A Celebration of Women Writers

"What the Women of Kansas are Doing Today." by Mrs. Eugene Ware [aka Jeanette or Jennett P. Huntington] (1849-).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 277-280.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 277] 

WHAT THE WOMEN OF KANSAS ARE DOING TODAY.

By MRS. EUGENE WARE.

MRS. EUGENE WARE.
Owing to the fact that the state of Kansas had its birth at a time of a great crisis in the life of our nation, and as the women of the state have been an important factor in its growth and development, and as Kansas has always been the battle-ground where the political and ethical questions which have interested the people, have been and are being fought and decided by public opinion and by legislation; and inasmuch as these conditions have made Kansas women, like the Israelites of old, "a peculiar people," it may not seem pretentious to follow the footsteps of my sisters over the ground they have trod, reviewing the progress they have made, and discussing the work in which they are today engaged.

When the vast area is considered which we acquired as a state, with its western portion almost a Sahara (although it is gradually being transformed into an irrigated garden); when we consider that from 1851 to 1865 its eastern boundary was torn by contending factions, and overwhelmed by civil war; when we consider that from then until now we have been in turn the victims of grasshoppers, drouths, floods and cyclones, or the prey of strange politics and politicians, who, though with us, are not of us; when we consider that the state has been infested by cranks, "isms" and seisms; by those who thought they had bright ideals and purposes, and by those who had purposes without ideals; when we consider all these obstacles to success, what wonder is it that we have been called "poor, bleeding Kansas," and regarded with successive pity, admiration and dislike?

In the midst of every calamity the Kansas women have remained undaunted. Shoulder to shoulder, singly and together, they have fought with poverty and misfortune; have fought for principle and improvement, and have kept through it all their faith in Kansas. As one corps of workers grew weary or faint-hearted another took up the struggle, working perhaps on an entirely different line, but all to the same purpose, to make the state a grand factor in the uplifting of humanity, a power for good which should be felt wherever the name of Kansas might reach on this broad earth–a synonym for principle and right.

In the early days, before the war, there came out from Puritan, liberty-loving New England, colonies of men and women who were inspired to make a home in Kansas, a "home of the brave and the free;" men and women whose one desire was to secure liberty of race, of action, and of opinion.

How much these early pioneers suffered for the sake of this great cause will be known only when the Omnipotent Lover of Freedom makes up the jewels for His [Page 278]  crown. The history of those early struggles was most ably written by the wife of our first state governor, Mrs. Charles Robinson. Vivid are the pictures she presents of the midnight ride, the attacks of the Indians, wolves, and of fell famine; the burning of the prairies with perhaps the little shanty itself, and most of the earthly belongings of its occupants. These things, and many greater than these, which brave women experienced without flinching, or yielding their purpose to make Kansas free, show the fortitude and heroic spirit of the pioneer Kansas woman. When "home they brought her warrior dead, she nor swooned nor uttered sigh." Silently, quietly, she took up the duty that came nearest to her, caring for the home, nursing the sick, scraping lint and making bandages, yet in the midst of all cares, at all times, she gave the impetus which kept brave men from wavering.

Thus, when Kansas became a state, the strong sentiment which possessed each soul was that of patriotism and freedom. These were the principles which the first Kansas teachers, who were also women, sought to instill into the minds of their pupils.

Is it remarkable that Kansas children, born of such mothers, arid instructed by such teachers, should feel that they live for a purpose, and that their mission is to promote in every way possible, the welfare of Kansas and mankind?

After the war the influx of immigration added great numbers to the already acclimated New Englander, and brought the hospitable, genial-hearted Southerner, the energetic New Yorker, and the staunch, sturdy people from the North and West. These additions to our population had the effect of making the state thoroughly cosmopolitan.

We entertain every difference of opinion and belief. We are orthodox and heterodox, suffragists and anti-suffragists, temperance and anti-temperance, Christians, agnostics, and theosophists.

The result of all this comingling of forces is to rub down the rough edges of eccentricities and pet hobbies, and to teach a wholesome respect for the opinion of other people, and to give a capacity to perceive that they may be right and we ourselves be wrong. This process is now going on.

The church and missionary associations are largely the work of women, and the fact that today there are about three thousand church organizations in Kansas, and over two hundred and fifty thousand church members, shows how zealous and devoted has been the labor in that direction.

The number of moral and social reforms and charitable institutions which these same women have established–non-sectarian in character–proves how little there is of religious bigotry and intolerance, and gives the secret of the marvelous growth of the churches in our progressive state; for the motto under which the women work is: "In things essential, unity; things doubtful, liberty; and in all things, charity."

The temperance workers feel that their labors are nearly ended since the prohibition amendment has been added to the constitution, and prohibition has become a law.

Women who came into all the dangers and privations of a new territory came to help make Kansas not only a free state, but a free woman's state. These were aided by the best talent of the East, who canvassed the territory, that when Kansas should become a state the same privileges should be accorded to women as to men in the laws which were to govern both. Though they were unsuccessful, their efforts have given us the most favorable laws regarding the rights and property of women of any state in the Union, except perhaps Wyoming.

