Shortly after Miriam Reed received her Ph.D. (Comparative Literature UCLA 1980), she discovered how little she knew. Most particularly, I discovered how little I knew about the lives of women and woman’s place in society at large. I discovered, along with many American women, the remarkable Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friendship with the more politically conservative Susan B. Anthony, whose relatively untarnished reputation allowed her to become a venerable iconic footnote to respectable American history, while the more radical Stanton, who dared to write and publish The Woman’s Bible, was consigned to the ranks of Those-about-whom-we-do-not-care-to-speak.
My discovery of the activism of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friendship with Susan B. Anthony determined me to save all women from this ignorance, and so I created solo theatre performances that constituted Women’s History 101. Unfortunately, I probably saved very few from their ignorance, but I did turn on a few lights, and I had an interesting time. So I developed other solo performances, taking as my scripts the words of the individuals featured: “Louisa May Alcott: Living Little Women”; “Oscar Wilde’s Women”; “Talking Abortion”; and most particularly, I wrote and performed the ninety-minute solo play, “Margaret Sanger: Radiant Rebel 1940, 1916.”
My performances found audiences in various colleges, universities, and small theaters. I learned a great deal and went on with my research, taking my savings to write a book that ideally would reach more women than I could with my solo performance. Barricade Books in New Jersey published the book, Margaret Sanger: Her Life in Her Words (2003), and it remains in print today and is available as an ebook. Recently, the book generated my YouTube video under the title, “Margaret Sanger: Her Life.”
The work I am also proud of is my co-founding with Adilah Barnes of the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. LAWTF was created to present each year a season of solo plays that feature women artists, who demonstrate through acting, dance, and storytelling the power of women and of women’s lives. Adilah Barnes took that concept and ran with it, creating an organization that has endured for more than two decades and is only becoming more and bigger and better, a vital contribution to the Los Angeles theatre and cultural scene.
I managed a Bikram Yoga teaching credential and went to Oregon to live off the land, which quickly became living in downtown Ashland, where I could go to Varsity movie theater to see good films and visit the Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University.
The Margaret Sanger research led to writing and creating a documentary on Clarence James Gamble, who founded Pathfinder International, now in Watertown, Massachusetts. Research for that documentary led to the discovery of one-hundred-twenty photos taken in Japan in 1908 by Clarence James Gamble and his older brother Sidney. “Japan 1908: The Adventure of Fourteen-Year-Old Clarence James Gamble” was published in 2014 and tells of the Gamble family’s ten weeks in Japan in 1908. Their parents, David (son of co-founder James Gamble of Procter & Gamble) and Mary Huggins Gamble built in Pasadena, California, what is now a national historic landmark, The Gamble House.
Designed by the progressive architects Greene & Greene, The Gamble House is recognized as especially important to the American Arts and Crafts Movement and incorporates many elements of Japanese design. During the spring and summer of 1908, while the house was being constructed, David and Mary took their family to Japan to buy appointments appropriate for their new splendid house and also to see for themselves the educational work of the Presbyterian missionaries that they were supporting.
Clarence and Sidney, fourteen and seventeen years old respectively, were both avid photographers, and they took many photos in Japan and in China and Korea, also visited on the trip. The photos are a beautiful and absorbing glimpse of another time and space.
The two-week visit to China was the beginning of Sidney’s lifework. Sidney David Gamble became the foremost sociologist and Sinologist, his statistical surveys of then Beijing and of rural northern China were soon to be recognized as classics in the field of Sinology. His more than 5,000 black and white photos of a China in transition from 1908 to 1932 are archived at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Currently, I am living in Ashland, Oregon, and writing about the Gamble family’s two weeks in China, studying the ninety or so photos taken in China in 1908 left to us among Clarence and Sidney’s papers, and learning about the history of China—all 6,000 years of it (well, not quite all). Also on my desk is the draft manuscript for “David and Mary Gamble: A Biography of Character,” the story of the co-joined lives of David and Mary Gamble, the parents of Clarence and Sidney Gamble.
Ashland, along with so much of Oregon, has wonderful trails and woods, where my beloved Border Collie Marnie loves to walk every day. Life is very good when one has a dog to walk with and woods to walk in.