Emily Dickinson’s “If those I loved were lost”

Emily Dickinson’s “If those I loved were lost” features two stanzas, each with two movements. The speaker’s musing targets how the speaker would react to both losing and finding loved ones. Her emotions and behaviors signal the importance of those loved ones to her. The value she places on these individuals can only be suggested and not directly stated.

If those I loved were lost

If those I loved were lost

The Crier’s voice would tell me —

If those I loved were found

The bells of Ghent would ring —

Did those I loved repose

The Daisy would impel me.

Philip — when bewildered

Bore his riddle in!

This highly allusive poem takes readers from life in a small village to the world stage, on which famous bells herald momentous events. The allusions emphasize the significance the speaker places on those to whom she refers.

First Movement: An Important Announcement

If those I loved were lost

The Crier’s voice would tell me —

The speaker is speculating about her emotions and behaviors after having lost a loved one, and then she adds a speculative note about those emotions and behavior as she suddenly has found a beloved.

The first movement finds the speaker claiming that the loss of a loved one would herald a “Crier” to announce the event. In earlier times, a “town crier” was employed to spread local news events on the streets of small villages. His position was noticeable because of his manner and elaborate dress: such a crier might be adorned in bright colors, a coat of red and gold with white pants, a three-cornered hat (tricon), and black boots. He usually carried a bell that he would ring to attract attention of the citizens. He often would begin his announcement with the cry, “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!”

By making this simple claim that a “crier” would be letting her know about the loss of a loved one, the speaker is elevating the importance of everyone she loves to the status of a noted official or famous name in the community.

Second Movement: The Significance of Loss

If those I loved were found

The bells of Ghent would ring —

The speaker then alludes to the famous Ghent Belfry, whose construction began in 1313 with ringing bells to announce religious events, later employed to signal other important occurrences. The inscription on the belfry tower indicates the historical and legendary important of the construction: “My name is Roland. When I toll there is fire. / When I ring there is victory in the land.”

Dickinson was likely aware of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lines, “Till the bell of Ghent responded o’er lagoon and dike of sand, I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!” Because the famous bells ring to herald important events, the speaker assigns great importance to the fact that she has found a loved one. Thus, the speaker has molded her losing and finding those she loves into great and momentous events.

Third Movement: Daisy and Death

Did those I loved repose

The Daisy would impel me.

The speaker then speculates about her reaction to the death of her loved ones. She refers to the flower, the “Daisy,” stating that it would “impel her.” The employment of the Daisy is likely prompted by the flower’s association with growing on graves as in Keats’ reference in the following excerpt from one of his letters to a friend: “I shall soon be laid in the quiet grave — thank God for the quiet grave — O! I can feel the cold earth upon me — the daisies growing over me — O for this quiet — it will be my first.” And, too, there is the old expression, “pushing up daisies,” of which Dickinson was, no doubt, aware.

The flower would drive her to some of kind reaction which she fails to describe but only hints at. Although she simply suggests her reaction, she leaves a significant clue in the next movement, as she alludes again to Ghent, this time the leader named Philip.

Fourth Movement: The Riddle of Loss

Philip — when bewildered

Bore his riddle in!

The speaker is then alluding to Philip van Artevelde (1340–82), who was a popular Flemish leader. He led a successful battle against the count of Flanders, but later met defeat and death. The Dickinson household library contained a book with a play that featured Philip’s last words before dying, “What have I done? Why such a death? Why thus?”

Thus the speaker makes it known that she would have many questions as she struggles with the death of a loved one. She would, like Philip, be overcome, having to bear such a “riddle.” The speaker has shown how important and necessary her loved ones are to her, and she has also demonstrated that their loss would be devastating, and she done all this through suggestions and hints, without any direct statement of pain and anguish. All the sorrow is merely suggested by the high level of importance she is assigning to her loved ones.

Emily Dickinson remains one of the most fascinating and widely researched poets in America. Much speculation abounds regarding some of the most known facts about her. For example, after the age of seventeen, she remained fairly cloistered in her father’s home, rarely moving from the house beyond the front gate. Yet she produced some of the wisest, deepest poetry ever created anywhere at any time.

Regardless of Emily’s personal reasons for living nun-like, readers have found much to admire, enjoy, and appreciate about her poems. Though they often baffle upon first encounter, they reward readers mightily who stay with each poem and dig out the nuggets of golden wisdom.

New England Family

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst, MA, to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily was the second child of three: Austin, her older brother who was born April 16, 1829, and Lavinia, her younger sister, born February 28, 1833. Emily died on May 15, 1886.

Emily’s New England heritage was strong and included her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, who was one of the founders of Amherst College. Emily’s father was a lawyer and also was elected to and served one term in the state legislature (1837-1839); later between 1852 and 1855, he served one term in the U.S. House of Representative as a representative of Massachusetts.

Education

Emily attended the primary grades in a one room school until being sent to Amherst Academy, which became Amherst College. The school took pride in offering college level course in the sciences from astronomy to zoology. Emily enjoyed school, and her poems testify to the skill with which she mastered her academic lessons.

After her seven year stint at Amherst Academy, Emily then entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the fall of 1847. Emily remained at the seminary for only one year. Much speculation has been offered regarding Emily’s early departure from formal education, from the atmosphere of religiosity of the school to the simple fact that the seminary offered nothing new for the sharp minded Emily to learn. She seemed quite content to leave in order to stay home. Likely her reclusiveness was beginning, and she felt the need to control her own learning and schedule her own life activities.

As a stay-at-home daughter in 19th century New England, Emily was expected to take on her share of domestic duties, including housework, likely to help prepare said daughters for handling their own homes after marriage. Possibly, Emily was convinced that her life would not be the traditional one of wife, mother, and householder; she has even stated as much: God keep me from what they call households.

Reclusiveness and Religion

In this householder-in-training position, Emily especially disdained the role a host to the many guests that her father’s community service required of his family. She found such entertaining mind-boggling, and all that time spent with others meant less time for her own creative efforts. By this time in her life, Emily was discovering the joy of soul-discovery through her art.

Although many have speculated that her dismissal of the current religious metaphor landed her in the atheist camp, Emily’s poems testify to a deep spiritual awareness that far exceeds the religious rhetoric of the period. In fact, Emily was likely discovering that her intuition about all things spiritual demonstrated an intellect that far exceeded any of her family’s and compatriots’ intelligence. Her focus became her poetry—her main interest in life.

Emily’s reclusiveness extended to her decision that she could keep the sabbath by staying home instead of attending church services. Her wonderful explication of the decision appears in her poem, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church”:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —

I keep it, staying at Home —

With a Bobolink for a Chorister —

And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —

I just wear my Wings —

And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,

Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —

And the sermon is never long,

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —

I’m going, all along.

Publication

Very few of Emily’s poems appeared in print during her lifetime. And it was only after her death that her sister Vinnie discovered the bundles of poems, called fascicles, in Emily’s room. A total of 1775 individual poems have made their way to publication. The first publications of her works to appear, gathered and edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, a supposed paramour of Emily’s brother, and the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson had been altered to the point of changing the meanings of her poems. The regularization of her technical achievements with grammar and punctuation obliterated the high achievement that the poet had so creatively accomplished.

Readers can thank Thomas H. Johnson, who in the mid 1950s went to work at restoring Emily’s poems to their, at least near, original. His doing so restored her many dashes, spacings, and other grammar/mechanical features that earlier editors had “corrected” for the poet—corrections that ultimately resulted in obliteration of the poetic achievement reached by Emily’s mystically brilliant talent.

Emily Dickinson’s “I cannot dance upon my Toes”

Emily Dickinson’s “I cannot dance upon my Toes” (#326 in Johnson’s Complete Poems) features five stanzas, displaying her recognized slant rimes and unusual rhythms. Her speaker celebrates and even boasts about the experiences of “Glee” that her audience would immediately link to the great performers of opera and dance Although she does not associate her joy to public performance, she owns a great ecstatic bliss that she feels is equal to or, more likely, greater than any public displays.

(Please note: The spelling, “rhyme,” was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see “Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.”)

I cannot dance upon my Toes

I cannot dance upon my Toes—

No Man instructed me—

But oftentimes, among my mind,

A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—

Would put itself abroad

In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—

Or lay a Prima, mad,

And though I had no Gown of Gauze—

No Ringlet, to my Hair,

Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,

One Claw upon the Air,

Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,

Nor rolled on wheels of snow

Till I was out of sight, in sound,

The House encore me so—

Nor any know I know the Art

I mention—easy—Here—

Nor any Placard boast me—

It’s full as Opera—

This poem’s speaker is creating a little poetic drama exploring the great joy her solitude has afforded her.

