Eliza Calvert Hall
Eliza Caroline Obenchain
|Born||Eliza Caroline Calvert|
February 11, 1856
Bowling Green, Kentucky
|Died||December 20, 1935 (aged 79)|
Wichita Falls, Texas
|Pen name||Eliza Calvert Hall|
|Education||Western Female Seminary|
|Notable works||Aunt Jane of Kentucky|
|Spouse||William Alexander Obenchain (m. 1885)|
Eliza Caroline "Lida" Obenchain (née Calvert), (February 11, 1856 - December 20, 1935) was an American author, women's rights advocate, and suffragist from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Lida Obenchain, writing under the pen name Eliza Calvert Hall, was widely known early in the twentieth century for her short stories featuring an elderly widowed woman, "Aunt Jane", who plainly spoke her mind about the people she knew and her experiences in the rural south.
Lida Obenchain's best known work is Aunt Jane of Kentucky which received extra notability when United States President Theodore Roosevelt recommended the book to the American people during a speech, saying, "I cordially recommend the first chapter of Aunt Jane of Kentucky as a tract in all families where the menfolk tend to selfish or thoughtless or overbearing disregard to the rights of their womenfolk."
Eliza Caroline Calvert, daughter of Thomas Chalmers Calvert and Margaret (Younglove) Calvert, was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky on February 11, 1856. She was known as "Lida" throughout her life. Lida's father Thomas Chalmers Calvert was born in Giles County, Tennessee to Samuel Wilson Calvert, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife Eliza Caroline (Hall) Calvert. Lida's mother, Margaret Younglove, was from Johnstown, New York.
Lida attended a local private school, and then Western Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio. She pursued two of the careers acceptable for a single woman in her era, teaching school and writing sentimental poetry. She began her professional writing career in order to help support her mother and siblings. Scribner's Monthly magazine accepted two of her poems for publication in 1879 and paid her the equivalent of US$600. She continued writing and had at least six more poems published before age thirty.
On July 8, 1885, Lida married 44-year-old Major William Alexander Obenchain. Obenchain was a Virginia native and American Civil War veteran who in 1883 became president of Ogden College, a small men's school in Bowling Green. Lida and William had four children: Margery, William Alexander Jr. (Alex), Thomas Hall and Cecilia (Cecil). Her family responsibilities left her with limited time to write. Her frustration as an unpaid housewife motivated her to support the cause of women's suffrage and to work with the Kentucky Equal Rights Association.
Women's Rights and Woman Suffrage Activism
Lida was a passionate advocate of suffrage and women's rights. She envisioned a time when "woman's growing self-respect made her rise in revolt, and out of her conflict and her victory came a higher civilization for the whole world." See also her 1892 article, Why Democratic Women Want the Ballot published under the pseudonym, "A Kentucky Woman" for The National Bulletin in 1892.
Lida used her talent as a writer to draft original articles to advocate for women's rights in general. In 1898 Cosmopolitan published "Sally Ann's Experience." The story was reprinted in the Woman's Journal, the Ladies' Home Journal, and in international magazines and newspapers, making the story familiar to people around the world. "Sally Ann's Experience" became the first story of Aunt Jane of Kentucky, a collection of short stories published in 1907. She followed up with The Land of Long Ago in 1909 and Clover and Blue Grass in 1916. Lida published a short novel, To Love and to Cherish, in 1911. In 1912, Lida wrote a book about the mountain weavers of Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky called "A Book of Hand-Woven Coverlets". The book, one of the first of its kind, detailed the designs and colors of the coverlets which aided in elevating the coverlets to be an art form.
"Aunt Jane", an elderly widow, was a reoccurring character in Lida Obenchain's short stories who told the experiences of the people in a rural southern town, named Goshen, to a younger woman visitor who relayed them to the reader. This type of rhetorical device, called a "double narrative," was a common form of storytelling in this era. A collection of short stories, Obenchain's first published book, featuring Aunt Jane, was released in 1907 under the title Aunt Jane of Kentucky.
Rural southern dialect
In the era after the Civil War, magazines featured writers that told stories with regional dialects in local setting. Lida frequently utilized this style of storytelling in her writing. She was successful using this technique: The New York Times stated in their review of Aunt Jane of Kentucky that "Aunt Jane is not false, nor cheap, nor shallow, and the stories that are put in her mouth exhale the very breath of old gardens and county roads and fields."
Interests and themes
Melody Graulich in the Prologue to the 1990 reprint of Aunt Jane of Kentucky notes that Lida Obenchain has women's relationships as a major theme of her writing. The significance of female relationship is further reflected in her choice of her grandmother's maiden name and her own maiden name as her pen name.
Through Aunt Jane and the other characters in her stories, Lida tells of the problems facing women of her time with imagery and symbolism taken from the domestic arts of sewing, cooking, and gardening.
I looked again at the heap of quilts. An hour ago they had been patchwork, and nothing more. But now! The old woman's words had wrought a transformation in the homely mass of calico and silk and worsted. Patchwork? Ah, no! It was memory, imagination, history, biography, joy, sorrow, philosophy, religion, romance, realism, life, love, and death; and over all, like a halo, the love of the artist for his work and the soul's longing for earthly immortality.
Life as a Widow and Death
William Obenchain died on August 17, 1916, after an extended illness. Family responsibilities caused her to move to Dallas, Texas to care for her daughter Margery, who had contracted tuberculosis. She continued to write, but her most productive years as a writer were past. After the death of her daughter in 1923, she stayed in Texas, where she died on December 20, 1935.
- Niedermeier, Lynn E. (2004). "A 1908 Interview With the Author of "Aunt Jane of Kentucky"". Landmark Report. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Galloway, Ewing (30 August 1908). "Eliza Calvert Hall Is Seen At Close Range". Henderson Daily Gleaner. Henderson, Kentucky: Henderson Daily Gleaner. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Niedermeier, Lynn E. (2007). "Aunt Jane of Kentucky". Eliza Calvert Hall: Kentucky Author and Suffragist. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 120–130. ISBN 0-8131-2470-0. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Niedermeier, Lynn E. (2007). "It Did Not Look as We Had Pictured You". Eliza Calvert Hall: Kentucky Author and Suffragist. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 12–24. ISBN 0-8131-2470-0. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Niedermeier, Lynn E. (2007). "Fighting and Preaching". Eliza Calvert Hall: Kentucky Author and Suffragist. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 4–11. ISBN 0-8131-2470-0. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Niedermeier, Lynn (30 April 2009). "Biography". Eliza Calvert Hall. Bowling Green, KY: Western Kentucky University. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
- Hall, Eliza Calvert (1910). "Introduction". Sally Ann's Experience. Illustrated by G. Patrick Nelson, Theodore Brown Hapgood. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. pp. v , — xii. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Hall, Eliza Calvert; Melody Graulich. "Piecing and Reconciling". In Melody Graulich. Aunt Jane of Kentucky. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. vii , — xlv. ISBN 0-8084-0432-6. Retrieved 22 March 2010.
- Niedermeier, Lynn E. (2007). "Be Glad You Are Not a Woman". Eliza Calvert Hall: Kentucky Author and Suffragist. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 174–187. ISBN 0-8131-2470-0. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- Crandall, Charles Henry. (1891) Representative sonnets by American poets: With an Essay on the Sonnet, Its Nature and History, Including Many Notable Sonnets of Other Literatures. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. (Book contains two poems by Eliza Calvert Hall).
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