Reflections and Applications: Flora J. Cooke, Educator from Chicago: The Hawaii Session.
Flora Cooke can be studied as a role model for young girls (and boys) of any generation: as an adopted, misunderstood, precocious young girl who rose to become an acclaimed teacher and principal, and later as a "Grand Old Lady of Education" offering her wisdom to educators and commentary on international relations. Upon graduating from high school in 1884, she said there was little opportunity for girls to go to college as well as limited career choices. However, modern times were emerging by 1899, meaning fewer restrictions were inhibiting women when she was invited and sailed to Hawaii in the summer for six weeks to teach teachers and give classroom demonstrations with children. But she stepped off the ship into a century-long history of imperialism in the form of competition for control of the islands between the United States, Japan, Britain, China, and Portugal, among others. (2)
According to historian Linda Schott, Victorian women were deemed emotional and nurturing, limiting them to nurturing opportunities like nursing, social work, and teaching. Conversely, men were deemed superior at reasoning and aggressiveness, so business, politics, and international relations were natural fields. Cooke's nearly 90 years of life reflected influences from the waning Victorian period forward. In this context, Cooke would be an excellent subject for a Women's Studies class, exploring how she experienced, adapted, and emerged from the restrictive Victorian life after the Civil War to the turn of the century and beyond until her death in 1953. She was not a strident activist for change, meaning picketing and marching for more rights for women. However, she was a student of history. Upon hearing of the death of a man who years before advocated less pay for women teachers than men, she remarked he now rested in a fitting location. She progressed from being a young woman unable to go to college to being awarded an honorary degree to being an adviser to the newly established Roosevelt University in Chicago. From World War I onward, as principal of the Francis Parker School, she embraced war and peace issues, once defending a core pillar of the school, even if it meant losing her job: She supported a student's right to freedom of speech concerning pacifism over the protests of parents during World War I. And at the close of World War II, an emotionally-distressed friend asked for her thoughts on the future of the world, one that now contained the "eruption" of the atomic bomb. A study of Cooke would yield nearly a century of information about a female educator dealing with the psychology, people, and events of her times and demonstrating how teaching progressive principles would enable students to solve problems. (3)
During the 1890s, global rivalry for control of Hawaii and cultural and social issues of equality were embroiling the islands, but Cooke's focus was on summer school teaching. This was, perhaps, due to the influence of her restrictive Victorian heritage, and a reluctance to enter the traditional male sphere of politics. Yet, ironically, wittingly or unwittingly, with her mere presence as a teacher she became a part of the competitive drive by the United States to gain control of the islands. Since the United States did not have the largest population on the islands, it was decided that the schools would be used to gain a more secure hold on them by controlling the curriculum and requiring English to be the main language spoken. (4)
This historical poem analyzes a Victorian woman with a narrow mission of teaching teachers and children (only 3 out of 20 spoke English) despite the political, social, and cultural events challenging the 1890s, the islands, and her educational beliefs. This poem draws upon her essay of 1900 documenting her experiences and observations, and other primary documents by her contemporaries and historians. There appears to be no previous analysis of her visit to Hawaii. Her teaching was judged by over a hundred teachers in the summer session to be the most beneficial, but she was not informed of this until three decades later by the session's organizer. In contrast, John Dewey's contribution that summer was celebrated contemporaneously by the organizer. (5)
Biographical chapters in books primarily examine Cooke's career as a noted teacher and principal and influential educator in retirement without referencing Hawaii. Beyond Cooke's own writing, very little is recorded about her trip. A sympathetic newspaper feature in 1948 explained some of her challenges as an educator dealing with children of multiple nationalities and languages and her characteristic determination to succeed. Until this historical poem, no additional source analyzes or advances her experience. (6)
