Memories of another graduation season

Cartoon of a man sitting on a riverbank, fishing. The word "seniors" is written above him.

Senior title page from the 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

The class of 2020 faces a graduation season that is unlike anything seen before. While some schools move forward with in-person graduation ceremonies, many have scrambled to creatively meet the challenges created by the need to socially distance and limit contact. There are drive-through graduation ceremonies, virtual graduation ceremonies, and car parades past student and faculty housing. Needless to say, this graduation season will be one for the history books.

I wanted to see what graduation looked like 100 years ago, for the class of 1920 – another graduating class that lived through a series of unprecedented challenges. During their teen years this class witnessed labor unrest, a global pandemic, and a World War. The statement from the class of 1920 gives us a little insight into how these events impacted them.

Senior Class A's Statement - a full page of text with two portraits on the top - one boy and one girl.

Page one of Senior Class A’s statement in the 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

Senior class A's statement. This is a full page of text

Page 2 of Senior Class A’s statement in the 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

This was a class that started its high school experience just before the Everett Massacre occurred in November of 1916, after months of labor unrest had rocked their city and their region. As alluded to in their essay, they had a 6-week ‘vacation’ when the Influenza pandemic that knocked the world to its knees closed Washington schools in the fall of 1918. Some of these students left to go to war in the middle of their schooling, seeing action in the hellish battlefields of France, only to return to Everett High School to finish their classes.

Yearbook page showing student portraits and information about their activities

Page from the Senior Class A section of the 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

Despite all this turmoil, these students remained essentially what they were: teens. Young people with hobbies, inside jokes, and a fierce sense of loyalty and belonging to their cohort. You can read in their statements, their activity pages, and in their class seniorscopes a little bit about who they were. They had gotten involved with the Service League and Red Cross to help aid the war effort, and I suspect to help pack gauze for the influenza response. Their story about the freshman year candy sale triumph must have been a particular point of pride, because they also boasted about it in their junior year statement in 1919. Competition between the different classes must have been fierce, with the hazing of incoming freshman a known threat and the frequent jibes you see in other annuals making fun of underclassmen.

Chart showing stats about different class members of senior class A

A page from the Seniorscope section for Senior Class A – 1920. Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

They loved music, and flirting with each other, and making up goofy nicknames. There were slackers and overachievers, and heartbreakers. They were sassy and nerdy and, well, teenagers.

Back in the earlier days of Everett High School you often had smaller graduating classes who finished their studies after the first semester of their final year. The 1920 Nesika has a section for a class of 1919 1/2, which from the sounds of it was a proud group of misfits.

Class of 1919 1/2 statement

The statement from the class of 1919 1/2, 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

These were students who were transfers, or those who briefly left school to work, or in this period fought in a war. For whatever reason, they returned to earn their last few credits and move on with their lives. Some were destined to follow in their fathers’ footsteps into the mills and logging camps, while others continued on with their education either taking junior college classes at Everett High School or entering the University of Washington. Many of these students were probably the first in their families to seek a college degree.

Yearbook page with student portraits and activities

A page of students from Senior Class 1919 1/2 in the 1920 Everett High School Nesika, Everett Public Library

Horoscope page for the class of 1919 1/2

Horoscope page for the class of 1919 1/2, 1920 Everett High School Nesika. Everett Public Library

This blog isn’t meant to be a discussion about how other kids may have had things worse at some time in the past. Instead, it’s a celebration of the resilience of youth. This is certainly not the graduation that the class of 2020 imagined themselves having. Despite that, our students are constantly adapting and learning to meet the challenges that they face during this extraordinary time. Just as the class of 1920 had to figure out their next steps after they made it through turmoil, so are today’s teens trying to figure out where the future will take them. Maybe that will be a new job, or off to college, or some other new adventure. I hope that like the class of 1920, they will be embarking on the next phase of their journey bolstered by the strength and support of their peers and will meet each new experience with the same sense of humor and pride gained from their shared experiences.

Best wishes to the class of 2020 – we’re proud of you!

A Tribute to Mothers in the Archives

A female parent. A woman in authority. An old or elderly woman. Maternal tenderness or affection. The source or origin. To give birth to, or give rise to. To care or protect like a mother.