First Quatrain: A Ballet of Joy

I cannot dance upon my Toes—

No Man instructed me—

But oftentimes, among my mind,

A Glee possesseth me,

The speaker claims that she does not possess the ability to dance as a ballerina does, because she has not undergone the necessary lessons. Yet, at times she experiences such joy in her soul. This joy she believes may be compared to the joy that exudes from ballet.

Dancing upon one’s the toes displays a physical prowess that few folks ever accomplish. The rarity of the beauty that the ballet provides engenders in the speaker the sense that such a skilled performance undoubtedly effects in the artist “[a] Glee.”

Second Quatrain: Astonishing Skill

That had I Ballet knowledge—

Would put itself abroad

In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—

Or lay a Prima, mad,

The speaker reveals that if she in truth possessed the ability to dance as ballet artists do, her own “Glee” would suffice to permit her to shine brighter than even the best ballet artist.

The prima ballerina would be shamed and thus become “mad.” The entire ballet “Troupe” could be laid low by her astonishing skill.

Third Quatrain: Possessing No Fancy Clothes

And though I had no Gown of Gauze—

No Ringlet, to my Hair,

Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,

One Claw upon the Air,

The third quatrain finds the speaker revealing that she, however, possesses “no Gown of Gauze.” She cannot dress in fancy clothes as stage performers are wont to do; neither can she have her hair gussied up by make-up artists: “No Ringlet, to my Hair.”

And of course, because she is not, in fact, a ballet dancer and does not live that particular art. She has never experienced what ballet dancers have as they “hopped to Audiences—like Birds, / One Claw upon the Air.”

The speaker displays a bit of a supercilious air as she compares the ballerinas to hopping birds. Yet she offers the alluring image of the ballerina’s upturned hand as it mimics a bird with “One Claw upon the Air.”

Fourth Quatrain: Adorned in Simplicity

Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,

Nor rolled on wheels of snow

Till I was out of sight, in sound,

The House encore me so—

The speaker offers more images of experiences that she has not had and likely never will have. Never has she “tossed [her] shape in Eider Balls.”

In place of the elaborate costumes that ballerinas and opera singers don, she adorns herself with simplicity. She has never completed a performance of dancing out of sight and then been summoned back by the enthusiastic audience that keeps applauding until she once more appears to perform an “encore.”

Fifth Quatrain: Accolades in Heaven

Nor any know I know the Art

I mention—easy—Here—

Nor any Placard boast me—

It’s full as Opera—

This speaker lives far from the world of the ballet dancer. She doubts anyone she knows would suspect she has ever been aware of that art. But this speaker intuitively understands that her work and worth equal, if not exceed, the performances that have garnered accolades. Her accolades exist in heaven.

Emily Dickinson remains one of the most fascinating and widely researched poets in America. Much speculation abounds regarding some of the most known facts about her. For example, after the age of seventeen, she remained fairly cloistered in her father’s home, rarely moving from the house beyond the front gate. Yet she produced some of the wisest, deepest poetry ever created anywhere at any time.

Regardless of Emily’s personal reasons for living nun-like, readers have found much to admire, enjoy, and appreciate about her poems. Though they often baffle upon first encounter, they reward readers mightily who stay with each poem and dig out the nuggets of golden wisdom.

New England Family

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst, MA, to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily was the second child of three: Austin, her older brother who was born April 16, 1829, and Lavinia, her younger sister, born February 28, 1833. Emily died on May 15, 1886.

Emily’s New England heritage was strong and included her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, who was one of the founders of Amherst College. Emily’s father was a lawyer and also was elected to and served one term in the state legislature (1837-1839); later between 1852 and 1855, he served one term in the U.S. House of Representative as a representative of Massachusetts.

Education

Emily attended the primary grades in a one room school until being sent to Amherst Academy, which became Amherst College. The school took pride in offering college level course in the sciences from astronomy to zoology. Emily enjoyed school, and her poems testify to the skill with which she mastered her academic lessons.

After her seven year stint at Amherst Academy, Emily then entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the fall of 1847. Emily remained at the seminary for only one year. Much speculation has been offered regarding Emily’s early departure from formal education, from the atmosphere of religiosity of the school to the simple fact that the seminary offered nothing new for the sharp minded Emily to learn. She seemed quite content to leave in order to stay home. Likely her reclusiveness was beginning, and she felt the need to control her own learning and schedule her own life activities.

As a stay-at-home daughter in 19th century New England, Emily was expected to take on her share of domestic duties, including housework, likely to help prepare said daughters for handling their own homes after marriage. Possibly, Emily was convinced that her life would not be the traditional one of wife, mother, and householder; she has even stated as much: God keep me from what they call households.

Reclusiveness and Religion

In this householder-in-training position, Emily especially disdained the role a host to the many guests that her father’s community service required of his family. She found such entertaining mind-boggling, and all that time spent with others meant less time for her own creative efforts. By this time in her life, Emily was discovering the joy of soul-discovery through her art.

Although many have speculated that her dismissal of the current religious metaphor landed her in the atheist camp, Emily’s poems testify to a deep spiritual awareness that far exceeds the religious rhetoric of the period. In fact, Emily was likely discovering that her intuition about all things spiritual demonstrated an intellect that far exceeded any of her family’s and compatriots’ intelligence. Her focus became her poetry—her main interest in life.

Emily’s reclusiveness extended to her decision that she could keep the sabbath by staying home instead of attending church services. Her wonderful explication of the decision appears in her poem, “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church”:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —

I keep it, staying at Home —

With a Bobolink for a Chorister —

And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —

I just wear my Wings —

And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,

Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —

And the sermon is never long,

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —

I’m going, all along.

Publication

Very few of Emily’s poems appeared in print during her lifetime. And it was only after her death the her sister Vinnie discovered the bundles of poems, called fascicles, in Emily’s room. A total of 1775 individual poems have made their way to publication. The first publicans of her works to appear, gathered and edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, a supposed paramour of Emily’s brother, and the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson had been altered to the point of changing the meanings of her poems. The regularization of her technical achievements with grammar and punctuation obliterated the high achievement that the poet had so creatively accomplished.

Readers can thank Thomas H. Johnson, who in the mid 1950s went to work at restoring Emily’s poems to their, at least near, original. His doing so restored her many dashes, spacings, and other grammar/mechanical features that earlier editors had “corrected” for the poet—corrections that ultimately resulted in obliteration of the poetic achievement reached by Emily’s mystically brilliant talent.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer: The Nurse as Villain

For nine years, a Canadian nurse was killing elderly patients in her care and nobody thought there was anything worth looking into. Her atrocious record as a nurse was covered up by successive employers and her union protected her.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer was born in Woodstock, Ontario in 1967. She became a registered nurse and, in 1995, she was hired at the Geraldton District Hospital in northern Ontario.

Only months into the job, she was found in an impaired state and, when questioned, admitted to stealing an anti-anxiety drug and taken it in an apparent suicide attempt. She was fired and the Ontario Nurses’ Association filed a grievance on her behalf. The hospital agreed to change her record to show Wettlaufer resigned for health reasons.

The cover-ups had begun.

She worked for a non-profit called Christian Horizons, but the organization found out she was in a same-sex relationship and that didn’t fit with its religious teachings.

She applied for a post at Caressant Care in Woodstock and was hired, in 2007, without an interview. Caressant Care is a for-profit company that operates 10 long-term nursing and retirement residences.

There were dozens of complaints lodged against Wettlaufer by Caressant patients and their families and numerous reprimands for medication errors but she kept her job.

Eventually, in 2014, she was fired and again the nurse’s union supported her. After negotiations, her record showed she resigned and she was given a $2,000 settlement and a letter of recommendation. Once more, her gross failures as a caregiver were swept under the rug.

At the time it was not known that she had already murdered seven of her patients.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is a woman with some mental health issues. She has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a serious malady that involves impulsivity, anger, anxiety, and wild mood swings. Along with these behaviours often go broken relationships, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.

Because of under-staffing at the nursing home Wettlaufer sometimes worked double shifts. At night, she would have to care for up to 100 patients alone. It was a stressful situation, doubly so for someone with fragile mental health.

