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PAUL POPENOE (1888 -1979) First Marriage Counselor and Eugenicist

In American History, Biography, Doctors, People, Trivia on October 27, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Paul Popenoe, age 27

In 1888, Paul Popenoe was the first of four children born in Topeka, Kansas.  When his parents moved the family to Pasadena, California, Popenoe found fertile ground for his seemingly disparate interests: growing date palms, eugenics, and marriage counseling.

The Victorian values of the late 19th century were embedded in Popenoe, but he took a progressive stance on many issues, making his life a contradiction.  He was a Sunday school teacher in his youth but later eschewed religion and became a secular humanist.  When he was 17, he fainted after eating a steak dinner and became a strict vegetarian long before that was popular.  But, true to his Victorian roots, he did not believe in any kind of sex outside of marriage, and he was a virgin on his wedding night.

About 1908, Popenoe dropped out of college after three years to work and care for his sick father.  After working as a newspaper editor for a few years, he quit his job and made a six-month tour of Europe.  Popenoe’s father worked as a nurseryman when he retired, so on his dad’s behalf, Popenoe learned Arabic, one of eight languages he knew, and traveled around the Middle East collecting date palms.  This lead to his first book, Date Growing in the New and Old Worlds, published in 1913, which became a manual for horticulturists.   

A CERTAIN KIND OF PEOPLE PERSON         Later that year, Popenoe moved to Washington D.C. to edit the new publication the Journal of Heredity. He idolized Charles Darwin and believed that improving humanity would happen by applying science to society.  His focus turned to heredity and eugenics, an extension of natural selection.  Eugenicists believe in improving the genetic makeup of the human population specifically by sterilizing people with genetic defects or undesirable traits, thereby keeping them from reproducing.  This was a very progressive point of view subscribed to by the intellectuals of the time, including Alexander Graham Bell, Margaret Sanger and Theodore Roosevelt.  Popenoe’s self study in a group of like-minded scientists and intellectuals eventually resulted in his book Applied Eugenics, published in 1918. 

During World War I, Popenoe was a captain in the vice and liquor section of the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities.  He was responsible for eliminating liquor and prostitutes from around the army training camps, the perfect job for a teetotaler with his puritanical upbringing.  After the war he went to New York and worked as the Executive Secretary of the American Social Hygiene Association.  Their mission was to use public education to promote premarital abstinence, but they were broadminded enough to promote sex education and birth control. 

BECOMING HIS OWN CASE STUDY               It was while he was in New York that Popenoe married Betty Bowman, a dancer 13 years his junior, after a six month courtship.  The couple moved to Coachella Valley, California where Popenoe retreated to his first love and established a date farm until the agricultural market collapsed and forced them to move to back to Pasadena.

Popenoe’s lack of experience with women made his marriage rough going at first.  He was, however, determined to understand the unique world of women, and his efforts resulted in the book Modern Marriage, A Handbook for Men, published in 1925.  Fifteen years later he revised the book to include advice for women based on his personal and professional experience. 

Despite his lack of a college diploma, in 1929 Popenoe was awarded an honorary doctorate from Occidental College, where he had done two years of study twenty years earlier.  He used the title Dr. Popenoe professionally.

STAYING TRENDY                       The application of his philosophy of hereditarianism shifted with the tide of social thought, and he changed his focus from genetic improvement to family improvement.  In 1930 Popenoe founded the Institute of Family Relations (later the American Institute of Family Relations) in Los Angeles, bringing marriage and family counseling (a concept that started in Germany a decade earlier) to America.  He maintained that “…to improve the race, we should first start with the family.  And since the family often suffers problems which threaten its stability, we must treat those problems.  In other words, we should establish a marriage counseling center where maladjustments might be brought, studied, classified–and helped if possible.”1  Part of his counseling was to encourage fathers to take an active role in the lives of their children. 

In the ensuing decades, the Institute had up to 70 counselors and claimed in 1977 to have counseled over 300,000 men, women and children.  He required the counselors to be married and never divorced.  Even though Popenoe was not religious, in the 1960s and ‘70s many of his assistants were ministers and other religious people, including Dr. James D. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  His office moved to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and Popenoe became the marriage counselor to the stars, although Lana Turner went to his house for her sessions to maintain privacy.

REACHING THE MASSES              Popenoe’s influence extended beyond the Institute.  He wrote a daily newspaper column called “Your Family and You,” and he counseled couples on a reality TV show called “Divorce Hearing.”  He was a popular lecturer on college campuses and wrote a total of 17 books and numerous popular and scientific articles on marriage relations.  Television host Art Linkletter asked Popenoe to help him create a way to successfully match men and women, a forerunner to today’s dating services.  Popenoe created a questionnaire of 32 items including race, religion, politics, and pets.  Over 4,000 people responded to a newspaper ad to be matched.  A Univac computer analyzed the surveys and picked a couple who were introduced to each other on Linkletter’s television show People Are Funny.  It was a good match, and the couple got married. 

