Sunday, April 25, 2021

Heart aches for the mothers

’How dreadful to be left in one’s old age dependent upon strangers, and broken down in health, God help me that I may never be left thus friendless; I feel as if I could not turn any one away and especially a mother, my heart aches for the mothers.’ This is from the extensive diaries of thrice-married Emmeline Wells, a Mormon and women’s rights advocate who died 100 years ago today.

Emmeline Blanche Woodward was born in 1828 in Petersham, Massachusetts, her parents seventh child. Her father died when she was four, and her mother remarried before moving to North New Salem. She was schooled at New Salem Academy. As advised by her mother, she heeded the Latter-day Saint missionaries and, aged 14,, was baptised a member of the Mormon Church. Over the following eight years, she married and migrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, gave birth to and lost an infant son, was abandoned by her young husband, married Newel K. Whitney as a plural wife (in a ceremony performed by Brigham Young), crossed the plains to Utah (then Deseret), gave birth to two daughters, and became a widow! 

Emmeline took up teaching, but in 1852 - still only 24 - became the seventh wife of Daniel H. Wells, a friend of her late husband’s and a prominent citizen who eventually became mayor of Salt Lake City. He established her in a two-story home with a garden, where she had three daughters. According to biographies, she never regretted or doubted her participation in polygamy. When the Utah War broke out in 1857, Emmeline Wells moved south to Provo, where she continued to teach, and in 1859 gave birth to her fourth daughter. By the 1860s, she was involved in church and public service, but it was her skill as a writer that brought her notice, with articles on women’s rights for the magazines Women’s Exponent and Women’s Journal. From the late 1870s, she became to take active role in the national suffrage movement; and for 30 years she represented Utah women in national suffrage associations. In 1899, she traveled to London to speak as a US representative to the International Council of Women. 

In 1912, Emmeline Wells received an honorary degree from Brigham Young University, and she lived to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which brought voting rights to women in 1920. She died on 25 April 1921. According to the Utah History Encyclopaedia, she was ‘known for her executive talents, her superb memory, and her indefatigable energy’, and ‘served as liaison between Mormon and non-Mormon women’ helping to ‘dispel much of the hostile criticism of her people’. On her 100th birthday, representative Utah women of all faiths and political persuasions posthumously recognised her achievements by placing a bust of her in the rotunda of the state capitol building, the only woman so honoured. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, Alexander Street and The Church Historian’s Press.

Wells left behind some 47 volumes of diaries spanning the years 1844 to 1920, There is substantial gap in the diary entries between 1846 and 1874 - though it is considered possible diaries from this period have been lost. The diaries today are held at Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. They have recently been edited and made freely available online by the Church Historian’s Press - see Deseret News.

The publisher states: ‘The diaries of Emmeline B. Wells provide a window into the life of one of the most influential Latter-day Saint women in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the diaries she is both historymaker, as she meets with presidents and works with national suffrage leaders, and historian, as she documents noteworthy events, daily interactions with her family and members of her community, and her adversities and faith. The diaries are a record of her perceptions and philosophies, and they are valuable not only to historians but also to those simply curious about this remarkable woman and the time in which she lived.’

Here are several examples, with original (lack of) punctuation but page references and footnote numbers removed.

10 August 1874
‘The upper porch is nearly finished, the men cut off lots of branches while I was away and made me feel dreadful, I never intended anything of the sort, Mell & Em. went down to Mary Ann’s, Lizzie Heisel went to Lile’s today - I am not feeling well and am so low-spirited tomorrow is my husband’s trial towards evening Mrs. Nancy Dixon came here and said she was destitute of a home, I told her to stay until I could see what could be done for her in our Society; how dreadful to be left in one’s old age dependent upon strangers, and broken down in health, God help me that I may never be left thus friendless; I feel as if I could not turn any one away and especially a mother, my heart aches for the mothers, Mr. Wilson came and spent the evening also Richard [J.] Taylor;’

23 August 1874
‘Mary Jo [Ayers Young]’s baby died this morn. we are none of us very well today – in the evening Will was here Mell. went with Lile to the Methodist Church; Mr. Bryant came home with her; Jo. [Joseph W.] Taylor, Rudd, Clawson, Harry [Henry B.] Emery, Rulon, Heber and several other of the young folks were here; enjoyed themselves very much indeed;

