Showing posts with label WWI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWI. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2020

Damn, Girl--Huda Shaarawi, Mother of Egyptian Feminism

Born in British-occupied Egypt, Huda Shaarawi was an activist, philanthropist, and trailblazing feminist. She was both an integral member of the Wafd party and the founder of the first women's organizations in Egypt. Her contributions to the struggle for Egyptian independence won her the highest award given by the Egyptian government, but she was never allowed to vote or participate in the government she fought for.

Huda SHaarawi-1900
Nur al-Huda Sultan was born on the family estate of Al-Minya near Cairo on June 23, 1879. Her father, Muhammed Sultan Pasha, was an important official in the colonial government, and at the time of Huda's birth he was serving as the inspector general of Upper Egypt. A wealthy man, he had both a wife, Hasiba, and several concubines. Huda's mother, Iqbal Hanim, was one of these concubines.

Iqbal was much younger than her not-quite-husband. She was Circassian, and had been raised in Istanbul after her family fled expansionist Russians in the Caucasus. She was sent to Egypt to live with her uncle after one of her sisters was abducted while resettling in the Ottoman capital. She ended up as a concubine to Muhammed, who was several years her senior, and she had Huda when she was just 19 years old.

In her memoir, The Harem Years, Huda described her mother as being difficult to know but her father as being warm and loving, though he was frequently away on government business. She described him as being a kind and attentive father, who always had a sweet and a moment for his children.

Though he may have been a good father, Muhammed wasn't very good at his job, and fought frequently with Khedive Ismail, to the point where he was briefly exiled to Sudan. He was accused by many of having abetted Khedive Tewfik Pasha and of helping the British Empire reduce Egypt to a suzerainty, an accusation that Huda bitterly resented, saying in her memoirs:
"My father has been maligned by certain so-called patriots, distorters of history"
Huda used her memoir, The Harem Years, to make the case for her father's fidelity to his homeland. She credited the accusations, along with the loss of her half brother, for shortening her father's life.

Another important figure in Huda's childhood was her father's wife, Hasiba. Huda referred to her as Umm Kabira, or "big mother," and enjoyed a closer relationship with Hasiba than she did with her own mother. Huda always felt that she was playing second fiddle to her brother, and Hasiba listened when Huda vented her jealousy and frustration over the preferential treatment her brother received. Huda would often spend days with Hasiba, and it was Hasiba who first explained to Huda that boys were far more valued in Egyptian society.

Huda Sharawi: A Remarkable Egyptian Feminist Pioneer
In 1884, Huda's father died of a kidney disease while abroad in Graz, Austria. He had gone to Switzerland to seek medical help and had been on his way home to Egypt when he died unexpectedly on August 14 at The Elephant Hotel. His death devastated the family, throwing Huda's mother and Hasiba into a deep depression. Both women would lie in bed for days, sending Huda and her younger brother, Umar, away.

Huda had a complicated relationship with her brother because while she loved him dearly, she was also jealous of the attention he received. Umar was sickly and absorbed the lion's share of Iqbal's attention, even when well. In her memoirs, Huda recalled wanting to be sick herself so she would receive similar love and care. She fell sick with a fever and spent a day receiving all the love and care she could possibly wish for. However, when her brother fell sick the next day, her mother and the doctors more or less forgot about her, despite her worsening condition. Huda recovered, but she was never close to her mother again. Though she was never close to her mother, Huda enjoyed a very close relationship with her brother, sharing the same lessons and games with him throughout their childhood. Huda assumed a motherly role with her brother, and when Umar's nursemaid and the eunuchs who watched over him encouraged him to neglect his schooling, Huda ensured that he studied.

Education and learning was a lifelong passion of Huda's. She received the typical education for a young woman of her class, but Huda was eager to learn more beyond that, however, specifically wanting to learn to read Arabic so she could study the Koran herself. Early attempts to learn Arabic grammar were foiled by the eunuchs of her family's harem who forbade her from learning it because she wouldn't be a judge. This made Huda keenly aware of the difference in education available to girls and boys, a difference that she would spend her life struggling to correct for herself and others.

At age nine, Huda finished memorizing the Koran, a remarkable and unusual achievement. However, she was unable to read, so she began to study Turkish, learning to read, write, and speak. She studied Turkish and Persian poetry, as well as calligraphy in both of the Ottoman scripts. She learned French and piano and began buying books from the peddlers who came to her door. Huda was not encouraged to read, and she was forbidden to buy books, but she did so nonetheless and began to sneak books out of her father's library. She loved poetry and wanted desperately to learn to write poetry herself but was held back by her lack of knowledge.

One of the largest figures of inspiration in Huda's early years was the poet Sayyida Khadija. Sayyida would often come and stay with Huda and her family, and Huda was impressed with how Sayyida could converse freely with men, and meet them on the same level intellectually. Sayyida's example made Huda even more adamant that education was necessary for women to be equal to men.

Mashrabiya windows Cairo, Egypt 1865 | Egypt, Old egypt, Modern egypt
A Cairo mashrabiya. Mashrabiya were a
frequent architectural feature of harems,
as they allowed women to look out onto
the street, but not be observed.
When she hit puberty, Huda was consigned to the harem to while away the time until she was married off. Huda was less than pleased. She was even less pleased about having to veil when she left home. Veiling as well as keeping women in a harem was a standard practice of the upper classes and more affluent middle classes in Egypt at that time. Forcing women to veil and keeping them in seclusion was a sign of status and wealth--not, as many historians, journalists, and casual racists like to suggest, a draconian tenant of Islam. Egyptian veiling and seclusion was considered odd and impractical by the other Arab countries at the time.

