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: .

Saturday, July 14, 2018

CANADA | Honoring Its Women Leaders

Who Fought For canadian Women's right To Be Recognized As Persons
Not until 1960 were all Canadian women allowed to vote. The right to vote started with the first Province, Manitoba, in 1916. Here is the sequence:
1916 – Women earned the vote in Manitoba. Alberta and Saskatchewan followed the same year. Eventually, the other seven Canadian provinces extended the vote to women as well.
1917 – Canada's federal electoral law stipulated that "idiots, madmen, criminals and judges" were not allowed to vote. It didn't mention women, and they were not allowed to vote in national elections. Robert Borden was Prime Minister in 1917. He wasn't enthusiastic about women voting, but an election was coming in the fall of 1917 and Borden needed extra votes. So women were allowed to vote on behalf of their menfolk at war, or if they were actively working on behalf of the war effort. So on September 20, 1917, Parliament passed the Wartime Elections Act. It allowed women who were British subjects and who were wives, mothers and sisters of soldiers serving in the First World War to vote on behalf of their male relatives. Women (mainly nurses) serving in the military could also vote. On December 17, 1917 some 500,000 women voted for the first time in a federal election, which was won by Borden's coalition government.
Agnes Macphail,
first elected woman
1918 – The federal government extended the right to vote to most Canadian women 21 years of age and older. Borden saying they would exert a good influence on public life. However, most women of color, including Chinese women, "Hindu" or East Indian or Japanese women, weren't allowed to vote at the provincial and federal level until the late 1940s.

1921 – Almost all women were acknowledged as having the right to vote in Canada, but an exception was made for aboriginal and Asian women. In the 1921 election, Agnes Macphail of Grey County, Ontario ran for the Progressives, a farmer-based party. She was elected and on December 6, 1921, at 31, Macphail officially became the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. MacPhail would be the only woman in Parliament until 1929, when Cairine Wilson became the first woman senator. MacPhail eventually lost her seat in 1940.
The "Famous Five" on Parliament Hill.
1929 – Women were formally recognized as persons under Canadian law.

1951 – Aboriginal women covered by the Indian Act could vote for band councils.

1960 – Aboriginal women could vote in federal elections. All Canadian women finally had the right to vote.

Read more about the fight by Canadian women to win the vote on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website for Canada: A People's History. Just click here. Or check out this site here.

Monday, March 12, 2018


L to R: Stanton, Anthony, Mott.
March 12, 2018 – Gary Ferdman's birthday is today and he wants you to give money to his campaign to have statues erected in New York City memory of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first of the two to become committed to the Votes for Women cause. Stanton was at the Seneca Falls Convention; Anthony was converted to the cause a couple of years later, although her Rochester-area Quaker family was long committed to the abolitionist movement.

Stanton met Lucretia Mott in London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Conference and the were told that women should keep quiet and sit in a special section reserved for non-voting observers. They were outraged, but Lucretia Mott went back to Philadelphia where she was a famed Quaker orator. Stanton had several children in succession and found her life as a mother in Seneca Falls to be difficult.

There is no statue to Stanton or Anthony in New York City. Famously, the statues to women are of ancient Greek or Roman gods, or Mother Goose. Mott, Stanton and Anthony are remembered in a sculpture in the U.S. Capitol building. Edna St Vincent Millay, who married the widower of Inez Milholland, wrote a poem dedicated (in the printed version) to Inez Milholland, which she read out in 1923 at an unveiling of the statue. This is the ending of a play I wrote about Milholland that was read at a fund-raiser in Vienna, Va. in 2017.

Millay and Milholland were both New Yorkers in the sense of New York City dwellers (Milholland was born in Brooklyn and lived there and on Madison Square; Millay became a Greenwich Village aficionado). It would be just as appropriate in due course to have monuments to these great women in the City. Millay was a student at Vassar when Milholland visited the college as an alumna with her husband, my mother's uncle, at Vassar's 50th Anniversary.

