Ordinary Unitarians: Martha Ziegler

As the years go by, I find I’m less interested in how famous or “important” Unitarian Universalists live their lives, and increasingly interested in the lives of ordinary Unitarians and Universalists. Maybe this is because I don’t know any important or famous Unitarian Universalists, but I’ve known lots of ordinary Unitarian Universalists. With that in mind, here’s a brief biography of Martha Clara Elizabeth Ziegler Greenlaw [a.k.a. Reynolds, Seymour, and Fancher], a member of the old Unitarian Church of Palo Alto:

A housewife and mother who experienced more than her share of domestic challenges and tragedies, Martha Clara Elizabeth Ziegler was born Feb. 27, 1894, in Chicago. In 1900, she was living in Hyde Park Township (which became part of Chicago). She lived with her father Gustav, a machinist’s helper, who had been born in Denmark; her mother Ida, who had been born in Germany; and her younger brother Charles.

When she was 17 years old, on Aug. 1, 1911, she married Charles Greenlaw (q.v.) in Chicago, Ill. Charles worked for American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) installing new phone systems in communities across the country, and his job required him to relocate every few months. His wife and a growing number of children had to move with him, and some of their moves can be traced from the birthplaces of their four children: Arnold Ziegler (q.v.) was born July 12, 1912, in Chicago; Colin Torrey was born March 27, 1914, in Baltimore, Md. (q.v.); Morrison Bronk was born Aug. 3, 1918, in San Francisco; and Margery Ellen was born Nov. 3, 1920, in Chicago. All these moves put strain on the family.

To try to reduce some of the strain on the family, from about 1918 to 1920 they spent significant amounts of time in a cabin Charles owned in Willits, Calif. But soon they had to move again, and in January, 1920, they were living in Detroit, Mich. And by 1923, the family had moved to 523 Webster St. in Palo Alto.

Martha joined the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto in 1923. The names of her two oldest children, Arnold and Colin, were noted as having excellent attendance records in 1924. After her second marriage, she was listed in the 1926 “List of Resident Members” of the church as “Mrs. James E. Reynolds.”

Charles and Martha’s marriage came apart around 1923, and they probably divorced in 1924. By late 1924, Martha was living without Charles at 523 Webster St., and she was working as a stenographer. She was a single mother and caring for a four year old daughter; Charles had custody of the three older boys.

Soon after her divorce, on Dec. 22, 1924, Martha married James Edward Reynolds, and Rev. Elmo Arnold Robinson of the Unitarian Church officiated at the wedding. She and James had one child together, James E., Jr. (b. c. 1927, Calif.), and she of course also had custody of Margery. However, James and Martha’s marriage only lasted about five years because James developed tuberculosis and died around 1929. Once again, Martha was single, this time with two children under the age of ten.

Once again, Martha quickly remarried, this time to Fred Wesley Seymour (b. c. 1887, Ill.), who was known at various times as both Fred and Wesley. By 1930, they were living in Redwood City with Margery Greenlaw and James E. Reynolds Jr., now known as Edward. At some point between 1930 and 1934, Fred Wesley adopted James, Jr., who then became known as Peter Owen Seymour.

Martha’s third marriage also ended quickly, and again because her husband died. Fred Wesley worked for as a yardman in a railroad yard, and around 1934 he died in an accident on the Southern Pacific Railroad. By 1935, Martha had moved back to Palo Alto to live with Marjorie and Peter, who were now in their early teens.

Around 1940, Martha married for the fourth time, this time to Earl Fancher (b. c. 1883, N.Y.). In 1940, she was living with Earl in Fremont Township, Santa Clara County, along with her daughter Margery and her son Peter. However, this marriage, too, only lasted a few years, though this time the marriage ended with her death.

She died March 19, 1946, in Glendale, Calif. In her short 52 year life, she had had five children and lived through a stressful first marriage which ended in divorce, and she had buried two other husbands. I’d like to imagine that the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto provided some support to her during her divorce and remarriage, and it seems unfortunate that the church had mostly ceased existence during her second husband’s final illness and death, a time when a church could have been a real support.

