January 19, 1927: “I dislike the sight of them”

Wednesday the 19th
Dull and threatening rain still warm. Mrs. Baldwin came in the a.m. brought Edith some cards. I dislike the sight of them. Edith ought not to try to do them there’s enough to do around the house + I am not able to do much now my back is so bad I can’t keep on my feet. Edith has finished my green crepe + I have it on now looks very well. Have another one to make + Edith has two. So much sewing to do. Baldwins came in for Bridge stayed untill twenty minutes of two. Audrea did not want to go to bed so of course she stayed up + was so thoroughly done out she could scarcely stand. Had a pleasant time but so tired.

Notes + Explanations:

So before I get into the notes for this entry, I have a big find to share that may shed a bit more light on the history of Edith and Clarence. I think Annie has a larger role than just the disapproving mother-in-law. I’ve just discovered the address where Annie and John were living when Edith was born.

Newton Street and Clark Street

While I don’t know the exact number, Edith birth certificate indicates that they were living on Newton Street in Somerville. As you can see, Newton Street (where the Number 12 is) is not very long.

Guess what Number 10 is.

That would be 9 Clark Street, the address where Mr. and Mrs. Lester were living when Clarence was born! Coincidence? Perhaps, but wow. It’s a lot more likely that Edith and Clarence grew up together as neighbors. Perhaps their parents were even friends. Let’s keep this in mind as we continue!

Back to today’s entry…

So Mrs. Baldwin is influencing Edith to try out what I can only assume are tarot cards. There’s a reason that I can assume this. Shall we have a little flashback story time? Let’s jump back to a couple years ago, the first time I opened the Captain’s Sea Chest at my mom’s house in Dallas, Texas.

My mom and I were plopped down on the floor, slowly going through the contents. I pulled this very same diary out of the chest for the first time, and I flipped through to see what we were dealing with. The page that I happened to land on was an entry that said something to the effect of  “Edith went into the center to do readings today”.

I said to my mom, “Readings? What on earth do you think that means?”

My mother, without missing a beat, said, “She probably means reading fortunes.” I let out a chuckle and replied, “hah! Yeah, sure. Your grandmother was a fortune teller! Ha!”

My mom then cocked her head to the side, squinted her eyes, and as if recalling something as common as last week’s grocery list said, “yeah, she had a crystal ball. I still have it.” And with that, she got up and went in the other room for a minute.

I was still sitting on the floor thinking my mother has lost her mind, when she returns with a crystal ball in her hand.

At this point I thought it wise to point out to my mother that this is not particularly… normal. As if realizing it for the first time, she burst out laughing and we continued with our exploration of the Captain’s Sea Chest. Five minutes later we stumbled across a newspaper article confirming another completely ridiculous family story (one we had assumed to be invented) about an ancestor who had been imprisoned in an underground Siberian coal mine for three years, chained to a corpse. !!!

BUT one mystery at a time. Eventually we’ll get back to the Siberian Coal Mine Mystery. For now let’s focus on the mystical powers of my great grandmother. Evidently, she may not have been alone in her little hobby. :

The first two decades of the twentieth century were a time of massive social change. Suffragettes agitated for the vote, Freud wrote and lectured on sexuality and the unconscious, Marcel Duchamp hung a urinal in a gallery and called it art, Kandinsky created the first abstract paintings, and Mary Pickford was the first international movie star. Back then you could crank up your Model T, go on a road trip and bring home snapshots taken with your Kodak Brownie camera.

This atmosphere of openness and exploration carried over into spiritual life. During the teens and twenties, spiritual seekers joined the Theosophical society, studied Tarot at Golden Dawn temples and read Waite’s Pictorial Key to Tarot. The adventurous few hooked up with Aleister Crowley during his American tour from 1914 to 1917. By 1920, three Americans had repackaged traditional esoteric wisdom into correspondence courses. P. F. Case taught his version of the Golden Dawn’s system through the Builders of the Adytum. C. Z. Zain packaged the French esoteric tradition as taught by Paul Christian into a similar format. Homer and Harriette Curtiss, authors of the first American Tarot book, founded the Order of Christian Mystics and a publishing house to disseminate their teachings via correspondence course.

(source: Tarot Heritage)

So it doesn’t actually seem that far-fetched that two women in Arlington Heights, which we’ve already established was a fairly bohemian kind of artsy neighborhood, would take interest in a spiritual exploration such as this.

It must absolutely baffle Annie, though. This is a lot of change for a 67-year-old to handle. Although, she did party with the guests until 1:40am, so maybe she’s got more pizzaz than we give her credit for!

Here are some great photos of a set of tarot cards dated from 1920:

Original Diary Pages:

© Mariana Pickering and Gnarly Roots, 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material (including photos) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariana Pickering and Gnarly Roots with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


3 thoughts on “January 19, 1927: “I dislike the sight of them”

  1. Al says:

    This is too funny!!! Your going to have to give me a little time, well, I’m laughing so. Honestly, I’m feeling for Annie…………………It’s a Hysterical life………………


  2. Al says:

    Really nice piece on the tarots. Edith was a thoroughly “Modern Mille.” Annie surely would have thought the world had gone mad!! We’ll have to pay close attention to how far Edith was taking all this as there were many who were taken advantage of during theses times and even today. Someone who wants to believe could be in trouble. Keep an eye open for the use of opium. Nice find!

    Liked by 1 person

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