If you look in Merriam-Webster’s, there are many definitions of the word ‘mother;’ all but one are complementary. ‘Mother’ refers to nurturing, support, and creation. ‘Mother’ is an idea and an action as much as she is a specific person.

A woman in white holds a baby, three men stand with their backs turned to the camera. The group is overlooking a body of water, possibly a river.

An unidentified woman and child with a group. Pettersen Family collection, Everett Public Library.

I spent some time looking at our digital collections to see how our archives represent mothers. Some images seem obvious: nuclear families with women holding babies. Even though these images came to us without any labels, we make the assumption that we see a mother holding her child. In life, mothering is more intricate than biology.

A woman, man, and baby sit in a yard. The man holds the baby up to face the camera. The day appears sunny and warm.

Unnamed family in yard, Pettersen Family collection, Everett Public Library.

When collections of photographs are donated, they come to us in a variety of states. Some are fully described – every archivist’s dream – while others have no information. Sometimes people leave items for us when we are not around, a bag on a chair with no contact information. These situations leave us making our best guesses at what we are seeing, and I am certain that we sometimes miss the mark.

A child with a bowtie kneels in a garden patch behind small potted plants. Above him, in a window behind him, is a woman looking out at the photographer.

Child and woman, unknown source, Everett Public Library.

The past is full of complicated family situations. Mothers died in childbirth and their widowers remarried, sometimes even to single sister-in-laws. Maybe what appears to be a biological mother could be an aunt or someone unrelated. A parent secretly raised a child born to one of their unwed daughters. Children were adopted into unrelated families, but remained unaware of their origins even into old age. Families kept birth secrets to the grave. Children without supportive parents in their lives turned to older siblings and other adults for the love and care they needed to thrive. Does this change the name we call the people who nurtured these children through their years? Perhaps some people chose to not take on the title ‘Mother’ when raising a child that wasn’t biologically their own, preferring guardian, foster parent, stepmom, grandmother, auntie, mentor, or some other term, but they still earned the verb form of the word. The labor of love they undertook was mothering.

A woman in a large hat and long dress stands to the right holding a baby in white. Behind her to the left are a girl around 10 in a furry hood, and a toddler in what looks like a cape. They are holding hands. Behind them a train smokes, waiting to depart, or just arrived.

Family at train station, courtesy of Erik Wahleen, Everett Public Library.

Being an archivist means describing the materials in our care as accurately as we can. You’ll notice that the titles of the images in this post are vague. We shy away from making assumptions as much as possible. The first image I posted referred to the people pictured as a group, another as a woman and child. It seems like the term ‘family’ was reserved for images where people were physically close; their connections undeniable. We try to keep our descriptions clinical and unbiased, though the images we see evoke memories and associations of our own.

A group of children and women sit in a semi-circle inside a wooden building. Two in the group appear to be adults, the rest range from infant to perhaps preteen.

Tulalip women and Children, J.A. Juleen collection, Everett Public Library

Sometimes members of the community work together to return names and relationships to those pictured. The above image is from a collection of photographs taken at the Tulalip Treaty Day gathering of 1914. In the intervening years since the images entered our care, Tulalip citizens have worked with them to identify numerous attendees. Unfortunately none of the individuals in this image are among the identified, but there is always hope that their stories may be told again some day. Part of working with local history is trying to fill in these gaps. What seems clear from studying this image is that the children here are surrounded by people who are looking after their welfare; they are loved and supported. Mothered.

Sepia image of a group of women seated on the steps of an elaborate porch.

Everett Woman’s Book Club on the steps of the Monte Cristo Hotel, Everett Public Library

As alluded to in the Merriam-Webster’s definitions above, sometimes mothers give birth to entities other than children. This image shows the Everett Woman’s Book Club. At the time it was taken all members needed to be married. Undoubtedly many of them, if not most, had raised or were raising children when they posed on the steps of the old Monte Cristo Hotel. At the same time, this group of women founded Everett’s first public library, and many were involved in founding and maintaining its first hospital. Founding Mother is a title that honors the work of women.

A woman with her hair piled into a bun, wearing a high-collared white dress with a sleeves.

