Mary Craig Kimbrough Sinclair
Craig Sinclair, American writer and wife of author Upton Sinclair, corresponded heavily with Helen Woodward, an author in her own right who was also believed to be the first female advertising executive. In this letter, Craig illustrates a few events in her life that caused her to want to become someone who "cures" the world of its problems. She then relates this to the reasons she found herself able to accept Upton Sinclair's socialist viewpoint.
You talk about the reasons why I became a "rebel". I do not believe that is the right word for me. Waht I am is: one who wahts a "cure" for the troubles of this world. I began wanting a cure when, as the oldest of a large family of sisters and broghters, I saw so many things in the lives of the people around me that needed to be cured. I think this was a natural result. I did not rebel. I just kept wondering and trying to find out why. I did not run away as a rebel does.
I saw accidents, some of them so shocking that I began to wonder why, before I was grown. Perhaps the first accident that upset me was when a careless driver (a horse delivery wagon of some sort) came into the backyard of our home and ran over my little Newfoundland puppu. It was fat, round, and awkward, and very dear to me. It did not get in the way of the wagon -- the drive r wasn't paying any attention, he had his mind on chatting with someone, and turned around without looking to see what might be in the way. The lazy, overfed puppy had paid almost no attention -- he had not run after, or under the wagon. He was where he had been all along, and the driver would have seen him if he had not been thinking about something else. I tried to call the puppy to get him out of the way. I was very young then, but I knew the driver was "happy-go-lucky", not watching out to see what was in the way. When he drove over the puppy, I was horrified, of course. Now the cause ahead of this cause (the reason I was aware that the man was careless) was that in such a large family of children with their pets and the irresponsible negro servants, both paps and mama were constantly warning us and the servants about this, that, and the other something which might cause an accident: "Don't let those children go near the river," or "don't let sparks fly out on the rugs," or "don't slide down the bannisters," and so on, and I had become conscious of dangers, and of carelessness, it seems at an early age. I am sure that this beloved pet should not have been killed. I
remember it so well -- which is proof that I was wondering about the causes and the cure for trouble even then. I remember many such shocks -- for I took them seriously. What made me absorb warnings is more than I can say. There were plenty of people in this bit household who ever became responsible.
The worst accident -- for me it was just an accident -- was the death of my five-year-old sister, Lucille. I was sixteen then, and she died in my arms. I saw death, in its strange and unforgettable details. She had been allowed "out of sight" by the nurse, and had gone into the attic where we were not allowed to go alone. There was a bunch of bananas hanging there to ripen. The child ate some, became ill with acute indigestion, and after a very desperate struggle with ipecac, hot mustard baths, and other such home remedies, was relieved of the bananas, but was in a state of exhaustion. Meantime, there had been terrific excitement, of course. It was at our beach home, and the nearest physician was several miles away. My oldest brother, then about 13 1/2 years old had been sent on horseback to get this physician. When this youth found that the doctor was not at home, he decided to bring "Dr. B.", the "horse doctor," who had been called to attend a sick cow, or a horse now and then, by the old Welchman who was the keeper on the place during the winter months when we were in the Delta. My brother had met this vet in the pasture, and liked him, and didn't know anything but that he was called "Doctor." He begged this kindly vet to come as fast as he could, and so, the poor little sister was given an overdose of morphine after she had begun to recover from her indigestion. The well-meaning vet had come, post haste, had found me sitting by the bed while my mother was resting in another room from the exertions of giving the child hot baths, etc. I did not know who this doctor was, but he had come, and felt the child's pulse, and found that the little one was resting but was exhausted, and so, he thought a little morphine would prolong her sleep, she she could make a quicker recovery. He gave it to her in her arm,
and left. After he had gone, the child became restless, showed strange symptoms which frightened me. I lifted her in my arms so she could vomit. She died in my arms.
It is a long story -- three days of agony. The horse my brother had ridden dropped to the ground on the front lawn, dying, soon after the vet had gone, (from having been raced by my brother in his effort to get a doctor.) My mother was pregnant, and my father had become concerned about her only. She had once had a long struggle for life because of an unborn child that had died (before it was born). She had now become very ill with nausea, and papa had carried her in his arms to a room at the other end of the house, and sat by her, trying to comfort her. I was left with my brother and a girl friend (seventeen years old) to site by the little dead sister. Irene, my friend, who was a house guest, became ill. She had an attack of cramps, and the negro servents began rushing around getting a hot sitz bath, a hot toddy, and everything else she called for, to save her life. She was sure she was goint to die, too. I knew that mama had to be kept quiet, so I ran around on tip-toes ordering "taffy" (Irene) to stop groaning, and the servants to stop weeping and banging doors and foot tubs etc. -- back and forth between Irene and the little dead sister. Also, I had to help papa now and then as he came and went between mama and the nursery where he had put all the children in the care of a weeping negro nurse who couldn't keep the children quiet because she was so excited. She screamed when a cat came in and watned to be let into the room where the corpse was. Negroes always become wild in the presence of death.
Well, I wanted something done, after this, to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again. There were too many children, too many negroes, too many irresponsible people. Papa and I and my young brother, had had to quiet too many hysterical negro servants and crying children.
I became sure that there were too many negroes and too many children in the South. These were after thoughts of course, and joined up with other tragedies, before and after, in my mind. I wanted a "cure" for the Southern way of having too many people in one family. What was the matter that such tragedies happened?
This isn't being a rebel, it it?
I can only repeat that I was not a rebel, I was a questioner. I was moulded to a great extent by the life of the South in that part white, part black atmosphere, which had in it still so many factors of the re-construction chaos. (This sounds like a paradox. But what was called re-construction was never that. It isn't that yet.)
I went on questioning everything -- and wanted cures. So, when I met Upton, I was fully ripe to accept something. He too was a seeker for cure -- he too, a victim of that war, that slave era, and its aftermath. He thought he had found the cure for everything. He was sure he had: He was so convincing that I became a convert to his "cure". It was so simple: "Vote the Socialist ticket:" (Maybe I was never a rebel.) He could see all the ramifications and effects of poverty into every aspect of life. It was "economics"(of which I had never heard) that had to be changed so that poverty could not exist anywhere on earth. It was that which had caused the Arabs in Africa to sell to the slave-traders, these latter being nerely products of the wrong economic system all over the world. It was ignorance too, but that also ws due to poverty. The ignorant cannibals in Africa had to be given houses, sanitation, schools, doctors, laboratories, then they would not be ignorant, and the Arabs could not steal them, nor would they want to, and the slave traders would bec me college professors and physicists, and leaders in a Co-operative Commonwealth.
Dear Helen: I've scrawled this hasty analysis of what made me able to see Upton's work as something which should be supported. It is badly written, but call it a note, and it will help fill in somewhere.