Wm. [Dunford] was here drunk both Saturday night and Sunday very much to my annoyance; indeed on Sunday he made me quite sick; when will it all end; I am so worn out with these kind of things;’

3 November 1874
‘This is the day Mr. Hendrie spoke of as one on which he had made an engagement to be at home I was busy writing a note to my husband relative to Mellie’s marriage when aunt Zina came in and Mell was terribly annoyed in consequence and we had something of a scene, however I could not write afterwards and even now when almost a week has elapsed and many stirring incidents have since transpired I feel as if I could scarcely resume my pen May God help me to overcome every weakness and be complete master of myself. having in subjection every impulse and feeling guided and controlled by the Spirit of God, We got a dozen new glasses from the co-op’

11 December 1874
‘This is Onie’s birthday she is five years old, I have been busy preparing my piece for the paper, called on Mrs. Richards’ coming home about four o’clock my friend came to meet me and walked a block with me said he should go to Bingham on Saturday; What can be the cause of the feeling of nearness which is in my heart for him, it is an enigma to me I have tried every way in the world to put this feeling from me; Em. went to the party in the Assembly-Rooms with Junie[;] Lou. went to [Hiram B. and Ellen] Clawson’s and staid all night, Annie and I were very lonely and I was not well my nerves were over-strained; I have been weeping for a day or two more than is usual with me; I pray and struggle against it with all my strength;’

2 May 1875
‘Wrote all day had Belle here, Em. went up to Belle’s and staid all day, in the evening Mr. Hendrie came and staid until late half-past twelve; it seemed refreshing after such an interval of time since he had been in our midst. If he could only realize the necessity of obeying the Gospel how happy we should all be. I cannot describe to any one my feelings in regard to these things.

This Mr Hendry so often referred to was very much in love with my sister Emmie An extremely nice man, educated wealthy good family but not a member of the Church. Mother idolized Emmie and desired her happiness but belief caused difficulties.

29  January  1881
'A very dull day. The Chinamen’s new year. Quite a demonstration of fire-works. “no wash, no iron, no workee.” Sister Pratt and I called on Maggie [Margaret Young] Taylor to invite her to Br. R’s. got the pictures in the locket. Dr. Ferguson is worse. Louisa [King Spencer] had a dinner for her mother and invited all the near relatives. <I was present.> Louie went to Ogden. Sep came down to stay over Sunday. rec’d a letter from Mrs. Brayman of Wisconsin’

13 April 1881
‘This is Emeline’s birthday she is twenty-four I gave her Jean Ingelow’s Poems. I was very weary could scarcely sit up came home and was much distressed. How lonely it is not to have any one to go to in the hour of trouble. Poor little Louie I cannot burden her, she is not well herself and I must not add to her misery’

27 April 1887
‘Today Dot has been very sick indeed, and her mother has had double duty to perform, running from room to room It does seem melancholy to hear the girls Louie in one room and Dot in another groaning with pain, mustard plasters have been used for both and several other remedies but with very little effect, The nurse Mrs. Kelly is not much good, she helps lift and turn Louie and does a little rubbing, but she has no tact what ever for the sick room The Dr. talks every day about aspirating or tapping but I have not consented as yet.’

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Repington’s wander-year

One hundred years ago, an ex-soldier and ex-war correspondent Charles à Court Repington, found himself in Budapest, admiring the Danube and the view from the British High Commission, enjoying the opera (The Evening Star by Meyerbeer) and dining with the Italian military commissioner. The details come from a diary he kept on a ‘wander-year’ round Europe determined to acquaint himself with the new personalities and new ideas which ‘the great war-storm’ had thrown up. Repington is credited with coining the term ‘First World War’.

Charles à Court was born at Heytesbury, Wiltshire in 1858, but did not take on the name Repington until 1903, following the requirement in a will that led to his inheriting the Amington Hall Estate. He was schooled at Eton College and then attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In 1878, he joined the British Army’s Rifle Brigade as commissioned infantry officer. He married Melloney Catherine Scobel in 1882. They had two daughters who survived infancy, but the marriage foundered on Repington’s frequent infidelities. Later, he had a long-term affair with Mary North, until her divorce; thereafter, they lived together for the latter part of Repington’s life, having one daughter together.

