Saturday, October 13, 2018

MAHLER | First Public Piano Concert, Oct 13, 1870

Mahler at 43.
NEW YORK CITY, October 13, 2018–This day in 1870, at ten years of age, Gustav Mahler gave his first piano concert.

Mahler was born in Bohemia on 7 July 1860. He went on to become an early world-famous conductor. He was also a composer, with ten symphonies to his credit when he died on 18 May 1911 at a young 50.

His music was appreciated by other leading conductors, and one of his biggest followings was in Amsterdam, at the Concertgebouw, which was founded in part through a campaign by Charles Boissevain, editor-publisher of the Algemeen Handelsblad.

Members of the Boissevain family were heavily involved with the Concertgebouw in the first few decades of the 20th century and several became friends of Mahler. A famous photo by Han de Booy (married to Hilda Boissevain and therefore my great-uncle) of Mahler with the Concertgebouw crowd was featured on a Dutch stamp.

He graduated from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878 and after a series of apointmenets at various opera houses he became in 1897 director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). Mahler converted to Catholicism to secure the post, but was regularly attacked by the anti-Semitic Austrian press.

Photo of Mahler by Han de Booy, at
Zandvoort; de Booy married Hilda
Boissevain, sister of Inez
Milholland's husband Eugen. 
Years after his death, during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, Mahler was allowed to be performed initially because he was German. But because he was Jewish, performing his music was discouraged and Wehrmacht soldiers were sent to stand in the back as a signal. The Concertgebouw was in the middle of the dispute, and its decisions pleased neither the occupiers nor the Dutch patriots who exiled the conductor after the war.

Ironically, the ban against Mahler piqued interest in his work and after 1945 his work became more popular than it was during his lifetime. Also, his music was advanced when he composed it, but with many other conductors following in his footsteps the modern ear is more attuned to his music. He became one of the most frequently performed of composers.

BBC Music Magazine surveyed 151 conductors in 2016 and they ranked three of Mahler's symphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time.

As a conductor, he was one of the greatest opera interpreters in history, including the works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. He was for a time director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

R.I.P. | Charles Boissevain

Your blogger (L) and the late Charles
"Leidschendam" Boissevain, who was
driving us from Amsterdam to Haarlem.
EAST HAMPTON, NY, Sept. 2, 2018–I recently heard from Aviva Boissevain that her father Charles died earlier this year.

Charles was active in remembering his family's contributions to the Dutch Resistance in World War II and he was a stickler for accuracy. 

Many things that I wrote he would review with me and question this and question that. The fact that information may have come from another member of the family did not matter to him. His questions were about the reliability or the probability of a fact.

He would ask me:
  • How could that person know that fact? How old was that person at the time?
  • Is there any corroboration?
  • Is it even probable? Isn't there another interpretation?
As Loe de Jong, the great historian of World War II in Holland said of himself in a talk he gave to Harvard University after the war, he likes his history like his sherry, dry.

Charles and his twin sister Hester (named after their great-grandparents Charles the newspaper publisher and his twin sister Hester) were the youngest children of Bob Boissevain. The entire family received a Yad Vashem award.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

WOMEN'S RIGHTS | Oxford Celebrates Progress

Jane Fleetwood in front of the Weston
Library, part of the Bodleian, in Oxford.
Sept. 5, 2018–Our friends Blake and Jane Fleetwood recently visited two exhibits in Oxford celebrating the talents and advancement of women.

One is at the Weston Library, next to Blackwell's ancient bookstore.

Here we are, 170 years after the Seneca Falls Convention on the Rights of Women, and one year after the Women's March of 2017.

In between, the United States had the activism of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States, followed by the new wave of activists like Inez Milholland and Alice Paul who got the job done.

An ongoing exhibit at the recently refurbished Weston Library, what used to be called the New Bodleian, shows the progress of women's rights "From Sappho to Suffrage" with a focus on the "Women Who Dared".

The leaders of the American suffrage movement trained with the British suffragettes, who were led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, collectively called with their followers the Pankhursts. Ironically, the American students of the Pankhursts won full suffrage nearly a decade before the British leaders did. This year is the centennial of the 1918 British Representation of the People Act, a permanent expansion of the electorate (there was a temporary expansion during the Great War to the active-duty military). It won votes only for women who owned property and were over 30. All men over 21 had the right to vote, but it would be ten more years before all women in Britain over 21 had the right to vote; it had to wait for the death of Emmeline Pankhurst, who was controversial.

Meanwhile, the death of Inez Milholland and Woodrow Wilson's arrogant response to an appeal to him after her death precipitated picketing of the White House until a harrowed Wilson capitulated and supported the Anthony Amendment. It was passed soon after Wilson supported it and the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920.

