3 Generations Exploring and Reflecting in the Big Apple


On Thursday, November 10, my daughter Jen, her son Aaron, and I departed Maryland. We hopped aboard Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train and set our sights for The Big Apple. My youngest grandchild, Aaron, soon to be 14, had never been there or even traveled on a train.  It’s Fall, the trees were in their full Fall array of colors, and temperatures mild.  It was also Veteran’s Day Weekend, the 15th Anniversary Year of the horrific 9/11 terrorists attacks on America, and just a day or so after the close of possibly the most controversial presidential campaigns that we’ve ever experienced.  And, to boot,  we had just learned the results of what strategists are now calling the greatest presidential upset in U.S. History–native New Yorker, and wealthy real estate mogul, Donald Trump, wins the race!  Young people in NYC and across the country are peacefully protesting.  All in all, we’re thinking our choice for this extended weekend trip is perfectly timed.

Thanks to Aaron, “Buggy,” we also captured pictures of many of the sites we took in. Overall it was a fantastic weekend.  My desire, beyond adding this post to our family’s history, is that you will be encouraged, if you already haven’t been, to go visit NYC.  You know, besides these sites, New York has an energy like no other city–one that you must visit and experience for yourself!

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Election Eve 2016: Imagining Life Without Political Campaigns, Politicians, and the News Without a Profit Motive!


It’s  November 7, 2016, presidential election eve.  This is the 18th presidential election since my birth.  And, looking back over the histories of campaigns and presidencies, we can see that the winning political parties will be split 50/50 if a Democrat wins this election.  So, I spent all day today culling over various facts and citations to pull together a synopsis. So, I hope you enjoy reflecting back on them to see if life, politics, politicians, and the media’s involvement with them have really dramatically changed.  And, I apologize in advance for the length of this post–probably my longest post to date, but writing this one actually brought me some focus and a small amount of satisfaction before Election Day when we’re expected to muster up enough strength and sanity to endure one more day of this craziness, before taking that leap of faith into our future for these next four years.

presidential-elections-1948-2012

The 1948 Campaign

truman-dewey-and-thurmond-election-1948The 1948 presidential election was a great political revolution in American history in its day. These are some of the words used to describe this memorable U.S. presidential election in which the Democratic incumbent Harry S. Truman defeated the Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey: “the 1948 miracle,” “the biggest political upset in American history,” “a victory by an underdog who everyone said had no chance to win”, “one of the three most significant American elections of the twentieth century.” Indeed, the Chief Executive, who during his campaign made a famous whistle-stop tour of the country aboard a special train, outpolled his main opponent by over two million votes. This electoral contest was the closest presidential election since 1916, Truman receiving 49.5 % of the popular vote as compared to 45.1% for New York’s Governor Dewey. In the electoral college, Truman’s margin was 303-189, with 39 votes going to third-party candidate J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (the second longest seated Senator in Congress [November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003: 48 years]).  Truman’s triumph astonished the American nation, to say the least, since most pollsters and influential newspapers had picked Dewey as the winner.  In fact, the Chicago Tribune’s banner headline of November 3, 1948 on its front page read: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

1952

eisenhower-stevenson-election-1952

The 42nd quadrennial presidential election was held on Tuesday, November 4, 1952.  One of the more famous quotes during the campaign made by Adlai Stevenson:  “I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”

Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was the landslide winner, ending a string of Democratic wins that stretched back to 1932. During this time, Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was at a high level, as was fear of communism in the US, epitomized by the campaign of McCarthyism. Foreign policy was a main issue in the race for the Republican nomination. The stalemated Korean War polarized our nation and implied corruption in the federal government was a major issue, too. The economy was prosperous, so economic and social issues played little roles in the campaign.

1956

eisenhower-stevenson-election-1956

This election was a re-match of 1952, as Eisenhower’s opponent in 1956 was the same Adlai Stevenson, a former Illinois governor, whom he defeated in his run for president in 1952.

Eisenhower was popular, although his health had become a quiet issue and he largely ignored the subject of civil rights. Our country was thriving and enjoying peace – Eisenhower ended the Korean War – and supporters acknowledged his charismatic presence.

1960

A few firsts:

  • The 44th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 1960, was one of the closest elections in American history and the first election where, regardless of the winner, the United States would have a leader who was born in the 20th century.
  • This was the first presidential election in which voters in Alaska and Hawaii were able to participate, as both had become states in 1959.
  • It also was the first election where the Twenty-second Amendment was enforced, making all former presidents who had held two terms as President ineligible for re-election.

kennedy-nixon-election-1960

The Republican insider was Richard Nixon of California, who had served as Vice-President for eight years under Dwight Eisenhower. JOHN F. KENNEDY, a senator from Massachusetts, was the Democratic newcomer who at the age of 43 became the youngest person ever to be elected President.

Kennedy as young, a newcomer, and a Roman Catholic and no Catholic had ever been elected President before. (AL SMITH, a Catholic, suffered a crushing defeat to HERBERT HOOVER in 1928.) This raised serious questions about the electability of a Catholic candidate, particularly in the Bible Belt South. Questions were raised about Kennedy’s ability to place national interests above the wishes of his Pope.

Courage and character became the major themes of Kennedy’s campaign once the press reported stories about Kennedy’s World War II heroism. While he was serving in the South Pacific aboard the PT109, a Japanese destroyer rammed his ship and snapped it in two. Kennedy rescued several of his crewmates from certain death. Then he swam from island to island until he found a group of friendly natives who delivered a distress message that Kennedy had carved into a coconut to an American naval base.

John F. Kennedy won the popular vote by a slim margin of approximately 100,000 votes. Richard Nixon won more individual states than Kennedy, but it was Kennedy who prevailed by winning key states with many electoral votes.