After serving in Afghanistan, Burma and Sudan, he entered the Staff College at Camberley, and subsequently was appointed military attaché in Brussels and The Hague, leading to a promotion as Lieutenant-Colonel. He served as a staff officer during the Second Boer War in South Africa 1899-1901, and was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George during the conflict. On returning to London, he took a position as a military correspondent with the Morning Post (1902-1904), and The Times (1904-1918). His reports as a war correspondent from the scene of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 were later published as a book entitled The War in the Far East. During the war, he relied on his personal contacts in the British Army and the War Office for his information and for permission to visit the Western Front during the early stages of the conflict in late 1914, at a time when most journalists were prohibited.

One of Repington’s most important early scoops led to the so-called ‘shell scandal’ in May 1915. The British Expeditionary Force Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, suggested to Repington that a shortage of artillery ammunition was the reason for the failure of the British attack at Neuve Chapelle in March that year. The furore arising from Repington’s report in The Times led to the ultimate removal of French (replaced by Sir Douglas Haig) and the downfall of the last Liberal government. Repington resigned from the newspaper in early 1918 on a point of principle, and rejoined the Morning Post. Shortly afterwards he was charged and found guilty of offences (disclosing secret information in his articles) under the Defence of the Realm Act. He was found guilty, and fined for his actions. He is thought to have been the first person to use the term ‘First World War’ - on 10 September 1918 in a conversation noted in his diary. After the end of the war, Repington joined the staff of The Daily Telegraph. He died in 1925. See Wikipedia,, Spartacus Educational or the Rippington Family website for further information.

In his last years, Repington published two volumes of his war diaries: The First World War 1914-1918 (available to read at Internet Archive). In 1921, he took a year long journey around Europe, and subsequently published his diary of the trip. His short preface explains: ‘When the Peace Treaties, with one exception, were ratified and in full operation, I felt the need of a wander-year in order to acquaint myself with the new personalities and new ideas which the great war-storm had thrown up to the surface of affairs in continental Europe. It was useless to content oneself with archaic notions when all was changed, if one wished to keep abreast with the times, and there was no better way to discover what was happening than to go and see for oneself. [. . .] I offer this diary as a small contribution to the knowledge of people and events in the world of to-day in the hope that it may aid my readers to judge for themselves the proper direction of foreign policy in the future.’

And exactly a century ago, Repington was in Budapest. Here is his diary entry of that day as found in After the War; London-Paris-Rome-Athens-Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Bucharest-Berlin-Sofia-Coblenz-New York-Washington; a Diary (Constable & Co., 1922 - also freely available online at Internet Archive).

15 April 1921
‘The Danube is a nobler river than the Moldau, but Budapest has a strong resemblance to Prague, with its heights and palaces on one bank and the lower part of the town on the other. Went up to our Legation. Hohler has been and still is seriously ill with ’flu and bronchitis. Saw Athelstan-Johnson, the First Secretary, and looked over the Legation - I beg its pardon, the Headquarters of the British High Commission - which has a beautiful view over the river from the heights close to the old cathedral. Very comparable with Sir G. Clerics view from his terrace over Prague, but the Legation here is much smaller. A charming place of an old-world type with arched and vaulted roofs and an inner court. Left a card and note on Count Albert Apponyi who is away. Lunched with A.-J. in his house and we discussed European politics. He thinks that the old nobles party here is losing ground, and that the various countries round hate each other too much to combine. He would approve of the final break-up of Austria, part going to Czechs and Serbs and part to Germany and Hungary. I said that I did not see the continued existence of Czecho-Slovakia on these terms and that Italy would not like Germany on her borders.

He told me that Lord Bertie’s correspondence was lodged at Welbeck in two strong boxes and that it would not be published for fifty years. I asked if it included the private letters written to the F.O. and were they not very Rabelaisian? Yes, he said they were. Bertie had copies of them all, for he was a bureaucrat and had kept everything. I grumbled because we should never see these gems. A.-J. said that they were a most faithful and accurate representation of Bertie’s time in Paris during the war.

