Fresh vegetables just waiting to be popped into a lovely crisp salad, inspired Prudence Penny to plan a Spring Salad Show for tomorrow’s Bon Marché matinee at 2 o’clock.
Prudence Penny’s telephones are open from 8:30 until 5 with a staff of experts to help with any household questions. Just telephone Main 2000, the Prudence Penny department will be glad to assist. Read the daily feature and the Wednesday food pages for up-to-the-minute ideas and listen to the following menus discussed over KOMO daily at 12 o’clock:
SUNDAY: Banana, grapefruit and nut salad with cheese dressing is followed by pig knuckles and pineapple with rice and bean sprouts. Butterscotch meringue pie is the dessert.
Not an April Fool’s Day hoax, but an actual menu excerpted from one of the Prudence Penny clippings (minus date) found in a John Redington scrapbook. April 1st coincidentally was the date that Bernice Redington claimed to have begun working at the P-I and also is the anniversary of this blog’s first public post, so I felt doubly compelled to follow up on yesterday’s entry!
And in the don’t-try-this-at-home department, I must confess that in the course of compiling information on Bernice Redington I gave into the temptation of dialing the Prudence Penny telephone number. No one answered.
As Women’s History Month 2011 draws to a close, I bring to you part of the story of Puyallup-born journalist and home economist Bernice Redington (1891-1966). Bernice Redington first revealed herself while we were in the process of getting the scrapbooks of her father, John W(atermelon) Redington cataloged. A colorful character in his own right, John W. Redington was an enterprising jack-of-all-trades. He found a niche as a newspaperman in Oregon and Washington, along the way becoming the father of four daughters, each of whom (as clippings in his scrapbooks proudly attest) seemed to have had some involvement with journalism and/or writing at various points in their lives. Of the four, Bernice was the only one who never married and who remained the most connected with the Puget Sound region, although, like her father, she was quite peripatetic.
Bernice Redington began working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1923, while attending the University of Washington part-time, where she apparently changed her major with some regularity. She had worked for a time as a dietitian for the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington and at Seattle advertising agencies before joining the staff of the P-I. She published a weekly food page and a daily column under her own byline for about two years, but her role began to expand during the time of Royal Brougham’s editorship of the newspaper (1925-1928). By the early 1930s, Bernice had added the moniker, “Prudence Penny” to her column, sometimes in tandem with her own name, sometimes on its own.
A pseudonym shared by numerous home economics columnists at various Hearst publications, Prudence Penny, was described in a 1924 article in Time Magazine, as “an institution through which Mr. Hearst dispenses good advice, human kindness, and valuable aid in exchange for the good will of prospective newspaper buyers.” The Seattle Prudence Penny department grew to be a quite large and profitable concern — at its height, the newspaper hosted its own “Dream Kitchen” on site, provided a daily radio broadcast each weekday morning (with suggestions for that evening’s menu), and required the services of eight women to handle incoming telephone calls.
It was exciting to try to learn more about the Prudence Penny phenomenon and to discover that we had two related items already cataloged in Special Collections, including Cosmopolitan Seattle, a 1935 edition of an earlier pamphlet that compiled recipes from a variety of “ethnic” and other restaurants. A quick perusal of the finding aids database also showed that there was some correspondence between Bernice Redington and Edmond S. Meany contained in the latter’s papers, which yielded two examples of Prudence Penny letterhead, the “Dream Kitchen Bulletin” (pictured above) and one for “Prudence Penny’s Recipe Studio.” A couple of digitized Prudence Penny photographs led Deidre and I to make a field trip to the MOHAI Library and Archives on a soggy day to try to see if we could turn up an elusive portrait of Bernice Redington in her Prudence Penny persona. Although we did not locate one, we were very fortunate to be shown an assortment of negatives from the Seattle P-I Collection which depicted the enormous crowds that attended Prudence Penny cooking schools and other events held in Seattle through the decades (thanks, MOHAI!).
Perhaps the most unexpected and informative discovery, however, was an interview with Bernice Redington conducted in 1959 that was housed in the Roger A. Simpson papers. The Redington interview was one of several that formed part of the research for the book, Unionism or Hearst (1978), a study of the American Newspaper Guild’s 1936 strike against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which Simpson co-authored with William E. Ames. As Bernice Redington recounts her own experience in the transcript, she had grown dissatisfied with working conditions at the P-I by the end of 1935, not having much of a say as the more experienced women on her staff were suddenly being replaced by lower-paid, less experienced ones. Perhaps sensing the writing on the wall, she decided to quit her P-I job to focus on finally completing her degree and quit abruptly in early 1936. Although she professed not to be much of a union sympathizer (“because my father was a small-town newspaper publisher and didn’t allow you to even mention the word unions”), she did testify before the National Labor Federation and supplied the “Molly Mixer” food columns for the Guild Dailynewspaper (put out by the Guild during the strike).