Huda certainly agreed that it was impractical, and she resented being separated at age eleven from all of her childhood friends, many of whom were the same little boys that her brother played with as well.

When Huda was twelve, she was betrothed to her much older cousin Ali Shaarawi, the man who had been appointed legal guardian over her and her brother after her father's death. Neither Huda nor her mother were very pleased about this match. Iqbal was leery of marrying Huda off to a man significantly her senior. The fact that Ali, who was in his 40s, had illegitimate children who were much older than Huda didn't do anything to ease their minds.

However, Huda's mother was evidently unable to do anything to prevent the match and instead negotiated an extremely strict marriage contract. The contract stipulated complete monogamy; Ali would have to give up his concubines and live only with Huda. The entire marriage was negotiated in utmost secrecy, and Huda herself was not aware of her impending nuptials until it came time to sign the marriage contract.

Huda was distraught. She had always regarded Ali as a father or an older brother, and she had no desire to marry him. She had been put off by his cold demeanor and open favoritism of her brother. However, she was unable to prevent the marriage, and in 1891, she wed Ali Shaarawi.

Luckily for Huda, Ali was unable to keep his sausage in his trousers, and a little over a year after they married, he had sired another child with the same slave-concubine who had borne his previous children, in violation of the marriage contract. Delighted, Huda returned to her mother's house and took up the threads of her old life. Despite Ali's attempts to reconcile with her, Huda would spend the next seven years on her own.

Huda spent those seven years furthering her education, learning drawing and painting, perfecting her French and teaching herself Arabic grammar. She loved music, frequently went to the opera and, on returning home, would play the pieces sung on stage on the piano from memory. Huda formed close friendships with several women, both Egyptian and foreign, and it was one of these women, Eugenie Le Brun, who ignited the fire of Huda's activism.

Eugenie le Brun
Eugenie Le Brun had been born in France, but emigrated to Egypt after meeting and marrying her husband, Hussein Roshdy Pasha, who would later be the prime minister of Egypt. Eugenie had traveled with Hussein to Cairo and converted to Islam. She was a popular hostess and introduced Huda into Cairo society. Eugenie would help Huda with her French, and frequently suggested books for Huda to read. She also convinced Huda to join her women-only salon.

Turn-of-the-century Egypt didn't encourage much social mixing between men and women. Many of the salons started by European women of the era were co-ed and therefore attracted few to no native Egyptian women. Eugenie's salon was the first female-only salon and the only one Huda would attend. They discussed social issues, like veiling and the status of women in Egyptian society, as well as more pedestrian topics such as children and immorality.

Eugenie was a writer and wrote multiple books to educate Europeans about the status and position of women in Egypt. She shared her writing with Huda, and Huda credited her as being an inspiration and guide throughout her life, even after Eugenie's death in 1908.

There were several attempts to reconcile Huda with her husband. Numerous family friends and relatives, along with Ali himself, would frequently confront Huda to try and convince her to return to life with Ali. However, it wasn't until Umar confided in Huda that he wouldn't marry until she was reconciled with her husband that Huda relented.

Though Huda gave few details about how their reconciliation went, it seems to have not gone terribly because she and Ali had two children--Bathna and Muhammad--together in 1903 and 1905. At about 10 months, Bathna contracted an unknown illness, nearly dying multiple times. Bathna didn't recover, and doctors suggested that she be taken abroad to Europe for better air. Ali was reluctant to let his daughter leave Egypt, but Huda threatened to leave him if he didn't allow her to take Bathna abroad. Ali relented, and Huda took Bathna to Turkey. They spent three months in Istanbul, but Bathna did not recover. Huda withdrew from everyone, much to the consternation of her friends and husband. It wasn't until Bathna was diagnosed with malnutrition in 1908 that she got better, and Huda returned to society.

In 1909 Huda met Marguerite Clement, a Luxembourgish feminist and public speaker. She was on a lecture tour of Eastern countries, and after a night at the opera, she and Huda decided that she should give a lecture to Egyptian women.

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Marguerite Clements
A public lecture just for women was unprecedented in Egypt. While women socialized, they did not do so in public spaces, and they certainly didn't gather in large numbers. Holding a public meeting for women was met with some skepticism, but after Princess Ayn al-Hayat promised to sponsor the lecture, there wasn't much any skeptic could do to stop it. On Ali's advice, Huda booked the lecture hall for Friday at the local university. The lecture was a smashing success, and on Prince, later King, Ahmed Fuad, ordered that the hall be booked for every Friday into perpetuity.

These lectures were the beginning of a movement for education for women in Egypt. As more and more lectures were held, and as more Egyptian women were giving lectures Huda decided it was necessary to make that thing official. In April of 1914, she founded the Intellectual Association of Egyptian Women, a group of upper-class women dedicated to providing intellectual activities for Egyptian women.

Fast forward to 1919. The dust of the first world war was starting to settle, and things were restive in Egypt. The fledgling League of Nations was redrawing international boundaries, and Egypt was starting to wonder if it was maybe going to finally become free of the British.

However, the British were reluctant to part with their colonial possessions, and since Britain had been on the winning side of WWI, no one was forcing them to give up Egypt. Native Egyptians, however, weren't having it, and after their representatives to negotiate with the British were exiled to the Seychelles (a favorite move on the part of the British), they formed the Wafd party to fight the British for real.

