Sunday, April 25, 2021

...when research interests merge...


My book project provisionally entitled Women Writers Buried in Virginia Cemeteries was accepted for publication by the editorial board for The History Press/ Arcadia Publishing. I wrote about that prior. Last week, I submitted 125 photos for review, which is the maximum number I can have in the book. I know that some are not the best quality and that I will have to make changes. I didn't know what I didn't know not so much about taking photos but about saving them. This has been such an amazing learning process. 

My hard deadline isn’t until late June but I am having fun (yeah, this is fun to me) and there is much to do before I have to submit everything. I did submit a complete manuscript with my proposal but as any writer knows, there are always edits and revisions. I just didn’t think I would be adding to the list. I had 40 women writers buried in Virginia cemeteries and now I have 44 women writers.

The grave of author Margaret Prescott Montague

Here is how my week has gone-- my friends at Friends of Shockoe Hill pointed out another woman writer (who is pretty amazing, by the way) and while I'm digging through the society pages, which is one of the biggest pleasures in my research life right now-- you might think it only includes teas and trips to Europe but it is an excellent way to find connections, especially for women. Anyway, Margaret P. Montague's name came up and suddenly more local women writers were discovered-thankfully they're buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond so it was a quick trip for me to locate everyone. 

Margaret Prescott Montague's name seems so familiar ONLY BECAUSE SHE WAS IN MY DOCTORAL DISSERTATION RESEARCH! As some of you know, I’m a professor of English. I teach at Gallaudet University, the world’s only university that is designed for Deaf and hard of hearing students. My doctoral dissertation is on Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature and I still keep up with that research and the blog when I have time. That's the thing about researching, there's never enough time.  Yesterday, my research interests connected. The woman author is buried in a Virginia cemetery. She is also an author of a children's story with deaf characters.

Bernard Guella
Montague was hard of hearing (in one account she writes that she simply cannot hear and she is annoyed with a doctor speaking to a hearing friend “On the Fringe of Silence; a Plea for the Hard of Hearing,” The Des Moines Register, Oct 6, 1934, 4.) and she had tunnel vision. Her brother was the superintendent of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. She interacted with the students there and they inspired her to write a few stories. 

Montague's 1915 writing includes deaf characters who are the main characters. They use sign language with other deaf characters. I love Bernard Guella's description of the book. See the screenshot. 

(Bernard Guella, "Short Stories with Deaf Fictional Characters," American Annals of the Deaf, February 1983, Vol. 128, 1, p.28.)

Aside: I have now discovered 12 women writers in Hollywood, more than any other cemetery in Virginia, and I think their graves are all close-enough for me to put together a Women Writers Cemetery tour.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 announcement- Women Writers Buried in Virginia Cemeteries...

 “If there's a book that you want to read,

but it hasn't been written yet,

then you must write it.”

- Toni Morrison

I love cemetery maps and visitor guides and I have quite a collection. They’re heavily focused on military heroes, founding fathers, political leaders, and the who’s who in that region’s history. I quickly scan guides to find the famous or infamous females who helped build a region’s history. More often than not, from the dozens of entries, there are usually only a few women mentioned rendering the majority of women invisible. Women’s history should not be limited to a specialty tour.

In 2020, I made a point to create my own guidebook. When cemetery tours were suspended for COVID-19, I started doing research and traveling to cemeteries across the state of Virginia. 

I’m super proud to share that my book project provisionally entitled Women Writers Buried in Virginia Cemeteries was accepted for publication by the editorial board for The History Press/ Arcadia Publishing. As of last Thursday, I’m officially under contract.

The book features forty women writers buried in twenty-two Virginia cemeteries. It is scheduled to be published by Women’s History Month (March 2022).


Thursday, April 8, 2021

...mystery of the circus performer buried in Thornrose Cemetery...

 Although Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia is a stunning cemetery to visit on its own, yesterday’s trip was focused on visiting the grave of Eva Howard Clark.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct 3, 1906.
I first learned about this woman in the Visit Staunton on Foot: Thornrose Cemetery. When I find such articles or tourism guides, I always look for any history connected to women. Eva Clark was mentioned and as a trapeze artist with the Cole’s Brothers Circus in the early 20th century, I was immediately hooked. According to the piece, each time a circus came to town, performers would pay Eva Clark’s gravesite a visit and decorate her grave with flowers. From 1906 until 1923, this was the only marking for her grave until “friends with Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus” erected an official grave-marker.

Yesterday’s trip to Thornrose Cemetery, which is an approximately 2 ½ hr. drive from my home, included one of our first hot summer-like days. It was gorgeous and sunny. It has trees but not necessarily the kind that offer much shade. Thornrose Cemetery was established in 1849 on 12 acres. The first burial in the cemetery was in 1853.

The News Leader, Sep 14, 1923.
Entering the cemetery, one goes through a stone arch and gatehouse that was designed by local architect T.J. Collins and built by William Larner & Company. This was added in 1896. If you continue straight through, you will also see a footbridge and tower. The cemetery includes a row of mausoleums that is often referenced as the “city of the dead.” Other than the impressive collection of mortuary art, I was also taken by how seemingly every grave faced the east. While this is a tradition in Christian burial grounds, the graves in Thornrose Cemetery add a bit of drama. I had to go to the eastern part of the cemetery if I wanted to see anything other than the backs of graves.

Before meandering, I searched for Eva Howard Clark’s grave. She is located in section 10 with a road on the left of her grave, which made it somewhat easy to find.

In 1906, when the circus was touring through Staunton, Eva Clark was found in a circus tent with a bullet in her abdomen. She lived for just a month after that. Although the circus wanted to take Eva’s body home to be buried, authorities refused suspecting that the shooting had not been accidental and the body was evidence. Witnesses said her husband, Lum Clark, and a fellow trapeze performer named James Richards were present during the shooting. Clark was known to be a jealous husband and was suspected of the shooting his wife but it was unclear if it was an intentional or an accidental shot. No charges were ever filed.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Oct 5, 1906.
When I went looking for more information about Eva Clark, I found an article, “A very cold case: Circus performer's mysterious death in 1906 has ties to Cincinnati” in the Cincinnati Enquirer that shared that every Christmas since 1906, a wreath has been left on her grave. Her parents, who were also performers, called Cincinnati home and worked for the Clements & Russell Railroad Show in 1890.

Two women have been researching the life of Eva Howard Clark for a couple years now and note, “she was a big deal in the entertainment industry…” In the piece, Eva Howard grew up in the business and was an aerialist who could sing and dance and was known as "The Queen of the Air." Their goal is to tell the story of Clark’s life, not her death.

Thursday, April 1, 2021