After receiving her degree, Bernice found employment for part of the year with the Ball Brothers (glass fruit jar) company and the rest of the time as a social worker in Kitsap County. She eventually left for Hawaii, where she returned to journalism, working for several publications, including the Honolulu Star Bulletin (1946-1948) and also completing an (unpublished) novel. She returned to Washington State in 1948 and became the head of the test kitchen for the Fisher Flouring Mills, also appearing on radio broadcasts for Fisher. She settled in Normandy Park, where she continued to do freelance writing and also was involved in community affairs until her death.
Although only a very partial portrait emerges from these few scattered facts, it seems pretty clear that Bernice Redington was a strong-minded woman who did her best to live up to the journalist’s credo she expressed in an interview so much later in her life. In addition to the materials at the UW, the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives also holds its own set of John Redington papers (AX 93), as well as a collection on Bernice Redington (AX 92), which contains correspondence on food preparation, fashion, and careers in home economics, as well as a number of cookbooks.
If you are looking for something to do this evening, why not head over to the University Bookstore? At 7:00 pm, the Special Collections Division’s own Nicolette Bromberg will be on hand to discuss and sign copies of her new book, Picturing the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. This lavish volume features the Visual Materials Curator’s own selection of documentary photographs by AYPE official photographer, Frank Nowell, as well as recent photographs from a project led by John Stamets in which University of Washington students rephotographed various sites of the 1909 exposition on the current UW campus.
The Museum of History and Industry, Saturday, March 7, 2009
Between presenters, audience members milled around the linen covered tables while a young woman adjusted the laptop next to the forward podium. Those of us who were seated were either discussing the “Seattle Meets the World” series of presentations or chatting with the presenters. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Chuimei Ho, who along with her husband, Bennet Bronson, explained the immense cultural and community significance of the appearance of the first Chinese dragon parade during the A-Y-P.
Like most, I faced forward watching the screen and expected an introductory PowerPoint slide for the next presenter, Ana Novakovic, a student at the University of British Columbia. Ana was scheduled to read her paper titled, “Modernity and Tradition: Portrayals of Native Americans at the A-Y-P.” I was perplexed that desktop icons along with an American flag displayed on the large viewing screen. It occurred to me that maybe there was a technical glitch; I contemplated getting up and offering to assist.
But then Chair Robin Wright from the Burke Museum introduced Ana. Neither women seemed perturbed, so I assumed there was no technical problem with the laptop and a PowerPoint slide would eventually appear. Yet, the screen shot remained static. Ana, a polished young woman, slowly began reading. At first, I felt a bit uncomfortable. I kept looking at the screen – searching for a PowerPoint slide. I look at the audience and noticed there were others who were also looking for a slide – I found myself feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
My eyes and attention moved to Ana. She spoke firmly and slowly, emphasizing words that were significant or important to her presentation. Her voice never wavered; she scanned the audience for eye contact rarely looking down at her paper. The more material she read, the more she drew us in. Her intonation and manner commanded and successfully owned our attention. She stressed how the Native Americans were recruited to portray a primitive past by the A-Y-P organizers. They were not viewed as participants but rather entertainers and performers for those who attended the fair.
When Ana finished reading, I was disappointed, not because of her presentation, but because of her presentation – I didn’t want it to end. Ana did not need a PowerPoint slide to enhance her presentation – she had her steady and confident voice which represented her well and those of the Native Americans who “entertained” at the A-Y-P.
As recently reported in the New York Times, recordings of the American poet, Theodore Roethke, reading selected works are among the latest additions to The Poetry Archive. This project to make historic recordings of poetry read by their authors freely available to the public was initiated by U.K. Poet Laureate Andrew Motion in 2005. With the cooperation of the Poetry Foundation, the collection has expanded its scope to include American authors.
The Special Collections Division holds many materials relating to Roethke (who was a member of the University of Washington faculty from 1947-1963), including his papers. The Roethke papers are described in a rather complicated finding aid, which you can begin to work your way through here. Although the collection contains many photographs, this image is from our nearby neighbor, the Museum of History and Industry. It shows Roethke (right) with Seattle-born musician and composer, Armand Russell in an undisclosed location. Russell, who trained at the University of Washington, played double bass with the Seattle Symphony and several other orchestras, before joining the faculty of the University of Hawaii in 1961.
The Pacific Northwest Historians Guild has issued a call for papers and presentations for its 24th annual conference to be held on March 7, 2009 at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. The theme of this year’s conference is the centennial of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Submissions are due by October 15, 2008. You can go here for the full announcement.