Meanwhile, Huda's marriage to Ali was on the rocks. Ali had requested the hand of Huda's 14-year-old niece for his natural son Hasan, and Huda didn't like the idea. Hasan hadn't finished his education and was in no position to be supporting a wife and family. Huda's disapproval caused a rift between Huda and Ali that, according to Huda, would have ended in separation if not for the nationalist movement.

The Wafd party was founded in November of 1918 with Saad Zaghloul as president and Ali as treasurer. Their first goal was to speak with the British Home Office in London, and to attend the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. They were initially denied permission for either.  They did eventually make it to the peace conference, but it was only to hear the US President, Woodrow Wilson, endorse the British occupation of Egypt, an endorsement that put paid to any hope the Egyptians had of foreign intervention.

Throughout this, Huda was working behind the scenes, playing a diplomat between her husband, other members of the Wafd, and British officials. When Wafd leaders started being imprisoned and deported, Ali became de facto leader. He took Huda into his confidence, telling her all the Wafd secrets and plans so that, should he be arrested, she could lead the Wafd.

In order to further Wafd aims, Huda formed the Wafdist Women's Central Committee, (WWCC) an organization made up of Egyptian women of all classes working towards Egyptian independence. Public gatherings were banned by the British, so the Wafd women held large "social gatherings" in the harem of Huda's home, where they composed formal letters to the British, voted to end the protectorate, and, most importantly, organized the March 16, 1919 protests and the boycott of British goods.

After the arrest and deportation of Saad Zaghoul in March of 1919, mass strikes and protests spread through Cairo. Law students, shouting nationalist slogans and calling for Saad's return marched through the streets. In support, the Wafd organized a general strike of government employees. In order to enforce the strike, Huda and other women would stand in the doorways of the homes of government workers, and refuse to move. They would pay them off with jewelry so they could feed their families.

Women protesting in Cairo
However, fighting scabs wasn't Huda's main goal. On March 16, 1919, the women of Cairo, riding in carts and carriages, organized a mass protest. They were shot at and physically assaulted as they marched through the streets until they were surrounded by British soldiers and Egyptian police outside the parliament building. For hours they stood in the sun, withstanding cruel invectives and attempts to remove them. They were widely applauded by the students who had protested just a few days prior, and though they were unable to complete their planned march, they sent a clear sign to the British that Egyptian women weren't going to back down.

The crowning glory of Huda's nationalist action was the 1922 boycott against British goods and banks. Under Islamic law, women had access to their own money and inheritance, and as the main purchasers of the house, women held significant economic power. The sudden withdrawal of money from British banks and the mass departures of customers from British merchants hit the British hard, making Egypt a much less satisfying economic possession. Meanwhile, the new Egyptian bank received significant business, and Egyptian vendors were suddenly very prosperous. The boycott was lauded by the male Wafdists as  an integral part of their movement.

During the boycott, Ali died. Huda however, carried on, saying that
"Neither illness, grief, nor fear of censure can prevent me from shouldering my duty with you in the continuing fight for our national rights. I have vowed to you and to myself to struggle until the end of my life to rescue our beloved country from occupation and oppression...Neither repeated hardships, nor the heavy handedness of our present government will lessen my will nor deter me from fighting for the full independence of my country."
Unfortunately, those same men who applauded Huda and her sisters as being essential to Egyptian independence failed to include them in negotiations with the British. Huda and the other members of the WWCC expected that they would be equal to the men when it came to negotiations with the British, and in the Egyptian republic to come. They sent some sharply worded letters to their male counter parts, and the men sheepishly relented. While equality between the male and female Wafdists seemed to have been restored, this was a dark foreshadowing of what was to come.

Egyptians were granted nominal independence by the end of 1922, and were allowed to form their own government, with a lot of help from the British. In April of 1923, the new government drafted a constitution. At first blush, it seemed promising, emphasizing that all Egyptians were equal before the law, regardless of race, religion, or language. However, when the constitution passed, it became clear that women were not equal before the law. The status of women in Egypt hadn't changed, and only men were allowed the vote.

Huda was furious. After protesting, being shot at, and heading an instrumental boycott, she and the other women who had been an integral part of the movement were barred from participating in government.

Is Feminism Compatible with Egyptian Culture? | Egyptian Streets
Huda (center) at the International Feminist Meeting
in Rome, 1923
In April of 1923, Huda founded the Egyptian Feminist Union. The union was founded on the idea that in Ancient Egypt ,men and women had been equal, with equal rights to education and property. This equality had been lost through imperialism and misinterpretations of the Koran. The Egyptian Feminist Union aimed to restore that equality.

Unlike many Western feminist unions of the time, the Egyptian Feminist Union focused mainly on social issues, not just on suffrage. The goal of the Egyptian Feminist Union was to put in place better protections of women and girls under the law, namely:
  • A reformation of personal status laws
  • Raising the minimum age of marriage
  • The end of polygamy
  • The end of easy access for men to divorce their wives
  • Women to have equal rights of inheritance as their brothers
  • Women to have custody of their children in the event of a divorce
  • Equal access to education for women.

At its height, the Egyptian Feminist Union had 250 members from the upper and middle classes. During Huda's time they were successful in raising the minimum age of marriage and in establishing the first secondary school for girls. They put out two journals, and provided clinics and dispensaries to poor women. They provided vocational training for women and girls. They continue fighting for the equality of women and girls in Egypt to this day.

It was while returning from an international women's conference in Rome that one of the most lauded and mythologized incidents of Huda's life occurred. In May of 1923, after returning from a conference in Rome, Huda boldly removed her face veil in a train station, signaling that she would no longer adhere to the repressive rules of men.

