Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Historical Letters’ Category

As Always, Julia

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

My apologies for being mum the second half of this week. Time got away from me! For now, I’ll alert you to the new book featuring the letters of Julia Child and her friend Avis DeVoto: As Always, Julia (A great gift for the foodie or letter lover in your life). Have a wonderful weekend. I hope to return in full next week.


From Publisher’s Weekly:
“Culinary historian Reardon’s collection of the correspondence between Child and her pen pal, Avis DeVoto (portrayed in the film Julie & Julia by Deborah Rush), bubbles over with intimate insights into their friendship. In 1952, Child was living in Paris when she wrote to Cambridge, Mass., historian Bernard DeVoto after reading his Harper’s article about knives. Her letter was answered by his wife, Avis, who soon became her confidante, sounding board, and enthusiastic fellow cook. The two met finally met in person two years later. As a part of the publishing community, Avis (who died in 1989) was responsible for securing the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, steering the book first to Houghton Mifflin and then to its eventual home at Knopf. Their letters span a wide range of topics, from cookbooks, menus, recipes, and restaurants to Balzac, sex, goose stuffing, gardening, learning languages, the political climate, Sunday afternoon cocktail parties, and proofreading. Witty, enlightening and entertaining, these letters serve as a compelling companion volume to Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them.” ~ Maya Angelou

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Poet and sage Maya Angelou has decided to give her life on paper to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture–a branch of the New York Public Library. 343 boxes worth of personal papers and documents will be preserved and put on display for generations to marvel at and learn from.

I became a fan of Maya just this year as I read three of her memoirs, beginning with her most famous: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I am thrilled to know that there is much more to come in the way of unfolding the life of this extraordinary woman. Read more over at the NY Times. Here’s an image of a letter written from Malcolm X to Miss Maya:


Yours Ever

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Howdy ~ I hope everyone had a splendid Thanksgiving. I am enjoying the glorious days of “nothing to do” that follow The Great Feast but precede the Christmas mayhem.

I was just checking out the NYTimes Notable Books of 2009. Many of them peak my interest (mostly non-fiction), but the one worth mentioning immediately is Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon. Looks like letters continue to follow us well into the 21st-Century. Hip Hip Hooray!

In a Country Far, Far Away

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

For the most part, I had a good weekend. The ominous cloud overhead, unfortunately, was all the news streaming in from Iran in devastating sound bites. It’s a news story that renders one helpless. I feel bad, first, for not knowing enough about the situation, but I feel even worse that I can’t do anything. What in world could I do from my little home in southeastern, PA? I changed my Twitter location to say that I’m tweeting from Tehran. The reason for this being that the Iranian Powers that Be are trying to stop people from blogging and tweeting about protests. The more people they have to shut down, the more difficult the task. I don’t really think that’ll help, but it made me feel better. But maybe I’m not supposed to feel better, maybe no one is.

I am moved by the bravery and dedication displayed again and again by the Irani people. I can only hope (HOPE) that I would have it in me to do what they’re doing—to protest knowing I could be beaten badly or lose my life. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

It is only in the presence of people willing to go to such extremes that realities change. Below is a speech given by Susan B. Anthony with regards to her arrest. She voted in the 1872 Presidential election and was arrested for it. The right to vote is an essential one, and one that was not automatically given to black people or woman living in the United States. They fought (and fought) to make it happen. The Iranians are not fighting for the right to vote. They are fighting for the right to an honest election and to protest in peace. It is a fight I hope and pray that they win.

Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.

For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.

To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.

Susan B. Anthony – 1873

Lost Lincoln Letter Revealed

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Full disclosure: I copied this from the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet. It’s a fun fact! Original content to come this afternoon.

Only months after President Obama called for transparency in the White House, one of Abraham Lincoln’s lost letters is being returned to the public. A note the president drafted four days before the Gettysburg address has been donated to the National Archive by a private collector. In it, Lincoln takes a minute away from thinking about the Civil War to address a minor annoyance: Robert Stevens, superintendent of the San Francisco Mint and the son of his good friend, had been investigated for corruption and removed from his position. In his letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln kept it short and sweet: “Mr. Stevens, late Superintendent of the Mint at San Francisco, asks to have a copy, or be permitted to examine, and take extracts, of the evidence upon which he was removed. Please oblige him in one way or another. Yours truly, A. Lincoln.”

More details and an image of the letter at The Washington Post.

Grey Gardens: Brought to you by Letters and Journals

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, Jezebel posted a fun clip about the HBO movie Grey Gardens and how Little Edie’s letters and journals played a big role in the research for the film.

This Story is Made Possible By (Surprise!) A Box of Letters Someone Saw Fit to Save

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

A heartbreaking yet hopeful story on the op/ed page of the New York Times today. It’s the story of a depression-era act of kindness meant to inspire us through the difficult days of now.