Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Washington Students Take Up Esperanto

Isabelle McCaffrey
I have vague memories of a French class assignment in which I was going to be linked up to a French pen pal. I don’t think it went past my first, probably clumsy, letter in which I introduced myself. Nor do I think there was much in it for the French student. I don’t think the expectation was that he would be writing back to me in substandard English. Perhaps the students who joined the Washington High School Esperanto club in 1911 had better luck than I did.

The students involved were aware that it was unlikely that Esperanto would be added to the curriculum of the D.C. schools. They might have been aware of the attempts of Mrs. Wilbur Crofts to get the schools to teach Esperanto. A few years later, Congressman Richard Bartholdt of Louisiana would attempt to get Congress to pass a resolution mandating Esperanto in the school system (one Washington paper suggested that he try getting it done in his home state first.)

On March 10, 1911, the Washington Herald and the Washington Times each reported on new club. There’s some doubt about the address of the Esperanto Office, since neither newspaper tells which quadrant of the city the office is located in, and the Herald and the Times disagree on the street. It would appear that in 1911 if you wanted to mail a letter to the Esperanto Office, you didn’t need to put a street name or number on the envelope.

Study of Universal Language Aid of Society.
Inspired by the efforts of P. W. Shepherd and C. W. Nichols, graduates of the Washington high schools, twenty-five students met last night in the rooms of the Esperanto office, 816 Fifteenth street and formed “The Washington High School Esperanto Club.” The object is to make a study of Esperanto and to correspond with similar clubs throughout the world.

Mr. Shepherd was elected temporary chairman and Miss I. A. McCafferty secretary.

Mr. Shepherd explained that there are Esperanto clubs in all large cities of the world, and that it is the intention of the Washington club to start correspondence with those of the other cities. He said that in most of the foreign cities Esperanto is taught in the schools, but as this cannot be made a part of the studies here, the club will endeavor to make their meetings more on the order of a study than of a social nature.

At the next meeting, March 17, at the the Esperanto office rooms, officers will be elected, and the constitution will be adopted.
Well, pupils may have organized it, but they seem to have had some help from those who were no longer pupils. Unfortunately, the identities of the two organizers have not come to light.

The Washington Times had a shorter article.
High School Pupils Join in Esperanto Campaign
High school pupils of Washington are joining in an intercity campaign for the study of the Esperanto language. For this purpose the “Washington High School Esperanto Club” has been formed, with twenty-five charter members.

At the first meeting of the club last night at the Esperanto office, 816 Fourteenth street, P. W. Shepherd was elected temporary chairman and Miss I. A. McCafferty, temporary secretary. A meeting to elect permanent officers will be held on March 17.

The Washington students will cooperate with similar Esperanto classes in many large cities of the United States.
The club clearly did continue, since a September 4, 1912 Washington Times article made clear that Isabella McCaffrey (both newspapers got her name wrong in 1911) continued to be active in the Esperanto movement. Looking ahead in time, it was only a few years later that Ms. McCaffrey (later Mrs. Horn) was an editor of Amerika Esperantisto.

No word on how the hopes of correspondence with foreign Esperantists went.
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