The Wafd took control of parliament at the end of 1923. At the inauguration of parliament, the only women allowed to attend were the wives of ministers. It became clear that women would be barred from participating in the Wafd government, just as they had been barred from participating in the previous government, so Huda arranged a protest for the day of the opening of Parliament. Members of the Women's Wafdist Central Committee and the Egyptian Feminist Union picketed the parliament building. They sent a list of demands to the new government, but their demands fell on deaf ears.

Wafdist men continued to ignore Wafdist women, and this eventually led to Huda stepping down from the WWCC after, contrary to WWC wishes, the Wafdist men capitulated to British demands over Sudan. Huda called for Prime Minister Zaghloul's resignation in an open letter in the newspaper after she found herself being pushed out of the party because she and the WWCC refused to tow the party line.

Huda Sha'rawi and the Egyptian Feminist Union -
Huda and the Egyptian Feminist Union
While that was the end of Huda's association with the Wafd, it was, by no means, the end of Huda's nationalist activism. However, her further nationalist activism was usually done within a feminist framework.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Huda started to turn her feminist work outwards, as she began framing feminism as not just an Egyptian issue but also a pan-Arab issue. In 1944, she helped found the Arab Feminist Union, but even before that, she worked to help feminist movements throughout the Middle East. When Palestinian feminists requested her help in 1943 she raised funds, and ended up starting the conference that would lead to the formation of the Arab Feminist Union.

Part of the reason Huda was so invested in framing feminism within a pan-Arab framework was because it was becoming rapidly clear that no real help was going to come from feminists in Europe, the United States, and Canada. While Western feminists meant well, and many certainly thought they were doing good, they looked down on Arab women, and failed to understand the differences between Arab and Western culture. White feminists viewed themselves as superior to Middle Eastern feminists because they were white, and colonial attitudes were still a prevalent feature at international feminist conferences. European feminists couldn't understand the struggle that Huda and other Middle Eastern feminists faced and therefore weren't reliable allies. Because she couldn't rely on the existing feminist organization's, Huda created her own.

Huda spent the latter years of her life lobbying and organizing. In the 1930s, her work started to focus on the rights of women workers and on ensuring that women were treated equally in the workplace. There were many instances when women workers came to Huda seeking help, and she dealt directly with the Egyptian Labor Board to resolve the issue.

In 1945, she was awarded the Nishan al-Karmal award, Egypt's feminine equivalent of a knighthood. She was, however, still unable to vote. She died two years later on August 12th.

Huda started the feminist movement in Egypt, and through her dogged work and determination, she was able to drastically improve the situation for women in Egypt. Though change was sometimes slow and incremental (the harem system would not be fully dismantled until after her death), she was able to put in place the infrastructure that would ensure that the next generation of Egyptian feminists was able to continue the fight after she was gone.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.

The Harem Years by Huda al-Shaarawi
"Early Twentieth-Century Middle Eastern Feminisms, Nationalisms, and Transnationalisms" by Mary Ann Fay
"Challenging Imperialism in International Women's Organizations, 1888-1945" by Leila J. Rupp
"Between Nationalism and Feminism: The Eastern Women's Congresses of 1930 and 1932" by Charlotte Webber
Huda Sharawi-Britannica
Huda Shaarawi-Encyclopedia
Shaarawi, Huda-Melissa Spatz

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Damn, Girl-Jennie Jerome Churchill

Jennie Jerome, also known as Lady Randolph Churchill, or Jeanette Jerome Churchill, is most famous for being the mother of Winston Churchill. However, she was a trailblazing Dollar Princess with a dazzling life in her own right. Writer, socialite, philanthropist, and political pundit, Jennie campaigned to put her husband in power, fundraised, served on a hospital ship, and wrote a bestselling memoir.

Image result for jennie jerome churchill
Jeanette "Jennie" Jerome Churchill
Born January 9, 1854, Jennie was the daughter of Leonard Jerome and his wife, Clarissa (Clara) Jerome, nee Hall. Leonard was a financial speculator and prolific rakehell. Clarissa was a fashionable social climber, shuttered from society because of her rumored Haudenosaunee ancestry, and her husband's loose morals. They had four daughters together--Clara (called Clarita), Jennie, Camille (who died at age seven), and Leonie. The three surviving daughters were referred to in society as "the Good, the Beautiful, and the Witty".

Leonard was new money and had fingers in many pies. Most of his money had been made on Wall Street, but he had also been a part owner of the New York Times and had started a political journal called The Native American with one of his brothers. However, he dropped all journalistic ambitions after the Civil War and instead turned to horse racing and women. He popularized horse racing among the elite of New York society and was infamous for his love of opera singers, so infamous that it is rumored that Jennie was named after the famous soprano, Jenny Lind. He frequently combined his love of women and horse racing, packing a coach full of beautiful women and racing at a breakneck pace around New York. He took up with opera singers, and had more than one illegitimate child, some of whom even lived with the family.

Unsurprisingly, Leonard's antics were humiliating to Clara, and put the reputations of their daughters in jeopardy. New York society at the time was headed by the formidable and unforgiving Mrs. Astor and her henchman, Ward McAllister, neither of whom would even think of receiving Clara and her daughters anywhere.¹ At the end of her rope, Clara separated from Leonard in 1867, moving herself and the girls to an apartment on Boulevard Malesherbes in Paris. Leonard was informed that he could visit whenever he liked, and that he was to pay the bills.