Ironically, her mentor, a man, Francis W. Parker, principal of the Cooke County Normal School where she taught in the 1890s, pushed her and other women in the school, whom he playfully, yet prophetically, called "new-fangled women," beyond the restrictions of the Victorian era. For example, in 1901, he appointed a surprised and reluctant Cooke principal of the newly built Francis W. Parker School, a position she held until retiring in 1934 (a large painting of her hangs in the entrance today). Parker, whom she called a father figure and who died in 1902, had many more transformative requirements for Cooke and the other women, which would serve them well in the future. Cooke's life, as a woman coming of age after the Civil War and whose life stretched to the Korean War, deserves an unsentimental examination as a woman involved in her times for nearly a century of American and educational history. (7)
Flora Cooke, a Chicago educator, was invited to teach a summer session of teachers and children in Hawaii in 1899. After writing fifteen pages of a rough draft analyzing her trip, I rediscovered Philip Gerard, a writing teacher at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and his latest book, The Art of Creative Research. I have read and reread for two decades his earlier book on creative writing. The opening sentence of the first chapter in his new work teased my thoughts; "Somewhere in our schooling, the idea of research got separated from our creative impulse." His suggestion of presenting academic research in the form of poetry, including historical poems, was intriguing. I had written poetry for fun for years, infusing historical references. With pages of raw material of Cooke in Hawaii at my fingertips, I decided to turn it into an historical poem. (8)
Gerard says poetry offers an alternative window into history, an alternative way of understanding people. A poem is about humanizing the voices of people through "everyday language," apart from scholarly language. Maria Lahman's essay on turning research into poetry is instructive on the language or terminology of poetry and processes to facilitate writing. Poems emphasize the human experience through affect and color blended into the poets creative perspective. The idea behind constructing a poem is playing with words: their sounds, alliterations, rhythm and rhymes, meanings and double meanings, leading to evoking images and emotions and messages. Lahman and Gerard suggest that students pick a topic or person of interest. Research, say, 10 to 20 facts. Then select those that best profile the subject. Further, brainstorm abstract words (sorrow, love, loss) that relate to the facts. To help stimulate thinking, its suggested also to use the senses to generate more relevant words. The teacher models the process before students initiate writing. Finally, poems are shared aloud and discussed to generate tips for future writing. Creative historical poems can lead students to draw conclusions that go beyond the historical moment to larger truths or more questions to pursue. (9)
Young Flora of the 1880s, winter mornings in Auburn, Ohio, walked a mile to light the classroom stove. Youngstown, Ohio, climbed a hill through snowy morning chills. With "boundless energy" and "perfect ease"--over a hundred children to organize and task. "Unusually competent teacher" and "esteemed woman," Superintendent Frederick Treudley commended. And one more thing, her teaching "I have never seen excelled," Supervisor Sarah Row held. (10) On to Chicago and Cook County Normal School during the 1890s. Flora's Youngstown principal and Cook County graduate, Zonia Baber, handed Flora a life-changing moment, recommended to Cook County's principal, please take her Francis Parker. She soon became "one of the best primary teachers I've ever seen," Parker, who became her mentor, compared. "Great schoolmistress of our time." Harold Rugg, an educational reformer, declared. "Her spirit of motherhood" made her "wonderfully successful," Dora Wells, a principal and friend, shared. "Miss Cooke was the heart of the family pumping the blood of life to us." "We can never let her down." Perry Dunlap Smith, a graduate, offered. (11) Flora did not distain change as the Victorian era waned, but men's exclusionary political and social spheres, she did not actively seek her younger years. She was fine applying a Victorian's "vicarious" mother's mind, especially when delivering memorable children's motivational lines: Real beauty is not wearing a "pretty dress" but being "kind and friendly through the eyes because you are kind and friendly inside," and when challenging children to improve at the end of the school year: A "happy" summer is "learning to do many things:" climbing trees, gardening, swimming, assisting with cooking, setting tables and saying good morning pleasantly. (12) Off to Hawaii the last summer of the century, to answer John and Alice Dewey's plea? Create a kindergarten please, to remember Hawaii's Castle family's tragically deceased. Other prominent people pleaded: impoverished Portuguese pupils with needs, like learning to read, await your expertise. Stay at least a year. (13) San Francisco to Hawaii on the steamer America Maru, Flora, Zonia, the Deweys, teaching, exploring, having fun. However, after "touring