I have donated toward the erection of the statues to Stanton and Anthony. My second contribution is this appeal, in addition to the one I posted in 2016. Please give!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

WOMEN ON THE MARCH | 1912-2018

Inez Milholland leading the Women's March, 1913. 
There is a fine photo history of the women's parades in Washington put together by the USIA here

It focuses on Washington, D.C. and therefore omits the woman-suffrage parades in New York City. The reason that Inez Milholland was asked to head up the Washington parade is that she had led the 1912 New York City parade on her horse.

Both Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were among the 50,000 women who marched down Fifth Avenue in 1970, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women being guaranteed by the Constitution's 19th Amendment the right to vote at the Federal level.

Here are links to stories on the first day of the 2018 Women's March
and the second dayIn The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg argues that the agreement to end the shutdown sells out the Resistance and the women’s marches. Paul Krugman says it is a betrayal of the DreamersIn The New Yorker, John Cassidy thinks the effects of the women’s marches are more lasting than the shutdown. Time noted in 2016 that in 1923 (it was in advance of a memorial to Inez Milholland at her family home) many people had forgotten about Inez.

Friday, January 19, 2018

CENTENNIAL | Suffrage Marches, January 20

To find out about suffrage centennial events, consult the centennial website maintained by Marguerite Kearns and others.

The year 2017 celebrated the passage of votes for women in New York State.

In 2018, votes for women passed in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.

Monday, January 8, 2018

INEZ | Memorial March, January 20

Inez Milholland leads Woman Suffrage parade on Fifth
Avenue, New York City, May 1913, a month before
she met her husband-to-be, Eugen Boissevain.
If you live in upstate New York, please consider going to the second Adirondack Women’s March, planned for Saturday, January 20, 2018. 

The organizers promise that it will be a combination of "rally, march and community celebration," showing solidarity with women around the world. 

"We will stand together to protect the civil rights, safety, and health of all people. We call on defenders of human rights to join us at this peaceful, non-partisan event." It is free and is billed as non-partisan.

The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the grave of Inez Milholland at the top of the hill, in the Lewis Cemetery. The program will include a welcome address, poems, songs, and grave ceremony. Participants are encouraged to bring signs, flags, and/or flowers to lay on Inez’s gravesite. 

After the program, the march will proceed down the hill to the new Inez Milholland roadside marker, at the corner of Route 9 and Fox Run Road. It will continue up Route 9 to Lewis Veterans’ Park, and back past the Lewis Town Hall to the Lewis Congregational Church parsonage. 

At the parsonage, refreshments will include soup, bread and hot drinks. A program of sing-alongs, memories of 2017, and inspirational thoughts for the future is planned. The Town of Lewis will open its town hall from 11 2 p.m. so marchers can view the town exhibit about Inez and the Milholland family. 

Her father John E. Milholland amassed a fortune providing underground mail services via pneumatic tube, but he lost much of it when Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1916, because of his Lincoln-Republican attacks on Wilson and his Postmaster-General, whom he accused of racism. He was the founding Treasurer of the NAACP.

There will also be two showings of “Forward Into Light,” the short film produced by Martha Wheelock about the life of Inez Milholland, at 10:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. in the church parsonage. A Q&A, moderated by Kathy Linker and Sandra Weber, will follow each showing. 

Area Women’s March events are also planned for Glens Falls at noon and Plattsburgh at 3 pm. At a memorial for Inez in 1916, speakers praised her advocacy for feminism, for civil rights for blacks, and for humane treatment of inmates. "Inez hated inequality, shams and hypocrisy," says the announcement of the march. "She loved truth."

She also loved commitment. A century ago, the people of Lewis and Essex County decided to rename Mt Discovery, to call it Mt Inez. The maps were never changed. Isn't this change overdue?

A friend of the organizers said: “What Inez showed us was that it is possible to have a glorious time and stand like iron for truth.” The memorial march on January 20 is organized by Sandra Weber and David Hodges. For more information, visit the Women’s March website, or email Sandra Weber at