Then, as The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports “To relieve the pressure, she said she tried to kill two patients ‘just to see what happens.’ ” She injected her patients with insulin, but the dosage proved to be non-fatal. She experimented until she found a lethal mixture of quick- and slow-acting insulin.

Just before Christmas 2007, she killed her first victim Maurice (Moe) Granat, 84. His death raised no concerns. He was a frail, old man and frail old men die all the time in nursing homes. Also, nobody kept track of the insulin supply like they did with narcotics.

Next it was Gladys Millard, 87, and then 95-year-old Helen Matheson. And, so it went until she had killed seven patients and attempted to kill two others.

Armed with her letter of recommendation, Wettlaufer was hired by another eldercare home where she killed Arpad Horvath, 75.

Throughout this whole sad saga nobody noticed anything untoward. There were plenty of signals but they were ignored.

The family of one victim asked for the coroner to investigate, but the coroner refused. Too much trouble. Old people die. Get over it.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association went to bat for her even though there was plenty of evidence she was mentally ill and a danger to her patients. But the union chose to look the other way.

Management at care facilities knew they had an incompetent nurse on staff but kept her on; high-quality nurses were hard to come by at the salary the homes were offering.

Wettlaufer made a partial confession to a pastor and his wife. They prayed for her. She told someone at Narcotics Anonymous that she was killing people but that person wrote her off as an inveterate liar. There were others she revealed her story to and none of them did anything.

Elizabeth Wettlaufer would have been able to carry on murdering people in her care had she not put an end to it herself.

In September 2016, Nurse Wettlaufer checked herself into the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. She was looking for help with her drug and alcohol abuse.

She confessed to staff that she was killing patients and, finally, someone listened. Police were called in and Wettlaufer was charged with eight counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, and two of aggravated assault. She entered a guilty plea and received a life sentence, which, in Canada, is 25 years.

The government of Ontario struck a public inquiry into the case. After two years of testimony, the inquiry’s report said no individuals, with the exception of Wettlaufer, were to blame, but that the entire system of caring for the elderly was at fault.

Justice Eileen E. Gillese, who headed the inquiry, wrote “It appears that no one in the long-term care system conceived of the possibility that a health-care provider might intentionally harm those within their care and, consequently, no one looked for this or took steps to guard against it.

“Fundamental changes must be made — changes that are directed at preventing, deterring, and detecting wrongdoing of the sort that Wettlaufer committed.”

Will the necessary changes be made?

The Conservative government of the province of Ontario is on a cost-cutting mission; public health agencies have been shuttered and dozens of nurses laid off. The prospects for improving care of the elderly don’t look good.

  • In October 2017, Ontario’s Ministry of Health forced another Caressant facility to stop accepting new patients because of deficiencies. Ministry officials said “there is a risk of harm to the health or well-being of residents of the home or persons who might be admitted as residents.” The facility began accepting new admissions again 16 months later after being cleared by the ministry. At the same time, two other homes for the elderly were ordered to stop admissions over cleanliness, safety, and under-staffing issues.
  • In June 2019, former nurse Niels Högel received a life sentence after being convicted of murdering 85 patients. His victims were in two German hospitals and he is thought to be that country’s most prolific serial killer in peacetime.
  • Elizabeth Yardley is a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, England. She told the BBC that medical professionals who are serial killers “feel a sense of ownership, possession, and control over their patients. They feel entitled to harm and kill them.”
  • “Inquiry: Union Deal Buried How Wettlaufer Was Fired from First Job.” Jonathan Sher, London Free Press, June 6, 2018.
  • Nursing-Home Murderer Secured New Jobs after Being Fired for Medication Handling, Documents Show.” Kelly Grant and Tu Thanh Ha, Globe and Mail, June 5, 2018.
  • “Nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer Took Advantage Of Ontario’s Long-Term Care System To Kill: Report.” Paola Loriggio, Canadian Press, July 31, 2019.
  • “History of Non-Compliance’ at Fergus Caressant Care Home.” CBC News, October 5, 2017.
  • “5 Things Nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer Suggests Might Have Stopped Her Killing.” Kate Dubinski, CBC News, August 11, 2018.
  • “Why Would a Nurse Become a Serial Killer?” George Wright, BBC News, June 15, 2019.

Elizabeth Ware Packard – Advocate for Rights of Women and the Mentally ill

It never occurred to Elizabeth Ware Parsons Packard that one day she would be an advocate for rights of women and psychiatric patients. Yet that is what she became after being forced into a situation where she saw mentally ill people every day, how they lived, and how they were treated. She became a difficult force to deal with when her liberty and life were at stake.

On June 18, 1860, early in the morning, Elizabeth was in her bedroom preparing for a bath. She heard her husband and others coming down the hall towards her room. Because she was completely undressed, she hurriedly locked the door. In the Introduction to her book, Elizabeth wrote the following account of what her husband termed “legal kidnapping”:

“I was kidnapped in the following manner. Early on the morning of the 18th of June, 1860, as I arose from my bed, preparing to take my morning bath, I saw my husband approaching my door with our two physicians, both members of his church and of our Bible-class,and a stranger gentleman, sheriff Burgess. Fearing exposure I hastily locked my door, and proceeded with the greatest dispatch to dress myself. But before I had hardly commenced, my husband forced an entrance into my room through the window with an axe! And I, for shelter and protection against an exposure in a state of almost entire nudity, sprang into bed, just in time to receive my unexpected guests. The trio approached my bed, and each doctor felt my pulse, and without asking a single question both pronounced me insane. So it seems that in the estimation of these two M. D.s, Dr. Merrick and Newkirk, insanity is indicated by the action of the pulse instead of the mind! Of course, my pulse was bounding at the time from excessive fright; and I ask, what lady of refinement and fine and tender sensibilities would not have a quickened pulse by such an untimely, unexpected, unmanly, and even outrageous entrance into her private sleeping room?”

– Elizabeth Ware Packard, from her book titled ‘Three Years Imprisonment for Religious Belief’

For the next three years, Elizabeth, was confined to the Illinois State Hospital at Jacksonville, Illinois, which was at that time commonly called an “Insane Asylum”. For what reason was this woman, who was considered by her husband and all who knew her as an exemplary wife, mother and housekeeper, committed to an “Insane Asylum”? The sad truth is that she was committed to the hospital for the mentally ill simply on the arbitrary will of her husband because of her disagreements with him on religious beliefs.

The law in Illinois, and in all U.S. states at the time Elizabeth was abducted from her home, allowed that a wife could be committed if her husband said she was insane. Regardless of his reasons, if a man said his wife was insane he could uproot her from her home and way of life and have her put away in an institution to be treated as a prisoner.

Elizabeth Parsons Ware (December 28, 1816 – July 25, 1897) was born in Ware, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Her parents were Reverend Samuel Ware and Lucy Parsons Ware. The parents had named her Betsey at birth. Betsey changed her name to Elizabeth in her teens when she already knew the woman she wanted to be and felt ‘Betsey’ was not reflective of her goals in life.

Samuel Ware was a minister of the Calvinist faith. He was a wealthy man, well respected in society and a man of great influence. He made sure all his children received the best education available. At that time in history, it was very controversial for a woman to seek higher education, however, Samuel had Elizabeth enrolled in Amherst Female Seminary which brought out her passion for learning. She was so dedicated to her studies that she excelled in subjects such as literature, philosophy, science, and anything she chose to tackle. It was not long before the instructors admitted she was the best scholar in their school. Samuel was right in ignoring the stigma of women receiving a thorough education and giving Elizabeth the opportunity to learn to the best of her capacities — which turned out to be far above average.

From her rigorous studies, she developed a sharp, analytical mind that would one day save her life and pave the way for the rights of married women. After Elizabeth graduated she became a teacher. During the Christmas holidays of 1835, Elizabeth began having bad headaches and became delirious. She was seen by doctors from Amherst. The procedures done for Elizabeth (bleeding, purges, and emetics) were of no help. Very concerned for her health, Samuel admitted her to Worcester State Hospital, which was a psychiatric institution.

Samuel felt that Elizabeth had been under too much mental stress with her teaching and also that she wore her lacings (corset) too tight. Although Elizabeth was treated well in the hospital and able to return home in a short while, the incident had damaged her tender and loyal relationship with her father.