Notes: 1900, 1920, 1930, 1940 U.S. Census; Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920; Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920; Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates for Arnold Ziegler Greenlaw, Marjorie Ellen Greenlaw; Calif. Birth Index, Calif. Death Index, and U.S. Social Security Death Index for Morrison Bronk Greenlaw; Russ Greenlaw, “Martha Clara Elizabeth Fancher formerly Ziegler aka Greenlaw, Reynolds, Seymour,” from “Family records and recollections of Alberta Seymour,” Wikitree Web site www.wikitree.com/wiki/Ziegler-463 accessed Aug. 1, 2020; Directory of Palo Alto, Mayfield, Stanford University, Ravenswood, and East Palo Alto, Palo Alto: Willis Hall, 1924, 1925 [Martha is listed as living alone at 523 Webster St. in the 1925 Directory, which was after she had married James Reynolds; but the information for the directory was probably collected in 1924]. Genealogical information from familysearch.org except where noted.

Adding links to video series

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing and producing videos nearly every week for the online worship services at the UU Church of Palo Alto. For my own reference, I just created blog posts for each of the videos I’ve done so far, including a still from the video, a link to the video on Youtube, and a full script. The posts are backdated to the Sunday on which the video appeared in the worship service.

You can see all these blog posts here.

Clicking on the image above will take you to my Youtube channel where the videos are posted

Obscure Unitarians: Bertha Louise Chapman Cady

This is a major revision of an earlier short biography of Bertha Cady Chapman.

A writer, biologist, and sexuality educator, Bertha Louise Chapman was born July 5, 1873, in Santa Barbara, Calif., the daughter of Truman (sometimes given as “Freeman”) Fletcher Chapman and Mary Elizabeth Furlong Chapman; Bertha’s older sister Elizabeth Corinne Chapman had been born in the same place in 1870. By August, 1873, the family was living in San Buenaventura (now known as Ventura), Calif., where Truman worked as a druggist.

After Bertha was born in 1873, Truman became involved in mining, and he moved the family to New Mexico to operate mines there. In 1880, Bertha, her parents, and both siblings were living in Las Vegas. Truman was the postmaster of Las Vegas, New Mexico, from Jan., 1878, to Sept., 1880. In 1880, he owned the St. Nicholas Hotel on the Plaza. Las Vegas had grown into a bustling town with the coming of the railroad in 1878, but the Plaza retained a distinctly Southwestern flavor:

“The Plaza is in the center of the town.…About the center of the Plaza is the relic of the old well, the windmill having been torn down, and the well long out of use. It was the scene of [a] horrible sight this Spring, as on the night of February 9th the vigilantes hung one cowboy to the windmill, and laid his two companions out beneath him, riddled with bullets, because of their murder of Joe Carson, a few weeks previous. The Plaza is the principal market for the produce of the farmers.… Almost daily one will see large droves of burros standing about, loaded with wools, hides, or pelts.…Little, narrow, crooked streets lead out from the Plaza, and on all side of the town are scattered those queer little adobes, which give the place its ancient and foreign appearance to strangers.” (H. T. Wilson, Historical Sketch of Las Vegas, New Mexico [Chicago: Hotel World Pub., 1880?], p. 18)

This is the town where Bertha lived when she was perhaps 5 to 8 years old.

In 1884, Truman was managing the Bullion Mine in the Black Range mining district of New Mexico, some 300 miles from Las Vegas, N.M.; this mine was then “producing large quantities of high grade ore.” It’s not clear whether the Chapman family as a whole lived near the mine. By 1888, Truman was back in California, now living in Oakland, presumably with his family.

Bertha entered Stanford Univ. in 1891, receiving her A.B. in English in 1895; her sister Elizabeth graduated from Stanford in that same year. Bertha had also begun studying biology, especially entomology. Beginning in 1896, she was a coauthor for some of the volumes of the “New Mallophaga” [bird lice] series published by Stanford Univ., for which series Stanford professor Vernon Kellogg (q.v.) was the lead author. Bertha attended the summer session of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory in 1897. She joined the Cooper Ornithological Club in March, 1901. She received her A.M. in entomology from Stanford in 1902. She also did additional study in entomology at the Univ. of Calif. in Berkeley, probably after 1902.

Bertha taught zoology and botany at Santa Barbara High School, probably between 1895 and c. 1897. She was teaching zoology and botany at Paso Robles High School by 1899, but later that year she was working as Library Assistant at Stanford (perhaps so she could pursue additional studies at the university?).

In 1900, Bertha lived at 120 East 14th St., Oakland, Calif., with her parents and younger brother Charles; the family had a live-in servant, and Truman gave his occupation as “mining superintendent.” However, the 1900 Census also listed Truman as living as a boarder in Jicarilla, N.M., so presumably his wife and children lived in Oakland while he traveled to back and forth to New Mexico to operate mines. In 1903, he was listed as the owner of the Bullion Mine and the Last Chance Mine in New Mexico, although by this time the mines were producing less ore than previously.