In 1953 Popenoe started the advice column “Can This Marriage Be Saved” in the magazine the Ladies Home Journal, using actual case studies from the Institute in his articles.  Still a feature of the magazine, the column has been called “the most popular, most enduring women’s magazine feature in the world.”1

Popenoe’s own marriage was not without its challenges, but he practiced what he preached.  Within the relationship the duties fell along traditional gender lines: Popenoe worked and took care of the yard and Betty was a stay-at-home mom who raised four boys.  Their youngest son wrote that Popenoe was a strict disciplinarian who, despite a heavy work schedule, gave his children lots of attention.

In his 1926 book Conservation of the Family, Popenoe predicted what the family of the future would be like.  He expected better mate selection, greater understanding leading to a stronger permanence of love, more intelligent consideration of children, more concern for individual development, especially for women, and more democracy within the family structure.1

QUESTION:  What do you think makes a good marriage?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

1http://www.popenoe.com/PaulPopenoe.htm

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/glossary=eugenics

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eugenics

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,867279,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Popenoe

Popenoe, David, War Over the Family.  New Jersey: Transactions Publishers, 2005   http://books.google.com/books?id=FhZeJwLSu74C&pg=PA238&lpg=PA238&dq=obituary+paul+popenoe&source=bl&ots=iH3CDQf5Ut&sig=qWwi-eyeC2zp23l5EpqalGP91eg&hl=en&ei=GiLHTJOMAoyssAPKps2oDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=obituary%20paul%20popenoe&f=false

ELIZABETH BLACKWELL (1821 – 1910) First Female Doctor

In American History, Doctors, Feminists, History, People from England, Victorian Women on October 13, 2010 at 5:13 PM

 

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell’s parents were Quakers.  They believed in equality and educated their sons and daughters equally.  So, when Blackwell decided to be a doctor, her family was totally supportive.  Convincing the rest of the world, however, was not so easy. 

Blackwell was ten when her family moved from England to New York.  When her father’s business failed, they move to Cincinnati.  Shortly after settling  there her father died, leaving the family without income.

Blackwell became a teacher, but she didn’t find it intellectually stimulating enough.  When her girlfriend, Mary Donaldson, got cancer she believed that her suffering would have been less if she could have been treated by a woman doctor.  Donaldson tried to convince Blackwell that she had the intellect and personality to be a great doctor.  As a student, Blackwell was not interested in the sciences, preferring metaphysics and history.  But, her friend’s request haunted her, and she decided to go for it. 

GETTING INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL          Blackwell’s first course of action was to write letters to several physicians to solicit their advice about applying to med school.  All six contacts advised her to give up the idea as it was impossible for a woman to get a medical education.  Dr. Joseph Warrington said in a letter, “Elizabeth, it is of no use trying. Thee cannot gain admission to these schools. Thee must go to Paris and don masculine attire to gain the necessary knowledge.”1  Blackwell was not discouraged.  While she worked as a governess for Dr. John Dixon, of Ashville, North Carolina, she started educating herself in science and classical languages by reading the books in his library. She moved to South Carolina, supported herself by teaching music lessons, and continued her homeschooling from the library of Dixon’s brother.

With a solid background and determination, Blackwell applied to 13 medical schools.  She was rejected outright from every one of them because she was a woman.  This discrimination was foreign to her egalitarian upbringing.  Finally, the faculty of Geneva College in upstate New York (now Hobart College) asked the students to decide Blackwell’s fate.  They unanimously agreed to admit her because they thought her application was a joke.    

In 1846, Blackwell matriculated, and she graduated two years later, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.  Eventually she won over her fellow students by her intelligence and commitment, but she was shunned by the citizens of Geneva who believed her career choice was very inappropriate. 

On January 23, 1849, the same ladies who were rude to Blackwell had a change of heart with her success.  They packed the Presbyterian Church to witness her historic accomplishment, applauding enthusiastically when she received her diploma.  During the ceremony, Charles Lee, Dean of Geneva Medical College, expressed his respect for the first female medical graduate, but in the program he added a footnote that said he supported medical training for qualified women, but the “inconveniences attending the admission of females to all the lectures in a medical school, are so great, that he will feel compelled on all future occasions to oppose such a practice …”2  Her success was inspiring to other women, however, and within three years of her graduation, twenty women completed medical training at various colleges. 

WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO…WITH A MEDICAL DEGREE?    After graduation, Blackwell planned to spend a few months in Philadelphia, studying personally with a Dr. Bryan, and then go to Paris and eventually return to New York to establish her practice where she could expect to earn six thousand dollars a year.

