The Congress of Women: Development in Eastern Washington

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Development in Eastern Washington[1]

Mrs. Jennie F. Drake White was born in Maine. Her parents were Joseph T. Drake and Betsy Longfellow Chapman Drake (a relative of the poet Longfellow). She was educated in the seminary now known as Ricker Classical Institute, Houlton, Me. She has traveled extensively in America and Eastern Canada. She married Robinson G. White in 1879, and is the mother of one son. Her principal literary works are numerous poems, essays, addresses and sermons. Her profession is that of a journalist, at present a member of the editorial staff of the Spokane Daily and Weekly Chronicle. In religious faith she is a Universalist, and occasionally supplies the pulpit of that church, though she is not a minister. Mrs. White is still young, being little more than thirty years of age, and is now at work on a novel bearing on social conditions, which critics declare will win notice, being quite unusual in lines of thought. Her postoffice address is Chronicle office, Spokane, Wash.

The theme assigned me for this address is "Art and Educational Facilities for the Women of Eastern Washington." These are both influenced much by the surroundings and conditions of life. What a country for art is our loved Washington! Here are the well-known Palouse or Yakima valleys, responding to the invitation of man with fruit-burdened tree, rich green grass and waving golden grain, bursting forth so wonderfully prolific as to astonish their owners, and in many places retaining a moisture beneath the surface which sustains them in the greatest degree of abundance in fruitage and harvest, even though for months not a drop of rain falls.

Where still uncultivated the prairies are dotted with flowers of every hue, which succeed each other in order, spreading a perfect carpet of golden buttercups first in the springtime, followed by purple, pink, scarlet or blue, each in its season predominating, though hundreds of varieties can often be found in a day's collecting.

Through these valleys wander ever beautiful rivers, carrying the bright sparkling waters from the mountain rills and snows. Gradually rise the foot hills, or suddenly the rocky bluffs, while far away and above tower the ever snow-capped mountain peaks, and when one of our glorious sunsets floods all in golden glory; when clear across the sky flames the crimson, gold and amber, touching the edge of every cloud into a radiant, dazzling brilliancy, while every shade from these to deepest purple may be traced, so softly blended; then these snowy peaks are capped with living, blazing gold, as if the dear old mountains sought to express to man their knowledge of the pure gold and silver hidden below.

Dead indeed would be the soul not stirred as by a master's power; poor indeed the talent not inspired by such scenes, ever changing, yet always grand, bold, sublime.

Washington has been ever courteous to her daughters in many ways. There are no schools from which they are excluded within her boundaries, and there was a time when they voted in all elections, united with their brothers in the work of caucus and committee, sat on juries and served in positions of trust not usually open to women; yet we believe our women are as gentle and womanly, as good and true as any in the whole wide world, and we try very hard indeed not to ape airs masculine.

Today we vote at school elections and serve on school boards, but the greater privileges or responsibilities have been removed from our hands. Many hesitate about coming to the great Northwest with their families, fearing the loss of educational advantages in our savage wilds. They are greatly surprised when they arrive.

No state in America has more beautiful, commodious and improved school buildings than we have in the new State of Washington, or better conducted schools within them. A hamlet is started on some quiet hillside near a running stream, a few cots, a mill, a store, a schoolhouse, and, later, when the children are provided for, a church and in a year quite a little village, with electric lights, water plant and other modern necessities, has appeared as if by magic.

The High School of Spokane is a beautiful brick structure, with neat playgrounds and green sloping yards. A photograph of it may be seen in the Washington school exhibit, as well as an excellent model carved in wood by the pupils. In every part of the city stand similar buildings, though not so commodious, and other cities of our state are equally well provided. We have agricultural colleges, business colleges, church colleges, and in all of them excellent teachers in every department.

In giving you a brief sketch of the departments of art and educational work in which Washington women are interested, I will present my own city of Spokane as the type, and you will please remember that we have many other cities which to a greater or less degree are repetitions of what is really the leading city of Eastern Washington, though not the oldest.

That art is highest which is most free from things material, hence the goddess of music leads them all. And we are great music lovers in the Northwest. At the concert given as a test of the ability of six young ladies to represent us as state singers from Washington at this great fair, in this yet greater Chicago, our large opera house was packed to the doors and hundreds were unable to enter.

The young ladies rendered classical selections in a manner to win storms of applause. Numerous floral tributes crossed the footlights, and when Miss Berry of Walla Walla sang, a shower of roses and lilies fell around her from boxes and balcony. The state has a host of charming singers, and Palouse City is the happy possessor of a ladies' brass band, which is the pride of Eastern Washington. They play with much skill and accuracy many difficult selections, and are highly applauded in every locality. Their uniforms are neat and becoming, and they are cultivated ladies, every one of them.