Emma Yule, Everett Public Library

While the married women of the Everett Woman’s Book Club were founding Everett’s institutions, unmarried women like Emma Yule were educating Everett’s children. The social rules that kept unmarried women out of the Everett Woman’s Book Club demanded that those who taught the children of those club women remain unwed. Ms. Yule was Everett Public School’s first teacher; she went on to be Principal and even Superintendent of the rapidly-growing school system. She never married and never had children of her own, though she helped guide the upbringing and education of hundreds of Everett’s children during her tenure. Her impact was so great during her time in Everett, that decades later when she passed away in California, she was brought back for burial in Evergreen Cemetery and her former students carried her to her rest.

A portrait of a woman in a light-colored jacket, wearing a ribboned hat of similar color.

Jennie Samuels, courtesy of University of Washington Special Collections

Some women, like Jennie Samuels, sent children off to war and cared for them when they came home with invisible wounds. Mrs. Samuels not only kept her house running smoothly, her home was the social center for the Black community in Everett in the early-to-mid 1900s. Her Wetmore home was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book as a safe place for Black travelers to stay when in the area. She was a high-ranking member of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs for years, while running her own Nannie Burroughs Study Club in Everett. Both organizations worked toward the advancement of Black causes, and cared for underprivileged members of their communities. Black club women from around the state gathered in her home when she brought their conventions to town, and she was celebrated by her community. Jennie Samuels mothered a community in a way that impacted her whole state.

Children play in the shallows at a beach. In the background people sit on logs watching them. Behind them are some houses and a lot building.

Mukilteo Beach, J.A. Juleen collection, Everett Public Library

Whether they are the people who protectively watch over us from the logs as we play our way through childhood, or are a team of people who scramble together a festive party for us when things aren’t quite right, most of us are fortunate to be mothered by many loving souls after the day our mother gives us life.

Two tables seat a group of children who appear to be dressed up. A line of women, and some men, are standing at the back of the room, looking over them. There is a large American flag covering one whole wall.

Christmas Party for Deaconess Children’s Home, given by the Loyal Order of the Moose. J.A. Juleen collection, Everett Public Library.

This weekend we celebrate all mothers who fall under all definitions of the word. Thank you for all that you do for us, no matter how we are related. Thank you for the love, care, and guidance you’ve shown countless children, and our communities. We would be nowhere without mothers.

Community History

Doris Bell at Alpine
Doris Bell at Alpine, Courtesy of Neil Anderson

One of my favorite parts of my job as a History Specialist at the Everett Public Library is doing programming that teaches people about local history. Some of these programs are lectures on historical topics, while others are hands-on workshops that discuss how to work with family collections of photographs and other records. One thing that I try to stress over everything else is that we are always living through history, and are always part of history. In the most average of times, it’s very hard for many people to receive this message. How could my Facebook wall, emails, or my Instagram posts possibly be historic? They don’t seem to have the same gravitas as those sepia toned pictures of great grandma, do they? So what happens when we find ourselves living through a series of events that one can’t help but recognize as being historic?

I’m sure those of us who were living during September 11th, 2001 could tell us a little something about where they were that morning. Do our voicemails or emails still survive from that day? Perhaps some of us have a forgotten Livejournal post or two floating around the internet recording our thoughts and fears from that period of time, but it’s unlikely that many of us documented what was going through our minds and kept those fleeting, likely digital records.

We currently find ourselves living through a period of time that will undeniably be viewed decades from now as historic. While COVID-19 is a different disease with its own trajectory from the Influenza pandemic of 1918-19, there is much that can be learned from how people documented their lives during that time, and how historians put those pieces back together over 100 years later. In this excellent article that was just published in The Lewiston Tribune, you can see a similar pattern of spotty information, varying local responses, public disbelief, and waves of infection. The author used a variety of sources to put this account together: published books on the pandemic, interviews with a woman who lived through the pandemic, local poetry and children’s rhymes, contemporary news accounts, archival images, and so much more. All of these documents survived to be used by a mixture of chance, and people taking deliberate action to make sure that their records would be saved.