And then there was that horrific day, November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX,  by Lee Harvey Oswald, and his then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, assuming his role as President of the United States.  Watch former President Truman’s reaction when interviewed about this news:

1964

john-goldwater-election-1964

Democratic candidate and incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson had come to office less than a year earlier following the assassination of his predecessor John F. Kennedy. Johnson’s campaign advocated a series of anti-poverty programs collectively known as the Great Society, and successfully portrayed Goldwater as being a dangerous extremist. He also had successfully associated himself with Kennedy’s popularity, and won 61.1% of the popular vote, the highest win by a candidate since James Monroe‘s re-election in 1820.   Johnson easily won the Presidency, carrying 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

1968

nixon-humphrey-wallace-election-1968

1968 was another election year that we could label as “tumultuous”. It was marked by the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., subsequent race riots across the nation, the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and widespread opposition to the Vietnam War across university campuses. Incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, had declined to seek election amid growing discontent over the Vietnam War and his worse-than-expected showing in the New Hampshire primary. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was a scene of violent confrontations between police and anti-war protesters as Democrats split into multiple factions. But even my wildest memories and comparisons of 1968 to 2016 still put this year’s politicians characters, lack of knowledge, introspection, honesty, coherency, integrity, decency, compassion, and sensitivities at the bottom of barrel–and I say this knowing the memories that are yet to come in this post!

1972

nixon-mcgovern-election-1972

Nixon won this election in a landslide over George McGovern by emphasizing a good economy and his successes in nearing the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War and establishing relations with China. Overall, Nixon won 60.7% of the popular vote, the fourth largest in presidential election history. Nixon garnered 18 million more popular votes than McGovern–the widest margin of any United States presidential election.

This election term stands out among others because Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, former Governor of Maryland, resigned less than a year after the election over allegations that he had accepted bribes as Governor;  Agnew was replaced by Gerald Ford under the terms of the 25th Amendment; and, Nixon would resign due to the Watergate Scandal in August 1974. Ultimately, this term included two different presidents and three different vice presidents!

1976

carter-ford-election-1976

President Nixon resigned in 1974 in the wake of the infamous Watergate scandal and his Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation in light of a scandal that implicated him in receiving illegal bribes as Governor of Maryland.  Using authorization from the 25th Amendment of 1967, Nixon appointed Gerald Ford as his successor. Gerald Ford then became the only sitting President who had never been elected to a national office. But Ford inherited a legacy of a poor economy, the fall of South Vietnam, and paid a heavy political price for his pardon of Nixon.  Like the 2016 election, Ford first faced serious opposition from within his own party, when he was challenged for the Republican Party’s nomination by former California governor and future President Ronald Reagan. The race was so close that Ford was unable to secure the nomination until the Party Convention.

Democrat Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, was less well known, ran as a Washington outsider and reformer. He narrowly won the election, becoming the first president elected from the Deep South since Zachary Taylor in 1848.

1980

reagan-carter-election-1980

reagan-quoteThe 1980 election was considered by some to debate a dramatic change in the government’s influence and authority over the people and economy, reaching a climate of confrontation practically not seen since 1932.  One of Ronald Reagan’s more famous quotes of the day:

Supporters of Republican Ronald Reagan, former Hollywood Actor and now Governor of California, praised him for running a campaign of upbeat optimism.

Carter emphasized his record as a peacemaker, and said Reagan’s election would threaten civil rights and social programs that stretched back to the New Deal. Reagan’s platform also emphasized the importance of peace, as well as a prepared self-defense.

Carter’s supporters defended the president as a decent, well-intentioned man being unfairly criticized for problems that had been building for years.

His critics saw him as an inept leader who had failed to solve the worsening economic problems at home. And, following a failed rescue attempt, Jimmy Carter was overwhelmingly blamed for the Iran hostage crisis where 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days (November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981) by a group of Muslim Iranian students who took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. These Ayatollah Khomeini followers burned American flags, chanted anti-American slogans, paraded captured American hostages in public, and burned effigies of Carter.

David Frum, political commentator claimed that Jimmy Carter ran an attack-based campaign revolving around “despair and pessimism,”  and this is what “cost him the election.”   (Any of this sound familiar?)

1984

reagan-mondale-election-1984

Mondale ran a liberal campaign, supporting a nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He spoke against what he considered to be unfairness in Reagan’s economic policies and the need to reduce federal budget deficits.

The Reagan campaign was very skilled at producing effective television advertising. Two of the more memorable ads it produced were commonly known as “Bear in the woods” and “Morning in America”.

Deemed by experts as highly effective, the first video is a legendary Cold War political advertisement from Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. Pretty basic metaphor the bear is The Soviets.

The next acclaimed video is “Morning in America,” where Reagan narrates about the positive changes in America under his leadership as President.  (If only the 2016 political ads had not been R or X rated, but, instead were produced for all audiences and about American’s real issues like these 32 year old videos!)

Reagan was re-elected in the November 6 election in an electoral and popular vote landslide, winning 49 states. Mondale’s defeat was also the worst for any Democratic Party candidate in American history in the Electoral College (and his 13 electoral votes the fewest any Democrat has won since Stephen A. Douglas claimed 12 in the 1860 election, when the Democratic vote was divided).

1988

george-hw-bush-dukakis-election-1988

This election marked the third consecutive presidential victory for the Republican Party, and the first time that a party had won more than two consecutive presidential elections since the Democrats won all five elections from 1932 to 1948. Bush was the first sitting Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren in 1836, and the first successor to be elected from the same party since Herbert Hoover in 1928.