Our Conservatory of Music is conducted entirely by women, with the best teachers obtainable in vocal and instrumental music, physical culture and voice training.

We have a Mozart Club, which employs a professor of high musical ability as instructor, and which presents the compositions of the old masters in a manner to win applause from a critical audience, and which for variety occasionally favors the public with light opera.

We have a school of oratory, also classes in elocution and movements, excellently managed by women. Spokane is also very proud of its Young Ladies' Seminary, where all departments of modern education are taught, with teachers who have had the advantage of foreign travel and years of study in Germany in painting and music.

The citizens of Washington are fortunate in all lines of education, and the advantages offered their children, and especially so in the knowledge that their daughters can have such care and instruction at home. If the work continues as it is now so well begun, St. Mary's will ere long rival the famous schools of the East, to which our daughters have been accustomed to go for finished education.

Several art studios are owned by women who teach in every department of drawing and painting. An art league is in active work, with excellent teachers in landscape painting, china decoration, wood carving, molding and art needlework. Lessons are given by the League, which numbers more ladies than gentlemen by far, at low prices, to those who desire to learn and who cannot afford private lessons.

The paintings in the Washington State buildings are largely the work of her daughters, as are the collection of three hundred varieties of wild flowers done in water colors, and well worth the time of looking over.

A kindergarten is also sustained in each of these schools, and private kindergartens in different parts of the state are preparing the little ones for the next step in life's advancement, aiding as well in building up healthy, robust bodies for the spirit's dwelling-place. Each of these is duplicated again and again. Walla Walla, having the best of educational privileges; Yakima being ornamented by school buildings which are a credit to the enterprise of her citizens. Ellensburgh has, in connection with the other departments of knowledge, which are her pride, our State Normal School, Pullman our Agricultural College, and all the lesser towns and cities their fair proportion of honors educational.

In women's clubs Spokane has the Cultus Club, with membership limited to twenty-five, holding weekly parlor meetings devoted to the study of literature, music, art, science and theology, giving entertainments frequently and having as its aim mutual improvement and social enjoyment. The Spokane Indians use the word "Cultus," meaning "no good," or "know nothing." The Spokane Sorosis, named for the New York Club so well known to you all, contains a larger membership studies parliamentary usages, the constitution and national laws, and includes literature, history, art, science and questions of the day in its discussions.

The Daughters of Rebekah and the Eastern Star Lodge are large, well organized societies, while Daughters of Veterans, young ladies' institutes and similar societies add much to social pleasures, and the aid ever derived from intelligent conversation, well written papers and discussion, such as are of frequent occurrence at regular and special meetings prevailing under the direction of each of these.

In literature we have many prolific writers of prose and poetry, whose bright original style in both lines of literature promises to bring them recognition even beyond the confines of the West. Several woman journalists are connected with the editorial staffs of our daily papers, and contribute also to journals and magazines of the East, where their writings are gladly made use of. That we have no great writers, as yet is to be accounted for by the fact that we are too young; but, where everything else is so great, even our trees, our rivers and our vegetables, surely our writers, when fully developed, will measure up to the average. Allow me to close with a poem rendered by the poet of our Washington Press Association, who is a woman:

"Dear is this West to us
Dear as a cause becomes to men who fight
With odds against them for a righteous end,
'Till, from the blood they shed, springs greater love.
We each to the upbuilding of this land
Have freely given our manhood's fullest strength,
The strenuous push of youth's hot energy,
And ripened judgment of our later days.
At first, we came planning our own success;
Thought but to build that we might enter in;
Possess the land. But zeal, lit at this brand,
In all our hearts mounts to a higher flame.
Which of us all would now betray his place?
Or which be recreant to his chosen trust?
We who preach hope when our own hearts despair,
And hold them firm, though coward prudence
Whispers our defeat, are pledged to courage.
We bear the colors and they hold us true.
From our high hopes failure has gleaned new pain
Since we have hoped for more than selfish gain.
And yet this land for which we toil and pain
Is not our home. To every one of us
Home is some other place, and at the word
Springs a swift vision, to each different,
Yet all seen through the golden haze of time,
That mists our eyes with tender memories.
To me a village street–above the road
The May flushed maples meet in Spring's caress.
To you a low gray farmhouse, at whose door
A dear old face smiles at you through its tears;
For each of us that dear, familiar face,
We dare not think if we may see again.
Home is with them, and we are exiles here,
To build for others who come after us;
To whom this fruitful land shall be sweet home;
That is our part, and no ignoble one.
Then let us build, that, in the coming years,
When youth, untempted, strong in self-belief,
Puts our life-work to its untarnished test,
We may stand up and dare to meet
The searching inquest of those clear young eyes.

The title of the address as read was: "Art and Educational Facilities for the Women of Eastern Washington."

Sources +