Went on to see Brigadier-General Gorton, my old friend of past Intelligence days, now at the head of our Military Mission here. The French press seems to be quite off the rails in belittling the Little Entente and in boosting a Karl Kingdom here and in Austria. I am amazed that they seem quite off the Czechs. The Frenchmen ought to travel a bit and they would see how the land lay. I saw Mr. Barber of our Commercial Branch, Mr. Humphreys being away, and am to come in and gain a little trade wisdom from him tomorrow. Went to the opera with the Gortons at б p.m. A good house and a competent orchestra. “The Evening Star,” by Meyerbeer. I have never heard it before. Very well done. Went on afterwards to dine at about 9.15 with the Gortons and General Bellini, the Italian Military Commissioner, and his wife. I asked the Italian General whether Italy’s natural frontier on the Alps appeared to him worth the passing over of the Tyrol to Germany, as seemed to me likely to happen eventually. He thought it was worth even having Germany on the border for Italy to gain the natural frontier. Doubt whether Sforza will agree with this opinion. Am afraid that our own people at home are too much immersed in their Martha-like worries to understand where all this affair is leading. The abandonment of Austria is the beginning of a great future disturbance which will entail the ruin of the Benès scheme and of Czecho-Slovakia, and the eventual spread of German dominion over not only Austria, but Hungary, which is too hard beset by Roumanians and Jugo-Slavs not to seek refuge in a German, or in fact in any combination which is against the Roumanians.’

Friday, April 9, 2021

Indonesia’s first prime minister

‘However little the common people understand, feel the need for democratic rights and for representative government, there is a potential in this kind of humanism, to make education of the people, and material and spiritual happiness of the people, into the principles and aims of such a government.’ This is from the prison diary of Sutan Sjahrir, the first prime minister of Indonesia, who died 55 years ago today. He was an idealistic intellectual who put his country’s interests before his own. Though he fell out of favour under the Sukarno regime, and ended his life in exile, there has recently been more interest in his life and legacy. 

Sjahrir was born in 1909 in Padangpandjang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia]. His father was the chief public prosecutor in Medan and advisor to the Sultan of Deli. Sjahrir received a Dutch education in Sumatra and Java and attended the Law Faculty at the University of Leiden. While in the Netherlands, he was a member of a socialist student group and, briefly, secretary of the student group Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Association). Before finishing his degree, he returned, in 1931, to the Dutch East Indies where he helped set up the Indonesian National Party (PNI), and also became involved in its newspaper, Daulat Rajat. Both he and his activist friend Mohammad Hatta were imprisoned in the Cipinang Penitentiary Institution by the Dutch in 1934 for nationalist activities, and exiled to Boven Digul region, then to the Banda islands.

During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Sjahrir chose to withdraw from public life but became involved with the resistance movement. At the height of the chaos and violence during the so-called Bersiap period of the Indonesian revolution just after the war ended, Sjahrir published an epoch-making pamphlet - Our Struggle. This was well received by militant nationalists, and led to President Sukarno appointing him prime minister in late 1945. Sjahrir negotiated the Linggadjati Agreement, under which the Dutch acknowledged Indonesia’s authority in Java and Sumatra; but his conciliatory policies fell out of favour, and in 1947 he was forced out of office. 

Subsequently, Sjahrir became a member of the Indonesian delegation to the United Nations. In 1948, he formed a Socialist party, Partai Sosialis Indonesia (PSI), which opposed the Communist Party, but it failed to win popular support and was banned by Sukarno in 1960 because of its support for a rebellion in Sumatra and its opposition to the president’s policies. In 1962, Sjahrir was arrested on charges of conspiracy. He was held without trial until 1965, when he was allowed to travel to Switzerland for medical treatment following a stroke. However, he died on 9 April 1966 while still in Switzerland. 

According to Wikipedia, in 2009, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda commended Sjahrir’s legacy: ‘He was a thinker, a founding father, a humanistic leader and a statesman. He should be a model for the young generation of Indonesians. His thoughts, his ideas and his spirit are still relevant today as we face global challenges in democracy and the economy.’ Further information is also available at Encyclopaedia Britannica and Sol Tas’s Souvenirs of Sjahrir.

In his final years, Sjahrir kept a diary - a prison diary. A few extracts in English can be found in Sjahrir: Politics and Exile in Indonesia by Rudolf Mrázek (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1994), available to preview at Googlebooks or Amazon. The publisher says this work is ‘both a study of an individual and the social conditions that shaped him.’ Mrázek comments briefly on the diary: ‘There was a certain youthfulness about what Sjahrir wrote during his last years - something like a fresh beginning about his texts from prisons and the hospital after 1962, and before he was paralyzed. Sjahrir seemed, also, more than during the 1950s, to take pleasure in reading. He opened his books with eagerness: “I do not know yet what is in this book,” he noted more than once in the prison diary he kept.’