After some time in London studying at a hospital, Blackwell did go to Paris.  The only opportunity open to her there was to train to become a midwife.   While she was in Paris she contracted “purulent opthalmia” and lost the sight in one eye.  This forced her to abandon her dream of becoming a surgeon.

In 1851 she returned to New York City and at age 30 tried to set up her own practice.  People were hesitant trust her as a doctor, so she had to consider another options.  She opened a dispensary to give out-patient treatment to poor women and children.  In this setting, she wasn’t able to accomplish as much as she hoped, so in 1957 she closed the dispensary and opened a hospital, the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children (now the New York University Downtown Hospital).  Her partners were two recent medical school graduates: her sister Dr. Emily Blackwell, and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska. 

Even though Blackwell was a busy professional woman, something was missing from her life.  She was never interested in marriage, but she adopted an orphan girl named Katherine “Kitty” Barry.  Blackwell and her daughter made periodic trips to England, and she also made history there.  In 1859 while in London, she was the first woman to have her name entered into the Medical Register of the United Kingdom. 

HELPING OTHER WOMEN FOLLOW IN HER FOOTSTEPS       Back in the States, when the Civil War broke out, Blackwell helped create the Women’s Central Association of Relief, training nurses to treat the wounded soldiers.  Her work at the hospital was going well, but she was committed to opening a medical college for women.  In 1868 Blackwell founded The Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary to provide training for female medical and nursing students.  Blackwell was the Professor of Hygiene, and Emily was the Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women. 

In 1869, Blackwell left Emily in charge, and she and Kitty returned to England where they lived for the rest of Blackwell’s life.  She helped to create the National Health Society, established a private practice and taught gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women, which she helped to found, and the London School of Medicine for Children. 

In addition to the demands of a pioneering, practicing doctor, Blackwell found the time to write six books focusing on hygiene, the medical treatment for women, raising healthy children, and her autobiography.

On May 31, 1910, Blackwell, 89 years old, died in Hastings, England.  She was buried in Kilmun, in the Highlands of Scotland, one of her favorite places on earth.

QUESTION:  Have you ever done something that most people thought was wrong but that you knew was right for you?  Was it easy or hard?  Were you successful?

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

1 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/blackwell/admission.html

2 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/blackwell/graduation.html

http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/medicine/a/blackwell_emin.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Blackwell

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart_and_William_Smith_Colleges

http://campus.hws.edu/his/blackwell/articles/oldnews.html

http://library.hws.edu/archives/pdfs/tripp.pdf

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mcc:@sum(@field(OTHER+@band(Blackwell,+Elizabeth++1821+1910+))+@field(SUBJ+@band(Blackwell,+Elizabeth++1821+1910+)))

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mcc:@sum(@field(OTHER+@band(Blackwell,+Elizabeth++1821+1910+))+@field(SUBJ+@band(Blackwell,+Elizabeth++1821+1910+)))

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_35.html

Elizabeth Blackwell’s autobiography, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, published in 1895, is out of print.  I could not find it anywhere online or  in any local libraries.

AUDIE MURPHY (1924 – 1971) Most Decorated Soldier in World War II & Actor

In Actors, adventure, American History, Hollywood, People, People from Texas, Trivia, World War II on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Audie Murphy

When Audie Murphy was twelve, the dream of fighting in the Army was his only relief from the poverty and back-breaking work of his Texas sharecropper family.  He was one of nine children who all worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough to hold a hoe.  While he was tending the crops, Murphy fought many battles, and he was always victorious and unharmed.  Real life did not play itself out so easily.

When Murphy was a young boy, his father left with no explanation and never returned.  His mother died when he was sixteen.  The three youngest children were placed in an orphanage, and the rest were forced to fend for themselves.  Murphy worked in a gas station and radio repair shop, but he had a bad temper and got into fights often.  He preferred to be alone, and only in solitude could he connect with his dreams.

 NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK   On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Murphy was 17 years old and more determined than ever to become a soldier.  The day he turned 18 he went to the Marine Corps recruiting station to offer his services.  He was rejected outright for being too skinny, which only added to his anger.  His second choice was the newly formed paratroopers.  They were a little more encouraging, telling him to come back after putting on weight.  His third option was the infantry, even though he thought they were too ordinary for his ambitions.   They accepted him as he was and shipped him off to boot camp.  During the first close-order drill, Murphy passed out and was immediately dubbed “Baby.”  To add insult to injury, he was transferred to cook and baker’s school.

Refusal to do anything else eventually got Murphy a place back in the rank and file. In 1943 he landed in Tunis, Tunisia and then went on to Italy.  Finally, his dream of being in combat was coming true.