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.02.12 PM
Family album page showing a 1919 Everett parade celebrating the return of troops from Europe. Similar parades around the country were often followed by increased influenza cases.  (Everett Public Library digital collections)

There are a couple of local resources that I have been fortunate to work with that talk about how Everett families coped in 1918-19. In a journal loaned to me by Everett historian Neil Anderson, I read about Doris Bell’s life during the influenza pandemic. At the time Doris worked as a teacher in the remote town of Alpine, Washington (between Skykomish and Scenic). Her journal entries document the life of a young career woman who seemed peripherally aware of how influenza was impacting the larger population centers, though the remoteness of her teaching position protected her from being exposed to the worst of the pandemic. Her life in Alpine was most affected when her school was closed temporarily in October of 1918, though it appears that there was not a serious outbreak in her area.

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Entry from Doris Bell Journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

During the school closure Doris returned to Everett to visit her family. From what can be gleaned from her journal, life went on fairly normally, with no cessation of casual social activities. This would not have been unusual at this time, as there were not any formal prohibitions on visiting other people. On October 8th the Everett Health Board had banned all public gatherings such as school, dances, and church, but day-to-day life went on. According to notes in the Northwest Room archive on Everett Tribune coverage from 1918, it appears that people were cautioned to stay home, but that downtown Everett showed little sign of change other than the darkened theaters. In the cigar stores it was business as usual, with people gathering to socialize and smoke.

Nurses at Providence slowly became overwhelmed throughout October, and many became ill. The Tribune reported that volunteers were coming in shifts in to sterilize and pack bandages; no nurses could be called up from Seattle because there were none to spare. The old wooden Bethania College building on Broadway, near what is now Compass Health on Broadway, was returned to hospital service and the Red Cross put a call out to the public for bed pans and any other medical supplies that could be spared. 

Doris’s routine daily entries were occasionally punctuated with mentions of people in her social circle succumbing to influenza, and in one jarring instance, a fellow passenger dying on a train she was aboard. Because Doris was limited to a mere four lines per day, her mixing of death and mundane daily tasks can feel a bit jarring, but that was a result of the format she had available rather than a reflection of callousness. There are occasional references to masks (the State Health Board started requiring the wearing of gauze masks in public on November 4th), but her entries are dominated by her more-or-less normal life: going for walks, seeing friends, and thoughts about her work. Reading Doris’s journal doesn’t feel much different from reading friends’ Facebook walls, where incredibly serious news is mixed with the kinds of content we’re used to sharing. People are aware of the bigger picture, but most are still living their lives albeit in a very modified way.

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Entry from Doris Bell journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

Another window into local life during the influenza pandemic comes from the minutes book of the Everett Woman’s Book Club. According to this record, October and November meetings were cancelled due to the influenza, and the December meeting account was peppered with mentions. A gold star was added to the service flag for a local soldier who passed away in France of influenza, and member Ida Coleman asked her colleagues to help with the eradication of the disease. Both Doris Bell’s journal and the Woman’s Book Club minutes mention working in the gauze room; it’s unclear if they were helping sterilize and pack bandages for the local hospitals in need, or if these efforts were intended to help troops abroad.

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December 1918 Woman’s Book Club minutes courtesy of the Woman’s Book Club.

So what are the journals and club minutes of today? How do we preserve our altered daily lives so that someone looking back in 100 years will understand the decisions we made and the actions we took? It is important to recognize that the future of our daily records like Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media are less than secure. Changing trends in social media may see many of these platforms fall out of favor and disappear over time (see Friendster or Myspace).

The best way to help ensure that our historical record doesn’t have gaps during this time period is to intentionally document your experiences and look for the organizations that are trying to preserve these kinds of records. Preserving digital materials is a problem that still hasn’t been solved, but archives and museums are doing their best to have plans in place to prolong their lives.

At the Everett Public Library, we have launched the Community History project, which aims to collect people’s images and thoughts during this time of social distancing. To participate, you need only to email your content to CommunityHistory@everettwa.gov – we will be monitoring this account for submissions to be considered for inclusion in our archives. If you are keeping a written journal, keep the library in mind for a future donation either of the original or a copy if you would rather keep it in the family. The Northwest Room has already been building an archive of news clippings, city records, and documents related to how local businesses and organizations are reacting to COVID-19, but we are very interested in preserving what life was like for our community members on an individual level. I encourage you to consider sending your thoughts, pictures, poetry, or art as emails to the future.