Elizabeth’s mother, Lucy, was just as dedicated to her children’s education as Samuel was. Lucy, however, did not have the strong constitution that Samuel had. Samuel was very open-minded and was able to look to the future — whereas, Lucy often dwelled within herself and the past.

When they married, Lucy was much older than the normal marriageable age for women, she was thirty-one. Five of her children died at an early age. The deaths of her babies haunted Lucy and she often suffered from the memories. Any mention of the children she had lost would send Lucy into extreme anxiety and heightened hysteria.

Incidents such as Lucy had were quite common in the nineteenth century with women. The restrictions they had on their role in marriage, from society and the lack of independence and freedom had a lot to do with the pressures that built up against the natural need to be their true self. Although this was widespread among women of that era, the attacks that Lucy suffered would one day be used against Elizabeth and have a negative effect on her life.

Theophilus Packard (February 1, 1802 – December 18, 1885) was born in Shelburne, Massachusetts. He was a minister of the Calvinist faith. His father was also a devout Calvinist and raised Theophilus in a very strict manner and doctrine of faith.

In the world Theophilus lived, there was no other way of belief than what his father taught him. He adhered strongly to the creed of Calvinism. His truths were that of original sin, the suppressed role of women in society, man as master, and his own unquestionable role as a spiritual leader.

Theophilus had long been friends with Samuel and Lucy Ware. He knew Elizabeth only as a daughter of friends, they were never romantically involved and there was no customary courtship.

The marriage was arranged between Samuel and Theophilus as a practical and convenient way of providing for Elizabeth. It was also to provide Theophilus with a proper wife, raised in the same religious faith, to create a well-run home and produce heirs. Just as Lucy agreed with her husband to the arrangement without question, so, too, did Elizabeth consent to the marriage.

Theophilus was steadfast that man was master of his wife and home. That was the accepted way of life in society during his time and he would accept no other way. On outward appearances, the marriage seemed peaceable and proper. Theophilus held to the belief that women were inferior to man, as evidenced by the acts of Eve in the Garden of Eden, which showed that all women were the bearers of evil and all children born with sin.

On the contrary, Elizabeth had beliefs that horrified Theophilus and rather than discuss or even listen to her, he termed her beliefs as those of an insane person. As she once wrote to a friend of hers in 1860:

The very firm hand with which Theophilus controlled the marriage and restricted his wife, began to weigh heavily on Elizabeth. In private life, their arguments grew as Elizabeth could no longer suppress her frustration and intent to have her own freedom of thought. Theophilus for the most part tried to ignore Elizabeth’s talk of religious issues that strongly opposed his Calvinistic doctrine. When her views began to become public he was very deeply disturbed. Even though Elizabeth had been raised in the Calvinistic faith by her father, she was drawn to the deeper spiritual thoughts of self-realization and the right to have one’s own belief system.

Openly disagreeing with her husband’s preaching in church, prompted Theophilus to remove Elizabeth from the general congregation and put her in the Bible class, where his brother-in-law was the teacher. Theophilus had hopes that this would calm Elizabeth down a little, since discussions in class were strictly on the Bible, and that her presence there would attract more people to the class.When the class grew from six members to over forty after Elizabeth joined, Theophilus felt he made the right decision.

However, it had the opposite effect on Elizabeth, for she saw the Bible class as an open forum for her views and beliefs. She made her viewpoints clear, that each person was responsible to God in their own way, and that each had the right to freedom of thought between their self and God. Woman did not bring evil upon the world, children were not born with the original sin, and predestination was not a truth, and it was possible to commune with spirits — these were Elizabeth’s thoughts and her spiritual truths. In Bible class, Elizabeth had no qualms about suppressing these beliefs and many others, for Theophilus was not there to humiliate or suppress her.

After twenty-one years of marriage and six children, Theophilus realized the life he had was not what he had planned. He began discussing in private with his sister and close friends that Elizabeth was insane and not fit to raise his children.

In early June of 1860, his sister offered to take the youngest daughter for a visit and holiday at her home. A friend offered to take the baby to give Elizabeth a little break and some relaxation for a spell. Another friend took her youngest boy. Elizabeth was coerced into being relieved of her three youngest children “for her own good as a little holiday for herself”. When Theophilus tried to coax Elizabeth to come along quietly and properly with him to the asylum, she refused to cooperate and said she would never willingly submit to entering the hospital and that she would have to be taken there against her will.

Elizabeth felt that a husband should be a woman’s protector and allow her to have the right to her own opinions and beliefs, to support her in those rights. Theophilus felt that a man had the right to control his wife, her actions, her opinions and even silence her voice. They were in total opposition. He therefore exercised his legal rights and on June 18, 1860, had Elizabeth forcibly removed from his home and committed to the “Insane Asylum”, where she was diagnosed by Dr. Andrew McFarland as hopelessly insane, because she would not agree to agree with her husband on religious matters.

For three years Elizabeth was held in confinement at the psychiatric hospital. She was at the complete mercy of her husband, who was the only one who could have her released. Theophilus had told her he would never consent to her release unless she denied her own beliefs and adhered to his. For awhile she was placed in a room by herself and had good care, all she needed to keep herself clean and healthy.

After several sessions with Dr. McFarland her situation changed radically. Since she would not submit to changing her beliefs to those of her husband, she was transferred to the fourth ward where the violent and seriously ill patients were kept, where she said she was attacked and harassed on a daily basis. Her stamina and faith in herself and spirituality sustained her and she survived.

During the time Elizabeth was confined, she saw with horror how the patients were treated with physical and mental abuse. Theophilus may have thought he made a mistake by taking Elizabeth as wife — yet, his biggest mistake in life was to commit her to an “asylum”. The voice he was determined to silence came out in full force. Some will say that there is a reason for all things that happen. In Elizabeth’s case the reason for her suffering due to cruel treatment and betrayal by her husband would some day become very much evident.

Elizabeth began writing. At first she was given paper and pen for her needs. That stopped when she was placed in the ward. Gathering any scrap of paper she could find, she continued to write her views and beliefs.

In the third year of her confinement, the trustees of the institution had informed Theophilus that his wife must be removed, for they could keep her no longer. Theophilus decided he would just transfer her to another institution for life.

When her eldest son, also named Theophilus, became of legal age he made a proposition to his father and the trustees of the hospital, stating that he would take full responsibility to support Elizabeth for life if his father would release her from the hospital. The elder Theophilus agreed on the condition that if Elizabeth ever stepped foot in his home or came near the children, he would have her confined for life at Northampton Asylum.

Elizabeth went to Dr. McFarland and requested that she be allowed to meet with the trustees on their next visit to present a defense for her self. Dr. McFarland agreed and gave her paper and pen to write down her arguments.

The day finally came and Elizabeth was ready to meet with the trustees. She had no attorney or anyone representing her, only her own analytical mind and strong faith. She stood with dignity before the men as she was introduced then presented her case so they could judge for themselves if she should be committed for life. Elizabeth was aware that the trustees were Calvinists and the chairman was a member of the Presbyterian Synod.

After being seated, calm and fearless before men who had the same religious beliefs as her husband, in a firm voice she read the letter she had constructed and which Dr. McFarland had already read and approved. She began:

Elizabeth continued in the same manner, comparing Christianity and Calvinism. When she had finished that letter, she said she had another she wished to read if they would allow her to. Dr. McFarland had not read the second letter which she had written on papers she had found and kept hidden. They gave their permission and she began reading again, exposing the “foul conspiracy” of her husband and the doctor and their “wicked plot against” her “liberty and rights”. No one made a sound or uttered a word as Elizabeth read about the insensitive way she had been treated.

The trustees asked Theophilus Packard and Dr. McFarland to leave the room. When alone with Elizabeth, the trustees endorsed her statements and offered her an immediate release from the hospital. They suggested she could stay with her father, or offered to board her in Jacksonville. Elizabeth appreciated their offer and thanked them, but said since she was still Mr. Packard’s wife, she was not safe from him outside the institution. With great understanding of and admiration for Elizabeth, they saw her sad situation and told her if Dr. McFarland agreed, she could stay on in the institution.

She told McFarland that she wanted to write a book to present her case to the public and asked for protection of the laws — he provided the supplies she needed and the room where she could write in peace and quiet. She spent the remainder of her three years (nine months) at the institution and wrote her first book, “The Great Drama – An Allegory”, which did well and had six thousand copies in circulation from the first installment.