The Woman's Club is a living, breathing, influencing institution in Kansas. Elsewhere it is a great power, but with us it is an inspiration. There are reasons for this. Kansas is yet young–only thirty-two years old–and, although making rapid strides in many directions, she is as yet almost destitute of the fine art galleries, vast libraries and opportunities for intellectual research which are only acquired by wealth and age. Some years ago when the Chautauqua movement was started it was seized upon by Kansas women as a vital opportunity which should not he lost. They became also [Page 279]  interested in university extension, and club extension; and clubs sprang up as if by magic in almost every city, town hamlet and school district throughout the state, like the "walls of corn" on its rolling and verdant prairies. We have Mothers' Clubs, Ethical Clubs, The Woman's Press Club, and The Authors' and Artists' Club, which includes both sexes; also the annual Chautauqua Assembly, and last, but not least, the Social Science Club.

Each year since this last society was formed, the circle of its influence has expanded; the contact of bright minds, the interchange of ideas, the discussion of literary, artistic and practical questions has had a broadening effect which has gone beyond the boundaries of the state. The members of the society form a state acquaintance which of itself is an education. Today there are on its enrolled list nearly a thousand names which represent the culture and intellect of the women of the state, with tastes so diverse and lines of study so varied that they can say with Browning–

"I have not chanted verse like Homer's–No
Nor swept string like Terpander, no; nor carved
And painted men like Phidias and his friend.
I am not great as they are, point by point;
But I have entered into sympathy with these four,
Running these into one soul,
Who separate, ignored each other's arts;
Say, is it nothing that I know them all?"

This year–the year 1893–the Social Science Club took one step onward. Emboldened by its marked success and accumulation of membership and energy it merged itself into a Social Science Federation, taking in all the local clubs who may wish to join.

In isolated places where there is no club the Social Science Federation is preparing to send out delegates to help organize such a society with a plan of work adapted to the taste and mental requirements of the persons sought. In this way the club woman hopes to bring a mental stimulant to every careworn, tired housewife, who has nothing to look forward to but the monotonous routine of farm life, and its lonesome cares. To such a woman a reading club, debating circle or literary society of any kind is a godsend. It takes her outside of herself and outside of the economy and care with which her life is filled and leads her into the green pastures of thought and imagination and beside the still waters of hope.

To save the intellect from stagnation, as well as to awaken lofty thoughts and purposes in a dormant mind is a mission only less than that of saving a soul, if perchance it does not often save the soul.

Outside the club, however, there is an ever-increasing list of women in the state who are making a name and fortune for themselves by original literary effort.

We who follow are still traveling in the same path as did the pioneer Kansas woman, but with this difference, which, better than I can give, is summed up in the words of a noble Kansas man, who is a noble friend of Kansas men and women. I refer to Noble L. Prentis, Esq:

But the worst is over; gone are border ruffians and drouth and privation; gone danger and difficulty. The sunflowers are growing on the roof of the abandoned dugout and within the roofless walls of the old sod house. The claim is a farm with broad green, or golden, or russet acres now. The family is sheltered in a stately mansion now. Having brought Kansas about where she wanted it, the Kansas woman is devoting her attention to culture, to literature, to music, to art. She discusses all the artists from Henry Worrall, a Kansas artist, to Praxiteles; all the musicians from Nevada to the piper who, according to Irish tradition, played before Moses. She belongs to the Kansas Social Science Club, and traverses the field of human knowledge and investigation, from the hired girl to the most abstruse problems of society and government. In the summer she goes to Long Branch and Saratoga, and is accom- [Page 280]  panied by her daughter, born in Kansas, a girl who has caught in the meshes of her hair the light of the Kansas sun, and in her eyes the violet shadow that girts the Kansas sky at evening. With this beauteous companion she goes about the world, blessed with that calm serenity which characterizes people who have an assured position; who do not want the earth, because they already possess all of it worth having. But if you would disturb this dignified repose; if you would see the frown of Juno, and hear something like the thunder of Jupiter, just intimate to her that Kansas is not the best country in the world, or that it was ever anything else.

"And today in Kansas song and story stands Kansas woman. She has climbed through difficulties to the realms of the stars. Below her lower the dark clouds, and mutter the reverberating thunders of civil strife; below her are the mists of doubt and difficulty; below her are the cold snows and bleak winds of adversity; above her God's free heaven, and before her Kansas as she shall be in the shining, golden tomorrow."


[Page 277] 

Mrs. Eugene F. Ware is a native of Straftsbury, Vt. She was born June 19, 1849. Her parents were George Huntington and Abigail Galustra. She graduated from Vassar College in 1870, and has traveled through the United States, Canada and Europe. She married Eugene F. Ware ("Ironquill") of Kansas, and is the mother of four children. Mrs. Ware is a woman of rare culture and refinement; devoted to the best interests of society. In religious faith she is a Christian, and a member of the Baptist Church. Her postoffice address is Topeka, Kan.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom