Five Curious Things You Never Knew About Charles Dodgson

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You may know him better as Lewis Carroll.

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This author penned one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time… a story of a young girl thrust into an upside down world, where animals not only talk but judge, where obnoxious royals sign death warrants at the drop of a hat, and where so many characters talk nonsense that the young girl becomes quite adept at talking nonsense herself. The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (or Alice’s Adventures Under Ground) was born on this day in 1832, and we thought we might be able to lighten your spirits with a few lesser known facts about this quiet, almost reclusive man.

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1. Dodgson was the third of eleven children, most of whom developed a painful stammer at a young age. The stammer would plague Dodgson for the rest of his life, making him wary of spending time amongst those his own age, and allowing him to feel the most comfortable with children.

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2. In 1891, Dodgson invented the nyctograph – a substitution cypher that he found useful for taking notes at night, without needing light to do so. He felt this could benefit those needing to jot down ideas in the dark, but also could be used as a form of shorthand writing for the blind. Even today, nyctography is still used by a select few!

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3. Despite being the famed children’s author that he is today, Dodgson was actually an extremely gifted mathematician – his chosen profession. One of his college (or high school age) teachers even remarked how he had yet to see a student as gifted as Dodgson… not to mention the fact that Dodgson would go on to publish 11 books in mathematics on a variety of topics from linear algebra to puzzle-making and geometry.

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4. Dodgson is on the list of potential suspects as Jack the Ripper. No joke! His aloof behavior, his perpetual bachelorhood, his curious preference for spending time with young children and his ability to decipher codes and confuse his public made at least one wary of the solitary scholar… and it landed him on a list of suspects. Obviously nothing came of it – despite those who believe Dodgson’s intentions with Alice Liddell (the young girl whom Alice’s Adventures is based upon) were not innocent, it hardly places him in the serial killer arena!

5. Dodgson wrote himself in as the Dodo in the Alice story, a characterization of himself both endearing and saddening – as it is thought that he did so because his stutter frequently made him introduce himself as “Do-do-Dodgson”. He was not the only real person written into the book, however, as all three of the sisters present at the first telling of the story find their way into the book (Lorina Liddell became the Lory, Edith Liddell became the Eaglet, and a Reverend colleague of Dodgson’s even became the duck!

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Want to learn more about this fascinating, yet peculiar man? Read our blog about his life here.

Happy Birthday, 189th Charles Dodgson!
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Favorite Books of Past US Presidents

Tavistock Books joins millions of Americans in welcoming President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to the White House, bringing much needed peace and guidance back to the American people.

                   Ben Franklin wants to read this list of his faves’ faves… just like us! ;)

DISCLAIMER: Please, dear readers, take this list with a grain of salt! While some are irrefutable, stated by the Presidents themselves, others have been assumed. See the full list by Dave Odegard, explained in detail, here.
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1. George Washington (1789-97): Cato, a Tragedy by Joseph Addison

2. John Adams (1797-1801): An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution by Mary Wollstonecraft

3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-09): Literally everything

4. James Madison (1809-17): The Collected Essays of John Locke by John Locke

5. James Monroe (1817-25): Pleasures of the Imaginations by Mark Akenside

6. John Quincy Adams (1825-29): Oberon by Christoph Martin Wieland

7. Andrew Jackson (1829-37): The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

8. Martin Van Buren (1837-41): Autobiography of Martin Van Buren by Martin Van Buren

9. William Henry Harrison (1841): A Memoir of the Public Services of William Henry Harrison by James Hall

10. John Tyler (1841-45): The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

11. James K. Polk (1845-49): His Diary

12. Zachary Taylor (1849-50): The History of England by David Hume

13. Millard Fillmore (1850-53): A Dictionary

14. Franklin Pierce (1853-57): The Life of Franklin Pierce by Nathaniel Hawthorne

15. James Buchanan (1857-61): Life of George Washington by Jared Sparks

16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-65): Collected Works of William Shakespeare

17. Andrew Johnson (1865-69): The American Speaker

18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77): Most likely a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): The Collected Speeches of Daniel Webster

20. James Garfield (1881): Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

21. Chester Arthur (1881-85): Something by Charles Dickens or William Makepeace Thackeray

22. Grover Cleveland (1885-89): Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone

23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-93): One of Walter Scott’s novels

24. Grover Cleveland (1893-97): Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone

25. William McKinley (1897-1901): Collected poems by Lord Byron

26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09): Influence of Sea Power Upon History by Alfred Thayer Mahan