Running an aggressive campaign, Bush capitalized on a good economy and Reagan’s popularity. Meanwhile, Dukakis’ campaign suffered from several miscues, including failure to defend against Bush’s attacks. This allowed Bush to win with a substantial margin of the popular vote, while winning the Electoral College by a landslide. Since the 1988 election, no candidate has managed to equal or surpass Bush’s number of electoral votes won or popular vote percentage.

During the course of the campaign, Dukakis fired his deputy field director Donna Brazile after she spread rumors that Bush had an affair with his assistant Jennifer Fitzgerald.[48] The relationship of George H.W. Bush and Jennifer Fitzgerald would be briefly rehashed during the 1992 campaign.[49][50]

Dukakis was badly hurt by the Republican “Willie Horton”, “Revolving Door”, and “Boston Harbor” campaign ads, the latter of which attacked the governor’s failure to clean up environmental pollution in the harbor. Dukakis was a supporter of a state prison furlough program, which had begun before he was governor. The program resulted in the release of convicted murderer Willie Horton, who then committed a rape and assault in Maryland. As Governor, Dukakis had vetoed a 1976 plan to bar inmates convicted of first-degree murder from the furlough program. The program was abolished by the state legislature in April 1988 after public outcry over the Willie Horton case.

A number of false rumors about Dukakis were reported in the media, including the claim by Idaho Republican Senator Steve Symms that Dukakis’s wife Kitty had burned an American flag to protest the Vietnam War, as well as the claim that Dukakis himself had been treated for a mental illness. (I had forgotten about some of these events–sometimes brain cramps can be small blessings in disguise!)

1992

clinton-bush-perot-election-1992

After the successful performance by U.S. and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush’s approval ratings were 89%. His re-election was considered very likely. As a result, several high-profile candidates refused to seek the Democratic nomination.

The public’s concern about the federal budget deficit and fears of professional politicians allowed the independent candidacy of billionaire Texan Ross Perot to explode on the scene in dramatic fashion—at one point Perot was leading the major party candidates in the polls. Perot crusaded against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), internal and external national debt, tapping into voters’ potential fear of the deficit.

But as the economy continued to grow sour and the President’s approval rating continued to slide, the Democrats began to rally around their nominee, Bill Clinton.

Many character issues also were raised during this campaign, including allegations that Clinton had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, and had used marijuana, which Clinton claimed he had pretended to smoke, but “didn’t inhale.” Bush also accused Clinton of meeting with communists on a trip to Russia he took as a student. Clinton was often accused of being a philanderer by political opponents.

Allegations were also made that Bill Clinton had engaged in a long-term extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. Clinton denied ever having an affair with Flowers.  (Still sounding familiar and perhaps some copycatting going on?)

1996

clinton-dole-perot-election-1996

Initially, President Clinton’s chances of winning were considered slim in the middle of his term as his party had lost both the House and the Senate in 1994 for the first time in decades; he had reneged on promises to cut taxes and to reduce the deficit, enacted a Federal assault weapons ban, and had a failed healthcare reform initiative. He was able to regain ground as the economy began to recover from the early 1990s recession with a relatively stable world stage. He went on to win re-election with a substantial margin in the popular vote and electoral college. Despite Dole’s defeat, the Republican Party was able to maintain a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Dole chose to focus on Clinton as being “part of the spoiled baby boomer generation” and stating, “My generation won World War II, and we may need to be called to service one last time.” Although his message won appeal with older voters, surveys found that his age was widely held as a liability and his frequent allusions to WWII and the Great Depression in speeches and campaign ads “unappealing” to younger voters. To prove that he was still healthy and active, Dole released all of his medical records to the public and published photographs of himself running on a treadmill. After the falling incident off a stage in California, he joked that he “was trying to do that new Democratic dance, the Macarena“.

The Clinton campaign avoided mentioning Dole’s age directly, instead choosing to confront it in more subtle ways with the campaign slogan “Building Bridges to the Future” in contrast to the Republican candidate’s frequent remarks that he was a “bridge to the past”, before the social upheavals of the 1960s. Clinton, without actually calling Dole “old”, questioned the age of his ideas.

On election day, President Clinton won a decisive victory over Dole, becoming the first Democrat to win two consecutive presidential elections since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944.

2000

bush-gore-election-2000

Foreign policy was often an issue, although overall this presidential campaign focused mainly on domestic issues, like the projected budget surplus, proposed reforms of Social Security and Medicare, health care, and competing plans for tax relief.

Bush criticized the Clinton administration policies in Somalia, where 18 Americans died in 1993 trying to sort out warring factions, and in the Balkans, where United States peacekeeping troops performed a variety of functions. “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building.”  Bush also pledged to bridge partisan gaps in the nation’s capital, claiming the atmosphere in Washington stood in the way of progress on necessary reforms.

Gore, meanwhile, questioned Bush’s fitness for the job, pointing to gaffes made by Bush in interviews and speeches and suggesting the Texas governor lacked the necessary experience to be president.

Bill Clinton’s impeachment and the sex scandal that led up to it, cast a shadow on the campaign, particularly on his vice president’s run to replace him. Republicans strongly denounced the Clinton scandals, particularly Bush, who made his repeated promise to restore “honor and dignity” to the White House.

Gore studiously avoided the Clinton scandals. In fact, some media observers theorized that Gore actually chose Lieberman in an attempt to separate himself from Clinton’s past misdeeds, and help blunt the GOP’s attempts to link him to his boss. Others pointed to the passionate kiss Gore gave his wife during the Democratic Convention, as a signal that despite the allegations against Clinton, Gore himself was a faithful husband. Gore avoided appearing with Clinton, who was shunted to low visibility appearances only in areas where he was popular. Experts have argued that this cost Gore votes from some of Clinton’s core supporters.