From 1900 to 1907, Bertha lived in Oakland and worked in the Oakland high school where she was supervisor of nature study. In that position, she developed a series of leaflets for “Junior Naturalists,” and encouraged the use of gardens in schools as a center for nature study.

She reportedly considered attending Cornell Univ. for graduate study, but instead went to the Univ. of Chicago to study. By 1907, she was working under Otis Caldwell at the university, and working as Asst. Supervisor of Nature Study at the Univ. of Chicago, probably in the Univ. Elementary School; she remained in that job until 1909.

During the summer of 1908, she lived at the Abraham Lincoln Center, a Unitarian congregation and community center. Vernon Mosher Cady (q.v.) was also living there that summer. The two married on Dec. 15, 1908; the wedding ceremony was held at the Center, and the officiant was Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a well-known Unitarian minister of the time.

After their marriage, Bertha subordinated her career to Vernon’s career. Bertha’s graduate study was put on hold for a time, while the couple moved to where Vernon found jobs. He served as Unitarian minister in Alton, Ill., from 1908 to 1909, then as Unitarian minister in Kansas City, Mo., from 1909-1910. He then left the ministry and switched careers, working at Central Registration Bureau of Charities in New York City from 1912 to 1917, while also studying at Columbia.

Bertha and Vernon had two children, Carol Chapman Cady (b. Feb. 2, 1910, Missouri; q.v.) and Jean Mosher Cady (b. July 28, 1912, Calif.; q.v.). While her children were young, there is little record of her professional activities, and she probably devoted most of her time to raising her children; though she did do some work as lecturer and field secretary for the Social Hygiene Assoc. from 1914 to 1924, a part-time and possibly volunteer position. (There was some overlap between the social hygiene movement and the eugenics movement at this time, but no evidence was found that either Bertha or Vernon were active eugenicists.)

She and Vernon returned to California in 1917 when Bertha’s parents became ill. She managed to do some graduate study at the Univ. of Calif. in Berkeley while also caring for her parents and her children. In 1918, Bertha taught at biology at Calif. State Teachers College in Chico, filling in for Prof. Cyril Stebbins, who was doing war work.

The family moved to Palo Alto in 1921 so Vernon could study at Stanford. Bertha worked as a lecturer at Stanford 1921-1923, and also finally completed her Ph.D. in entomology; she was 50 years old. Her dissertation was titled “A study of the supposed toxic properties of insect infested cereal food products.”

While living in Palo Alto, Bertha taught the 4th and 5th grade Sunday school class at the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto in the 1921-22 school year; he daughter Carol, then eleven years old, was in her class. She and Vernon made financial contributions to the church in 1923.

The family then moved to New York, again following Vernon’s career, and by 1930 she and Vernon were living in Manhattan, N.Y. City, with Carol. Bertha began working as the chief naturalist for the Girl Scouts in 1924, producing curriculum and other materials. In June, 1925, The Girl Scout Leader newsletter (vol. 2, no. 6, p. 1) carried her article, “Nature for the Girl Scout Who Does Not Go to Camp,” in which Bertha encourages girls to be open and curious and investigate the natural world wherever they may be:

“It is not only the Girl Scout in a summer camp who has the chance to discover what a truly wonderful world we are living in. No matter how congested a city you may be in, nature is generous enough, universal enough to be there with her cheer.… In place of passing by the English sparrows on the street, it might be a lovely thing to watch them feeding, courting, and quarreling. They are noisy little gamins and yet one who knows how to see the interesting things that an English sparrow has to tell will be far more ready to learn of other birds’ ways.”

This captures a key element of Bertha’s teaching: Nature is all around us, and we can always learn by looking and observing.

In 1921, she had been appointed Special Investigator in the U.S. Department of Education for the Interdepartmental Hygiene Board, working in the five normal schools (or teacher’s colleges) of California. She continued with government social hygiene work through at least 1932. From 1924 to 1935, she was executive secretary of the coordinating council on nature activities at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. She continued working for the Girl Scouts as their head naturalist until her retirement in 1935.

Bertha’s career encompassed biology and education, and in addition to some scientific papers (see above), she published books for young people. Probably her best-known book today is The Way Life Begins: An Introduction to Sex Education (New York: American Social Hygiene Assoc., 1917), a pioneering sexuality education guide for young people, which she cowrote with her husband Vernon; this book linked nature study with what was then known as “sex hygiene education.” She wrote Tami: The Story of a Chipmunk, an environmental fable for children, which was published in 1927. She wrote regularly for the Girl Scouts, including nature guides, nature study materials, and articles for the magazine American Girl.