In Sicily, Murphy was moving ahead of his company with the scouts.  Two Italians appeared, and instead of surrendering, they jumped on horses to escape.  Murphy instinctively fired two shots and killed the two enemy soldiers.  Murphy’s company commander made him a corporal.  During a march to Palermo, covering 25 miles per day, he contracted malaria and was in the field hospital for a week. 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER    After many more battles, some additional training and two more bouts of malaria, Murphy landed in France.  His company was ordered to neutralize a hill that was an enemy strongpoint.  Murphy and two comrades were bringing up the rear with enemy fire surrounding them.  One of his partners died mid-sentence right next to Murphy, and the other one was killed when standing up to move.  Murphy dove into a ditch and came face to face with two German soldiers.  The split second it took for them to realize who they were looking at was enough of an advantage for Murphy to react, killing both of them. 

While he was making his retreat, Murphy exchanged fire with several Germans in various foxholes until his ammunition ran out.  He found some fellow soldiers pinned to the ground by German fire overhead.  Murphy dragged a discarded machine gun into a ditch and aimed uphill so the enemy had to expose themselves to shoot down to him.  By the time he was ready to shoot, however, bullets were landing within a foot of his body.  He let loose with fire in all directions trying to hit anything he could.  There were cries of agony, and Murphy walked uphill to reconnoiter the area.  He saw several dead Germans and one that he put out of his misery. 

When more gunfire attacked him, he emptied his weapon and waited.  One of his buddies, Brandon, arrived, and as both men started walking in the ditch, they were attacked at point blank range.  A bullet clipped off part of Brandon’s ear, but he was able to kill both attackers.  The two American soldiers dove into a hole already occupied by two Germans, and killed them.  Then Murphy and Brandon raised their helmets, inviting fire to reveal the enemy’s position.  They lobbed two hand grenades toward the sound of the blast, and then there was silence.  Brandon saw a white handkerchief waving and was convinced the Germans were giving up.  Murphy cautioned him against responding to the gesture, but Brandon stood up to capture the surrendering enemy.  In a barrage of bullets, Brandon fell back into the hole.  Murphy was trapped with two German soldiers under him and his best buddy on top.  With single-minded focus, he tried to move his friend, leading the way with a grenade.  He sneaked behind the remaining Germans and made sure they were permanently incapacitated.  Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers to confront.  After removing the personal effects from Brandon’s pockets, Murphy sat next to his friend and cried until he was spent before rejoining his company.

For his courage and commitment in many similar situations during three years of active combat, Murphy received 33 awards and decorations.  He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military award given for bravery.  In an attack of six Panzer tanks and 250 infantrymen, Murphy mounted an abandoned, burning tank destroyer and used one machine gun to stave off the advancing enemy.  Even though he was wounded in the leg, Murphy stayed there for almost an hour, fighting off the attacking Germans on three sides and single-handedly killing 50 of them.  After rejoining his company, he organized a counterattack which forced the Germans to retreat.  In addition, he received five decorations from France and Belgium.  He is credited with killing, wounding or capturing over 250 enemy soldiers.  In 1945 Murphy was 21 years old when he resigned from active duty.  He had attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.

LIFE AFTER WAR    James Cagney saw Murphy’s photo on the cover of Life magazine and invited him to go to Hollywood.  Murphy admitted he had little talent, and he struggled to get parts, sleeping in a gymnasium until he got a break and finally a contract at Universal.  He found his niche in westerns and starred in The Red Badge of Courage directed by John Houston. 

In 1949 he published his autobiography, To Hell and Back, which proved to be a bestseller, and he starred in the film version of his story.  The movie set a box office record for Universal that was only surpassed by Jaws in 1975.  He made a total of 44 films.

Murphy’s heart was always in Texas, and he owned a ranch there as well as in California and Arizona.  He owned and bred Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, winning and losing fortunes gambling on them, and playing poker.  He also discovered a talent for songwriting, and he wrote songs recorded by Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold and Roy Clark. 

In 1949 he married actress Wanda Hendrix, but the marriage only lasted a year.  In 1951 he married Pamela Archer, and they had two sons. 

LIVING WITH THE NIGHTMARES     Murphy’s combat experiences haunted him for the rest of his life.  He suffered from “battle fatigue,” now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow.  In order to cope with insomnia and depression he became addicted to sleeping pills.  To break the addiction, Murphy locked himself in a motel room for a week until he finished going through withdrawal.  He advocated on behalf of the soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam for better health benefits and treatment for mental health issues. 

On May 28, 1971, Murphy, 46 years old, was a passenger in a private plane when it crashed into a fog covered mountain near Roanoke, Virginia.  He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. 

QUESTION:  How do you feel about war?  What ideals do you think are important enough to die for?

To see clips of Murphy in To Hell and Back go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFOMVKB9fiY&feature=related

To see his appearance on the game show “What’s My Line” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RWQ5tESVzk

©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

Murphy, Audie, To Hell and Back. New York: Holt Rinehart, and Winston, 1949.

http://www.audiemurphy.com/biograph.htm

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy

http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2907/murphy-audie-l.php

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/historical_information/audie_murphy.html