2004

bush-kerry-election-2004

Bush focused his campaign on national security, presenting himself as a decisive leader and contrasted Kerry as a “flip-flopper.” This strategy was designed to convey to American voters the idea that Bush could be trusted to be tough on terrorism while Kerry would be “uncertain in the face of danger.” Bush (just as his father did with Dukakis in the 1988 election) also sought to portray Kerry as a “Massachusetts liberal,” who was out of touch with mainstream Americans. One of Kerry’s slogans was “Stronger at home, respected in the world.” This advanced the suggestion that Kerry would pay more attention to domestic concerns; it also encapsulated Kerry’s contention that Bush had alienated American allies by his foreign policy.

According to one exit poll, people who voted for Bush cited the issues of terrorism and traditional values as the most important factors in their decision. Kerry supporters cited the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs, and health care.

 Over the course of Bush’s first term in office, his extremely high approval ratings following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks steadily dwindled, peaking only during combat operations in Iraq in spring 2003, and again following the capture of Saddam Hussein in December that same year. Those who supported Kerry attempted to capitalize on the dwindling popularity to rally anti-war sentiment.

In March 2004, the Bush/Cheney campaign was criticized by 2004 Racism Watch. The organization took offense to a campaign ad, which showed a man who was possibly Middle Eastern in a negative light. 2004 Racism Watch issued a press release calling on the campaign to pull the ad, calling it “disturbing and offensive.”

Between August and September 2004, there was an intense focus on events that occurred in the late-1960s and early-1970s where Bush was accused of failing to fulfill his required service in the Texas Air National Guard. However, the focus quickly shifted to the conduct of CBS News after they aired a segment on 60 Minutes Wednesday, introducing what became known as the Killian documents. Serious doubts about the documents’ authenticity quickly emerged, leading CBS to appoint a review panel that eventually resulted in the firing of the news producer and other significant staffing changes.

2008

 

obama-mccain-election-2008

On August 28, 2008, when Obama formally accepted the Democratic nomination for President, he became the first African American to be nominated for President by a major political party. The television audiences for both McCain’s and Obama’s acceptance speeches broke records, according to Nielsen ratings.

The unpopular war in Iraq was a key issue during the campaign before the economic crisis. John McCain supported the war while Barack Obama opposed it (Obama’s early and strong opposition to the war helped him stand out against the other Democratic candidates during the primaries, as well as stand out to a war-weary electorate during the general campaign). Though McCain meant it as a peacetime presence like the United States maintained in Germany and Japan after World War II, his statement that the United States could be in Iraq for as much as the next 50 to 100 years would prove costly. Obama used it against him as part of his strategy to tie him to the unpopular President Bush.

Obama promised “universal health care, full employment, a green America, and an America respected instead of feared by its enemies”.

Obama used new media to “form a bond with his supporters” which helped him “appeal to the youth audience’s need to feel special, in-the-know, empowered and special”. This was best displayed in his text message announcement of Joe Biden as the vice-presidential candidate. He has also declared, in his book The Audacity of Hope, that he did not experience a religious upbringing. Rather he developed his faith due to the church’s ability to motivate social change. The 2008 presidential election saw a large youth turn out, up to 51%.”

Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama created a broad popular movement and a new method of campaigning by courting and mobilizing activists, donations, and voters through the Internet. It was part of a campaign that mobilized grassroots workers in every state.

Polls taken in the last few months of the presidential campaign and exit polls conducted on Election Day showed the economy as the top concern for voters. In the fall of 2008, many news sources were reporting that the economy was suffering its most serious downturn since the Great Depression. During this period, John McCain’s election prospects fell with several politically costly comments about the economy.  In fact, many pundits and analysts say that the actual financial crisis and economic conditions caused McCain’s large drop in support and severely damaged his campaign.

2012

obama-romney-election-2012

It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Democratic nominee, incumbent President Barack Obama, and his running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, were elected to a second term, easily defeating the Republican nominee, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative and eventual House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Foreign leaders reacted with both positive and mixed messages. Most world leaders congratulated and praised Barack Obama on his re-election victory. However, Venezuela and some other states had tempered reactions. Pakistan commented that Romney’s defeat had made Pakistan-United States relations safer. Stock markets fell noticeably after Obama’s re-election, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 each declining over two percent the day after the election. By his inauguration, however, the markets had gained back all the losses and a bull run began that culminated in 2015 when the Dow closed at an all-time high of 18,312, the NASDAQ reached the milestone of 5,210, and the S&P 500 peaked at a record 2,130. 

2016

clinton-trump-election-2016

I found the following chart to be very impressive.  The blue highlighted cells show opinion polls in favor of Hillary Clinton as becoming president; those in pink (only Russia) show opinion polls in favor of Donald Trump.  There’s not too much more to be said about this campaign.  Americans have been stressed out enough already! Prayers to all of us.

international-2016-presidental-winner-projections

She’s Still Mom–Even With Alzheimer’s


In December 2010 after a fall on the sidewalk and a hit to her head and face, doctors ordered a CT (computerized tomography), scan of mom’s brain. This CT scan was the first confirmation that mom had mild Alzheimer’s disease.

alzheimers-awareness-brain-scan

This was also about the time that mom had driven herself to church (just three miles away and only a couple of turns) and got lost trying to drive home.  And, about the time when mom and I had our first ever argument–and it was over next to nothing.

In fact, we have since learned that Alzheimer’s begins with changes in the brain that are happening while people are still cognitively normal, decades before any signs of memory or thinking problems. A person diagnosed with any one of the 10 types of Alzheimer’s and dementia goes through 7 stages that affect the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on their other health factors.

So here we are, entering our seventh year after mom’s diagnosis.  But the real reason I sat down to write this post was to give thanks for the good day that mom and I spent together yesterday.  It began as a typical Thursday.  Helping her select clothes and get dressed, combing her hair, and giving her time to apply makeup and, of course, waiting on her repeated visits to the bathroom before leaving and switching her home oxygen to her portable oxygen and then helping her walk to the car.  And, of course, observing the “goodbye kiss” ritual that she and dad never fail to forego before leaving home without the other.