27. William Howard Taft (1909-13): Something about the Supreme Court… probably

28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-21): Congressional Government by Walter Bagehot

29. Warren Harding (1921-23): Rules of Poker

30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29): The Collected Works of Cicero

31. Herbert Hoover (1929-33): David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): A collection of Rudyard Kipling poems

33. Harry S. Truman (1945-53): The Lives of Great Men and Famous Women by Charles Francis Horne

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61): A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

35. John F. Kennedy (1961-63): From Russia with Love by Ian Flemming

36. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69): The Other America by Michael Harrington

37. Richard Nixon (1969-74): Anything by Leo Tolstoy

38. Gerald Ford (1974-77): Any Horatio Alger novel

39. James Carter (1977-81): Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans

40. Ronald Reagan (1981-89): The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

41. George H.W. Bush (1989-93): War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

42. William J. Clinton (1993-2001): Meditations by Marcus Aureilus

43. George W. Bush (2001-09): The Bible

44. Barack Obama (2009-2016): Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson and/or Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

45. Donald Trump (2017-2021): All Quiet on the Western Front: A Novel by  Erich Maria Remarque

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President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (2021 – ): Ulysses
by James Joyce 

Vice President Kamala Harris (2021 – ): Native Son by Richard Wright

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How a Dickensian Christmas Can Boost the Spirits of Those of Us Living in 2020

When you think of the word “Dickensian” what comes to mind? We would not be surprised if you mentioned soot-covered children working in factories, or angry adults beating each other down with vicious words and persnickety actions. Then again… what comes to mind if we say “Dickensian Christmas”? I’ll bet an entirely different view comes to mind. Perhaps you see a warm and cozy drawing room, children playing by a large fire, adults jolly and laughing over punch with a large tree in the corner and candles lit on its branches. Sound familiar? Well it isn’t an accident. There is an old story (a myth, if you will) that on the day Dickens died, as the news was ravaging through the streets of London, a small costermonger’s daughter said with dawning horror, “Mr. Dickens is dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?” Whether this story is based in reality or not, the feeling still remains… Dickens is a name commonly associated with the holidays the world over. We’d like to examine why that is and what we can learn from it this particular holiday season.

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We have published several blogs before reviewing Dickens’ childhood experiences, and the traumas he endured as a youth. Being one of the unwashed and poor factory children we associate with the word “Dickensian” was what led him to spend his life working with social reform to aid the poor and undervalued members of society. How then did he become so widely associated with the holiday that a poor vegetable seller’s daughter thought his death might mean the end of Christmas forever? For Dickens, it was easy. His childhood made him never want to experience such a Christmas again. He gravitated towards positivity, light and joy – and made sure to share it with those around him. Christmas in the Dickens household (when Charles was a father himself) was legendary. He would perform magic tricks for his friends, the table would be set elaborately, his wife would make and/or supervise the making of all manner of foods, they would have a warm fire and sing/perform together… Dickens made for himself and his family the Christmas he wished for as a child.

 

dickensBefore Dickens published A Christmas Carol (written in only a six short weeks, and published the week before Christmas at considerable expense to Mr. Dickens), he and his wife Catherine were experiencing your average hardships. They were expecting their fifth child, and supplications of money from his aging father and family, with dwindling sales from his previous works had put him into a tough financial place. In the fall of 1843, a 31-year-old Dickens was asked to deliver a speech in Manchester, supporting adult education for manufacturing workers there. His extreme interest in the subject (one that hit a bit too close to home, I believe) and his resolve to aid the lowly pushed an idea to the forefront of his mind – a speech can only do so much… to get to the crux of the matter he would need to get into the hearts, minds and homes of his readership and country. As the idea for A Christmas Carol took shape and his writings began, Dickens himself became utterly obsessed with his own story. As his friend John Forster remarked, Dickens “wept and laughed, and wept again’ and that he ‘walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed” while writing it. Dickens took the financial hit publishing it on his own, in a beautiful cloth bound book with gilt leaf edging, and colorful illustrations by John Leech.

 

The book became an instant sensation, and this book – celebrating the joy, kindness and positivity possible in humans, not to mention the ability to change for the better – did even better than Dickens could have imagined. It transformed into a handbook, of sorts – how to live a successful, kind life, both in the holiday season and beyond.