The day finally arrived that Elizabeth had feared, when the trustees had no choice but to have her husband remove her from the institution. Theophilus had asked Elizabeth’s father, Samuel, for a portion of Elizabeth’s patrimony money to pay for the room, board and care of his daughter — however, Theophilus never used that money for Elizabeth and she was living in the institution at the expense of the state, therefore had to be let go. Theophilus complied and took her to the home of Dr. David Field, the husband of Elizabeth’s adopted sister, in Granville, Putnam County, Illinois. Her son paid her room and board for four months.

While she lived there, Elizabeth became acquainted with the members of the community. They learned all there was to know about her situation. At a town meeting they had with the sheriff in attendance, they all agreed that Elizabeth should be sent home to her children with their solemn vow to protect her if her husband attempted to imprison her again without trial and use their influence in the Commonwealth to make sure he was imprisoned in a penitentiary. They gave her thirty dollars for her trip home to Manteno.

Once back home, Theophilus again made Elizabeth a prisoner, this time in her own home. He locked her up in the nursery and securely locked the only window shut with nails and screws. Theophilus intercepted all mail addressed to Elizabeth and refused to let any of her friends visit her.

Although Theophilus was so strict in monitoring her every move, mail and visitors, he was at times careless in leaving his own mail sitting around. Elizabeth knew he was conspiring to find a way to have her locked up again and providence helped her when she found some letters he accidentally left in her room and read them. A letter from the Superintendent of Northampton Insane Asylum and one from Theophilus’ sister confirmed that she was correct in her fears. A letter from Dr. McFarland assured Theophilus that he would consent to receive Elizabeth back in his institution, but the Board of Trustees denied the application.

In horror she realized that in just a few days henceforth, a plan to get her to Northampton Asylum and locked up for life was to take place. Her sister-in-law had it all worked out and had been advising Theophilus on the details. Elizabeth made copies of parts of the letters before she put them back exactly as she found them. She now knew something had to be done and quickly.

Elizabeth recalled that she had seen a man pass by her window every day to get water from the pump. She penned a letter to her faithful and intelligent friend, Mrs A. C. Haslett, then watched for the man to come to the pump. When she saw him, she got his attention to come to the window. She pushed the letter down through the seam of the top and bottom windows and begged him to deliver it. This was her only hope to receive any help, for in just a few days she would be beyond help from anyone.

Mrs. Haslettt sent a letter back with the water man. She had suggested that a mob law was the only way they could rescue her, and, if Elizabeth could break out the window a crowd would be waiting to defend her. Elizabeth refused this action in fear that the unlady-like action and the destruction of property would be sufficient reason to legally be locked up and only aid Theophilus in his evil plans.

With communication established between Elizabeth and Mrs. Haslett there was now some hope. Mrs Haslett agreed with Elizabeth’s views and forthwith sought counsel from Judge Starr of Kankakee City, “to know if any law could reach my case so as to give me the justice of a trial of any kind, before another incarceration”. The judge’s advice that a writ of habeas corpus might be her only chance to secure a trial, if she and witnesses would sign an oath that Elizabeth was a prisoner in her own home. There were many witnesses Mrs Haslett gathered, for they all had seen the front door of the house secured from the outside and back door also secured and guarded, plus the window of Elizabeth’s room nailed and screwed shut from the outside.

Just two days before Theophilus and his sister would carry out their plans to be rid of Elizabeth for good, the County Sheriff delivered the writ to Theophilus with the order to appear in court with Elizabeth and give the reason why he kept his wife prisoner. Theophilus replied that he did so because she was insane. The judge said Theophilus would have to prove that in court. Judge Starr then empaneled a jury and the trial ensued, lasting five days.

Theophilus had used the reason for insanity against Elizabeth that she disagreed with him on religious and money matters. He also stated and had Dr. McFarland vouch that Elizabeth’s mother was insane.

Elizabeth was not so easy to be put down or silenced. She said she had a God given right to have her own thoughts and do what is right for her to say and do.

Elizabeth was well prepared for her trial and the determination to fight for her freedom. She had been physically and emotionally damaged due to the arbitrary acts of her husband, but her spirit was not broken.

She knew this trial would be profoundly important, not just for herself, but other women in her position. Stephen R. Moore, Attorney At Law, was Elizabeth’s counsel to defend her in court. He wrote a full report of the trial, which can be read at Gutenberg Project eBook of Marital Power Exemplified, by E.P.W.P.

Moore was extremely thorough in details, in questioning witnesses for the defense and cross-examining witnesses of the prosecution. Elizabeth never wavered throughout the trial and her faith in herself was powerful.

On January 18, 1864, at 10:00 in the evening, the jury deliberated for just seven minutes. When they returned to the courtroom, they gave the following verdict:

The packed courtroom exploded in applause and cheers. The women present crowded around Elizabeth, hugging and praising her, all handkerchiefs out and soaked with tears. It took quite awhile for the outburst of joy and sentiments to be quieted and for all to be seated again. When order was restored, Elizabeth’s attorney made the motion that his client be discharged from confinement. The judge stated:

Elizabeth survived the “asylum”, imprisonment in her own home, and the trial. She came out invigorated and victorious. She had no other place to go but back home to Theophilus and her children and knew not what to expect.

When she arrived at her home, she found that all was gone and new residents were living there, who refused to let her in. Theophilus had sold the house. Her home, the furniture, all her personal items and clothing, her beloved children were all gone. She had nothing left and nowhere to go.

After some struggles she returned to the home of her father, where she was accepted and given protection. Samuel sent a letter to Theophilus demanding the return of all Elizabeth’s clothes, which arrived shortly after the letter was received. Theophilus would not, however, allow Elizabeth to see the children, except for a few visits where he was present.

Elizabeth never once gave up or let her fate destroy her — her spirit remained strong. Nor did she let the laws continue to be in the man’s favor at the expense of innocent wives and mothers. She wrote books and appealed to the Legislature of Illinois. She felt she had a moral duty and obligation to the women she left behind in the “asylum”, intelligent women who were committed by the whim of their husbands.

She did not stop at appealing to Illinois — she went on to the Senate and the House of Representatives. Through her efforts and hard work, 34 bills were passed in several state legislatures for the protection and rights of married women and for the mentally ill. Old laws were repealed and new ones enacted.

To the end of her life, Elizabeth worked hard to see laws changed and she continued to write her books and the profits she earned went into her travels and advocate work.

State hospitals came under the investigation of a committee from the House and Senate to examine financial matters, sanitary conditions, treatment of patients and whether any inmate was wrongly committed.

Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard was a remarkable and courageous woman. She crossed boundaries, questioned laws and tackled religious, cultural, and complex political beliefs. She was a highly educated and loyal woman who took her role as wife and mother as an honor and rightful responsibility of a refined and genteel woman. Although she suffered much because of her husband’s cruelty, when asked if she would ever be able to forgive her husband for what he did, Elizabeth replied:

Theophilus never found it in his heart to ask Elizabeth’s forgiveness. He took his bitterness, cruelty, and self-righteousness with him to the grave. Theophilus tried to silence a voice that would never be silenced.

Elizabeth never filed for a divorce. She lived till the age of 81. After the trial and her vindication and nine years of longing, she was finally reunited with her children in 1869 and was given custody of her three youngest sons. She never gave up her work of petitioning and fighting for the rights of the mentally ill and the rights of married women.

The terms ‘insanity’, ‘insane’, ‘asylum’, and ‘insane asylum’ are used by the author to express the terms used by all involved in Mrs. Packard’s story — which at that time in our history was the common usage. These terms are not much used today because of the derogatory attachment placed on them. The preferred terms are ‘mental illness’ or ‘psychologically impaired’, and ‘psychiatric hospital’ or ‘rehabilitation center’. People like Elizabeth had much influence on the stigma of mental illness in society which has changed a lot since the early days of psychiatric treatment.

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” Book Discussion and Easy Cheese Scone Recipe

★★★★

Eleanor Oliphant, lonely and literally scarred by the past, is desperate for a change, and to connect with someone, going whole weekends without speaking to a soul, other than the grocer who carries the vodka that helps her forget. At a concert, she sees a singer whom she thinks is the answer to everything she, and her tyrant mother, have ever wanted for her in a man. So the socially inept, sneaker-clad, make-up ignorant Eleanor sets out to learn about personal grooming in the most hilarious debacles anyone has ever encountered in a salon, ending with the poor waxing technician being slapped! Then a coworker who is more adept at social interaction but more challenged at grooming helps Eleanor to make a new friend of an elderly man, and to overcome her shyness and hermit routine. “A woman who scorns the conventions of polite society,” Eleanor Oliphant is hilarious, articulate, and tragic yet triumphant.

