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Kansas History - Summer 2003

(Vol. 26, No. 2)

Kansas History, Summer 2003

Marin F. Hanson, "The Eva Wight Crazy Quilt: A Window Into Late-Nineteenth-Century Quiltmaking in Central Kansas."

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"The crazy quilt was born, hit its zenith of popularity, and faded from high fashion all within the last quarter of the nineteenth century," writes Marin F. Hanson, assistant curator at the International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Composed of irregularly shaped and randomly placed pieces of fabric-usually silk-and embellished with profuse embroidery, the crazy quilt was a product of many influences: the greater availability of silk fabrics, the philosophies of the aesthetic movement, a new fascination with Japanese design, and the introduction of English needlework styles." To help us understand how this essentially "urban fad" penetrated rural America, here Hanson examines a crazy quilt produced by Eva Wight of Saline County, Kansas, in 1891. "Examining Eva Wight's quilt in its various contexts, therefore, helps us understand how late-nineteenth-century quiltmaking in central Kansas may not have been radically different from quiltmaking all over America."

Dennis E. Suttles, "The Decision Not to Emigrate: Land Prospecting in Eastern Kansas and Nebraska in 1886."

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Based largely on western Illinois farmer John Wilson Reynolds Jr.'s September/October 1886 journal, ". . . Land Prospecting in Eastern Kansas and Nebraska in 1886" is the story of a search for new land and opportunity in northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska. Reynolds and his companions, brother Ritchie Reynolds and cousin Ulysses Pinkerton, ultimately decided not to emigrate, but the "journal provides a glimpse into how enterprising farmers east of the Mississippi River prospected for land in Kansas and Nebraska and," writes Dennis E. Suttles, assistant editor, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, "challenges the perspective of the American West as an unfailing land of opportunity." Employing a set of criteria to help them objectively evaluate their contemplated move west, "John Reynolds and his companions compared the farms and communities they visited during their trip against those with which they were familiar in Illinois" and opted to stake their futures on the familiar.

Sam Dicks, editor, "Eliza Bradshaw: An Exoduster Grandmother"

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Mattie Leatha Bradshaw, the granddaughter of Eliza Bradshaw and the author of this edited article, was completing her studies at Kansas State Normal School when she wrote this short essay about her grandmother for publication in the State Normal Bulletin in the fall of 1907. As Professor Sam Dicks, university historian at Emporia State University, explains in the introduction, the Bradshaws joined thousands of other formerly enslaved individuals and families to make up the great post-Civil War "exodus out of the defeated but hostile American South and into what they believed was the promised land of Kansas." Through her granddaughter, Eliza Bradshaw (1827-1913) recalled one family's nineteenth-century experience, "up from slavery." She "never learned how to read or write, yet she lived to see her granddaughter . . . graduate from college in June 1908 and become a teacher," as well as to see the rest of her family attain, at least in her estimation, a significant degree of success.

Thomas Prasch, editor, "The Continuing Cinematic Presence of Kansas and the West: Film Reviews."

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This second installment in Kansas History's biennial movie review section is again edited and introduced by Tom Prasch, Department of History, Washburn University, and includes commentary on the following films: Carnival of Souls, American Outlaws, C.S.A., Frontier House, and Nurse Betty. The contributors are novelist Timothy Schaffert of Omaha, Nebraska, "whose The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters suggests . . . his own deep awareness of the dis-ease of Midwestern souls"; New York author T. J. Stiles, who published a fascinating book on one of the "American Outlaws," Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, in 2002; John C. Tibbetts, a University of Kansas "film historian with a long established interest in filmic portrayals of the West, as well as a deep engagement with counterfactual approaches to history; Ryan J. Carey, University of Texas at Austin; and Kansas author Thomas Fox Averill, writer-in-residence and professor of English at Washburn University.

Carol K. Coburn, "Women and Gender in Kansas History. Review Essay"

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Unlike some of the themes examined in the journal's review essay series, "woman's place in Kansas and in Kansas history has been of intense interest to historians for some time," writes Professor Carol K. Coburn of Avilla University, at least in part because "the national spotlight . . . shone on each of the many attempts to secure basic political rights for Kansas women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." The series' eighth installment, "Women and Gender in Kansas History," examines that literature "in light of the contributions of feminist scholarship and the 'new western history' that incorporate new approaches to gender and explore the connections among diverse peoples, events, power, and influence." Some scholars have utilized the lens of feminism to raise new issues and to depict a Kansas very different from the one we might have imagined three decades ago. As Coburn indicates, "The development and metamorphosis of feminist scholarship has provided a model of how to interpret history through the filter of gender by viewing the world through the eyes, documents, and perspectives of the women who lived it." As a result, the historical work Coburn describes gives us a different view of women's role in the family, in productive processes, in defining society in Kansas, and in social activism. We now can see the dynamic, productive role that women have played in Kansas history, and often we see it through their eyes.


(The following books and collections are reviewed in full in our print version.)

Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000
by Craig Miner
xvii + 552 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2002, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by James W. Goodrich, executive director, the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.

Section 27: A Century on a Family Farm
by Mil Penner
xi + 222 pages, maps, photographs.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002, cloth $24.95.
Reviewed by Amy Fleury, assistant professor of English, Washburn University.

Selected Papers of Governor Mike Hayden: Advancing a Progressive Agenda
by H. Edward Flentje
vii + 284 pages, appendixes, index.
Wichita, Kans.: Wichita State University, 2002, cloth $25.00.
Reviewed by T. Clay Arnold, professor of political science, Emporia State University.