She lectured frequently throughout her career. By 1940, she was living in Florida with Vernon, and gave her occupation as “Lecturing / adult education.”

In 1956, she was invited to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the American Nature Study Society’s Nature Study Review, and one person present remembered her “as a slender, radiant white-haired guest of honor sitting on the stage with…Roger Tory Peterson…” and other eminent naturalists. When photographs of the event were mailed to her, her daughter replied saying that a few days afterwards, she had died in her sleep.

Bertha died Jan. 26, 1956.

Notes: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 U.S. Census; Durward Howes, American Women, 1935-1940, A-L (Gale Research Co., 1981), p. 139; Great Register of Ventura County–Supplement, Calif. Great Registers (voting lists); Mining Record, vol. XVL, Dec. 20, 1884, p. 394; Great Register, Alameda County, Calif. Great Registers; Postmaster Finder, Postmasters by City, Las Vegas, New Mexico, U.S. Postal Service Web site webpmt.usps.gov/pmt003d.cfm?param_pofc_key=35187 accessed July 17, 2020; Donald G. Kohrs, “Hopkins Seaside Laboratory of Natural History,” web.stanford.edu/group/seaside/pdf/hsl5.pdf accessed July 17, 2020; Annual Register, Stanford Univ., 1900; The Condor, Cooper Ornithological Club, May, 1901, p. 87; Report of the Governor of New Mexico to the Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1903; Guide to Nature, Agassiz Assoc., 1909, p. 312; Alumni Directory, Stanford Univ., 1899, 1910, 1921, 1932; Unity, Chicago, Unity Publishing, Abraham Lincoln Center, Jan. 7, 1909, p. 293; Oakland Tribune, Dec. 9, 1908 (gives the name of the officiating clergy as “Lloyd Paul Jones”); Catalogue of Officers and Students for 1917-1918, University of California (Berkeley, 1918); “Educational News and Notes,” School and Society, July 16, 1921, p. 32; James McKeen Cattell, Leaders in Education: A Biographical Dictionary (R.R. Bowker, 1941), p. 150; Helen Ross Russell, “75 Years of the American Nature Study Society,” Nature Study (vol. 37, nos. 1 & 2) archived online at brandwein.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/75-Years-of-The-American-Nature-Study-Society-…-Helen-Ross-Russell.pdf accessed July 17, 2020.

Bertha Cady Chapman remains of interest today as a woman scientist and educator who had to balance her career in science with family life, and a more detailed biography would be welcome. For an outline of her professional career, including the connection between sexuality education and nature study, see Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Teaching Children Science: Hands-On Nature Study in North America, 1890-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2014), pp. 141, 162-163. See also Tiffany K. Wayne, American Women of Science Since 1900, vol. 1 (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2011), p. 275.

It was supposed to be a workbench

A couple of years ago, Carol got some locally-harvested eucalyptus boards from her friend Darrel in Richmond. In addition to being an architect, Darrell runs a side business turning urban trees that need to be cut down into useable boards. We traded a spare router that I happened to have on hand for a few boards.

I finally have the time to do something with these boards. First I made myself a simple workbench. The boards had cupped pretty dramatically, and I had fun scribing the parts to fit to one another. Since this was just a workbench, I nailed the base together, attaching the top with brass screws (brass is softer than steel so it won’t dull sharp tools). Flattening the top proved to be a challenge. Although eucalyptus works like poplar in many ways, the grain is so intergrown that if you plane it you get lots of tearouts. Fortunately, the local Home Despot had a demonstration model belt sander that they sold me for thirty bucks.

When I got done putting a couple of coats of spar varnish on the workbench, it looked pretty good, with the deep red of the wood, the unplaned natural edges, and the organic curving lines of the cupped and warped boards — good enough that we brought it inside, where it provides a little more counter space in our tiny kitchen.

The workbench, repurposed in the kitchen as a counter.

Now I wish I’d taken more care with the joinery. But after all, it was just supposed to be a workbench.

Improvised oil lamp

We’ve been having some warm evenings here, warm enough to sit outside in our small back patio. I wanted to sit and the patio and read, so I picked up the LED lantern we have as emergency lighting. We now have to have emergency lanterns on hand because Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has decided that in times of high fire danger, it’s cheaper to turn off power than to actually spend their shareholder’s money to upgrade their crumbling infrastructure.