Bob had taken mom to and from her 10 a.m. hair appointment as he always does and we had eaten lunch together as a family as we usually do.  Next, it was off to mom’s hematologist  appointment to check the status of her iron (she suffers from iron deficiency anemia, too, and has been receiving treatment for this for about 15 years).  On our 20-minute ride to her appointment, mom and I typically chat about the beautiful or sometimes rainy days.  She teared up over seeing a deer that had been hit and killed by a car and was laying just off the side of the road.  Once inside the reception area she became very socialable and we enjoyed a philosophical conversation with another patient while they waited their turns to see the doctor.

Several nurses came and went while we were inside the examination room.  Nurse Chris escorted us into the room and weighed and measured mom.  They struck up a lively conversation and we all had a few laughs over just little things that came up; e.g., how mom has gone from 5’2″ to just 5′ and 1/2.”  We sang a few lyrics from the song “5’2″ eyes of blue, could she love, could she woo,” has anybody seen my gal?”

Mom also played a guessing game with Nurse Janice about their ages and similar life events when they each had attended elementary school.  (Neither of us would have guessed that Janice was the age she revealed.) When asked, mom also told Nurse Chris that she didn’t know if I thought of her as my best friend, but I was hers and that she could always count on me–a very special moment. I reassured her that she was my best friend, too.  And, as a mother always does, she added that, in fact, she has three grown children and she loves and is proud of them all.

Also in keeping with her norm (pun intended–short for Norma), when we’re leaving the examining area, mom always says goodbye to all of the nurses.  They told her how cute she is and to take good care of her “feisty” self.  She told them that she would and added:  “My husband and I go dancing every Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus.  We just love to dance.  And as long as we both can still breathe, we’re going to keep on dancing.”

Although they used to attend regular dances at the Knights of Columbus, they haven’t been able to dance in years.  But, on their granddaughter’s wedding day they put down their canes and walkers to dance this dance on February 21, 2016.

On our return trip home mom was looking at all her wrinkles and the bruises on her arms and hands (she bruises easily from her blood thinning medicines).  She said if she didn’t know better she would think that she had punched my father–and then she giggled and went on to say:  “You know,” your dad and I have been together since we were young teenagers and met when we started our part-time summer jobs at ages 14 and 15.”  “We have lived a very long life together, have had many great times and some difficult times but sometimes he can be just so irritable and cranky–we even used to call him “Cranky Frankie,” but, “I love that man!”

Yes, I am thankful for all the years that the Lord has allowed me to spend with my parents–the great times and the difficult times, and pray that when their time comes to an end here on earth that He will take them swiftly to end their daily suffering by being debilitated by Alzheimer’s.

I leave you with the following for those readers who have been fortunate enough not to have Alzheimer’s affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Some Facts about Alzheimer’s

Ob La Di, Ob La Da . . . Life Goes On!


It’s been over a month since I last posted–an unusually long time for me to step away from family history and happenings. If you read my September 19th post, you will recall that I wrote about recent “Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .” Life still is going on, often out of my control, but God still is in charge, and in Him I trust.

Roy, Joanne, and Mam-ma's Boston Bull - About 1949

Roy, Joanne, an Mam-ma’s Boston Bull – About 1949

Today brings back a couple memories–a dichotomy of memories if you will. You see, 61 years ago today, October 24, 1955, my maternal grandfather Robert Gideon Ford, “Roy,” as most called him passed away in our living room while we weren’t at home. I was just about 60 days shy of my ninth birthday and in third grade. Roy called us at my aunt’s where we were visiting, just about half an hour away from our home. He and his son, Johnny, had traveled from upstate New York to pick up the remaining items following their move from Glenndale, MD, to Beaver’s Dam, Elmira, New York–just a few short weeks before. He told dad he had indigestion and was thinking about “stealing” one of his last beer’s from the refrigerator. Only minutes later my uncle called us back to say that Roy had taken a swallow of beer and then fell off of our couch. Turns out his indigestion was a heart attack and he passed on, on our living room floor. Roy and I were very close. I’m told as an infant, that Roy called me “pudd’n” and “pumpkin head.” I was born six weeks premature and I had no hair on my head, eyebrows, or eyelashes on my eyelids. I spent most weekends with my grandparents on their farm and enjoyed every minute of time together with them and my uncle Johnny and his house filled with five other children. We helped plant vegetables, climbed and pulled fruit from the trees, dug up potatoes, pulled vegetables from the garden just before meals, walked around barefoot, including into the chicken coop, to get eggs that the hens had laid, got chased by a bull while we were bent over picking strawberries, played hide ‘n’ seek in the dark, and sat outside on the screened-in porch and counted the number of cars on the trains as they passed by just outside the yard. Yes, it was difficult for me to understand and to cope with Roy’s absence, but he and my grandmother enter my thoughts nearly every day. They suffered and survived many difficulties and hardships together–about 30 years, I’d say. Roy was only 57 years old at the time of his death. I still love and miss him, and hold onto to so many fine memories of this man who didn’t attend church, but paraphrased 1 Peter 3:10 “If you can’t say anything nice about people, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, let’s fast forward about nine years and a happier time in my life. It’s October 24, 1964, and I’m approaching my 18th birthday in early January. I started working part-time in my senior year of high school and I’m dating a 20-year-old marine who I met at work. When we were first introduced I could feel my skin melting, my knees shaking, and my stomach quivering. I just knew my parents wouldn’t approve and the chances would be slim that we would ever date. I was wrong, but they weren’t all that eager about it either. It was a whirlwind love affair that began at first sight. With me still attending school and him stationed at Quantico, our dating was confined to weekends–mostly with friends after the store closed on Friday nights at the home of the more mature workers. And, it was in North Forestville, among our friends, when we sat off to the sideline and became engaged. I was so stunned by the proposal, that nothing could bring me down off of “cloud nine.” Not even my mom. In 1964, October 24th was the night the clocks were turned back from daylight savings time to eastern standard time. My curfew was set at 1:00 a.m. Well, we pulled up to the curb outside my home and we were talking about this being the anniversary of my grandfather’s death and our plans for our future, and when and how we would break the news to my family.