Image result for jennie jerome churchill sisters
Jennie and her sisters. They were close all their lives

Left to right: Jennie, Clarita, Leonie
If the Jerome's were coolly received in New York drawing rooms, they were welcomed with open arms in Paris. Empress Eugenie, the beautiful wife of Napoleon III, had an American grandfather and loved American women, specifically young, pretty American women with a great deal of cash. Jennie hadn't yet made her debut into society at this time, but her older sister Clarita was smashingly popular. Clarita made an impression on Napoleon III and his wife and was sought by many members of the French nobility. Clarita was so popular that when the Prussian army came knocking in 1870, Clara put off leaving Paris. The Jeromes stayed in Paris until the Prussians literally came marching down the streets. Clara, who had a sprained ankle at the time, had to be pushed out of the city in a wheelbarrow, and the Jerome's carried their possessions wrapped in sheets. They managed to beg their way onto a boat bound for Brighton, and were met there by Leonard, who saw them installed comfortably in London.

Once settled in London, the Jerome's took up the threads of their old lives. Many of the people they'd rubbed elbows with in Paris had resettled in London (including the emperor and empress), and English high society was just as welcoming of the nouveau riche Americans as the French. The Prince of Wales was notoriously fond of pretty American ladies, and wherever the Prince of Wales was welcome, they were welcome too. Given that the Prince of Wales was the leader of society at the time, Dollar Princesses like the Jeromes would be welcome everywhere.

The Prince of Wales took a particular shine to Jennie; they were lifelong friends and sometimes lovers. It was at one of his boating parties that Jennie was to meet her first, and most illustrious husband, Randolph Churchill.

Image result for jennie jerome churchill sisters
Jennie and Randolph, 1874
Randolph Churchill was the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. He was something of an eccentric and not at all good-looking, being described as "slender, pop-eyed, balding with a bushy mustache." His chief love and ambition in life was his hounds. He had performed poorly in school and seemed an unlikely match for Jennie who was, at nineteen, fluent in two languages, a talented pianist, well educated, and a renowned beauty with all the requisite accomplishments of young lady of the era.

The story of how Randolph and Jennie met is very romantic, and various versions of it can be found across history and literature. It was August 12, 1873 when Randolph saw beautiful, brilliant Jennie across the ballroom at the Cowes Regatta Ball and had to be introduced to her. They had one dance together (a quadrille, in their case) and talked the rest of the evening. They spent the ensuing days together, and Randolph proposed three days later.

This, of course, caused an enormous scandal. Randolph was twenty-four, and Jennie was only nineteen. They had known each other only three days, and Randolph hadn't made his intentions known to Jennie's parents before he asked her to marry him.² Both sets of parents objected; Jennie's on the grounds that Jennie had only known Randolph for three days, Randolph's on the grounds that Jennie was American and that her father was a speculator. The fact that Leonard had seen huge financial losses a few months previously didn't help their case. All parental units were firmly against the match, but the approval of the Prince of Wales, and Jennie and Randolph's pleading eventually broke them down. Randolph and Jennie would be allowed to marry, but only if Randolph could get a seat in Parliament.³

This pronouncement was calculated to put the brakes on Randolph and Jennie's relationship, as parliamentary elections were held sporadically at best, and it seemed unlikely that the then prime minister, Gladstone, would hold another election. However, to the shock of all, Gladstone dissolved his government, and 1874 saw the first election in six years. Randolph was able to secure the Woodstock seat by a narrow margin.

Image result for lord randolph churchill
Lord Randolph Churchill

Never especially close to Randolph's parents, the
negotiation of Jennie's dowry would
cause a permanent chill between Jennie
and her in-laws.
The first hurdle overcome, the engagement next stalled over the negotiation of Jennie's dowry. The Duke of Marlborough, like most English noblemen of the time, was deeply indebted. He had a lot of land but not have a lot of money. He and his eldest son saw Jennie as a temporary reprieve from financial difficulties and acted accordingly. The tense transatlantic negotiation ended with Leonard offering a respectable £50,000⁴ (or $250,000⁵) as a dowry and the duke paying Randolph's debts.

However, there was a hitch. Leonard insisted that Jennie get £1,000⁶ pounds a year of her own($139,528⁷), and that simply wasn't done in Britain. It was unthinkable for a married woman to have her own money; upon marriage, all that a woman owned went to her husband. Among the English, a man that allowed his wife to have her own money was seen as weak. In America, however, it was perfectly normal for women to retain their property after marriage. Leonard had been fairly flexible when it came to Jennie's dowry, but he worried about making his daughter wholly dependent on her husband. Leonard and Jennie were very close (Jennie was far closer to her father than she was to her mother, with whom she butted heads constantly), and he worried about his headstrong daughter becoming subordinate to Randolph. Though the Churchill's blustered, Leonard held firm, writing:
"In the settlement as is finally arranged I have ignored American custom, and waived all my American prejudices. I have conceded to your views and your English custom in every point but one. That is simply a somewhat-unusual allowance of pin money to the wife. Possibly the principle may be wrong but you may be very certain that my action upon it in this instance by no means arises from any distrust of Randolph."
Finally, the Duke acquiesced, though there were some bad feelings between the families, and Randolph's family did not attend the wedding. Jennie and Randolph were quietly married in the British Embassy in Paris on April 15, 1874. In attendance were Jennie's family and a few friends. Jennie had wanted a big, church wedding, but Randolph wouldn't have it, saying that he could not stay in Paris any longer. Jennie, also desperate to be married, agreed.

For Jennie, with marriage came a certain amount of freedom. She had informed Randolph early in their engagement that a condition of their marriage was that he allow her to do exactly as she liked, and Randolph agreed. After being married, Jennie was freed from the constraints of needing a chaperone and having her mother breathing down her neck.