  • contemporary fiction
  • awkward comedies/humor
  • socially awkward characters
  • introverts
  • mental health issues/awareness
  • family drama
  • overcoming struggles
  • pets
  • wit
  • weirdness
  1. What were some of the social conventions or even common grooming habits women were used to that shocked or had to be learned by Eleanor?

  2. Eleanor felt sorry for beautiful people because beauty is “ephemeral, already slipping away. That must be difficult.” How is this ironic, and possibly reflective of how beautiful people probably saw her?

  3. Why did Eleanor become obsessed with the singer of the band as her future husband? What did they have in common that they were both probably used to, but for different reasons?

  4. Eleanor’s mother often went from extremes of extravagant and overindulgent, to starvation, insisting they “deserved the best of everything.” With what items did this extend and why did she do this?

  5. Raymond was fond of athletic footwear even at work, which Eleanor mentally mocked, yet how were her initial clothing choices less than standard as well? In what areas was Raymond more adept than she?

  6. Where Raymond’s mother lived, the houses were named after poets, such as Wordsworth Lane or Keats Rise. What authors did eleanor feel her street would be named after and why? What author’s name would you pick for her, or for you?

  7. Eleanor’s mother’s philosophy on life was that it’s “all about taking decisive action, whatever you want to take, grab it. Whatever you want to bring an end, END IT. And live with the consequences.” What things did she grab or end, and what did Eleanor grab or end? How was this actually good advice for Eleanor in some ways?

  8. Why did it often help Eleanor to get out of bed in the morning knowing that her house plant needed her? Did she ever find a replacement?

  9. How did Laura help Eleanor by making her “shiny”? What had El. done for Laura?

  10. Why did little gestures (Raymond’s mother making tea without being asked, remembering Eleanor didn’t take sugar, Laura brought two biscuits with coffee for her) mean so much to her? What makes us take these things for granted?

  11. At the wedding, Eleanor was very frank about not wanting to accept a drink because she didn’t want to “spend two drinks’ worth of time” with the man offering. What other societal conventions challenged her (alternate the clothes you wear) or was she frank about, and why is complete honesty so uncommon? Did she perhaps lack the capacity to be polite or consider feelings, maybe as a result of being autistic or lacking in empathy?

  12. Raymond had also suffered the loss of his father. Eleanor agreed that “time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.” Why is this? Had she done anything to stymie its healing?

  13. Why was it that “after the fire, I never managed to find anyone who could fit the spaces that had been created inside me”?

  14. Eleanor had always enjoyed reading, but “never been sure how to select appropriate material. How do you know which ones will match your tastes and interests?” And what methods had she tried?

  15. How was “Glen” like Eleanor, a “woman who knew her own mind and scorned the conventions of society? How were they perfect companions? Would Eleanor still have been described this way at the beginning of the book?

  16. Did Eleanor “deserve nice things” as Raymond said?

At her regular lunches with Raymond, Eleanor ordered a “frothy coffee and a cheese scone.” Here is my recipe for a very simple cheese scone or American biscuit.

Jane Eyre is referenced in the book, and Eleanor seems to have a bit in common with Jane whom she describes as “a strange child, difficult to love, a lonely child left to deal with so much pain at a young age.”

Other books about socially challenged but intelligent individuals struggling with depression and mental scars are Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green has the same humorous approach to mental scars and issues, while Looking for Alaska deals with the before and after and searching for answers after a great tragedy.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson are both memoirs of a woman with a quick wit and socially awkward upbringing who overcomes life and tragedy with humor.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is about a cantankerous older man with a tragic past and little left to live for, who acquires new neighbors with young children, and in unwillingly aiding them several times, finds purpose in other people.

What Was Einstein’s Religion?: Deist? Pantheist? Humanist? Atheist?

The answer is: It’s complicated. Albert Einstein said so many varied things about God that every theist and non-theist group can claim him for their own.

The Jews claim him. The Christians claim him. The atheists claim him. The agnostics claim him. The pantheists claim him. The deists claim him. The humanists claim him. They each have a basis for their claim.

The problem with Einstein and God is that he said a lot of things about God and religion.

Let’s begin with a few brief biographical facts about Albert Einstein and then return to the question of his religious beliefs.

Albert Einstein was the renowned physicist and mathematician who formulated the “Law of Relativity” and developed the famous equation “energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared,” or E = mc2. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, not for his theory of relativity, but for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

The man who the world considers to be one of the great geniuses in all of history was “slow” as a child. His parents worried because he was late in learning to talk. As a youngster, he was never a good student, partly because he rebelled against rote-learning. However, he proved to have a strong aptitude for mathematics and physics. He received his PhD in science from the University of Zurich in 1905. Around the same time, he published several ground-breaking papers including his first paper on relativity.

Einstein was born in Germany in 1879. He happened to be in the United States in 1933 when Hitler came into power. Since he was Jewish by birth, and he wisely decided not to return to Germany. He became a U.S. citizen in 1940. He died in 1955.

Albert Einstein was born to a Jewish family and always identified as a Jew. However, he was a cultural Jew, not a religious Jew. Like many Jewish people, Einstein rejected the tenets of the faith of Judaism, but identified with the Jewish people as his “tribe.”

His parents were not religious, but as all Jewish boys do, he received religious instruction in preparation for his bar mitzvah at age 13. He became observant for a time, but by age12 he was questioning the truth of many biblical stories, and his religiosity faded. He never did his bar mitzvah.

He quite strongly rejected the faith of Judaism throughout his adult life. A year before his death, in 1954, Einstein wrote a private letter to his friend Eric Gutkind. This letter has come to be known as the “God Letter.” (In 2012, the letter sold for a little over $3 million on e-Bay.)

“For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.”

Albert Einstein was not an Israeli citizen but in 1952, the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, asked Einstein if he would be willing to serve as the second president of the new nation. It would have been a largely ceremonial position since it is the Prime Minister who actually governs, and Einstein was promised full freedom to pursue his scientific interests. Einstein turned it down, but affirmed that he felt a strong bond with the Jewish people.

“I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel [to serve as President], and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions. For these reasons alone I should be unsuited to fulfill the duties of that high office, even if advancing age was not making increasing inroads on my strength. I am the more distressed over these circumstances because my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.”

Einstein attended a Catholic school from the ages of 5 to 8, so he most likely was exposed to Christian theology at this young impressionable age.

“As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”

“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

Nonetheless, he rejected the Christian idea of a personal god–a god who is involved with the lives of people, who hears and answers prayers, performs miracles, etc.

“I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws.”

“I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.”

“Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being.”

However much he was impressed with the gospels’ telling of the story of Jesus, Einstein did not believe in the Christian concepts of soul or an afterlife.

“Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seems to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.”

He also rejected religion as an institution. He sounds quite angry when he speaks of indoctrination. In this, he may be typical of people who as children believe what they are taught, but who come to feel betrayed when they learn that what they were taught is not true. Einstein talked of his time of youthful belief as a time of “religious paradise.” Learning that his paradise was false left him understandably bitter.

“About God, I cannot accept any concept based on the authority of the Church… As long as I can remember, I have resented mass indoctrination.”

“It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of … an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings.”

Einstein did not believe in an anthropomorphic personal god, but did not reject the concept of god entirely. He believed that a “spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe.” I suspect that his belief in “spirit” was a remnant of his early religiosity and an attempt to keep a toehold in the “paradise” he experienced as a child.

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

Spinoza’s god was a deist god, a “God of Nature,” a “Prime Mover,” who set the universe in motion, but then no longer concerned Himself with it. Einstein often speaks of a “cosmic religion”—he describes himself as religious because he is in awe of the universe and the spirit that he perceives to have created it and is imbued in it.

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

“To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense…I am a devoutly religious man.”

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangements of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”

Einstein sounds a lot like a pantheist when he talks about “spirit.” Pantheism is the belief that the entire natural universe is identical with divinity– everything composes, and is composed of, an all-encompassing, immanent God. Pantheism differs from deism in that it does not posit God as a distinct entity, but believes God to be present in everything. It is a mystical view of the spirit of life.