March 27, 1965

March 27, 1965

Suddenly, my petite mom comes out from inside our house to the car and yanks the door open, grabs me out, and says in a very angry and stern voice, “Good Night, Mr. Dickinson!” As she’s pulling me by my arm into the house, I’m being asked if I knew what time it was, and what do I think the neighbors will be talking about tomorrow. Turns out, we had been outside my home in the car at the curb for an hour–but the clocks had been turned back, so it was still 1 o’clock. She wasn’t buying it, thought I was being smart, and she wanted to do battle. She went so far as to tell me that “You think you’re being smart not talking to me when I’m talking to you. Well, young lady, you haven’t heard the last of this!” Unlike other boyfriends Bob wasn’t scared off by my parents. I’m not sure why, but he returned the next day and he talked (hiding behind a newspaper) about marrying me. All my dad had to say was “Well, Good Luck, cause you’re going to need it!” My mom said, “Frank! Is that all you have to say!” And, that was it. Of course, mom interrogated me after every date, and if the facts be known, we married sooner than we had planned because the tension was just too much for me to deal with. And, here we are 52 years later, loving each other and life more than ever, and still chuckling over our engagement night. Our eldest son will celebrate his 50th birthday in December and his eldest son, just shy of 30, is a first-time father of a newborn son and posting about “cleaning up puke, poopy bottoms, and getting peed on,” by both his infant and his 8-week-old shepherd pup! Ob la di, ob la da, and life goes on . . .

Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .


The word “tumultuous” best describes my personal little world over these past 30 or so days. I know my family’s events pale in comparison to the tragic and horrific events precipitated mostly by mean-spirited, greedy, and angry people of our world at large. To maintain my sanity and not be overwhelmed or sickened inside by these larger tragedies I choose to focus on my biological and spiritual family and how we love and support each other through the good and sometimes challenging times.

chesapeak-beachSo, let’s start with the obvious, that is the “tumultuous” August weather along the Delmarva coast.   We experienced severe periods of record setting weather – from the very high temperatures, to threats of tornadoes and hurricanes, high winds, and unusual flooding conditions due to heavy downpours of rain in very short periods of time. Roads were closed, trees were toppled, electricity came and went, but together, we “weathered” these days.

Among the Dickinson and Boling extended family we celebrated still having five living generations – a rarity in today’s world.  And, on this rare occasion we gathered everyone available from down the east coast and across the world from among our family total of 42 members.  In fact, we celebrated five of them on a single day in August at our daughter Jen and her husband, Brian’s, beautiful and spacious new home. The birthday celebrants ages were 16, 24, 25, 48, and 89 – a broad mix of personalities and generations that range from the millennials, (16-34), to generation X (ages 35-50), to me, (the only baby boomer), and then the silent generation (ages 72-93).  From a gender split perspective, only 2 out of every 5 family members are female.  The youngest and the oldest of those being celebrated were females; three were born under the sign of Leo, the Lion (the earlier mentioned two females and one male); two of the guys birthdays fell under the Virgo sign (a father and son).  And, when all of us converged, it made for more fun times, great memories, and interesting, often amusing, conversations.

fr-worch-in-heartsOn the day of the big birthday party, we learned of the death of a very near and dear family friend, (he passed on our son’s actual birthday). Father Don pastored to our family during some challenging times in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  He was the man in our lives that most closely followed in Jesus’ footsteps and lived his life as Jesus would have wanted him to.  So now,  just four short days after spending good times with family, it was time to switch our attention and emotional gears from celebrating birthdays to attending our friend’s very large and sobering funeral in Potomac, MD.

Following the funeral, God came to me.   He said to me in but a whisper;  “I’m adding an item to your bucket list.  You are to get up on your church’s stage and publicly share my word among your biblical community.” Next, Satan tried to steal me by infusing great FEAR into me. But, God was there as He always is. He said “I am calling you to do this!” And, the next week, at the meeting of our EDGE drama ministry, it appeared that most everyone would be off doing end of summer vacations or had other business and family commitments.  The EDGE was one actor short of completing its cast for next week’s message.  So there it was, God’s plan for me once again put in place.

So, this weekend, at my age, I took to the stage for my very first time.  The experience was well worth it.  I’m told that not only am I now an “actor,” but that I should ignore all those who have told me that I can’t sing – or, that I should sing “solo,” i.e., so low no one else can hear me. – I think I might possibly return to that stage at some point in the far distant future, but I probably will forego the singing, (because I think someone fibbed to me about my singing talents).

jackson-dickinsonAnd, on the evening of my first acting experience, our family got some fantastic news. Our eldest grandson, Joe, and his lovely wife Corrie had become a family of three, with the birth of their first child, Jackson.  This means I’ll have to add a trip South to my bucket list so we can meet  face to face with our fifth great grandchild.

Although I married very young, and am no longer a spring chicken, this baby boomer’s count of grandchildren and great grandchildren has already exceeded my wildest dreams at 14!   chelsea-six-monthsAnd by thanksgiving, we’ll likely add one to this number, making it 15. That’s when our second oldest grandson, Justin, and his wife, Chelsea’s, little boy is due, making them a family of five.