Additionally, there was a certain amount of sexual desperation between the pair. Clara was constantly getting after Jennie for being caught alone with Randolph, and more than one ruinous letter was sent back and forth. It is worth noting that their first son, Winston, was born only seven months later.

Jennie seems to have genuinely loved Randolph, and he her. She was devoted to him, and though they tended to argue a lot, they were quick to make up. They had a shared love of politics, and both followed parliamentary affairs voraciously. During their engagement they wrote scores of letters back and forth to each other, full of academic debate, endearments, amours, and not infrequent admonishments. Though their affection undoubtedly cooled after their marriage, Jennie remained loyal to Randolph (if not quite faithful).

Image result for jennie jerome churchill sisters
Jennie with her sons.

Left to right: Jack, Jennie, Winston
After the birth of their first child, the Churchills returned to London and settled into a house on the fashionable Curzon Street. Jennie set about ingratiating herself into society, and Randolph worked at his political career. They were close with the Prince of Wales, fashionable, and invited to all the right places. Things were fantastic when, in 1876, disaster struck.

Randolph was, as mentioned, the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. His elder brother, George, was the Marquess of Blandford, an unhappily married peer with a taste for married women. He embroiled the entire family in scandal when he eloped with the married Edith Aylesford.

At the time of the elopement, Edith's husband had been touring India with the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was less than impressed with Blandford and made that well known. There was talk of Aylesford divorcing Edith, which would have sent Edith and the entire Churchill family to social Siberia. In order to prevent this, Randolph produced some indiscreet correspondence written by the prince to Edith Aylesford. He took it to Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, and informed her that, should Aylesford divorce his wife, the letters would be made public knowledge, which would embroil the prince, who had already been named in one divorce case that year, in scandal.

Queen Victoria was livid, and the Prince of Wales was furious. He declared that he would not appear anywhere that the Churchills were received, and suddenly the Churchill family was shuttered from society. The position of Viceroy of Ireland was extended to the Duke of Marlborough, and despite having turned down the position before, the duke hied himself off to Dublin. Jennie and Randolph went on an extended tour of North America before joining the Duke in Dublin.

The Churchills would spend nearly five years in Ireland. During that time, they developed a sympathy for the Irish and became proponents of Irish Home Rule. They also saw the birth of their second son, Jack Strange Churchill, in 1880. Shortly after Jack's birth, the Churchills returned to London, kowtowed to the Prince of Wales's satisfaction, and in 1884, they were welcomed back into society.

By this time Jennie and Randolph's amours had cooled somewhat. Though they were still a loving and devoted couple, there were infidelities on both sides, and it was heavily rumored that Jack was not Randolph's son but instead the son of Star Falmouth, a handsome military man Jennie was enamored with, or John Strange Jocelyn, an close friend of Jennie's.

This was not unusual for the age and class to which Jennie belonged. Many upper-class marriages were made for convenience, politics, or money, and not for love. A love match like Jennie and Randolph's was rare, and affairs on both sides were acceptable so long that all sides were discreet, and nobody told the papers. Throughout her marriage, Jennie would have many lovers, especially as Randolph's behavior grew more erratic and cruel.

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Winston, a year or two before
being sent to boarding school.
Despite her distance during
his childhood, Jennie and
Winston would be quite
close when Winston became
an adult.
As a mother, Jennie didn't quite measure up to Victorian (or modern) standards. Like many women of her class and era, she left her sons to be raised by their nanny until they were house trained. However, even for the relative coldness of the age, Jennie was an exceptionally cold mother, and Randolph was no better as a father. The pair rarely saw their sons as babies, skipping the customary daily baby inspection. When the boys were sent off to boarding school, Jennie and Randolph almost never visited. In the case of their eldest son, Winston, they each visited exactly once. There were several instances of Jennie or Randolph being across the street from the school their son attended, yet not bothering to drop by.

It wasn't until her sons were older that Jennie started to become a part of their lives. She took a particular shine to Winston and served as his political advisor and mentor for many years. Despite his mother's early distance, Winston adored Jennie. According to him, "she shone for me like the evening star." This was despite the fact that she and Randolph had ignored Winston's pleading letters and left him to rot in an abusive boarding school. Winston later wrote:
"She seemed to me a fairy princess; a radiant being possessed of limitless riches and power."
Winston would retain fond memories of his mother throughout his life and would defend her relentlessly. Due to this, Jennie's inadequacies as a mother are usually glossed over.⁸

One of the main binding factors in the Churchills' marriage was their shared love of politics. Jennie was Randolph's close advisor, observing him in the House of Commons and helping write his speeches. She was instrumental in his campaigns, both for office and for specific pieces of legislation. She was glamorous and vivacious and charmed those she met. This made her an excellent political hostess, and even Randolph's political opponents couldn't help but adore his wife.

Chief among Jennie's political achievements was the founding of the Primrose League. The Primrose League was established in 1883 and was a group that brought a social element to politics. Chiefly conservative, the League was inspired by Benjamin Disraeli's death in 1881 and the worry about Gladstone's liberal policies. The primrose was chosen to represent the League because the primrose was Disraeli's favorite flower, and League members were already conveniently wearing it to commemorate the anniversary of Disraeli's death.

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Members of the Primrose League wore badges
like this.
Primarily a social club, the Primrose League was known for its balls, high teas, dinner parties, picnics, train trips, and cycling clubs. The league helped the conservatives into power between 1885 and 1906 and had a significant influence on Gladstone's policies on Irish Home Rule. Though they fell from power after 1906, the Primrose League remained active until it was dissolved in 2004.

