the example they set, the memories they kept, and dedicate this July issue of A Country Rag to their enduring republican legacy.

Note: The old-fashioned New England phrase "gentleman's farm" meant that all the manse/outbuildings indoor and fields/gardens outdoor work was completed by the design and direction of the "farm" owners to fairly paid and justly treated free laborers.


We number the branches on a juniper tree,
the petals on a mum.
There are ninety-six deckboards
that need to be cleaned.
The names of my dearest friends
are Mary, Margaret, Christopher, AnnaJean.
I'm calling one of them tonight.

There are fifteen mirrors at work.
Our cat eats a pint of food each day.
Greg has seven yellow shirts.
We have forty-one paintings, drawings,
prints and sculptures on display.
The chandelier has thirteen lights.

Gardening, mowing
and weed-eating take nine hours a week.
Six varieties of fish spawn in area creeks.
Twenty-seven geese just took flight,

counting on God.

republican adj. having the nature of or favoring a state in which supreme power rests in citizens entitled to vote and which is exercised by representatives elected, directly or indirectly, by them and responsible to them... any group whose members are regarded as having a certain equality or common aims, pursuits, etc....

"Over the years, women have been recognized for many great 'firsts.' But for every woman who reached the summit in her chosen field, dozens — or even hundreds — have come before her, lighting the way. In each individual woman's "first" we celebrate the courage, commitment, and camaraderie of all women — and the men who have supported and encouraged them. Often in the face of incredible frustration and adversity, women have made great gains throughout the twentieth century. Having begun the century without the right to vote or to receive a university education, we end with most legal and institutional barriers removed. Many women have only recently been acknowledged for their contributions to our society. Their biographies offer fascinating and inspiring glimpses at centuries of mostly unsung heroines.

The women whose achievements are recorded here are all groundbreakers. Some, like well-recognized suffragist Susan B. Anthony, were outspoken advocates of women's rights, taking strong and symbolic action to draw public attention to their cause. She was even arrested, along with twelve other women, for trying to vote in the 1872 presidential election. Others, like child health pioneer and physician Sara Josephine Baker, preferred less public actions. In the early 1900s, Baker refused to accept a lectureship at New York University because it did not admit women to its graduate program. The university changed its policy, and Baker joined the faculty.

For many, the goal was attaining the opportunity to pursue their personal passions, whether they were interested in astronomy or athletics, medicine or the military, entertainment or engineering. Denied access to education and employment, these women often relied on a father, brother, or other male mentor for the training and opportunity needed to pursue their work. Even with a male mentor cracking open the door to opportunity, others inside were far from welcoming. For example, when Mary Whiton Calkins, a promising student of philosophy and psychology, was denied permission to attend regular Harvard University seminars, faculty members William James and Josiah Royce, along with Calkins's father, intervened on her behalf. But when she began attending James's seminar sessions, four of her fellow students dropped out in protest. Calkins persevered, however, and in 1906 went on to become the first woman president of the American Psychological Association.

No matter what path she chooses, every time a woman succeeds, or even climbs into the ring, she becomes a role model. For the young women of my daughter's generation — and for the rest of us — role models are so important. They show what we can achieve and to what we can aspire.

Women's Firsts has many of the same qualities. It tells stories that we need to hear and serves as a valuable reference. For all people — men and women, young and old — Women's Firsts offers a tribute to women of achievement whose stories can inspire, enlighten, and motivate." -- Christine Todd Whitman, quoted from "Women's Firsts" in Celebrating Women's History

Return to A Country Rag Index

© Jeannette Harris, July 1998. All rights reserved.