Chinatown's slums," visiting "opium fiends" and "prisoners" in cells, "Voyeurism" or educational, opined the Hawaiian Star? (14) These Chicago ladies photographed stylishly displaying hats under the Waikiki sun, waiting with John and Alice for an outrigger canoe cruise. As visible as Flora and John were, she said no, so Dewey turned to others to get the memorial done, and she to another to procure her Hawaiian summer session. (15) Francis Parker's letter of '98 sold sailing over there, with beloved nature study extraordinaire, "tropical vegetation and air, and coconuts and palm trees." "Go wild" without hesitation. Flora heard the message, acknowledging in her essay summing up Hawaii, such "aesthetic beauty in the mountains, sea, and vegetation," and in the "coloring of the trees, foliage, and flowers." Been to twenty-eight states professionally, Flora added one newly USA annexed territory. Henry Townsend, Hawaii's school chief and creator of popular summer sessions, and supporter of progressive tenets unity and cooperation, assigned her lectures and "cosmopolitan" classroom demonstrations. (16) Flora faced a daunting task teaching twenty children with only three speaking English. However, the possibility of "associating" and "harmonizing" the "diversity" was an "inspiring" opportunity to demonstrate progressive "principles of education" in action. Teaching reading was Flora's specialty, especially naturally; children ate it up, literally. Naming, coloring, touching, holding and with much anticipation, eating apples, bananas, and pineapples together, while laughing, working, and playing happily. (17) Flora transitioned over three decades from a teacher to a principal to looming retirement in '34, when a letter from former school chief Townsend arrived the year before, revealing teachers hailed hers the best summer session of all. And then Townsend's blockbuster call: Flora, "John Dewey gave us the statement of the philosophy underlying activity-centered schools and Miss Flora J. Cooke, in our very midst, gave us the well-digested illustration in actual practice." So, thirty-four years later, John and Flora stood toe to toe on an equal plane, thus supporting Susan Douglas Franzosa's claim: women in education are frequently marginalized on the "periphery" or "omitted," philosophers over classroom teachers, men over women. (18) If more is needed before convincing, Hawaii historian Benjamin Wist proceeded, "Dr. Dewey himself, the Great High Priest" was "our lecturer," while Flora Cooke, he merely mentioned. Echoing the past herself, Flora discovered a "dearth" of other leading women educators themselves barely represented on Chicago's library shelves. And as one might suspect, with "little" Victorian respect for "women's views," according to rhetoric and writing researcher Vickie Ricks, educators themselves even had "misgivings teaching women to write and speak in public." (19) "During president of the islands Sanford Dole's lifespan the focus of Hawaiian history shifted from one race to another," his biographer approvingly insisted. Nineteenth century historian James Carpenter documented. Boston missionaries sailed on a mission earlier in the century to makeover "uncivilized natives". "Primitive savages" with indecency and immorality and human sacrificing needed churches and schools and western clothing to overcome heathendom. Moralists pitched Christianity, hitting "the primitives" with righteousness and deadly epidemics, prompting Mark Twain's polemic, While the "disease of civilization" killed the natives, the "heirs" of the missionaries and Dole, excitedly joined by Mr. and Mrs. Parker, prepared to celebrate the lowering of the Hawaiian flag at the USA's annexation time, with Flora arriving a year later. (2) Did Flora recognize Sanford Dole's historical racist flow? Social Darwinist thinkers thought, after all, the strong naturally conquer the weak, whether on a Hawaiian island, beach, or mountain peak. Flora knew Hawaiian schools had been established for everyone for sixty years. Coming-of-age in the generation following the Civil War, her lifelong progressive mission was to unite, serve, and strengthen all equally. (21) The nineties featured countries imperialistically expanding globally, the stronger gobbling the weak, seeking new military bases, territories, and trading places, and refueling and supplying stations. The USA joined this "imperialist's club" in Hawaii, competing with Britain, Germany, China, Japan and many more. The USA did not want to fail in defending its giant military base, big sugar business interests, and refueling station hub. But, a newspaper published a frightful population score: 4500 to 82 new residency of Japanese women over the USA in one year. (22) School chief Townsend decided the way to defeat any imperialist competitor arriving "from without was from within." So, "Americanization of the islands" in "spirit" meant schools had to become tools to spread the English language and deliver American culture. Historian Jonathan Zimmerman adds: teachers more than journalists, diplomats, or