Catherine Cate Coblentz (1897-1951)
Catherine Coblentz, a tall, slender woman with fine, lustrous brown eyes, once said of herself, "I am a born crusader," and indeed she was. Her books and many community activities all showed a strong idealism which she turned into definite accomplishments. In her writings she tried to retell history realistically, in a way that would appeal to a child's sense of fantasy.
Her first book, Animal Pioneers, published in 1936, was the outgrowth of undergraduate research at George Washington University, from which she was graduated with distinction in 1930. It was a collection of stories about such historical animals as the cat the Puritans hanged for catching mice on Sunday, the dog that sailed the Pacific with Balboa, and the Dutch spaniel that came over on the Mayflower.
Her book The Blue Cat of Castleton was a runner-up for the 1949 Newbery Award. Illustrated by Janice Holland, it was cited by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the 53 most distinguished children's books published in the previous five years. In 1945 her accomplishments in the field of children's literature brought her the GWU Alumni Association Achievement Award.
Chief among her civic efforts were the successful appeal for $30,000 to build a new public library branch in Cleveland Park, and a campaign for the creation of a children's division in the Library of Congress. Unhappily, although she knew the first was a certainty, Catherine did not live to see it, nor was she ever to know that her hope for a children's division in the Library of Congress was finally realized.
Alberta Powell Graham (1875-1955)
The following is taken from a tribute to Mrs. Graham written by Eloise Lownsbery:
Alberta Graham was distinguished in two fields, music and writing. At one period in her life when she lived in Ottumwa, Iowa, she played and sang professionally, and for several years she was the supervisor of music in the public schools in Ottumwa and elsewhere in the state. In addition to all that, she wrote both the words and music of operettas, pageants, and cantatas and had published some 200 songs for children from kindergarten to high school. Many of these were gathered into volumes for use in public schools across the nation.
After the death of her husband in 1938, her sons grown, she chose (at age 65!) to enter a new field-historical writing for children. She came to Washington in 1940 to take advantage of the research facilities afforded by the Library of Congress and four years after her arrival, Thomas Nelson & Sons published her first juvenile book, Thirty-One Roads to the White House, revised twice since. A few years later, her Child's Guide to Washington appeared and provided thousands of visiting youngsters with a guide of their own to the Nation's Capital.
Continuing her historical research, Abingdon Press published a series of biographies for younger children on Columbus, LaSalle, and LaFayette. Her Clara Barton biography was finished the week before her final illness, in time to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Red Cross.
Although Alberta's education at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, and Northwestern Universities was in formal music, she was interested as well in modern music and published two books on the bands of America, Strike Up the Band and Great Bands of America.
She received many honors for her work in both her fields but none pleased her more than the choice by the Division of the Blind of the Library of Congress of her Christopher Columbus and her Great Bands, for talking books. Others of her books have also been chosen for Braille transcription.
Eloise Lownsbery (Mrs. Carl Clancy) (1888-1966)
When the editor of our first history tried to learn something about Eloise Lownsbery, these are the impressions people offered: lovable, ethereal, absent-minded, so very kind, idealistic, a fine researcher, a good writer- and a determined one despite her great gentleness of manner. All of her books were beautifully written. A reviewer once pointed out that she had a wonderfully convincing way of weaving historical detail into the text of her stories.
Eloise grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and attended the local schools. Then she went east where she was graduated from Wellesley College. Afterwards, for her father's health, she moved with her family to California. Here she fell in love with the mountains and wrote:
"What a joy to catch a glimpse of the first high remote white peaks! Friends soon took me up to them. A swift electric car left us at the foot of Mt. Wilson, up which we toiled all night, arriving at the 6,000-foot summit at dawn, exultant in the glory, in spite of feet that shrieked at every step. And soon I was camping out in the mountains, leading groups of Camp Fire youngsters up to the top of Old Baldy, ten thousand feet and more.
"Then came World War I and the impelling need to go over and help with the Quakers. And now intimately I knew France and loved it with its people. And I knew her cathedrals: Chartres, Notre Dame, and especially Rheims.
"So that was how I came to visit far lands. And later, after I had married Carl Clancy, he promised to show me the beauty of far places. So we motored through Europe and later, because he must film Egypt's new king and queen, we visited Egypt and Palestine."
Eloise the traveler had finally to settle down. She chose to do this, along with her husband, in a home not far from George Washington's, one that also looked down upon the Potomac River. Here she often entertained the Guild at its annual August picnic.
Continue to III. The Charter Members