 

Madame Luella Boyer

February is African American History Month. Libraries, archives, museums, and other organizations around the country observe this month as a way to recognize and honor the rich and challenging history of African Americans. In honor of this occasion, I am sharing the story of one of the most fascinating individuals I’ve come across in my work in the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library— Luella Ruth Brown Boyer Brent, aka Madame Boyer. Boyer was a successful African American businesswoman in early Everett at a time when few economic opportunities existed for African Americans or women.

1908 Everett City Directory listingMost of what I know about Madame Boyer I learned from local historian and genealogist, Margaret Summitt of the Mukilteo Historical Society. She painstakingly examined decades worth of genealogical records, newspapers, and city directories to reconstruct Boyer’s life story.

Luella was born in Iowa in 1868. Her father’s lineage traces back to the first slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Her parents had moved to Iowa, a free state, from Missouri, a slave state, in 1864 while the nation was still engulfed in Civil War. Her father worked as a laborer and her mother worked as a domestic servant. Neither could read nor write, yet they worked to ensure their children could achieve more. Luella’s brother, Samuel, became an attorney, civil rights activist and NAACP leader in Des Moines, Iowa.

The available historical records only reveal bits and pieces of Luella’s life. We know that by 1900 she was married to John C. Boyer, a barber, and living in Lewiston, Idaho. They moved to Everett around 1902 and became part of the black community in this region. Around the time they moved to Everett, Luella began marketing herself and her professional services—hair care products—as “Madame Boyer.” She was likely inspired by Madame C.J. Walker, a self-made millionaire and wildly successful African American entrepreneur with a popular line of hair care products. (Walker was the Oprah Winfrey of her generation.) The couple adopted a daughter in 1903 and separated around 1905.

Even as a single mother, Boyer’s career flourished during these years. She promoted herself not just as a hair dresser, but also a dermatologist by 1908.

Boyer remarried in 1910 to Bertrand Brent at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Mr. Brent was white and employed as a waiter and a janitor at Everett Public Library.

Luella was a trailblazing entrepreneur during a time when few economic opportunities were available to black women. But she is also notable for her contributions to Everett’s cultural life and as a leader on issues of race and social change.

In May 1902, Madame Boyer and her husband went to a theater performance in Seattle by Bert Williams and George Walker, pioneering black entertainers. Boyer—who also made ends meet by working as a housekeeper for the Everett Opera House for $1 a night—is thought to have been a key player in bringing Williams and Walker to perform their landmark musical “In Dahomey” to Everett in 1905.

Receipt from 1905 for Luella Boyer

Madame Boyer’s social activism was well-documented in the Seattle Republican, an African American  newspaper. She participated in the newspaper’s Sunday Forums regarding social issues, submitted discussion questions, and addressed the forum twice. She offered one talk on racial discrimination and another on prostitution and gender inequality. She died from diabetic complications in 1912, at age 44.

Although we may know a lot about when, where, and what Boyer did in her life, I am more intrigued by all that we don’t know. What did she look like? (There are no known photos!) Why was she in Idaho and Washington at a time when 90% of the country’s African American population still lived in the South? What motivated her to move here, and what hardships did she endure? What inspired her business, civic, and familial decisions? What was it like to be an African American woman in Everett in the early 20th century, a rough-and-tumble mill town?

Related readings:

book coverAfrican American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000 by Quintard Taylor

In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990 by Quintard Taylor

The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District, from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era by Quintard Taylor

Seattle’s Black Victorians, 1852-1901 by Esther Hall Mumford

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Celebrating Black History Month: Mrs. Jennie Samuels

Black and white portrait photograph of an African American woman with a hat decorated with ribbons. She appears to be wearing a suit jacket and a string of pearls over a light-colored blouse.

Portrait of Mrs. J.B. “Jennie” Samuels taken from a cookbook published by the Colored Women’s Federation of Washington. Nettie J. Asberry papers. University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries women in the United States began to organize around what later became known as the Women’s Club Movement. In cities, towns, and even rural areas women’s clubs formed to tackle the improvement of their communities in a number of different ways. Within Washington State there were so many clubs that by 1896 they had incorporated a statewide federation of women’s clubs in order to better coordinate efforts. While these clubs focused on unifying the efforts of women around common causes, the majority of them remained racially and ethnically segregated in those early years of organization.