The Weston Library show in Oxford includes banners, texts, medieval bookbindings, photographs, posters, letters, musical scores, and the sole extant edition of the board game “Suffragette”.  The object of the game is for players to get their tokens onto squares representing Albert Hall and the House of Commons.

While you are in Oxford, don't miss the other women's exhibit, "Spellbound", about Magic and Witches, at the Ashmolean, a two-minute walk to the other end of Broad Street, opposite the venerable Randolph Hotel. And, of course, don't miss the Tolkien Exhibit, also at the on-the-ball Weston Library; the Tolkien Exhibit is free but requires a reservation to control the flow. You pay £1 for the reservation or you just show up and queue up and take your chances on getting admitted because when the maximum number of people are let in: They close down the queue. / Don't let that happen to eue!

Monday, August 6, 2018

BIRTH | Aug 6–Inez Milholland Boissevain 1886-1916

This poster of Inez is
available for $30.
August 6, 2018–Inez Milholland was born this day in Brooklyn, New York. She was the first child of John E. Milholland, a second-generation immigrant from Northern Ireland and a newspaper editor who became wealthy as owner of a pneumatic tube system he sold to post offices. John Milholland was married to Jean Torry, a proper Bostonian with Scottish ancestry.

Inez grew up first in Brooklyn and then on Madison Square Park in Manhattan in the Flatiron District (subject of a recent story in The New York Times). 

Inez was married in London in July 1913 to Eugen Boissevain (my grandmother's brother) after a whirlwind courtship aboard a Cunard liner (the Mauretania, sister ship of, and faster than, the Lusitania). 

She died in November 1916 while traveling only with her sister Vida on a speaking tour to take Woodrow Wilson to task for not supporting the Anthony Amendment. She collapsed during a speech in Los Angeles, right after the sentence: "How long, Mr. President, must women wait for liberty?" This was a popular banner that the National Woman's Party picketers carried during the long picket of the White House that turned the tide in favor of suffrage.

An enlarged durable version of the poster of Inez that was prepared after her death is available from Boissevain Books for $30:

I wrote about Inez and her death on the 100th anniversary of her death two years ago:

Inez Milholland was recently nominated among ten women to be the subject of a statue in NY City:

Thanks to Long Island Suffrage for remembering Inez's birthday!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

STATUE IN NYC | Inez One of Ten NY Times Nominees

Inez Milholland at NY City woman suffrage parade in 1913. She was an accomplished equestrian from her vacations in Lewis, N.Y. Source: Library of Congress
(from Bain News Service).
Inez Milholland's life, "though it lasted only 30 years, was cinematic."

Summary of her life (with a few additions here to the NY Times bio):
  • 1905-09 Campus activist at Vassar College, fighting for suffrage as the President, James Monroe Taylor, tried to silence all discussion as political.
  • 1909 Rejected by Harvard and other U.S. law schools, and Oxford, because she was a woman. Harvard law school faculty accepted her but was overruled by the administration. Accepted by NYU.
  • 1909 Arrested after demonstrating with striking women shirtwaist workers.
  • 1909 Interrupted a campaign parade for President William Howard Taft, in New York, asking what he had done for the right of women to vote.
  • 1912 Led woman suffrage parade in New York City. Received NYU Law School degree.
  • 1913, March Led huge woman suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. 
  • 1913 Wrote a harsh report on prison conditions at Sing Sing for her firm, one of whose partners was Osborne.
  • 1913, July Proposed marriage to a Dutch tobacco importer (later coffee importer) on board the Mauretania, and remained committed to free love; they were married secretly in London.
  • 1915-16 Went on Ford Peace Ship and got off in Sweden because of patriarchy on the boat. Covered the Great War in Italy as a journalist, before getting thrown out of the country for negative reporting (she was a pacifist).
  • 1916 Set out on a long whistle-stop train tour with her sister Vida, rallying support for the Federal Anthony Amendment.
  • 1916, October Collapsed in Los Angeles, from exhaustion and anemia. After daily notices in the newspapers nationwide about her status, she died in November.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Saturday, July 21, 2018

CENTRAL PARK STATUE | Bergmann to Sculpt Anthony and Stanton

Model of Statue Being Sculpted
for Central Park, New York City.
NEW YORK, N.Y., July 20, 2018–A statue of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be placed in Central Park, New York City.

Progress toward this goal has moved along to selection of the sculptor, Meredith Bergmann. A model of her statue is shown at left.

The statue will be located on the Literary Walk on the Mall in Central Park.

See also story on ten women nominated for statues by the New York Times (one of them is Inez Milholland Boissevain):

For more information: .