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So what can we here in 2020 take away from A Christmas Carol and Dickens’ obsessive love of the holiday? Well, the first thing might be to embrace the warmth of home. With all the griping about the hell that 2020 has put us through, and the harsh realities of staying home for months and months, staying away from friends, not being able to eat out or travel… perhaps one last push of 2020 can be for us all to embrace what we have right in front of us – a roof over our heads, a fire (or a heater), and good food. I realize that in past years (and in A Christmas Carol, of course) we might have not only embraced the love we could find in our own households, but invited others to experience it as well. Perhaps in 2020 the time has come to focus more of our attention on those in our immediate household. Shower them with as much love and kindness as we would use for all of those around us.

 

Similar to how Dickens and his family celebrated, decorate as festively and as cozily as you so choose – don’t let a lack of visitors deter you from putting together a beautiful tree, or hanging a wreath on your door. Pass the longer evenings with a great book and a hot drink, or perhaps do as Dickens did and allow your creativity to flourish. Finally take the time to write that story you’ve been meaning to, or put together a skit for your family to act out on Christmas morning. As Dickens probably did, send your letters off to far away family and friends with your love, and perhaps a gift or two… the real gift, of course, being that your thoughts are with them, even when you cannot be. For those that do not celebrate the holiday of Christmas, we say the same endearments hold true… enjoy the winter season with your immediate family, decorate however you choose, drink warm hot toddies and allow the candlelight to spark your creativity. Whatever you do… don’t allow yourself to forget the main take-away of A Christmas Carol. Be caring, giving, and loving to all of those around you, value their lives as you value your own. Only then will you truly find the spirit of Christmas inside of you!

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Safe and Happy Holidays to All

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Honoring our Literary Heroes this Halloween

Long ago, before the days of commercialized holidays and plastic trick or treating pumpkins, many of our pagan ancestors celebrated a time of year that honored the thinning of a veil between the worlds of the living and the dead. At a time of year when the Northern Hemisphere is getting ready for a winter slumber, it was thought that this liminal time was an ideal moment for reverence and adoration of ancestors, of spirits, and of those not necessarily dwelling in the realm of the living. Some celebrated the Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”), marking the end of the harvest season, and enjoyed calling on their deceased loved ones and predecessors to enjoy a feast with them, or even to walk amongst the living for a period of time. Today, the spirit of Halloween is often absorbed in candy and nylon costumes. This year, we would like to honor the true spirit of the holiday by saluting some of our favorite authors who have passed on.

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Who would we wish to “see” crossing the veil and walking around amongst us on this All Souls Day? Well, literarily speaking….

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Charles Dickens

This obvious choice is our #1 pick of which author we’d like to see amongst the living on Halloween night. Who wouldn’t? We would wonder if he had any inkling how his fame and popularity would persist for years to come…

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Henry James

Considered one of the greatest novelists in the English-speaking world, James was also an interesting character. He was frequently known to abruptly change the subject, or ask for a dance when no one else was dancing. James once wrote to fellow writer Hugh Walpole “We must know, as much as possible, in our beautiful art . . . what we are talking about – &  the only way to know it is to have lived & loved & cursed & floundered & enjoyed & suffered – I don’t think I regret a single “excess” of my responsive youth – I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions & possibilities I didn’t embrace.” If we came upon James, we would love to ask what possibilities he did not embrace… perhaps so we should not live to regret not taking those chances either!

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Robert Heinlein

A favorite Heinlein quote of ours is this: “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” To which we say – yes! In the modern world we wonder if we have lost a bit of our good manners. We don’t wish to re-enter a time when negative actions were brushed under the rug with politeness, no. We just wonder if we might ever again feel like the pride in our actions match the pride in our words. I wonder what Heinlein would have to say about our current political climate…

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Agatha Christie

Now here is a choice that would be truly selfish, as Christie was an enormously private person. But in a perfect world, we might be able to pick Agatha Christie’s brain, see how a seemingly “normal” woman came up with such amazing mysteries and tales. And perhaps, we would see if she’d be willing to set the stage for a 21st century murder!

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Oscar Wilde

Did you know that Wilde’s last words were “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do?” Not only was he a renegade of the “Gilded Age” but his sense of humor puts him a cut above so many. So in terms of having a good laugh on Halloween night? We have to go with Wilde.

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Mary Shelley

We know what you’re thinking… right, because she wrote Frankenstein. Wrong! Mary Shelley was accomplished for a variety of reasons – but mostly for going against the grain. True to her blood (being the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft), Shelley did not accept a life of mediocrity. She sacrificed much for the love of her life, she believed that women should have equal power to a man (including having some sexual freedom – relatively unheard of for her time), and she was a gifted writer and storyteller. Once again, we wonder what she would think about Frankenstein being such a phenomenon today!