Women who were excluded from the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs on the basis of race or ethnicity formed their own clubs and federations. One of the largest of these was the Washington State Federation of Colored Women’s Organizations which was founded in 1917 and affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. The Federation went through a handful of name changes during the course of its operation, but for this post I will be sticking with the abbreviation WSFCWO. The WSFCWO’s members were subdivided into different committees that focused on the following topics: constitution, peace, fine arts, business, history, arts and crafts, interracial issues, education, legislation, scholarship, race history, health and temperance, mother home and child, women in industry, music, credentials, press and publicity, and programs.

Black and white portrait photograph of an African American woman in a white lacy high-necked shirt. Her hair is piled on the top of her head, to which are attached silk flowers.

Nannie Helen Burroughs, by Rotograph Co., New York City, 1909. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b46093.

One of the most prominent early members at the WSFCWO’s executive level was an Everett resident named Mrs. Jennie Samuels or Mrs. J.B. Samuels as she appeared in club records (she occasionally also appeared as Jane). Samuels was the founder of the Nannie Burroughs Study Club in Everett which was named for Nannie Helen Burroughs, an African American educator, orator, feminist, and civil rights activist. Burroughs had gained national attention by calling on Baptist women to combine their charitable works into one federated movement, providing an inspiration for African-American women’s clubs all over the country.

Jennie Samuels was clearly highly motivated to keep her Everett colleagues closely involved with the activities of the state’s Federated club women. At the 1920 WSFCWO conference, held at Everett High School and hosted by the Nannie Burroughs Study Club, attendees were welcomed with an address by Roland Hartley who at that time had already served as Everett’s Mayor and a member of the Washington State House of Representatives and would go on to be the Governor of Washington. After the welcoming ceremonies the attendees discussed the importance of civic works, different projects underway within the WSFCWO, the life of Frederick Douglass, and matters concerning child welfare. In meeting minutes the group remarked on how accommodating the high school was giving them use of the school’s kitchens in which they could prepare meals for attendees and access to all rooms and buildings on campus for meetings and lodging.

The following year, Jennie Samuels was elected the second president of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women’s Organizations. Her first order as president was to pursue the establishment of scholarships for children of color who wished to pursue higher education. Though she only held the post of President for four years, and the WSFCWO’s membership was largely based in Tacoma and Seattle, most of the biannual officer’s meetings during her involvement with the Federation were held in the Samuels’s home on the 2200 block of Wetmore Avenue. Club records paint a picture of the Samuels’s residence being a hub of activity not only for meetings, but also social gatherings among club women and their families from Everett and points all around the Puget Sound region. The proceedings of one of the WSFCWO’s annual conferences even included a celebration of John and Jennie’s 34th wedding anniversary as a conference after party at their Wetmore home.

When not busy with the activities of the WSFCWO, Mrs. Samuels continued to work at the local level with the Nannie Burroughs Study Club doing benevolent works within Everett. Much time was spent giving aid to those who were home-bound due to illness or old age, and looking after the needs of children living in lower income households. In addition to their charitable works, the Study Club focused heavily on the study of issues affecting African Americans in the United States – bringing in speakers, and discussing papers and other publications. By the 10th annual meeting it was noted that the Study Club was the only organization in Everett affiliated with the of the Washington State Federation of Colored Women’s Organizations, yet its members still frequently ranked at the top of Federation fundraising lists and a handful of its members were active in leadership roles.

In a cookbook published by the WSFCWO during her tenure as President, Mrs. Samuels was quoted as saying:

“Thank our God that we have something to do, whether we like it or not. Doing our duty brings out the best that is in us and will breed in us self-control, strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a score of virtues which idleness fails to give.”

 

Three lines of text written in cursive containing the names and statistics about the Samuels household. John Samuels, head of house - male, black, 46, married 23 years. born in kentucky, as were his parents. Jennie, wife, female, black 41, married for 23 years. Born in North Carolina, as were her parents. John Wesley - son, male, black, 18, single. Born in Minnesota.

