Welcome to 'Lost in the Myths of History'

It often seems that many prominent people of the past are wronged by often-repeated descriptions, which in time are taken as truth. The same is also true of events, which are frequently presented in a particular way when there might be many alternative viewpoints. This blog is intended to present a different perspective on those who have often been lost in the myths of history.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Sara Bard Field: Ahead of Her Time


Sara Bard Field was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to George Bard Field and Annie Jenkins (Stevens) Field in 1882. Her father was raised with a strict Baptist background, and her mother was of Quaker origin. The backgrounds of her parents greatly influenced her childhood and youth. Her father ran a very strict household with a loving wife and mother, who exercised more tolerance and care with her children. Sara experienced a conventional life of a middle class family, while living in Detroit, where they had moved after their time in Ohio.

When she was just 18, she married, Baptist minister, Albert Ehrgott, and accompanied him to his mission in Rangoon, Burma. Her experiences in Burma and India significantly widened her views on religion and social injustices. When they came back to the United States in 1903 (after the difficult birth of her first son) they were assigned to a church in Cleveland, Ohio where she started to work for social reform. After she started her work, her daughter, Katherine, was born in 1906.

During these times, Sara considered Christian Socialism to be a possible answer to the problems the world was facing. With her sister, Mary, she continued to work alongside American reformers. It’s no surprise that after her family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1910 that she joined in the struggle for women’s suffrage. She worked alongside Alice Paul, Emma Wold, Alva Belmont and many others. She worked as state organizer for the campaign that won suffrage in Oregon in 1912. At this point, she was doing a lot of work, which forced her to spend time apart from her family. She spent many summers traveling through her state speaking in towns to get the word out. She also made an auto journey across the country to petition President Wilson in 1915.

After these years of hard work, Sara decided to concentrate on her personal life and started to develop her own poetry. She produced two collections, and much of her poetry appeared in political and literary magazines. She socialized with John Steinbeck, Ansel Adams, Robinson Jeffers and many others. She was not without her own personal tragedies. She divorced in 1914 from her husband and formed a deep attachment to her new companion, Charles Erskine Scott Wood. She also dealt with the very heavy blow of the death of her son in 1918. It is fair to say, that the death of her son (with whom she shared a close relationship) affected her for the rest of her life - understandably, she found it very difficult to come to terms with this tragedy.

Sara and C.E.S. Wood (who went by "Erskine") began their lives together in San Francisco in 1918. Erskine also wrote poetry and branched out his works into social criticism essays. These two had a 35 year literary collaboration and their shared home in San Francisco became a meeting place for artists and writers in the Bay Area. When their moved to their new home “The Cats” at Poet's Canyon in Los Gatos, CA, their intellectual visitors followed. Sarah and Erskine were finally married in the later 30s (his first wife refused him a divorce) and spent their remaining years in Los Gatos. Erskine died in 1944, and in 1949 Sara was able to publish his Collected Poems. In 1955 Sara moved to Berkeley to be close to her daughter and her daughter’s family. In the early 60s she was able to record her oral history through the University of CA, Berkeley which tells the exciting story of her life. She speaks frankly, but poetically. Her views especially on social concerns and women’s issues certainly seemed ahead of her time. After such a full life, she died in Berkeley in 1974.

8 comments:

Christina said...

Thank you for this really interesting post, Val. I hadn't heard of this lady before, and what an interesting life. The history of the British suffragettes has always interested me greatly but I had not thought to follow the story of their American counterparts. Doesn't it seem strange nowadays that less than a hundred years ago women were denied the right to have any say in the laws that governed them!! (Mind you, come to think of it, we still have little say in the laws that govern us, no matter who is in power!!)

Val said...

Christina - thank you for your comment! I became interested in her through studying about Los Gatos and it's history. As a child, I lived very nearby and remember passing the entrance to her old home!

There is a great interview with her - and I will include it at the end of this comment. She talks about American and British suffragettes in depth - very interesting. It is so interesting that only a short time has passed since the right for women to vote! And I much agree about modern government. As an aside, it would interest you to know that she didn't seem to buy into the propaganda against the Kaiser (during WWI) in the States. She actually speaks in his defense and the whole of the German people. She was involved in some of the anti-war efforts during the first WW.

Here is where you can find the interview. VERY lengthy - but you might really like parts of it:

http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt1p3001n1&doc.view=entire_text

I am sorry - I never know how to make the links "come alive" LOL! You might have to copy and paste...

Christina said...

Thank you, Val, for the link (don't worry it is easy to cut and paste :-)) and, yes, it does interest me to know that she didn't accept the propaganda about the Kaiser. It was, of course,a great help to the Allies but I still think it is very sad that America became involved in the WW1against the will of the American people :-(.

Dona Munker said...

Christina,
I'm writing a book about Sara Bard Field and I really liked your post about her--not everything that's said about her is so accurate. (One very small correction on the love of Sara's life: he was always called "Erskine," never "Charles." Don't ask me why. It's a common mistake, for which Erskine himself was responsible--if he'd just gone by "Charles," we wouldn't have any trouble with his name.) Great that you're blogging about little-known historical figures. Is there a place on your blog/website where you tell us more about yourself? Thanks again for the good post!

Christina said...

Dona,

Thank you for your lovely comment. I, alas, didn't write this interesting post - Val did.

There are several people who post on this blog and you can find out more about each of us by clicking on the links on the right. These lead to our other websites and profiles.

(If you would like to join us and contribute, too, please feel free to send me an email and I'll send an invitation :-) )

Good luck with your book! I'll bet it will be a fascinating read!!

Val said...

Dona - I'd like to thank you for your comment regarding my post - and I'm sorry for answering this post rather late. Thank you for correcting me on the name that "Charles" went by! I've only been researching Sara and her family for the last few weeks and I found conflicting information (mostly dates) online. Thank you for the information - as I've had few sources to work with. If there's anything more you'd like to add or correct, please let me know and I'd be happy to change it on this post. I only meant it to serve as an introduction on Sara, but I sincerely apologize for not having all the accurate information.

Sincerely - Val

Val said...

Dona - I do not have my own website or an open blogger profile, but you are most welcome to email me at:
val289@hotmail.com

Would love to hear more about you, your book and Sara....

P.S. I grew up near Los Gatos and often passed "The Cats" statues and always wanted to know more - that's how my research really got started.

SusieintheRedwoods said...

My Mother Lived on their Property at The Cats, way atop the Mountain in Los Gatos. My Sons spent so Many years exploring their beloved land, where they uncovered special benches with verses and dedicated to one another. Theirs was truly a Love Story that has lasted through time. We were truly blessed and Grateful to have this hidden treasure in our lives....