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Edgar Allen Poe

*Sigh* Yes, we had to go here. Would it even be Halloween if we didn’t include someone a bit spooky in the mix?

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What authors, out of those that have passed on to another realm, would you invite to walk amongst you this Halloween? Let us know!

In the meantime… Happy Halloween, bibliophiles!

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Five Things Bibliophiles can Accomplish in Fall of 2020

We know, we know… 2020 hasn’t been the easiest of years. If we can, we work with no exciting breaks in sight, we have given up on lofty ideas of promotions or raises. We are tired of spending hot days inside, away from friends and family. It hasn’t been easy, and yet – we’re powering through. It seems almost crazy that we will be coming up on the new year in just a few short months. We thought that with the dawn of one of our favorite seasons, it might be time to review how we book lovers can spend some of our days or nights, keeping our distance but hanging out with some of our closest friends, all at once. Read on!

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1. Read, of course! It’s the season to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea (or coffee… or wine) and begin to enjoy the changing of the seasons – which still change, despite Covid-19. (We checked.) On the plus side… reading is a solitary activity, which means that you don’t have to get together with a group of people, or risk your health to travel far and wide. Perfect! If you are able to head to your local booksellers to pick up a title (online or in person), great. If you don’t have book funds at the moment, look around your city or town for neighborhood Little Lending Libraries, or just a regular library!

 

2. An active mind is a healthy mind. For some of us, just reading simply isn’t enough. Perhaps it is time to start up that book blog you’ve always wanted. Blogging is remarkably easy (if we can do it, we know you can too), and nowadays the internet is widely accessible, and it is so easy to publish! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perhaps you can start off focusing on character development, or things titles say about the books themselves. Perhaps you review books you read! Or maybe reviewing and blogging isn’t for you. Look into online book clubs, download Zoom and have at it! As long as books are at the crux of your activities, you’ll never be bored or lonely. <3

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3. For you antiquarian book lovers out there… maybe it is finally time to set up the book collection you’ve been dying for. If you have the means to do so, go ahead and make a list of those titles missing from your shelves and turn to the internet to find them! Of course we fully recommend combing www.tavbooks.com first and foremost to find them (shameless plug), but there are so many sites available to you to help expand your collection. Some of our favorite platforms for searching a wide range of antiquarian inventory are www.abebooks.com, www.vialibri.net, and www.biblio.com. There are also a range of online virtual book fairs happening in the upcoming months… check us and our colleagues out there! Fill up your shelves with your favorites. At the rate we’re going, they might be what keep us all company in the upcoming winter months.

 

4. Organize! Now that the summer is over, and the days are getting shorter, the nights longer, take the time to go through your items and see what texts no longer serve you. I am in my thirties and up until a month or so ago still held onto college textbooks that I did not once look at after passing the class. Someone else could read those! This is less an idea for an antiquarian collection, but more a general shelf-weariness. Perhaps you could find one of the Little Lending Libraries we spoke of and drop off some used books of yours… make space for your favorites and the masterpieces you enjoy.

 

5. And last but not least… discuss your bibliophilia! There’s nothing like hearing a rave book review from a friend to make you want to jump out and read it for yourself. When we can’t be as social as we once were, it is still important to connect with other people. Perhaps it looks like joining an online book club, but perhaps it is also calling your friends and telling them about your current book squeeze. Get creative! Share what you read, and others will share back.

 

Happy Autumn, book friends! Bundle up and get cozy… it will be winter before we know it. 

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A 100 Year Old Victory

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In the grand scheme of things, what is 100 years? In terms of your lifespan, it may seem like a lot. In terms of history, on the other hand? Well, in terms of history it is a mere slip in time. Now what would you say if you were to realize that American women have only had certain rights – specifically the right to vote – for this amount of time? 100 years ago today, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment… stating that American citizens could not be denied the right to vote based on their sex – effectively giving women the chance to make their voices heard. It was not an easy battle! In fact, in the US, support for the suffrage movement began as early as the 1840s! It would take over 80 years for their demands to be instituted. Let’s take a look back at this time in history and see how lives were changed for the better, 100 years ago today.

