Thursday, April 28, 2011

Julia Emanuel, The Lady in Lavender

The year is 1889. Imagine a tall, slender young woman at work in the back room of the Meyer Brothers Drug Store at the corner of Calhoun and Columbia Streets. She is Julia Emanuel, a recent graduate of the College of Pharmacy of the University of Michigan, the only woman in her class of forty one students. Like her male colleagues, she takes great pride in mixing powders and syrups to meet the needs of the pharmacy's regular stream of doctors and customers. Unlike her co-workers, however, Julia spends her entire work days in the back room. Even though a pharmacist, she is made to feel odd! She is not allowed to wait on the customers because that is not what women do. She feels like a skeleton living in the firm's closet!

Women in this period rarely graduated from college or even thought of pursuing a career outside the home. Instead of feeling discouraged by this rigid discrimination, Julia Emanuel, the pharmacist, became a legend in Fort Wayne. Sometimes referred to as "the lady in lavender" because she loved purple, she was an ambitious, talented, one of a kind entrepreneur and bon vivant!

For ten years Julia worked in the back room of Meyer's Pharmacy; then she broke free and started her own business. Over the years, she operated from locations on West Berry Street and on West Wayne Street. Her first shop was 25 feet square with neither a furnace nor a stock room. For her first twenty years in business, her shop was known as the Arcade Pharmacy. She was afraid people wouldn't come to a shop with a woman's name on it. Finally, she changed the sign to read Miss Emanuel's Chemist Shop. She was now a downtown landmark. Her hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Julia instilled confidence in her customers with her great accuracy in filling prescriptions. At heart she was a chemist. She became known for her headache powders, special creams and beauty products.

Julia projected a female perspective. She wanted her customers to take from her store "a sense of warmth, friendliness, and confidence." When she was able to hire employees, she insisted on hiring only women. She also wanted her employees to be college graduates.

What gave Julia the special drive that she needed to be so successful and unique for her time? People often said that she was born to be a pharmacist. She came from a family of doctors. Her father, grandfather, and three uncles were doctors. She grew up surrounded by talk of medical cures. Her mother was also a powerful role model. Julia's father had died when she was a young child; starting with his collection of medicines, her mother opened pharmacies in Antwerp and Paulding, Ohio, to support her three small children. Julia knew first hand the importance of being an independent woman. No surprise that she was active in the suffrage movement!

After fifty two years as a pharmacist in Fort Wayne, Julia retired in 1943 at the age of 73. Two years later, however, she returned to work at Jefferson Pharmacy because of the manpower shortage during World War II. After the war, she became known as an avid golfer, community volunteer, world traveler and bon vivant. She loved being surrounded by friends; she especially loved attending University of Michigan football games.

Julia also loved to express her opinion. "Age! That's simply a matter of the mind. It never occurs to me to consider age as a barrier. When I want to do something I do it," she told a reporter when she was 75. She was still getting good golf shots and walking the course. "And don't forget good posture. Standing erect is not only more comfortable, but it keeps us healthier in our bodily functions."

And so Jullia Emanuel kept playing golf, kept globe trotting, kept wearing lavender, and kept having a good time until her death in 1962 at the age of 91.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Magnificent Religious Artifact

Fort Wayne is often called "The City of Churches," and for good reason.

A search of the skyline reveals many steeples and domes that reflect the religious faith of local residents. Religious worship has taken many different forms. Some congregations worship in ornate settings in edifices that are more than a century old; others worship in newer or more simplified settings. Occasionally, a congregation will redecorate the interior of a church and discard items of historical significance. Some of these artifacts have found their way into the collection of the History Center.

One item of significance on display in one of the main floor galleries is a painting from the former reredos of Trinity Episcopal Church, located at 611 West Berry Street. A reredos is a structure, usually of wood or marble, that is placed behind the altar of a church. They are found commonly in the Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches, and also in other denominations. Sometimes they contain paintings or carvings of religious significance, and many versions in Europe are of medieval origin.

Trinity Episcopal Church was founded in 1844, and its present edifice was completed in 1866 - a Gothic revival building designed by architect Charles Crosby Miller of Toledo. The interior has undergone a number of redecorations in its history, including one in 1893, another in 1925, and several others in more recent times. In 1925, Trinity's rector, Rev. Louis Rocca. commissioned the New York architectural firm of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Associates to redecorate the nave in a colorful style that resembled a fifteenth century European church. (The firm had recently completed the design of Trinity English Lutheran Church nearby). The old Victorian stenciling on the walls were replaced with deep shades of red, blue, and gold, and much of the old varnished woodwork was repainted.

The centerpiece of the redecoration was a new painting for the reredos, replacing an earlier painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue commissioned a pair of New York City artists, Telford and Ethel (Parsons) Paullin, to design a new painting. The Paullins had worked with the firm before and were well known. Telford Paullin (1885-1933), a native of Le Mars, Iowa, had studied art in Chicago before coming to New York City. He and his wife Ethel became captivated by Byzantine art as it appeared in Eastern Orthodox churches, and they adapted it to their own style, which they exhibited in many churches, especially in the East. Several years earlier the couple had painted a series of medallions in Byzantine style for the Chapel of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City, as well as other works of art for the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. Ethel was known both for her painting and her design of original tapestries. Both had experience painting murals and frescoes. Telford painted a colorful series of paintings comrpising the Stations of the Cross.

The painting created by the couple for Trinity Episcopal church depicts Christ in the sacred role of priest. He holds the Bible in his left hand, and his right hand is giving a traditional blessing. He is surrounded by a group of angels and saints, including St. Mary the Virgin on the far left. The Paullins prepared several studies and watercolors of the painting before completing the final version, and copies of these studies are housed in the Trinity Church Archives.