The Primrose League was unique in that it not only allowed women to join its ranks but that it encouraged women to join. Membership was more than 50% female, and the women of the Primrose League helped promote conservative legislature, and influenced the men in their lives to vote along conservative lines.

However, despite Jennie's glittering facade, things at home were tense. Randolph, who had contracted syphilis⁹ during his time at Oxford,¹⁰ was, to put it delicately, cuckoo for cocoa puffs. He grew increasingly cold towards his wife, and would upbraid her in public. Never a team player, Randolph increasingly excluded members of his own party from his political decisions, and publicly fought with his political allies. He began acting erratically in public, until he abruptly resigned from his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886.

Jennie was just as invested in Randolph's political career as he was, but he had increasingly excluded her from his public life. He purposefully kept her out of the loop concerning his resignation, and Jennie didn't find out about his resignation until she read about in the newspaper the next day. When Jennie confronted Randolph about this, his reaction was unsettling to say the least. Of that occasion, Jennie wrote:
"When I came down to breakfast, the fatal paper in my hand, I found him calm and smiling. 'Quite a surprise for you,' he said. He went into no explanation, and I felt too utterly crushed and miserable to ask for any, or even to remonstrate."
This was the beginning of Randolph's downward spiral. He continued to participate in the House of Commons, but his absences due to ill health grew longer and longer until Jennie had to take him abroad for his health. He died on January 24, 1895. He was only 45.

Jennie went into a short period of mourning, then threw herself back into society. She mingled and partied, and did all that widowed ladies of her class were expected, including charity work. In 1899 Jennie turned her attention to fundraising. The Second Boer War was raging, and both Jack and Winston were serving in South Africa. She rallied the other American ladies of her class to fundraise to buy and outfit a hospital ship. She was successful, convincing American financier Bernard N. Baker to donate a ship and crew. They called the ship The Maine, and Jennie shocked society when she went along with the ship to South Africa. She served as a sort of hospital administrator for the duration of the war, and in 1902 was awarded the Red Cross by King Edward VII (the former Prince of Wales).

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The RFA Maine, 1902
Jennie's motives for accompanying the Maine weren't entirely pure, however. While both of her sons were serving in South Africa, so was her boyfriend, George Cornwallis-West, a young member of the Scots-Guard. Jennie had been a friend of George's mother and had known George for years. They started to seriously court in 1897, despite the objections of George's family. Jennie was twenty years older than George, with George being only sixteen days older than Winston. Nonetheless, they were married in 1900.

Shortly after her marriage, Jennie began helping Winston with his political career. She became his political mentor and helped him in much the same ways that she had previously helped Randolph, serving as his political hostess until Winston married in 1908.

Despite being disgustingly wealthy, Jennie had always had money issues, even during Randolph's lifetime. Money flowed out faster than it came in, and this problem was further exacerbated with her marriage to George Cornwallis-West, who had very little fortune of his own. Leonard had died, and Clara didn't have much money to send. In order to make a little extra cash, Jennie turned to writing.

In 1899 Jennie started the Anglo-Saxon Review, a quarterly magazine dedicated to preserving the ideas of her time. Its circulation included prestigious heads of state and society, and its contributors were equally prestigious. The Review contained articles from Algernon Swinburne, Henry James, Cecil Rhodes, and Lord Rosebery, among others. It was a lavish publication, fronted with leather covers, each individually hand-tooled by master craftsmen. It was an enormously expensive publication and, unsurprisingly, failed in 1901 after only ten issues.

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George Cornwallis-West. Jennie was noted,
more than once, for her love of men with
Undeterred, Jennie set pen to paper in 1908, writing the play "His Borrowed Plumes." It was produced at the Hicks Theatre and starred Mrs. Patrick Campbell,¹¹ a popular, if unscrupulous, actress. The play was a financial failure, as was Jennie's 1913 play "The Bill."

While Jennie wasn't much of a playwright, she was a talented memoirist. Her book The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill came out in 1908 and was a great success. Her 1916 collection of essays, Short Talks on Big Subject,s was also very successful.

To add insult to the "His Borrowed Plumes" injury, George, never faithful, ran off with Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Jennie had quite liked Mrs. Campbell, and the cut was deep. In January of 1913 Jennie filed for divorce, claiming that George had "denied her her conjugal rights." Their divorce was finalized in July of 1914.

Times were changing, and Jennie was beginning to feel a bit lonely. Her friends were dying, and the world was rapidly changing. When World War I started in 1914, Jennie helped translate French documents for the English government and wrote on the war in Ireland for the London Daily Chronicle. The war came and went, and Jennie continued on as before--society, parties, charity.

In 1913, however, Jennie had had a fortuitous meeting with Montague Phippen Porch, a colonial secretary in Nigeria who was three years younger than Winston. They met at a wedding in Rome, and Porch was smitten. They corresponded while Porch served as an intelligence officer in Africa during WWI, and in 1916 he proposed to Jennie.

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Montague Phippen Porch
Jennie was hesitant to marry again, but she accepted on the caveats that she would retain her name, and that she would not move to Africa. The pair were married in Ireland at the Harrow Road registry office on June 1, 1918. Her sons were, surprisingly, fine with Jennie marrying for a third time. Both realized that their mother had been unhappy and gave their blessing. Winston informed Porch that he would never regret marrying Jennie. Porch later agreed.