The problem with LED lanterns is that you have to keep buying batteries. Plus the LED lanterns we have tend to have weird internal reflections and shadows. I looked at Carol’s collection of oil lamp parts, harvested from her scrounging expeditions, but unfortunately there weren’t enough compatible parts to make one working oil lamp.

Surely there must be a way to make a simple oil lamp without buying anything, I thought to myself. A quick Web search revealed lots of DIY plans for a glass jar oil lamp, all of which probably stem from an old Mother Earth News article on the subject.

I took one of Carol’s Mason jars, cut a piece of cotton string for the wick, and bent a piece of wire to hold the wick up, and poured in some olive oil (the only vegetable oil we happened to have on hand). The tiny wick didn’t produce enough light to read by, so I braided three pieces of string together. Now the lamp produced enough light to read by.

The glass jar oil lamp in use; I put it on an upside down clay plant pot to raise it up.

Unfortunately, with the bigger wick, the lamp produced a lot of smoke; I’d never use this lamp indoors. And the glass jar didn’t adequately shield the flame from the evening breezes, so the flame flickered and jumped, making it hard to read; in fact, I had to leave the LED lantern turned on to have enough light to read.

There’s a reason manufactured oil lamps have elaborate glass chimneys, and large flat wicks the height of which can be adjusted by a turn screw. Those technological innovations provide more light, and prevent the lamp from smoking. The glass jar oil lamp is better than nothing, so it’s useful for emergency lighting if you don’t have anything else. But with fire season due to begin soon, and with the continued incompetence of PG&E suggesting that we’re going to have more power outages this fire season, I guess I’d better bite the bullet and buy some manufactured oil lamps, with wide flat wicks and glass chimneys.

Creolizing schooling

In the Black Issues in Philosophy series on the blog of the American Philosophical Association, Josue Ricardo Lopez, assistant professor at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, writes about creolizing schooling:

“The project of creolizing schooling underscores political education as the central project of schooling. It is based on what Jane Anna Gordon in Creolizing Political Theory [Reading Rousseau through Fanon (Fordham Univ. Press, 2014)] argues are at least three principles of creolization: building from the commonalities across our differences, respecting the most salient of our differences, and recognizing that the political is always open to contestation and negotiation.”

I hear echoes of Paolo Friere, John Dewey, and Maxine Greene in what Lopez is saying. Lopez goes beyond Dewey’s concept of educating for democracy, by framing the issue in terms of decolonizing, by considering who American democracy was designed for. As for Friere, he addressed a specific kind of adult education, whereas Lopez is specifically looking at schooling for children and teens.

Also of importance: creolizing is different from multiculturalism. In multiculturalism, cultures exist side by side; creolizing means that cultures change through their interaction with one another. Multiculturalism in education can have the tendency to make non Euro-American cultures invisible; by contrast, creolization

I do have a minor quibble with Lopez’s essay. Lopez rightly points out that “distinct projects will call for different knowledges.” However, the vision of what different knowledges might offer is too narrow. As someone trained in the visual arts, I rolled my eyes when the best Lopez could come up with for the visual arts was “artistic knowledge becomes important for turning brick walls into a canvas for murals that reflects the beauty of the community.” Yet the essay incorporates two infographics that I’ve seen too many times and that actually distract from the main arguments of the essay; if Lopez had cooperated with someone with visual training, there could have been graphics that amplified, rather than distracted from, the essay. Of course, Lopez reflects the bias of the academy: the written word is always considered superior, and the arts are poorly understood and relegated to a minor supporting role. In today’s political struggles, we need digital photographs, videos, animations, infographics, memes, video game design, user interfaces — site-specific murals and other site-specific artworks can be important for local communities, but online media is where young people can make a much bigger impact. (Parenthetical note: when it comes to the arts and education, Maxine Greene’s legacy is worth remembering: she engaged seriously with hip hop and other musicians, artists, etc., and through this engagement acknowledged that music and the arts have something unique to offer in education.)

In spite of this minor quibble, Lopez’s essay is well worth reading. This passage really struck me:

“I worked in Connecticut with Caribbean and Latin American high school students who recently arrived in the United States. There were multiple cultures, languages, religions, and perspectives students brought with them. However, their unique insights, needs, and interests were considered secondary if at all by the school….”

How can the unique insights, needs, and interests become matters of primary importance? How can the school use those unique insights and interests to address real world political issues? John Dewey said, “I believe that education … is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” And Lopez is expanding that notion for a globalized and multicultural society to include the project of decolonizing.

Now I’m waiting for the book on creolizing schooling….