Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Washington D.C. Schools Asked to Consider Esperanto

The Washington Times, in an article on July 15, 1908, made reference to “Mrs. Wilbur F. Crafts, a Chautauqua lecturer.” A “Chautauqua lecturer” is one who is on the teaching staff of what is now called the Chautauqua Institution, which had its start as the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly. Chautauqua was home to the first Volapuk convention in the United States, as well as the first Esperanto convention in the United States.

So, who is Mrs. Wilbur F. Crafts? Clearly, she is someone who became well accustomed to going by her husband’s name. In the 1930 census, she’s listed as “Wilbur F. Crafts,” though her sex is marked with an F. Clearly the census taker was told that she was Mrs. Wilbur F. Crafts, and that was that. The 1900 census (when Wilbur was still alive) makes it clear that her given name was Sara, and that she was born in August of 1851. Her profession is given as “authoress.”

Her husband was a clergyman, and quite a writer himself. There are more titles listed in Worldcat under his name than under hers (her books were published under the name of Mrs. Wilbur F. Crafts, and include such page-turners as Songs for little folks : a collection adapted for the home circle and for primary classes in Sunday schools and day schools).

Mrs. Crafts was also an early American Esperantist. She was at that initial Esperanto conference. And it is clear that she brought Esperanto into whatever other cause in which she was involved. Amerika Esperantisto wrote in 1906 that at a tuberculosis conference she
distributed a propaganda leaflet especially prepared for the occasion, containing the words from the Ekzercaro which are compounded upon the root san’ as well as the translation of ordinary phrases used by Red Cross workers. Mrs. Crafts made a propaganda address about the language, illustrating it with sample words and phrases and an explanation of the grammar.
In 1908, she was suggesting Esperanto to the D.C. schools.
Esperanto Course Urged for Schools
Chautauqua Lecturer Visits Superintendent Stuart and Discusses “Talk Plan.”
Superintendent Stuart and the Board of Education are soon to wight the momentous question as to whether or not Esperanto is to be taught in the public schools of Washington.

Mrs. Wilbur F. Crafts, a Chautauqua lecturer, called upon Mr. Stuart this morning and presented him a mass of evidence to show that Esperanto was the coming language of the world, and that the children of Washington should at once be given an opportunity to learn it.

There were numerous written exhibits which showed up the advantages of Esperanto in pretty much the same manner that a sheath gown demonstrates—well, never mind. Anyway, Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech was Exhibit A, and Superintendent Stuart agreed after looking it over that it seemed all right, and was evidently all there, although it didn’t sound that way when Lincoln said it.

However, he caused Mrs. Crafts to leave the building in a very satisfied state of mind, when he promised to give the subject serious consideration, and it is not improbably that the aspiring youth will be given an opportunity to acquire Esperanto if he or she so desires.

The Board of Education has had to wrestle with everything from repairing the school plumbing to fighting the Dolliver bill, but Esperanto will be something new. It will be interesting, at least.
Well, they said they would consider it. I haven’t had the opportunity to further research if the D.C. schools started teaching Esperanto in 1908. I’d make a bet they didn’t, no matter how much “serious consideration” was given.
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