After tying the knot, Porch left the military, and the pair traveled. Porch was not wealthy and had to return to Africa to make a living. There was quite a bit of tittering around London about the pair, and Porch never felt quite comfortable in English society. Despite the distance, their marriage was very calm. Montague was madly in love with Jennie, and she liked him. Many people remarked that she looked happier with Montague than she ever had with Randolph or George. When people brought up their age difference, Jennie merely remarked "he has a future and I have a past so we should be alright."

Though separated by a continent, Jennie and Montague stayed in close contact, writing frequently. Jennie kept busy, volunteering with the YWCA and the Shakespeare Union. She shocked society by appearing in a movie and boarding an airplane. She was visiting a friend in June of 1921 when she slipped down the stairs in her new high-heeled shoes. She broke her ankle, and a few days later, gangrene set in. The doctor amputated her leg above the knee, but that didn't stop the infection. A few days later, Jennie started bleeding profusely. She slipped into a coma and passed away on the 29th of June. She was only 67. Her sons were with her, but Montague had not been able to make it back from Africa.

Image result for jennie jerome tomb
Jennie was buried with Randolph in the Churchill family cemetery. She was memorialized by her son and nephew and has been a favored topic of Edwardian Age enthusiasts ever since. Though her fame has been far eclipsed by that of her son, Jennie Jerome Churchill was one of the most colorful women of her time.

¹Though Ward McAllister was a big fan of Leonard's, specifically Leonard's habit of giving guests at his dinners lavish presents.
²Nor, for that matter, had Jennie's mother even been aware of Randolph's suit.
³Because he was the younger son, Randolph was not entitled to a seat in the House of Lords, and had to run in the House of Commons. He ran for the Woodstock seat, which was the location of his family home. That same seat had once been held by his father, who cherished the idea of a career in politics for his younger son.
⁴£5,391,452 in 2019 currency
⁵$6,976,404 in 2019 currency
⁶£107,829 in 2019 currency
⁷$139,528 in 2019 currency
⁸It must be said that Randolph was an equally terrible parent. He appeared to despise his sons, and never spoke to them. Winston recalled once asking his father if he had gone to Harrow or to Eton, and being completely ignored.
⁹The popular historical story is that Randolph's illness was syphilis. However, not all of his symptoms line up with the typical syphilitic, and many historians have speculated that he may have suffered from a brain tumor or bipolar disorder. These theories are further backed by the facts that neither Jennie nor Winston seemed to suffer from syphilis.
¹⁰Randolph and his Oxford cronies explained his contraction of the disease with a lurid tale that began with a glass of champagne, and ended with waking up in a bed with an old prostitute with one tooth. However, Randolph's family claimed that he contracted it from a chambermaid shortly after his marriage to Jennie.
¹¹Mrs. Campbell would later go on to create the role of Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.

American Jennie: the Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Anne Sebba
The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill by Jennie Jerome Churchill
To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
Society as I Have Found It by Ward McAllister
The Husband Hunters by Anne De Courcy
"The Love of Power and the Power of Love: Churchill's Childhood" by Marvin Rintala
UK Inflation Calculator
Leonard Jerome New York Times Obituary
Clara Hill Jerome New York Times Death Announcement
Camille Jerome Genealogical Records
The Primrose League
Jennie Jerome Churchill-The History Chicks
Jennie Jerome Churchill-Britannica
Churchill, Jennie Jerome
American Jennie-Portrait of Jennie Jerome Churchill

Thursday, March 9, 2017

World War I Ended in 1919, but Andorra Fought On

If you define the end of a war as being when all parties have signed the peace treaty, then World War I didn't end until 1958 when the small European state of Andorra finally made their peace with Imperial Germany.

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There it is!
'Where is Andorra?' you ask. Well, Andorra is a teeny-tiny, blink and you'll miss it, doesn't even have its own airport, country in Europe nestled between France and Spain. The entire country is less than 500 square kilometers, and home to only 85,000 people. For reference, that's significantly less than the least populous US state, which is Wyoming with 585,501 people.

Now that we have that established, let's talk about WWI. So, early 1900s, everyone's declaring war on somebody. Germany has declared war on France, France has declared war on Germany, Austria has declared war on Russia, &c, &c. WWI was a mess. So, not wanting to feel left out, the tiny mountainous nation of Andorra decides that they want to hang out with the cool kids too, and declare war on Imperial Germany.

Unfortunately, no one really noticed, because Andorra didn't actually send any soldiers to fight the Germans. The declaration of war was more of symbolic moral stand than anything. Of course, that might also have been because Andorra did not, and still doesn't, have a standing army. 

Despite the lack of Andorran forces, Imperial Germany lost the war. But, when it came time for everyone to settle down and sign the Treaty of Versailles, Andorra wasn't there, because someone forgot to invite them. Which, honestly, rude.

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Modern Andorra
So Andorra continued in a state of belligerence against Germany. They didn't fight in WWII, maybe because they were still busy 'fighting' World War One, or perhaps because they realized they didn't have a standing army, so what was the point of alienating anyone? This last theory seems more plausible, as Andorra served as an important smuggling route through France and Spain during the war.
WWII ends, and everyone goes home, Russia's being a bit of a dick, but other than that Europe is pretty peaceful. Except for Andorra, who is still, technically, at war with Imperial Germany, a country which no longer exists. Where they didn't actually have an army, there wasn't any bloodshed going on, so I imagine this 'war' mostly consisted of the older generations grumpily complaining about the Germans, while everyone else forgot they were at war. 

Finally, in 1958 Andorra finally made its peace with Germany, and WWI was officially over for everyone.