And, despite my attempts to end this post on a happy note, we have just contacted the FBI to report that we have been scammed out of half of our property tax savings for this year.

BEWARE:   If you are in search of a part time job and come across an offer to be a mystery shopper for “Applied Research Masters Center,” it’s a new scam out there.  They will send you a check for $1,850 which you are to deposit in your savings account; keeping $350 as your commission.  You are then go to a store that sells iTunes Gift Cards and purchase $1,500 worth among three cards, to ready yourself for your next assignment.  Here’s the crux of the scam:  you send them photos of the newly purchased cards with the serial numbers on them and the place of purchase.  Needless to say, after the bank returned the check  to us this morning and we called iTunes, we found that the cards had already been redeemed.  We can only pray that this is where the scam ends.  My husband is at our bank now as I share this post with you. I guess this final event, puts the capital “T’s” on “tumultuous” and “tragic.”  And, a big “L” on “Lessons Learned.”

 

Thanks Charlie–One Man’s Genealogical Random Act of Kindness


This video shows the great work ethic and commitment this man has for honoring those who paved the way for the rest of us in this world.  As a genealogical enthusiast, I can relate to this man’s passion for identifying and uncovering the lost people and histories of our families. In fact, I volunteer for Findagrave.com.  When family members who do not live locally want pictures of their loved ones’ grave markers, I go to the cemeteries within my locale to find those gravesites and to create or add to a memorial page on findagrave.com for that person and his family.

Founder of Find A Grave Website

FindAGraveFounder-Jim TiptonIt was Jim Tipton, who created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there were many thousands of folks around the world who shared his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion. Building and seeing Find A Grave grow beyond his wildest expectations has been immensely satisfying for Jim. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records, thousands use the site as an educational reference tool, to locate long-lost loved ones and millions of lives are fondly remembered.

We often are disappointed when we find a headstone that is illegible due to the weather and the passing of time.  Some of us try cleaning the headstones as best we can.  However, if  we use the wrong techniques and solutions, we risk permanently damaging or destroying the grave marker further over time.

So, I’m very glad “Charlie,” made it his mission to clean each gravestone at the West Dennis Cemetery, (AKA Crowell Family Cemetery) as a tribute to those whom have passed as well as their families.  The dates of death on these gravestones range from 1809 to 1849–about 150 to 200 years old. After three years, 3-to-5 days a week, and about 800 gravestones already cleaned, Charlie probably still has another year before finishing all the grave markers in this cemetery!  Let’s hope this story triggers more volunteers at more cemeteries.

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Nurse!


Yes, a nurse is what I said I wanted to be for many of my developmental years. In third grade, I checked out a lot of biographical books from my school library.  Two of them were on the lives of Clara Barton (the pioneer nurse who also founded the American Red Cross), (1821-1912) and Florence Nightingale, (a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing, (1820-1910).

Yet, throughout my youth, my parents stressed the importance of marrying and raising a family–“that’s what women are meant to do,” they said.   I’m not sure how so many parents of our baby boomer generation got caught up in such nonsense, especially since these parents were the same people who had to adapt traditional male and female roles during the Great Depression and World War II.  Or, perhaps, it was because they had so many struggles during these times that they couldn’t see the opportunities and possibilities.

Throughout history, women who were given opportunities, or made a personal commitment to advance their education shined and usually excelled at leading fully successful professional and happy family lives.  Let’s just say if I had it to do over again, I, too, would have chosen college and a career in medicine.  That’s not to say that I would have foregone marriage and children.  The world now allows us to be known for more than one fragment of our lives.  And, if the truth be told, I probably worked just as hard or harder to gain a professional status and raise a family, too, than if I first went to college and then took on family life.  Thank you to all those women who came before me to give me today’s choices.  And cheers, here, for just one them:

Susan Dimock ImageSusan Dimock (1847-1875) is a 19th Century achiever who on August 20, 1872, became the resident physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Susan’s family came over on the Mayflower with the infamous Massachusetts’ Fuller’s and Lathrop’s and she is my cousin through these families intermarriages.  Her parents were Henry Dimock (a newspaper journalist) and Mary Malvina Owens of Washington, NC.

Susan Dimock Newspaper Article

Letter, 1868

From Susan Dimock to her mother soon after arriving in Zürich to attend medical school:

 

October 18, 1868

 

Sunday finds me safely through with last week’s Herculean labors. You know I had a hundred formalities to go through with, and with no German to speak of. Looking back upon it, I do not see how I managed it; however it is all plain sailing now, and I have nothing to do except listen to lectures, study hard, and learn German, etc. Oh, it is so nice to get here, at a word, what I have been begging for in Boston for three years. I have every medical advantage that I can desire. I told the professor of anatomy, for instance, that I wanted a great deal of dissecting; and he immediately bowed, and said so kindly, “You shall have it; I only desire you shall tell me what you prefer.” And so it is with everything. . . in every respect I have equal advantages with the young men; and then I find also the warmth and protection and feeling of interest which a young man finds in a university.

 

From Memoir of Susan Dimock, resident physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children. (n.p., 1875.)

 

A Physician with a Mission

It was July 1872,  when Dr. Dimock returned from medical school in Europe.  She attended there because Europe was less hostile to women becoming doctors. She remained three years at the New England Hospital.  There, she handled day-to-day patient management and care while also performing surgeries.   But her best contribution in the field of medicine was to start a program  to improve patient care through improved training of their nurse caregivers. As student nurses, they worked in the wards and attended medical lectures and studied anatomy.  In between her studies and teachings Susan liked to travel.  Unfortunately, she died at age 28 on board the steamship “Schiller” that struck the Scilly Rocks in fog and sunk near the coast of Cornwall, England.

