Monday, April 20, 2015

Esperanto and Palmistry

Pearl J. Parker
Too bad she didn't look at
Dr. Zamenhof's palm
Mrs. Pearl J. Parker, the woman who introduced the Philadelphia Girl Scouts to the study of Esperanto, has proved elusive. Other than a few newspaper articles and some advertisements, there’s nothing definite (such as where she was from and what happened to her). All this, despite that the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger published an item by her and a photograph of her in their April 20, 1918 edition. (The item is described as an “editorial,” but that’s properly a piece written by an editor.)

Her essay contains little that any Esperantist wouldn’t know anyway, and contains a major error (that also any Esperantist would notice), though we might blame that one on the typesetters. She does bring forth the news that by 1918, Esperanto is beginning to get established in the scouting movement. For all this, Pearl J. Parker does not seem to have been any sort of major presence in the Esperanto movement. It seems likely that, like the somewhat earlier Winifred Sackville Stoner, Mrs. sought to use Esperanto to underscore her credentials as an education expert.

It was reasonable feat to get a column on page 12 of the Saturday, April 20, 1918 Evening Public Ledger. I’ll grant Mrs. Parker that. It’s not clear why the following is “for women.”
Prevocational expert and introducer of Esperanto to the Girl Scouts of Philadelphia.
WASHINGTON liberated American through war. Esperanto will liberate the world from war.[1]

I wonder how many people know that Esperanto is the name of a great international language which has been in use in many parts of the world for more than thirty years.[2] Some think it is a new kind of breakfast food; others that it is a patent medicine or shoe polish, or an opera, as a clerk asked the other day when I inquired if he had any Esperanto records. I wanted “La Espero,” which we Esperantists term “The National Hymn of Esperanto Land” (“La nacia himno de Esperantlando”).[3]

Esperanto is not new. It was discovered by Dr. L. L. Zamnhof, of Warsaw, Russia. Thinking people for hundreds of years have realized the importance of one language for all, a second language to be taught to every child besides it mother tongue. History shows that many have tried to create such a language,[4] but Esperanto is the first one that could survive the test of practical use.[5] It has been tried in every conceivable way by the best linguists of the present age and has never failed to meet every requirement.

In the little village where Doctor Zamenhof was born[6] there were four distinct nationalities, each speaking a different tongue. He discovered very early that a great deal of their boyhood trouble arose from the fact they could not understand each other and with his philosophic mind he beganto plan to create an international language. With this object in view he took up the study of the most important languages in use, as well as Greek and Latin.[7] He had mastered several before he finished high school. In his early college days began the real work of creating a new tongue.[8] When he was about nineteen,[9] feeling that he had made it as nearly perfect as he could make it alone, he sent out sample sheets to the best linguists in the world.

Ridicule from his associates caused Doctor Zamenhof to sign a pen name. “Esperanto” in his language meant “one who hoped,” so he signed himself “Doctor Esperanto.”[10] That is how the name originated. These learned men recognized its worth and gave him valuable assistance. On account of his youth he was advised to wait a few years before presenting it to the world. The first book, published in 1878,[11] met with public approval immediately and it is growing more valuable every day.

There are many expert Esperantist in the United States, but the Philadelphia Girl Scouts’ organization was the first to take it up.[12] The Boy Scouts followed. I have no doubt that in a few months one will hear more Esperanto than English in many scout meetings.

Truly speaking, Esperanto was not invented, but discovered. It is the best taken from many languages. It is composed of roots, prefixes and suffixes. With a knowledge of these and only sixteen rules and no exceptions, one is enabled to create any word needed to express an idea. No dictionary could be made large enough to contain all Esperanto words;[13] in fact, there is no need for one. For example, the suffix “et” means “little” or “small”; “hundo” means “dog,” so “a little dog” would be “hundeto.” All names and nouns end in “o.” If one wanted to say “a little female dog” he would use another suffix, “in,” which indicates the feminine, and would say “hudineto.” To say “a young dog,” “puppy,” one would use the suffix “id,” which signifies the young of “hund-id-o,” and so on.

One of the wonderful things about it is that it is clear and definite; it says just what it means, and nothing else. In English we say many things we do not mean at all. For instance, we say we “took the street car,” while in Esperanto we say “put ourselves into the street car”—quite a difference. This is only one illustration.

Many educated persons have mastered Esperanto in a few weeks without a teacher. Tolstoi is said to have been able to read and write it after two hours’ study; but there are few minds like his. The average person can easily learn it in spare time in a few months.

I should like to tell more about it, but—Ĝis la revido (until we meet again).
There is no evidence that the young Esperantists continued after Mrs. Parker’s departure.

Mrs. Parker’s expertise in education didn’t come from some new theory of education like Winifred Sackville Stoner’s “natural education.” Mrs. Parker believed that there was one sure-fire way to determine what someone’s best educational path would be: palmistry. In the July 1917 Amerika Esperantisto, Mrs. Parker her vocational guidance “from a study of the hand.”
Everyone can make a success in life if they find their right work.
A life CHART will give you fill information. Write for particulars. Children our speciality.
In 1916, the Evening Public Ledger noted that
At 11:30 this morning, Mrs. Pearl J. Parker, prevocational expert, who has caused much comment by advocating that reading of hands in the public schools be introduced, so that children will get into their proper sphere.
It doesn’t seem that she was able to look into the future of Esperanto.

[On a side note, an adjacent article recommended removing the study of German from the public schools. Guys, the war was over.]

  1. Yeah, that didn’t happen.  ↩

  2. This is about right. The first brochure on Esperanto had been published just more than thirty years previously.  ↩

  3. Well, not national, of course. And nobody says “Esperantlando.” It’s either Esperantio or Esperantujo.  ↩

  4. And would continue to try. I recently saw a web site that (without giving any details of the language) claimed that a new language would succeed where Esperanto failed. The inventor is anonymous.  ↩

  5. I think Volapük managed this. They had three conventions, two of which were wholly in Volapük (the first one was partially in German). Volapük failed, not because people couldn’t use it, but because the movement split over reform proposals when it was less than ten years old.  ↩

  6. He was born in Bialystok. It was then and is now a city.  ↩

  7. Although reports are that Zamenhof was a fine classics scholar, even for little Jewish boys, the study of Greek and Latin formed part of the standard curriculum for those who hoped to go off to the professional life.  ↩

  8. Not really. He created the first version when he was about eighteen. He resumed this after finishing college.  ↩

  9. The language was premiered in its original form on his eighteenth birthday. He was twenty-seven when he published the Unua Libro with money provided by his future father-in-law.  ↩

  10. Fear of ridicule might have caused this, but how could he be ridiculed before even publishing the thing. Unless it was by Weiner.  ↩

  11. Uh, 1887.  ↩

  12. The first scout organization.  ↩

  13. No, you really could come up with a comprehensive dictionary in Esperanto. I own one.  ↩

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