Some tend to trace the modern suffrage movement (knowing and understanding that women should have always had equal rights as men) back to a specific publication that we all know – Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 UK publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Wollstonecraft was known for being revolutionary in her ideas, and a stalwart for women’s intelligence and respect. It is said by some that her work helped inspire Sarah Grimké’s 1838 The Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women – the work which made abolitionist Grimké to be considered the “mother of the women’s suffrage movement”. Her work, widely circulated from Boston throughout the early United States, helped inspire many hundreds (if not thousands) to begin the quest for women’s rights. The main hurdle that women had to jump before these rights could be established, however, was the idea of the pure, innocent woman – one who did not belong in the public sphere. Long considered roles for men only, women becoming part of the public and even political spheres was shocking and highly looked down upon in the early 1800s. In the 1830s and 40s, the abolition of slavery and women’s rights seemed to partner well together, as most women speaking publicly were speaking out condemning slavery… and the act of doing so was automatically a boon for the rights of women. The radical wing (both men and women) of the abolitionist movement were well-known for their support of women’s rights. Unfortunately, towards the beginning, that radical wing consisted of very little of the general population. 

opposedThe opposition of female public speaking wasn’t simply a hurdle. Much of the opposition was so strong that it led to violence. Many female conventions and rallies were disrupted with extreme forcefulness and cruelty, inciting suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony to state this: “No advanced step taken by women has been so bitterly contested as that of speaking in public. For nothing which they have attempted, not even to secure the suffrage, have they been so abused, condemned and antagonized.” Her statement cemented the fact that it was not so much the idea of women voting that bothered their contemporaries, but rather it was women breaking out of the cages they had for so long been held and standing up for themselves publicly that was the problem. 

The Seneca Falls Convention in New York in 1848 marked a specific shift in women’s suffrage. Abolitionist activists, both men and women, gathered to discuss women’s civil rights. Almost all of the delegates agreed… women were autonomous beings, independent of their husbands, and ought to share the same rights as their brothers and husbands. Adopting the Declaration of Independence to their beliefs, the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments proclaimed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Amen to that!

Though the women’s movement lost a bit of momentum and support during the Civil War (rightly so), almost as soon as it ended the issues of suffrage and equality reared up again, what with the 14th and 15th Amendment changes for the rights of men of color. Over the next few years, several associations formed to highlight women’s rights, suffrage being only a part of the demands of their followers. Shockingly, equal pay for equal jobs was a large demand of the women in this period. Throughout the Civil War, women picked up the slack needed as men were away fighting. They performed men’s tasks and men’s jobs (all while keeping house and raising children), and some kept this work up even after the war. Their significantly lower pay for the same work highlighted an extreme disparity with how men and women were treated at the time. Associations like the Women’s Loyal National League, the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), and the New England Woman Suffrage Association (NEWSA) all held strong beliefs and fought for similar rights (though even they were sometimes on opposing sides of the same team).  

Elizabeth Cady StantonIn 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (two of the main “heavy hitters” in the suffrage movement) joined forces to create the National Woman Suffrage Association, and began the fight for a “universal suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution” (History.com). It was Stanton’s belief early on that the only way to change the way women were treated was through government political reform. While some believed that though women deserved rights, support, protection (from domestic abuse) and equal pay – they did not necessarily require the right to vote, Stanton believed the right to vote was integral to all the other matters listed. And she was not wrong. The same year, Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe and Henry Blackwell formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). These two leagues were enmeshed in a bitter feud that would last decades, their participants disagreeing on the Fifteenth Amendment – allowing African American men the right to vote. Some, like Stanton and Anthony, rejected the Amendment, believing that woman’s suffrage was more important, and mistakenly believing that African American men opposed women’s suffrage and would fight against their cause. Stone and other members of AERA, on the other hand, supported their previously oppressed fellow citizens and supported their victories, in hopes they would help support the women’s movement in return. This is not to say that racial bias did not exist in both organizations, as it most definitely did, despite both groups being strongly associated with the abolitionist movement. Their rivalry would last until 1890.

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NAWSA

After tireless years of working to promote ideas of women’s suffrage, the two associations put aside their differences (which by then were somewhat moot points, anyway) to join forces and create the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the massive organization’s first president. “By then, the suffragists’ approach had changed. Instead of arguing that women deserved the same rights and responsibilities as men because women and men were ‘created equal,’ the new generation of activists argued that women deserved the vote because they were different from men. They could make their domesticity into a political virtue, using the franchise to create a purer, more moral ‘maternal commonwealth.’” (History.com) This argument gained them new followers from multiple arenas. Advocates of the temperance movement wanted women to have the vote because they believed it would create a cleaner, purer, more chaste country. The middle class enjoyed the idea of introducing homeliness and kindliness into larger, wealthy political parties.