merchants put a "human face" on America's push for power on the "global stage." Nineties' teachers "confidently" exported their "progressivism" abroad. Although politics was not the choice of Victorian influenced Flora, in 1899, this educator sailed into the political fray, raising the question: Was she as an educator under Townsend's summer session, an unwitting imperialist? (23) Flora knew teachers were the key to enable Hawaiian children to tackle the islands' "great social problems," but Cecil K. Dotts, historian of twentieth century Hawaiian education, said ideas like hers were not to be. Big business interests needed compliant workers, not questioning thinkers. Henry Townsend's progressive foundation crumbled to the political expediency of Hawaii's leader, Sanford Dole. A return to the formalization of Hawaiian classrooms with rote memorization and drills in math and language skills replaced "learning by doing" and exploring diverse communities. Still, Flora reflected and said she left Hawaii with "happy and inspiring memories." But more than a century past declaring Hawaii her summer "high spot," her experience included an educational issue debated widely today: the practices of formalism versus progressivism. (24) Zimmerman explained the USA settled Hawaii through American culture and virtue and certainty of "superiority" to check the "savagery" of the islanders. Flora herself sprinkled descriptors through her writing, implicitly suggesting cultural inferiority: "Simple, crude, old, ancient, primitive and quaint," to describe native women sitting on street pavements weaving Ieis all day, and picturing a thinly clad stone-aged looking man[??]ing taro roots into poi, a favorite eaten with fingers. And eventually professing the "most difficult problem" was finding the "best education for a primitive race," confessing the "impossibility of grafting a ready-made school system" upon Hawaii. Prescient was she anticipating activities in Hawaii connecting to today. American teachers abroad decades after the turn of the twentieth century doubted the "mission of bringing light to darkness," civilization to savages, and asked: "Whose values and beliefs should govern the world, and why?" (25) Epilogue 1: The Parkers Mr. and Mrs. Parker absorbed more than nature study the summer before Flora. The political landscape propelled them beyond classroom doors, to become at least sympathizers to the imperialist take-over. Mrs. Parker's social and cultural Hawaiian descriptions indicate the Parkers were wined, dined, and given tour-guided trips courtesy of power elites: Thompson, Thurston, Carter, Dole, and Mead, and especially with "young" businessman Walter Dillingham's railroad rides. Francis Parker's biographer explained his early anti-Hawaii annexation advocacy before converting to supplanting the natives' hold, to include a noble component of educating the "indolent" Hawaiians. (26) Although Mrs. Parker was hailed for "belonging with modern" women, the literary ladies in her Fortnightly Club thought it "remarkable" she was foregoing her own self to supplement her husband's "educational endeavors." Mrs. Parker was descriptive of the elegant wives and their dresses and dinner tables, while thoroughly impressed with the performance of her Chinese servants, whom she contemplated taking home to serve her own residence. Her moods swung between dichotomous observations, noticing many times a "longing and sadness in everything the Hawaiians sing." Still, some nights the exhilaration over impending annexation left her "so tired with happiness she couldn't go to sleep." Curious questions arise: With "the Hawaiians feeling very badly over annexation," why did she insist "friendly feelings existed between whites and Hawaiians," unlike the "contrasting relations between the Southerner and the Negro?" And even more curious: Why did she evoke for comparison to whites and Hawaiians? Was she suggesting one group of white subjugators was better received than the other, therefore, the Hawaiian natives' subjugation was justified? (27) Epilogue 2: The Cabbie A cabbie cruising Clark Street carefully studies the old buildings of Chicago's past and wonders what secrets of the pioneers they conceal. Passing an old but bustling school, he turns onto Arlington Avenue and notices an energetic girl bounce out of an apartment building and scurry off to school. He imagines generations of other girls spilling out of those doors and wonders where their futures led. A little research finds pioneer Flora, nearly ninety and nearly blind, on Arlington Avenue "raring to go" to realize a Francis Parker museum to house her Hawaiian notes and more for future researchers to quote and grow (28)
(1) Nancy Stewart Green, "Flora Juliet Cooke: Progressive Educator," in Women Building Chicago 1790-1990, eds. Rima Lunin Schultz and Adele Hast (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 180-181; Unknown writer, A page of handwritten information about Flora Cooke being adopted, Home of Cooke's neice, Betty Cant (deceased 1993), Buffalo, New York.
