Talented teachers often possess the personality traits that make them successful in the political arena. Such is certainly the case for Carl Chester Van Dyke, an elementary school teacher who went on to become a lawyer and then a United States Congressman.
Carl was born on February 18, 1881, in Alexandria, Douglas County, Minnesota. He attended local schools, and when he came of age, taught elementary schools in Douglas County from 1899 to 1901. It was in that year that he enlisted in the Minnesota Volunteer Infantry branch of the US Army, where he served as a private in Company B in the Fifteenth Regiment. He saw action in the Spanish American War. Carl was highly respected by his fellow veterans. In fact, in 1918, the former teacher was elected Commander in Chief of the US Spanish War Veterans.
Once he returned from military service, Carl attended St. Paul College of Law, which later came to be known as William Mitchell College of Law. Following his graduation, Carl was admitted to the bar in St. Paul. His leadership abilities evident, the former educator was elected to the US House of Representatives, where he served from 1915 until his sudden death on May 20, 1919, in Washington, DC. He was only 38 years old. After his passing, this gifted teacher, lawyer, and public servant was cremated and his ashes interred in a mausoleum in Forest Cemetery, St. Paul, Minnesota.
On Saturday, January 11, I had the opportunity to participate in the Local Authors Fair held at the Eastvale Community Library in Eastvale, California. Eleven authors, including myself, were on hand to discuss our recently-published works and to sign copies that were available for purchase. This is the third such fair that I have been involved in, and I have to say, I find these opportunities exhilarating!
One of the best aspects of participating in a local authors fair is meeting and networking with other authors. On Saturday, I met an absolutely fascinating author by the name of Sharon Edwards, author of the fiction work Pioneer Boulevard. Her book, a collection of short stories set in the Indian community of Los Angeles, was named for Artesia Blvd. in California, a street that is known as Little India. Most of the protagonists are, like the author, women who have migrated to Los Angeles from their native India, but the book is also populated with characters from other countries, including Mexico, El Salvador, Vietnam, Pakistan, and England. In this way, the novel reflects the multi-cultural and poly-lingual flavor of metropolitan Los Angeles.
Set in the context of the recent economic crisis, the sense of an overstretched, underfinanced world pervades the narratives of Edwards’ book. One woman must clinch the job that is required for renewal of her work permit; another has to sell her wedding necklace to pay her bills. A third learns about an unplanned pregnancy days after her husband received a layoff notice. “Farcical and somber, wry and tender, these stories draw us into the chaotic, comic world of the pioneer, where habits of consumption and ways of relating—and even of speaking—are constantly in flux,” explains Sharon. I personally bought this book, and I can’t wait to read it! You can find Sharon’s fascinating book at this link on amazon: Pioneer Boulevard.
On many occasions a talented educator will gain notoriety for reasons that have nothing to do with the field of education. Such was certainly the case with Anna Willess Williams, a Philadelphia schoolteacher, who is best known for being the model for the image of Lady Liberty on the Morgan silver dollar coin.
Anna was born in Philadelphia in 1857. In 1876, when she was just an eighteen-year-old art student, she was asked to pose for engraver George T. Morgan, an acquaintance of a friend of her father, who had been commissioned to produce a new series of coin designs for the U.S. Mint. For his design, Morgan wanted to use the image of an American girl. After rejecting several candidates, Morgan selected Anna as his model because was so impressed with her profile, commenting that it was the most perfect he had seen in the country. He described her as being fair in complexion, “with blue eyes and a Grecian nose,” with hair that was “almost her crowning glory… golden color, abundant, and light of texture,” worn in an attractive classical style.
After being promised that her identity would always be kept confidential, the young art student sat for five sessions in November, 1876. By the time the silver dollar bearing her likeness was first struck on March 11, 1878, Anna had begun her career as a teacher. To Anna’s dismay, her identity as the image’s model was revealed shortly after the coin was released, resulting in instant fame. Anna received thousands of letters and visits at both her home and work place, and she was very disturbed by the attention. In her later years, she preferred not to discuss her modelling work with Morgan, dismissing the experience as an “incident of my youth.”
Anna refused offers for acting and stage work, and chose to continue in her position as a teacher at the House of Refuge. In 1891, she left her job as the principal at that school to become a teacher of kindergarten philosophy at Girls’ Normal School in Philadelphia. Though she was once engaged to an unknown suitor, Anna never married. She retired from the teaching profession in 1924. She passed away from complications suffered from a bad fall on April 17, 1926, at the age of sixty-eight.
I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be one of ten authors appearing at a Local Authors Fair to be held at Eastvale Community Library on Saturday, January 11, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The public library is located on the campus of Eleanor Roosevelt High School at 7447 Scholar Way, Eastvale, California. My book, Chalkboard Champions, will be available for sale, and I will be on hand to sign copies. The event is free. Hope to see you there!