Information from the 1910 United State Federal Census Records for the Samuels family. This record was accessed through Ancestry Library Edition 2.14.18 at 12:51 pm.

Though most of what we know about the life of Jennie Samuels comes from club records archived in the University of Washington Special Collections, some information about her family life can be gleaned from other sources such as newspapers, census records, military records, high school yearbooks, and Polk City Directories.

Mrs. Samuels was born on October 1, 1868 in Salem, North Carolina. Not much is known about her early life, but she remained in school until the end of her second year of high school. In 1890 she married John B. Samuels a laborer from Louisville, Kentucky who was literate but had left school in the 4th grade. The Samuels family briefly lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota where their only child John Wesley was born in September of 1891. The Samuels family moved to Everett around 1897 and by 1900 owned one of the first homes built on the 2200 block of Wetmore. John B. Samuels worked as a cook for one of the railroads when he first arrived, but soon switched to custodial work which would remain his profession until retirement. Jennie Samuels was a homemaker in addition to her numerous club activities.

Black and white portrait photograph of a young African American male in a dark suit and a high white collar.

Senior portrait of John Wesley Samuels from the 1912 Everett High School Nesika. – Everett Public Library Northwest Room Collections

John Wesley Samuels, known as Wesley or J. Wesley, graduated from Everett High School in 1912 where he had been active in the drama club and athletic club. He served overseas in World War I; before his honorable discharge he had reached the rank of Battalion Sergeant Major in the Army. In club records it was noted that he suffered from lingering health issues related to his military service. He returned to Everett, where he worked for many years as the secretary of the American Boiler and Iron Works at 700 Hewitt. He appears to have never married, and spent the remainder of his life sharing the Wetmore home with his parents.

After a long illness, Jennie Samuels passed away peacefully at her home on August 13, 1948. She had remained active in several clubs and her Methodist church until the very end of her life. Sadly J. Wesley Samuels died only six years later in a Veteran’s hospital in Vancouver, Washington; his father passed away seven months later at a hospital in Everett. The entire family is buried in a family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, not far from their beloved home and the now-bustling city center that Jennie Samuels devoted so much of her life to improving.

To learn more about the lives of people living in and around the Everett area, visit the Northwest Room at the Everett Public Library and take advantage of the phenomenal records available in the University of Washington Special Collections. The University’s Digital collections are available online at any time, but many may not know that their non-digitized records are also mostly available to the public by appointment.

Keep an eye on A Reading Life for a second post in this series celebrating Black History Month from Northwest Room Historian Mindy Van Wingen.

A Look at Everett’s Mayors

Last week, Cassie Franklin became the 37th mayor of Everett in its 125 year history. To commemorate this change in leadership, the Northwest Room staff has been looking back at the history of mayors in our city. Did you know that we’ve had three Canadians, two Danish, and one Dutch mayor? It wasn’t until 1977 that Everett had a mayor who was born and raised in Washington!

You can check out our Everett mayors webpage and videos on Mayor Dwyer, Mayor Hartley, Mayor Ebert, and Mayor Stephanson.

Thomas Dwyer was elected on April 27, 1893, as Everett’s first mayor. He won with a mere three vote lead. (And you thought the 2017 election—with a 196 vote difference—was a close race!) In that same election, voters in Everett also chose to incorporate their 5,000-person community as an official municipality. That decision wasn’t as tough—voters chose to incorporate, with a vote of 670 to 99.

For one year prior to incorporation, Everett was led by a group called “The Committee of Twenty-One.” This popularly elected body acted as an interim authority to address issues of public concern such as crime, sanitation, and health. Only one of these 21 early Everett leaders went on to serve as mayor, James H. Mitchell (1906-1907). Although an early Everett mayor, Mitchell was better known in the community for his role as assistant postmaster. His wife, Becca, was Everett’s first postmaster.

The first official City Charter was adopted in 1893. It employed a mayor and council format and annual mayoral elections. Everett was led by 11 mayors under this Charter during its first 14 years. One mayor, Jacob Hunsaker, served two non-consecutive terms. His daughter, Hallie Hunsaker, recalled in a 1976 oral history interview with the Everett Public Library that he was a hands-on leader. He went out with a hammer and nails to personally fix a wooden plank so nobody would get hurt during a parade!