(2) Carol Lynn Gilmer, "Grand Old Lady of Education," Coronet (1947), Wisconsin Historical Society, Blaine Collection, box 200, folder 5, 76.
(3) Linda Schott, Reconstructing Women's Thoughts: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Before World War II (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1997), 10-11; Flora J. Cooke, "Childhood Education 1833-1933" talk given by Flora J. Cooke at Woman's Building - Century of Progress (October 10,1933), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 10, folder 58, 7; Green, "Flora Juliet Cook," 183; Ibid., 182; Letter from Betsy Herzog to Flora Cooke (August 12,1945), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 29, folder 174.
(4) Cecil K. Dotts and Mildred Sikkema, Challenging the Status Quo: Public Education in Hawaii 1840-1980 (Honolulu: Hawaii Education Association, 1994), 42, 52.
(5) Flora J. Cooke, "Hawaii And Her Schools," The Inland Educator (1900), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago Museum, box 1, folder 3, 252-255; Letter from Henry S. Townsend to Flora Cooke (August 26,1933), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 10, folder 58, 1; Benjamin Wist, A Century of Education in Hawaii (Honolulu: Hawaii Education Review, 1940), 138.
(6) Margaret Rush, "Flora Cooke: Progressive Teacher," The Oregonian (1948), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Musuem, box 30, folder 181, 2.
(7) Letter from Francis W. Parker to Zonia Baber (March 23 1897), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 1 folder 2,1; Gail L. Kroepel, "Flora J. Cooke and the Francis W. Parker School," in Founding Mothers and Others: Women Educational Leaders During the Progressive Era, eds. A. R. Sadovnik and S. F. Semel (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 127.
(8) Philip Gerard, The Art of Creative Research: A Field Guide for Writers (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2017), 1.
(9) Ibid., 18,176; Maria K. E. Lahman, Veronica M. Richard and Eric D. Teman, "ish: How to Write Poemish (Research) Poetry," Sage Journals (January 28, 2018), 11,18-22.
(10) Rush, "Flora Cooke," 2; Gilmer, "Grand Old Lady of Education," 79; Treudley to To Whom It May Concern, 1; From Sarah Row to Whom It May Concern, Flora Cooke Papers, box 1, folder 1 (March 9,1891), 1.
(11) Gilmer, "Grand Old Lady of Education," 80; Letter from Francis W. Parker to Flora Cooke (March 31,1900), Flora Cooke Papers, box 1, folder 3,1; Harold Rugg and B. Marian Brooks, The Teacher and Society: An Introduction to Education (Yonkers-on-the-Hudson, New York: World Book Company, 1950), 481. Rugg and Brooks, The Teacher and Society, 481; Dora Wells, in "Luncheon in Honor of Miss Flora J. Cooke," Women's City Club of Chicago (April 7, 1934), Anita McCormick Blaine Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society, box 199, 23; Perry Dunlap Smith, in "Luncheon in Honor of Miss Flora J. Cooke," 4-6.
(12) Flora J. Cooke, "Annual Meeting of the Parents Association: Presentation of Gift to Francis W. Parker School in honor of Flora J. Cooke," (May 28, 1934) Flora Cooke Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society, box 10, folder 62), 6; Flora J. Cooke, "Summer Message Francis W. Parker School," (June 1913), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 3, folder 22,1-2; Gilmer, "Grand Old Lady of Education," 80.