He denied being a pantheist, but when he talks of the mystery of the universe, he sounds very much likes a pantheist. He speaks of “the grandeur of reason incarnate.”

“The most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds.”

Humanism is a philosophy that dismisses the divine or supernatural and instead focuses on human interactions. Humanists seek solely rational ways of solving human problems and posit that humans can devise values for living a good and fulfilling life.

The Ethical Culture society is a non-theistic religion that professes humanistic ideals and works to integrate these ideals into daily life.

Albert Einstein was a supporter of humanism and the Ethical Culture Society. He served on the advisory board of the First Humanist Society of New York, and he was an honorary associate of the British Humanist Association.

For the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, he stated that the idea of Ethical Culture embodied his personal conception of what is most valuable and enduring in religion.

“Humanity requires such a belief to survive… without ‘ethical culture’ there is no salvation for humanity.”

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”

Einstein denied being an atheist, although he sometimes called himself an agnostic. He definitely rejected the God of the Bible.

“I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.”

“My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.”

Was he an atheist? It depends on how you define atheist. I define atheist as someone who does not have a belief in the God or the holy books of the major religions of the world. By my definition, Albert Einstein was an atheist because he too rejected the God of the Bible.

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

He may have denied being an atheist, while accepting the label agnostic, because he had negative stereotypes of atheists.

“You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.”

In another statement, he berates atheists as people “who cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

When he denies the existence of a personal god and equates God with “the music of the spheres,” he is speaking like an atheist. However, he rejects the label because he dislikes “professional atheists” (what we now call “militant atheists”). He apparently did not understand that many atheists are not bitter people rebelling against childhood indoctrination and that they are just as readily moved by “the music of the spheres” as he himself was. If he had known this, he might have been as willing to call himself an atheist as he was willing to call himself an agnostic.

Einstein used the words “God” and “religion” to mean different things at different times. His definitions of these words often do not match the meanings of these words as they are commonly used. We must look to the context to determine how to interpret his words.

There are two quotes which are often cited as proof that Einstein believed in God, but which are actually metaphors that stem from his deism and humanism.

“God does not play dice with the universe.”

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

In the first metaphor, Einstein was referring to the emerging field of study known as quantum physics–he was saying that the laws of the universe are not random. In the second metaphor, he was talking about his belief that religion must be based on science and that a religion of humanistic ethics must inform science.

Einstein turned his brilliantly analytic mind to the concept of religion and created his own religion. He rejected the idea of the “God of Abraham,” but found some parts of the Bible to be inspirational. His religion was mainly a mixture of deism, pantheism, and humanism.

I consider deism to be a form of agnosticism. [I don’t believe in the God of the major religions, but someone/something had to have created the universe so I will call that God. It is just another way of saying “I don’t know.”] And agnosticism is just another form of atheism. [I don’t believe in the God of the major religions, but instead of saying that I will say I don’t know if it is true or not.] It’s a cop out because if you thought it was true, you would be a believer, but you are not a believer, so you must be an atheist. And that is how I equate deism with atheism. And that is how I conclude that Einstein, despite what he said, was an atheist.

Einstein clearly had a keen interest in religion. He wrote about and spoke about it extensively. (The quotes in this article are taken from his public writings, his personal letters, his interviews with journalists, and his speeches.) I think he formed his religious views after much consideration. I believe that, as he himself says, his religious views were consistent throughout his adult life.

Edwin Booth: 19th Century Tragic Actor

Edwin Booth was one of the most highly acclaimed Shakespearian actors of all time and the most famous actor in 19th century America. He achieved his fame through tragedy — his interpretations of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. But the irony of his life is that a great American tragedy, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, threatened to undermine his achievements because the assassin was his younger brother and fellow actor, John Wilkes Booth.

Born on a farm in Maryland on November 13, 1833, Edwin Thomas Booth seems to have been destined for fame from the beginning. According to a story told by his sister Asia Booth Clarke,1 on the night of his birth there was a brilliant meteor shower, which the family interpreted as a sign that the boy would be bestowed with luck and special gifts. And it is not surprising that Edwin’s fame was gained in the acting profession. His father was the prominent Anglo-American tragedian Junius Brutus Booth, and Edwin was named after two of Junius Brutus’s actor friends: Edwin Forrest, an American, and Thomas Flynn, an Irishman.

The elder Booth did not press Edwin into becoming an actor. On the contrary, he urged that Edwin become a cabinetmaker or enter some other trade. But Edwin did follow in his father’s footsteps — as did two of his brothers, Junius Brutus, Jr., and John Wilkes — and Edwin eventually built a reputation for himself that surpassed his father’s. Together they formed an acting “dynasty” that dominated the American stage for more than 70 years, from Junius Brutus’s appearance in the United States in 1821 to Edwin’s death in 1893.

Despite the elder Mr. Booth’s advice to his son to become a tradesman, he himself introduced Edwin to the acting profession. Edwin was his father’s traveling companion, and he fell in love with the theater and the applause of the audience.

Edwin got his first small taste of this applause on September 10, 1849, when he was given the insignificant role of Tressel in a production of Richard III at the Boston Museum. His father played the leading role, and he seems to have encouraged Edwin somewhat, in his customary gruff manner. Although Junius Brutus remained reluctant to have Edwin take up acting full-time, Edwin’s name began to appear more and more often on the playbill in his father’s productions, and within a year Edwin was being billed regularly in supporting roles.

Edwin’s debut in a leading role came at the age of 17 in April 1851. One afternoon Junius Brutus, who could often be arbitrary and irascible, simply announced that he would not take the stage that evening as scheduled to play Gloucester in Richard III. He suggested that Edwin play the part instead. Edwin did so with little preparation and much apprehension, but his performance was favorably received.

After this, Edwin began appearing independently of his father, as well as touring with him. Edwin was deeply attached to his father, but Junius Brutus offered little overt encouragement of his acting ambitions. However, in San Francisco in 1852, during what would be their last tour together, when Junius Brutus was asked which of his three actor sons would carry on his great name in the theater, he simply put his arm around Edwin. Junius Brutus died later the same year, and Edwin was on his own.

Edwin continued acting in California for a while, then traveled with an acting company to Australia, and even to the Sandwich Islands, where he performed Hamlet for an appreciative audience. After returning to the United States, he appeared in numerous cities before opening in New York on May 4, 1857, in the leading role in Richard III. Although much of Edwin’s reputation up to this point was a reflection of his father’s fame, he now began to be appreciated for his own talent.

Edwin continued to build his reputation in the following years, with many engagements in New York as well as a trip to London in 1861. His fame was firmly established when, from November 1864 to February 1865, he starred in a production of Hamlet that ran for 100 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. With this performance, Edwin Booth became recognized as a leading contemporary tragedian and “the Hamlet par excellence of the American stage.”2

One of the most personally memorable nights of Booth’s career occurred on November 25, 1864, the night before he began his 100 nights of Hamlet. On this night Edwin and his brothers Junius Brutus, Jr., and John Wilkes, appeared together in Julius Caesar, with Junius Brutus, Jr., as Cassius, Edwin as Brutus, and John Wilkes as Marc Antony. The theater was standing room only, and the brothers received tremendous applause from the audience.

Unfortunately, less than 5 months later, on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth took on a far different role, when he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Edwin withdrew from the theater in shame and humiliation, thinking his career was over. But buoyed by the encouragement of many friends and admirers throughout the nation, Edwin returned to the Winter Garden Theatre as Hamlet on January 3, 1866. He received a rousing welcome that night, as well as in subsequent performances in New York and other cities. His career again began to flourish and would continue to do so for 25 years.

On February 3, 1869, Edwin opened his own Booth’s Theatre in New York with a production of Romeo and Juliet, in which he starred as Romeo. The magnificent building cost over a million dollars and was the culmination of Booth’s ambition to build a modern, artistically and aesthetically superior theatre that would do justice to his art. Booth staged and performed in many Shakespearian plays in the theatre. His productions were based on Shakespeare’s original texts, an innovation for the time. Unfortunately, although the theatre was an artistic success, it was a financial failure for Booth. He was forced to resign from the management of the theatre after several years.

The rest of Edwin’s life was filled with success. He was widely recognized as the leading American tragedian of his time. His renown was broadened by engagements in London in 1880-1881 and on the Continent in 1883. In London he appeared with Henry Irving, the reigning English tragedian, and the two developed a relationship of mutual admiration. In Germany he was praised extensively as the best Hamlet ever seen on the stage.