In 1907, when Everett’s population surpassed 10,000, the city passed a First-Class Charter. The new charter preserved the mayor and council format and extended the mayor’s term to two years. By this time, Everett had completely recovered from a devastating economic depression to become a thriving industrial city. Notably, Roland Hill Hartley launched his political career as mayor during this era. His tenure was marked by significant controversy and conflict, particularly around issues of labor relations and local prohibition. Hartley went on to serve in the Washington State Legislature and two terms as Governor of Washington. Over 100 years later, Hartley is still a contentious figure in local and state political history.

The political structure of the City changed again in 1912, with the adoption of a commission charter. The mayor was chosen from a small group of city commissioners and the role was largely honorary. The City functioned under this form of government for 56 years with 15 mayors. Mayors from 1912 to 1968 wielded far less authority than those governing before and after them. Lacking significant executive power, the role of mayor was largely symbolic during this era. One notable mayor of this era was John Henry Smith, a public works commissioner, who was considered a founding father of Anchorage, Alaska.

The passage of a new charter in 1968 marked the beginning of our current political era. The charter eliminated the commissioner form of government and implemented a strong mayor and council form. You can listen to Mayor George Gebert—a shoe salesman turned politician— reflect on the commissioner and mayor-council forms of government in an Everett Public Library oral history interview.

Mayor Robert C. Anderson was the first mayor to serve under the new city charter and he held the position for nine years. Anderson resigned in October 1977 for a banking job. City Council President Joyce Ebert served out the remaining two months of his term. Ebert became Everett’s first female mayor, and she was the first mayor born in Washington. Mayor Ebert had to personally sign each city employee’s paychecks during her term. Given the short term and short notice, there was no official signature plate available for her to automate the tedious process.

Five more men served as mayor after Ebert: Bill Moore, Pete Kinch, Edward Hansen, Frank Anderson, and Ray Stephanson. Ray Stephanson holds the distinction of being Everett’s longest-serving mayor, with service from 2003 to 2017. In January 2018, Cassie Franklin became Everett’s first elected female mayor.

Join us next Tuesday, January 16, at 7 p.m. at the Valley View Neighborhood Association meeting to learn more about the history of Everett Mayors! The program is free and open to the public, and it will be held at the South Everett Police Precinct. Full program details are available on our calendar.

November is Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Indian Heritage MonthIt is an opportunity to pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture. It’s also a time to reflect on the complex and difficult relationship between native cultures and the dominant culture.

While Native American Indian Heritage Month is observed nationally, it has important resonance locally. Everett was built on land ceded to the United States government in 1855. On January 22, 1855, leaders  of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other tribes signed the treaty with the United States government. They agreed to cede their ancestral lands and relocate to a permanent home on the bay at what is now Everett. In exchange, they would be recognized as a sovereign nation with certain fishing and water rights. These tribes became collectively known as the Tulalip Tribes.

In the pre-World War I era, several white photographers from Everett entered the Tulalip reservation to document various aspects of tribal life, community, and customs. The photos of J.A. Juleen (1874-1935) form a key part of the Everett Public Library’s Northwest Room collections. Juleen’s outsider perspective created a unique body of work documenting a new longhouse, the dedication of a story pole created by William Shelton, portraits of tribal members, and life at the reservation school. His photos of Tulalip are available in the Northwest Room’s digital collections

tulalipbook

As useful as these images are for recording and preserving aspects of Tulalip heritage and history, it’s critical to explore these issues through the native perspective as well. One such native perspective is presented beautifully in the book Tulalip, From My Heart. This  book presents an autobiographical account by Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991), daughter of the famed Tulalip storyteller and wood carver William Shelton (1868-1938), and a tribal leader in her own right. Blending history, anthropology, and memoir, Dover draws on her culture’s oral traditions to tell the stories of her community back to 1855.  Her story includes heartbreaking reflections of her experiences at the government Indian boarding school she attended as a child.

While the Everett Public Library has numerous resources available to commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the Hibulb Cultural Center is the expert on presenting and interpreting the stories of the Tulalip Tribes.