Dr. Dimock is buried in Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery, along with a couple of her colleagues:

Pioneering activists and professionals in medicine, women’s healthcare and women’s professional education, including Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, surgeon Susan Dimock, and America’s first trained nurse, Linda Richards.

In 1996, the marble marker at her Boston grave was replaced with a more durable granite duplicate, and the original moved to her home town of Washington, NC, where it was erected as a cenotaph.

The following is an excerpt from MassMoments.org “This Day In History,” for August 20, 2016:

Well into the nineteenth century, nursing was considered undesirable and menial work, suitable only for women whose circumstances left them no better options for supporting themselves. It took Florence Nightingale many years to convince her family to allow her to study nursing. She trained in Germany before returning to London to take up her profession. Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War (1854-1856) gave her the chance to demonstrate the benefits of having nurses in military hospitals, but first she had to overcome doctors’ opposition to the presence of women in the wards. Once she did, she quickly earned the respect and gratitude of the soldiers and in time their families. After the war, contributions from a grateful public enabled Nightingale to start the first nurses training school at a London hospital.

Meanwhile, in Washington, North Carolina, a young Susan Dimock was borrowing anatomy books from the family doctor and accompanying him on his calls. The Civil War disrupted her education — the local academy she was attending closed — and her family life. Her father died, and most of the family property was lost. In 1864 17-year-old Susan and her widowed mother joined relatives in Sterling, Massachusetts. A year later, Susan took a job teaching school in Hopkinton. She spent her evenings poring over medical books recommended by Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, the founder and head physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Zakrewska had helped to establish the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first institution in the world devoted to the care of women and children. Female doctors and surgeons directed the hospital and tended all the patients. In 1862 “Dr. Zak,” as she was known, moved to Boston and founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

In 1865 Susan Dimock finally persuaded her mother to allow her to study medicine. In January of 1866, a few months shy of her 19th birthday, she arrived at the New England Hospital as a medical student. Although Harvard, like almost every other American medical school, refused to admit women, it did allow women “under certain restrictions” to follow doctors on their rounds. This increased Susan Dimock’s determination to obtain a medical degree. She decided to go to Europe, where medical schools were more welcoming of women students than those in the U.S. In 1868,with help from her mother, Dr. Zak, and several Boston philanthropists, she began studying medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

In between her studies, she traveled. She visited Florence Nightingale in London and observed her nursing education program. She spent time at Kaiserswerth, Germany, where Nightingale had been trained. She returned to Boston in the summer of 1872 eager to put her knowledge and newly acquired medical degree to use.

She accepted a three-year appointment at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, where she set out to reorganize the training program for nurses. Hospitals traditionally viewed student nurses as a source of cheap labor. They took no classes but learned on the job, by following instructions they received on the ward. After the Civil War, doctors began exercising more oversight of nurses’ training. All but a handful of American doctors were men, and they had no expectation (or wish) that nurses would make independent judgments or carry out tasks on their own.

Thanks to Florence Nightingale, however, Susan Dimock saw things differently. “No man, not even a doctor,” Nightingale once observed, “ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this – devoted and obedient. This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It will not do for a nurse.” Nightingale believed that the nurse had a special role as a health care provider and hospital administrator, and that her education should prepare her for that role. Dimock agreed with Nightingale — up to a point. She understood and was eager to lower the obstacles nurses faced to gaining knowledge, credentials, and respect; but as a doctor herself, she also understood the value of the nurse’s traditional role. Florence Nightingale saw nurses in training as students, not workers; Susan Dimock believed they could be both.

She started a one-year training program for student nurses at the New England Hospital and soon added a second year. Students began their day before sunrise and finished at 9 pm. Dimock and other women doctors lectured on a variety of topics, including nutrition, bandaging, inflammation, and surgery. A number of the graduates of the program were instrumental in helping nursing become a respectable profession, one that a middle-class woman could pursue without seeming “unwomanly.”

After Susan Dimock’s sudden death at sea in 1875, friends and admirers endowed a “free bed” for indigent patients in her name at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Today the hospital is home to the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury, MA.

 

The Vanishing Chesapeake Bay Islands


As a native Marylander who lives near Solomon’s Island along the Chesapeake Bay, I always have appreciated the beautiful scenery along its shorelines. It was in the 1600’s when colonists settled along it and began to record in county land records the names of hundreds of islands, some of which they would farm and call home. There was Turtle Egg Island, and Sharps Island, and Parker’s Island.

“But today, more than 400 of those islands in Maryland and Virginia cannot be found on modern navigational maps of the Bay,” wrote William Cronin in his 2005 book, Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake Bay.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Holland Island, located about a dozen miles northwest of Crisfield on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, was home to more than 360 residents and about 70 homes and stores.  It was one of over 400 Chesapeake Bay islands that now have sunk beneath the waves over the last three centuries.  These islands vanished because of rising sea levels, erosion and the natural sinking of land around the Chesapeake region.  If you are familiar with Smith and Tangier Islands (about 10 miles north of Holland Island), you may know that they are still above water, but are sinking, too. For those who deny climate change, just talk to any Smith or Tangier Islander and they will tell you how life is changing on a sinking island.

A 12-year-old, 8th grader, Grayson Middleton, for the Annual National History Day Competition in 2011, created the following impressive video documentary.  His video won $150 dollars, was publicly recognized for excellence in historic preservation, and his efforts won over my heart.  Hope you enjoy:

A Gentleman’s Calling Card – 19th Century Token of Everyday Life


A Form of Business Card

With the printing press invention of the early 1800’s, 19th century gentlemen used a form of business card to formally introduce themselves to others in a dignified style. According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, the acquaintance card was, “A novelty variant of the American calling card of the 1870s and 1880s,

Emily Post?