When the painting arrived, Father Rocca wrote Mrs. Paullin a letter of thanks, praising the work as "a source of constant joy." He added: "The wealth of sympolism you have imbedded in this painting, and the happy choice of color combinations - in fact, your exquisite and masterful treatment of the whole subject - make the painting one which is thoroughly unique, and most precious indeed. It blends in admirably with the general tone of our Fifteenth Century Gothic decorations, and is, as it should be, compelling to the eye the moment one enters the Church."

Some parishioners disagreed about the scale and cost of the decorations. Many agreed that the painting was better appreciated up close, where its minute symbolism could be carefully studied, than from a distance. When the church underwent another redecoration in 1962, the old reredos was removed and a new one installed. The painting found its way into the History Center collection, where it remains on display.

Religious artifacts teach us much about the diversity of Fort Wayne's spiritual heritage. When viewing them, one sees both the commonality and divergence of that experience. It is fortunate, indeed, that items once cast away by a congregation can find a new home in the Museum.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Irene Byron, A Crusader Against Tuberculosis

One hundred years ago this spring Fort Wayne began its first all-out effort to defeat the most dreaded contagious disease of the day, tuberculosis.

Known as the "white plague," tuberculosis was often a fatal side effect of the town's booming industrial prosperity. New jobs and rapid population growth resulted in crowded housing that often lacked basic sanitation. Workplaces were often no better. Such conditions combined with long working days and poor diets, not surprisingly, became life threatening.

In 1909 city board of health officials were alarmed by 122 fatalities from tuberculosis. At the end of March and in early April of 1911, the League sponsored a health week at the downtown library described as "the greatest of its kind ever held in Indiana." Speakers included a leading bacteriologist from the University of Wisconsin, the health commissioner of Chicago, and Fort Wayne native Dr. Alice Hamilton.

Local audiences no doubt took great pride in Dr. Hamilton. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine and a former student of the Fort Wayne College of Medicine, she was already recognized for her public health work at Chicago's Hull House and her investigations of hazardous workplaces.

All week hundreds of people listened to lectures and viewed exhibits, taking away a better understanding of different strains of tuberculosis. Scientific research showed that the strain most responsible for killing infants and children could be controlled by strict inspection of milk. There were no known cures for the most contagious form of the disease, the strain that infected the lungs and often proved fatal. What experts did know, however, was that communities faced a life or death public health battle.

In 1913 Irene Byron, a young graduate of the Hope Hospital Training Program for Nurses, began work as the visiting nurse for the Anti Tuberculosis League. In this role, she had responsibility for educating patients in the importance of sanitation. If the disease were caught in the early stages, a good diet, fresh air, and rest could help patients recover.

Miss Byron and other leaders of the Anti Tuberculosis League quickly learned, however, that Fort Wayne was experiencing a tuberculosis epidemic. By September of 1913 more than 600 local residents were suffering from the disease. Two hundred were so sick that nothing short of a miracle could save them. Most of the remaining 400 victims might survive if they could be propery cared for. While tuberculosis sanitariums were becoming established elsewhere, Fort Wayne at this time lacked such facilities.

As a first step, the Anti Tuberculosis League opened a free clinic and dispensary. Irene Byron, now as the league's excecutive secretary, took responsibility for supervising programs of home care. In the summer of 1914 Irene Byron began campaigning for an outdoor hospital that would enforce strict rules of rest, diet, and fresh air. Thanks largely to her efforts, the following spring the Anti Tuberculosis League opened Fort Recovery, a group of wooden huts that housed twenty patients, even very young children.

Miss Byron continued to care for hundreds of other patients in their homes. At the same time she crusaded for a fresh air school to help underweight chidren become more robust. Irene Byron clearly risked her life through her regular visits with TB patients. By the winter of 1915, such exposre had taken its toll, for she was forced to take an extended leave of absence to visit family in California. She apparently regained her health, for when the call went out in the fall of 1917 for nurses to serve in World War I, she was one of the first from Fort Wayne to sign up.

Knowingly, she again risked her life to care for soldiers stationed at Camp McArthur in Waco, Texas, stricken with influenza. Despite the hardships she faced, she hoped to be sent to war areas in France.

Within less than six months in Texas, however, Miss Byron died, becoming Allen County's first woman martyr of the war. She was only 36 years old. Irene Byron's efforts to fight tuberculosis in Fort Wayne nevertheless continued. In the summer of 1919 a new modern sanitarium was dedicated in her honor to care for soldiers returning from service.

Until medical cures were developed in the 1950s, the Irene Byron Sanitarium continued to be a leader in Indiana's efforts to defeat the "white plague." Some one hundred years after the beginning of Irene Byron's public crusade against tuberculosis, it's appropriate to remember the origin of the current Byron Health Center on 12101 Lima Road and its namesake. The young nurse who so courageouosly led the public health battle against tuberculosis has long inspired others by her example.

[Writer's note - Hope Hospital was the forerunner of Parkview Memorial Hospital. Newspaper sources for this article include Journal Gazette April 1, 1911; March 29, 1918; and Daily News January 15, 1916. The photo of a main sanitorium building, now razed, is courtesy of the Allen County Public Library Community Album. The previous owner captioned the photo "Weary days & weary nites."]

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wager Your Wit

A new season of Wager Your Wit begins on April 4. We'll be posting photos of the items on our Facebook page. For more information, you can also call the History Center at 260.426.2882.