Swiss Sisters Separated: Pioneer Life in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Washington 1889-1914 from the Letters of Louise Guillermin Dupertuis to Her Sister Elise Guillermin, the Painter. Translated and with commentary by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs. (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2003. 496 pages, cloth $49.50.)

Louise Guillermin Dupertuis emigrated from Switzerland to Rochester, Kingman County, Kansas, with her husband and children in 1889, and from that time until her death in 1914 she wrote most of the 293 letters that make up the bulk of this impressive publication, mostly to her sister Elise Guillermin back home in the old country. Fifty-some Kansas letters covering the family's first three years on the plains of North America originated in Rochester and Calista, also Kingman County, and Moundridge, McPherson County. The volume, which is logically organized but unfortunately has no index, also contains some color illustrations of the sisters' paintings, family stories, and Guillermin, Dulex, and Dupertuis genealogies.

Tallgrass Essays: Papers from the Symposium in Honor of Dr. Ramon Powers, November 10, 2001. Edited by Michael H. Hoeflich, Gayle R. Davis, and Jim Hoy. (Topeka: Kansas Historical Society, Inc., 2003. xi + 203 pages, paper $20.95.)

This fine collection of essays covers a diverse range of topics and eras in Kansas history. In addition to the editors, who each make a fine contribution, the volume features the following essays and contributors: "Cowboys and Lawyers: Ambivalence and Myth in the History and Literature of the Southern Plains" by Robert A. Mead; "'Open Your Eyes to the Beauty Around You': The Art Collection of the Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs" by William M. Tsutsui and Marjorie Swann; Jerome A. Greene's "From Sand Creek to Washita: A Consequential Linkage"; "The Missing Railroad Cities along the Union Pacific and Santa Fe Lines in Kansas" by James R. Shortridge; "Administering History: The Maturing of the Kansas Historical Society, 1881-1886" by Craig Miner; Rebecca Conard's "Tough as the Hills: The Making of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve"; and Karen Manners Smith's "Father, Son, and Country on the Eve of War: William Allen White, William Lindsay White, and American Isolationism, 1940-1941."

State Capitols: Temples of Sovereignty. Written, photographed, and produced by Francis Pio Ruggiero. (Milford, Pa.: Excelsior Worldwide, 2002. 669 pages, paper $79.95.)

Although the historical essay on Kansas, and perhaps the other forty-nine states, is not especially satisfying or completely accurate, the state capitol photographs are spectacular, and it is in this realm that photographer Francis Pio Ruggiero's State Capitols: Temples of Sovereignty makes a uniquely significant contribution. The book comprises 824 exterior and interior shots of statuary, murals, and legislative chambers that dramatically convey the grandeur of these state "temples" and the uniqueness of the American nation which was a union of "sovereign" states, each with its own seat of government-its state capitol.

Why the West was Wild: A Contemporary Look at the Antics of Some Highly Publicized Kansas Cowtown Personalities. By Nyle H. Miller and Joseph W. Snell. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. xvi+ 685 pages, paper $19.95.)

First published as a series in the Kansas Historical Quarterly (1960-1962) and then in hardcover by the Kansas Historical Society (1963), the new paperback edition of Why the West was Wild features a forward by Joseph G. Rosa, the author of Age of the Gunfighters and The West of Wild Bill Hickok among many other books and articles about the Old West. This valuable reference, written and compiled by Nyle Miller and Joe Snell, both former directors of the Society, contains an impressive array of primary source material (mostly newspaper accounts) related to the "antics" of fifty-seven feature lawmen and/or gunfighters and their supporting casts, including Clay Allison, Henry Newton Brown, William F. Cody, Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, and Chauncey B. Whitney.

Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. By H. Wayne Phillips. (Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2003. vii + 278 pages, paper $20.00.)

With its ninety-nine contemporary color photographs, individual plant descriptions, extensive journal excerpts, and a helpful appendix entitled "The Plant Collections," Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition appears to be an important contribution to the rapidly expanding literature on the exploits and accomplishments of the Corps of Discovery and a significant source for students of native flora from the tallgrass prairie to the Pacific forests of the Northwest. Botanical exploration was one of President Jefferson's primary objectives for the 1804 expedition, and Lewis and Clark collected and/or mentioned, according to forestry ecologist H. Wayne Phillips, more than 250 specimens; Phillips "chose to feature photographs and descriptions of 225 plant species . . . and photographs of 6 others: 15 trees, 61 scrubs, 131 herbaceous wildflowers, 12 grasses, 3 vines, 2 ferns, 2 algae, 2 liverworts, and 1 horsetail, moss, and cactus."

Poetry of William Allen White. Collected and edited by Donald Stuart Pady. (Leawood, Kans.: Leathers Publishing, 2003. xxii + 233 pages, paper $17.95.)

William Allen White will be found near the top of almost any informed list of famous and influential Kansans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so any collection of his literary work, whatever the genre, should interest readers of Kansas History. Although best known as a journalist and politico, White authored short stories, novels, and biography as well as more than two hundred poems, collected here by Professor Pady who writes of White the poet: "his poems are for the universal heart-regardless of time or place. His verse describes his experiences, observations and imagination about life as he interpreted it. His poetry expressed a moral tension between the authority of America and the conflicts of American ideals."