(13) Letter from John Dewey to Flora J. Cooke, (September 20,1898), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 1, folder 2, 1; Letter from Alice C. Dewey to Flora Cooke (September 16, 1898), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 1, folder 2, 2; Letter form Caroline Castle to Flora Cooke (August 14,1898), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 1, folder 2,1, 7-8.
(14) "Hawaii Star," in "John Dewey's Visits to Hawaii," ed. Hunter McEwan, Educational Perspectives: Journal of the College of Education/University of Hawaii at Manoa 47, no. 1-2 (2015): 18.
(15) Ibid., 18.
(16) Letter from Francis W. Parker, to Flora Cooke (July 8, 1898), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 1, folder 2,1; Cooke, "Hawaii and Her Schools," 253; Flora J. Cooke, "Opportunities and Episodes of a Teacher's Life in America During the Last Half Century--born 1864--Teaching Life 1884 to 1934--Present Date 1941," (1941), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 17, folder 100, 5.
(17) Cooke, "Hawaii and Her Schools," 253; Gilmer, "Grand Old Lady of Education," 80.
(18) Letter from Henry Townsend to Flora J. Cooke (August 26,1933), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 10, folder 58,1; Susan Douglas Franzosa, "Schools Yet-To-Be: Recovering the Work of Nineteenth Century Women in Early Childhood Education," Vitae Scholasticae: The Journal of Educational 32, no.l, (2015): 5-6.
(19) Wist, A Century of Education in Hawaii, 138; Cooke, "Childhood Education 1833-1933," talk given by Flora J. Cooke at Woman's Building - Century of Progress," 1; Vickie Ricks, "In an Atmosphere of Peril: College Women and Their Writing," in Nineteenth Century Women Learn to Write, ed. Catherine Hobbs (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1995), 63.
(20) Ethel M. Damon, Sanford Ballard Dole And His Hawaii (Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books, 1957), 1; James Carpenter, America in Hawaii: A History of United States Influence in the Hawaiian Islands (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1899), 18-20, 109; Mark Twain, in Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure, ed. Julia Flynn Siler. (New York: Grove Press, 2012), 65.
(21) Cooke, "Hawaii and Her Schools," 254-255.
(22) David Traxel, 1898: The Birth of the American Century, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), XII; Henry Townsend, "Chicago Educators in Hawaiian Islands," Chicago Herald (June 10, 1900), Francis Wayland Parker Scrapbook and Miscellaneous Papers, University of Chicago, Joseph Regenstein Library, Archives, Special Collections, 2.
(23) "Chicago Educators in Hawaiian Islands," 3; Jonathan Zimmerman, Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008), 6.
(24) Cooke, "Hawaii and Her Schools," 253; Warren Nishimoto, "Public Education in Hawaii: Oral Histories: Oral History Interview with Cecil K. Dotts, March 6, 1991, Honolulu, Oahu," Center for Oral History Social Science Research Institute University of Hawaii at Manoa (March 6, 1991), 391, 413-415; Cooke,"Opportunities and Episodes of a Teacher's Life," 100, 5.
(25) Zimmerman, "Innocents Abroad," 254-255.
(26) Francis Stuart Parker, "Extracts from Mrs. Parker's Letters Written on Her Hawaiian Trip," in Frances Stuart Parker: Reminiscences and Letters (Chicago: C. L. Ricketts, 1907), 69, 75,91.
(27) Annie M. Ela, Mary H. Wilmarth, and Alice L. Williams, "Memorial Resolutions: The Fortnightly Club," in Frances Stuart Parker: Reminiscences and Letters (Chicago: C. L. Ricketts, 1907), 69, 71, 84, 87-88,116.
(28) Flora J. Cooke, "A Proposed Historical and Statistical Library and Museum for the Future as a Feature of the Francis W. Parker School," (January 2,1953), Flora Cooke Papers, Chicago History Museum, box 23, folder 136,1-2.
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|Date:||Mar 22, 2018|
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