Here are several extracts from Sjahrir’s diary as quoted by Mrázek

6 May 1962 [Madiun prison]
‘Together with this notebook, which I shall use for recording my days, they sent me from the outside two volumes of collected works by Marx and Engels, as 1I had requested; also a book by Ralph Linton on anthropology and a book by Karl Wittfogel on Oriental Despotism.

First, I look at the writing of Marx and Engels. Clearly, the articles in those two volumes are written by a pen which twenty or thirty years ago powerfully influenced my thinking, my feeling, my views and, because of that, the direction my life has taken. It is as if I am meeting again with very dear friends from the past [sahabat-sahabat karib lama], but being aware, at the same time, that the world had changed and my views, too. I know that reading these texts again will cause a great reckoning with an old love [tjinta lama], a new reckoning with the influences in my life which belong to the past, but maybe, also to this very moment. I am sure that much good awaits me as I am about to encounter this again. I have postponed this reading in order to postpone the reckoning, because I felt sure that this would become a very personal [persoonlijk] matter to me.’

September 1962
‘To my wife and equally to myself, it is, indeed, amazing that the State could behave to me in the way I am now experiencing. I never have, and I never will expect recognition, and, least of all honors, from my nation and people. . . But I have also never dreamed that the State, the nation and the people might suspect me of being unfaithful or not faithful enough [tidak atau kurang setia] to my State, nation and people. This is the same, as my wife says, as suspecting me of being unfaithful or not faithful enough to myself, unfaithful or not faithful enough, through my life, to my aspirations and to my consciousness; as if I abandoned the view of life, which I held for the past fifty years, as if, at present, as I am coming closer to my grave, I had no view of life at all.’

October 1962
‘The character of this book is very different from that of Ogburn. Weber is a kind of scholar of the 19th century, a universal man of letters [pudjangga universil] like Goethe, Nietzsche, or others, who lived only to read and write down their extraordinary explanations of the world, that is, men who possessed an unusual capacity to learn and to remember from the time when they were children. In the 20th century one perhaps would not meet men like that, because the specialization in scholarship has advanced so much that it is impossible to follow all the directions. What is impressive is that much of what Max Weber wrote is still true for today, and that it is, thus, the essential and fundamental [pokok dan dasar] truth.

I am very much attracted to this writing. As if it had been written for the time we are now living in, although it was written around 1920. The style is truly appealing, in spite of the fact that it is a translation. I decided to read all the writing by Max Weber in the original. In spite of the fact that the style of his writing is that of classical German, [growing out of] Latin or Greek, with very long sentences, I find it even more interesting than, for instance, the writing of Marx, even more spirited, even more lively.’

26 March 1963
‘I myself learned many big lessons from the general elections, so that later . . . I agreed that we should move back to the Constitution of 1945, in which certainly the position of the Executive is pushed forward and takes on a quality of leadership that rather surpasses that of the day-to-day powers of Parliament, [but] which also gives the Executive enough space and time to work. As is the case with the US Constitution, the [Indonesian] Constitution of 1945 is succinct enough to be perfected later in accordance with further experiences. . . It appears that Feith did not think about this, as his book bears a title “The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia.” ’

3 June 1963
‘My memories and my thoughts turn and fly home, to my children, whom I wish to be more happy in a future, and better than me. I hope they will grow into edel human beings, which means honest, straight, lovingly disposed to all other human beings, and not proud of rank or distinctions. Certainly I hope that their brains will also be sharp, sharper and better trained than mine, but what I have said above can be best summarized with this most important word edel.’

June 1963
‘If I were to write about this period, the frame would be different, and also the events and the ideas, which I would emphasize, would very much differ from what is emphasized in this book. . . For the time being, in fact, “democracy” for us can not mean a technique of governing, and a citizenlike way of life, but mainly the guarantee against tyranny and despotism. . . This [democracy], actually, can be achieved through enlightened [verlicht] humanistic despotism or humanistic dictatorship. However little the common people understand, feel the need for democratic rights and for representative government, there is a potential in this kind of humanism, to make education of the people, and material and spiritual happiness of the people, into the principles and aims of such a government. So far as such a government truly behaves like a father of the people, like the people’s own flesh and own blood, also the preparedness of the people to exercise its sovereignty [kedaulatan], and to have a government based on democratic techniques, may grow.’