NYC parade 1917In 1910, some of the Western states slowly began extending the vote to their female citizens. State by state, women were gaining rights (though there was still a significant ways to go). States in the South and the Northeast resisted. WWI once again slowed the momentum of the party, but women’s work in the war effort helped to engender support for their intelligence and abilities in the long run. Their aid proved their patriotism and that they were as deserving of rights as men were. A parade for women’s rights in 1917 in New York City consisted of hundreds of women, carrying placards with over 1 million female signatures on them… a far cry from where they started out, with less than 1% of the population’s support. 

Finally, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee (the last of the 36 states needed to adopt the law) narrowly ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, making voting legal irregardless of sex throughout the United States. A few days later, on August 26th, 1920, 100 years ago today, the Nineteenth Amendment was certified, bringing to culmination an almost 100 year battle by women and men throughout the country. The passing of this amendment enfranchised 26 million American women in time for the 1920 U.S. presidential election. The Amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” 

We are a far cry away from a perfectly equal country – in terms of race, sex and economy. We still have a mighty hill (or a few) to climb in order to reach Utopia. But one thing we do know… 100 years ago, women had fought tooth and nail for the right to vote. The right to make their voices heard, and the right to assist with change on a national level. They wanted to be seen for who they were, not who they were expected to be, and they wanted more than anything to be taken seriously. In celebrating their great victory, let us not forget what they fought for. An election is upon us, and let’s do them proud. Get out there and VOTE!!!!

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What is Patriotism?

And how should we show it?

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This July 4th, it might feel hard to get in the mood for our typical Independence Day celebrations. And to that we say… excellent. So much has happened this year, and we are still only halfway through! These recent serious, life-changing events have taught us how to band together, but it has also taught us how easy it is for the cracks to split us apart. This July 4th, here at Tavistock Books it felt strange to promote an all-American item or highlight an American author, when there is so much we need to do to be the nation we want to be… the nation we can be. Change isn’t always radical – occasionally it is a one-step-at-a-time kind of deal. But let’s take that first step… let’s discuss what we think it might mean to be 100% proud of your country. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of patriotism is “love for or devotion to one’s country”. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “the feeling of loving your country more than any others and being proud of it”. There are a thousand different ways of saying just this… patriotism is the feeling of love and pride for one’s country. Perhaps Independence Day this year is subdued because of the well-placed restrictions on groups, or because of social distancing, or because we are scared. Perhaps some feel a current lack of pride in how our government has handled a global pandemic and addressed systemic racism in our nation. Whichever it is… again, here at Tavistock Books we think we can do better. 

How can we feel patriotism more strongly as a nation? What would cause us to feel more pride for our country? Effective and strong, intelligent yet compassionate leadership, a feeling of togetherness… of facing battles side-by-side, rather than on opposite sides of the fence. Being better allies to all people of color, especially those that have been forsaken by the system again, and again. Taking the entire nation’s health into consideration when we go about our days, not just focusing on how small or trivial (yet essential) changes affect us as individuals. Perhaps in order to be proud of ourselves as a country, we need to first understand that it is a big world… and we are lucky to be a part of it. We should be working toward looking out for each other and looking out for our planet, not simply focusing on ourselves as independent units. If we fail or look ridiculous, if we hurt others or our environment – we do it as a unit. This Independence Day, we – as booksellers, as Americans, as humans – urge all of our fellow bibliophiles, families and friends, to read. Be informed, educate yourselves. Then think about how we can be better as individuals.

Perhaps, once we are able to elevate ourselves as a whole, in both thought and deed, Independence Day will again have a deeper, more wholesome meaning. With that belief in mind, here are a few reading lists we recommend, with books on several of the topics mentioned in this blog. Let’s put them to good use this 4th of July, shall we?

The World Economic Forum on 5 Books to Read for Context on the Coronavirus Outbreak https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/coronavirus-books-pandemic-reading-covid19/

EarthDay.org’s 13 Must-Read Books on the Environment and Climate Change https://www.earthday.org/13-must-read-books-on-the-environment-and-climate-change/

Arielle Gray’s Reading List on Race for Allies Who Want to do Better https://www.wbur.org/artery/2020/06/17/reading-list-on-race-for-allies

Wishing everyone a pleasant Independence Day, stay safe.

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