Despite his fame, however, personal tragedy followed Edwin. His first wife, the former actress Mary Devlin, had died in 1863 after only 3 years of marriage. In 1869 Edwin was married again, to Mary McVicker, also an actress, who had appeared with him as Juliet in the Booth Theatre’s opening night production of Romeo and Juliet. In 1870 she gave birth to a son who lived only a few hours. Mary then began to suffer from fits of rage, bordering on insanity. While accompanying Edwin on his trip to London in 1881, Mary’s condition worsened, and she died in November of that year.

To many observers Edwin Booth was the true tragedian: a tragic figure in his own right. To the outside world he often seemed melancholy. But he possessed a spiritual faith that allowed him to bear the personal tragedies of his life with patience and self-control. And those who knew him well testified to his joie de vivre, which was masked by shyness.

Some critics, admirers of Junius Brutus Booth, said that Edwin’s great reputation as an actor was largely inherited from his father, and due only in small measure to his own talents. Edwin himself acknowledged his debt to his father. But Edwin Booth was an actor of a new generation, and the distinction between father and son was not a difference in ability but a difference in style.

His father’s style, like that of other actors of his generation such as Edmund Kean and Edwin Forrest, was bold and bombastic. Edwin made a break with that style: he approached his roles with more thoughtfulness and sensibility, striving to become the characters he played, to creep into their skin. Not all critics appreciated Edwin’s approach. His performances were sometimes criticized for being too intellectual and not emotional enough.

Even among critics who praised Edwin’s performances, there was disagreement as to which of his roles was his best. But to the public, Edwin Booth was Hamlet. Theatergoers associated Edwin’s outwardly melancholic nature with the same characteristic of Shakespeare’s Danish prince. Even Edwin’s physical appearance fit the popular conception of Hamlet:

“His light and graceful figure, his pale face bordered with dark and clinging hair, his features well chiseled and mobile with expression, his large and handsome eyes – all these personal attractions are commonly known and recognized as fitting him peculiarly for the character of Hamlet.”3

Edwin Booth seemed to be Hamlet.

Edwin Booth was an innovator in American theater. As a theatrical entrepreneur, he built Booth’s Theatre, a modern artistic and aesthetic achievement. His productions were characterized by sumptuous sets, realistic “stage business,” and the return to original texts. As an actor, he introduced a more modern, natural style of acting to the stage.

Even more significantly, Edwin Booth was a very popular American figure, a celebrity, in the second half of the 19th century. He captured America’s imagination by bringing the glory of Shakespeare to the stage during the otherwise grim period of the Civil War and Reconstruction — despite his own intimate connection with the single most shocking and tragic event of that tragic time for America. Ironically, through his mastery of the art of dramatic tragedy, he surmounted his own private tragedies and helped to heal America’s public tragedy.

Citations

1 Asia Booth Clarke, The Elder and the Younger Booth. Boston, 1882.

2 Brander Matthews and Laurence Hutton, The Life and Art of Edwin Booth and His Contemporaries. Boston, 1886.

3 [O. B. Bunce,] “Mr. Booth’s Hamlet,” Appleton’s Journal, November 20, 1875.

Easy Ways to Write a Thesis Statement

1. Make a Thesis Question

Take your essay topic idea and turn it into a question.

Example: divorce. Thesis Question: How does divorce affect children?

2. Brainstorm Answers

Write down as many ideas as you can think of. You might want to Google search for ideas.

Example: Divorce causes children to feel insecure about the future, not do as well in school, feel insecure in relationships, worry about their parents, become bullies or be bullied, have to get along with a new family of siblings, live a lower standard of income, wonder if they caused the divorce.

3. Pick a Thesis Answer

Look at your brainstorming and decide your main answer.

Example: How does divorce affect children? Divorce causes children to feel insecure.

4. Make a Thesis Road-Map

Now go back to your brainstorming. What are the best reasons for your answer? Try to pick at least three. Add these to your thesis.

Example: How does divorce affect children? Divorce causes children to feel insecure because they often have a lower standard of living after the divorce, they feel less secure in relationships, and they worry about the future.

5. Add Emphasis

Steps 1-4 will make a solid thesis, but if you want to bump it up to the next level you can do two more steps: tell how your view contrasts with other people, and use intensifying transitions like “in reality” or “in fact.”

Example Format: Thesis Question. Although (what many people might answer), in reality (your answer) because: (your three or more reasons).

Use the chart above to make your own thesis statements. You can mix and match the different columns. Here are a variety of examples for different kinds of essays:

Cause: Why are Americans rapidly becoming more obese? Some people think that the cause of rising obesity is lack of individual self-control; however, the truth is that the growing waistlines are caused by corporations that secretly add sugar to make foods more addictive; technology which has made people less active, and more tied to their work; and portions sizes in restaurants, which have ingrained overeating into our habits.

Evaluation: Does Recycling make a difference? Although, indeed, one person’s recycling may not make much of a difference, in fact, when all of us join together, we can make a difference because when we all recycle: less waste goes into landfills, reusing things becomes more natural, and people get into better habits.

Explaining: How does playing a sport affect young people? Most people would say that learning how to play is the most important thing children get from a sport. In fact, children who play sports gain even more from learning about teamwork, realizing they must overcome defeat, and accepting their own place on a team.

Argument: Should parents be concerned if their children are obsessed with horror movies? Although many people scoff at the idea of movies as really influencing our behavior, in reality, parents need to be concerned about what their children are watching because children often can’t tell truth from fiction, violent images desensitize us to real violence, and kids who watch violence obsessively may be exhibiting signs of deeper emotional problems.

Expository: Is there only one way to write a great thesis statement? Although this article might make you think that there is only one perfect thesis statement method, in fact, you can write good thesis statements in several different ways; however, by following the method described here you will learn an easy way to write a complex thesis idea that will not only impress your instructor but will also help you to write your essay easily.

Here is a sample of the different kinds of essay questions you can come up with using the topic of “Horror Movies.”

Explaining: What are the characteristics of a classic horror movie?

History of: How have horror movie plots, settings and characters changed over time?

Cause/Effect: What causes people to enjoy watching horror movies?

Description: What classifies a movie as a “horror” movie?

How to: How can you learn to like horror movies?

Propose a Solution: Should parents worry about the violence in horror movies?

Evaluate: What is the best horror movie of all time?

Argument: Do horror movies cause some people to act out the violence they watch?

Using a semicolon in your thesis statement can help you because:

  • You can write a more complicated, longer thesis.
  • The semicolon makes the thesis statement stand out for your reader.
  • Using a semicolon and transition word lets you how ideas relate (contrast “however” or adding “moreover”).

How can you use the semicolon?

  • Combine 2 sentences and use a semicolon instead of a period (the two sentences must be related to one another)

Sentence; Sentence

Example: I agree with Stephen King that horror movies are popular; I disagree that people who watch them will be less violent.

  • Combine 2 sentences and use a transition word which explains how the two sentences are related.

Sentence; transition, sentence

Example: I agree with Stephen King that horror movies are very popular; however, I disagree that watching them keeps people from doing violence.

Using a colon (:) before your list helps you to make that list clearer.

Example: I think that prolonged looking at violence is dangerous because watching violence: causes people to be desensitized to real violence; makes some teens desire to imitate the violence, or ignore the violence of others; and leaves the viewer wanting even more, and bloodier special effects in the next film.

Parallel form: In a list, be careful that all of the phrases are in the same form. How to check?

  1. Check the first word of each item. In the example above, each phrase starts with the same sort of word: causes, makes, and leaves.
  2. Can you finish the sentence with any one of the items? Try doing the last word before the colon with each phrase.
  • watching violence causes people to be desensitized…
  • watching violence makes some teens desire…
  • watching violence leave the view wanting even more…

100 Great Psychology Research Paper Topics With Research Links

  1. What is normal mental functioning?
  2. Are there side effects to taking Prozac? Or Zoloft for depression?
  3. How can you tell when you are ready to stop taking drugs for depression or anxiety?
  4. Are there effective natural alternatives to drugs used for mental health? Why are dreams hard to remember?
  5. What do reoccurring dreams mean?
  6. How do colors affect our moods?
  7. Who is Freud? What did he believe? How relevant is Freud for today’s psychiatry? Identify and define the different schools of thought most common in psychiatric practice today.
  8. What is the process of education to become a psychiatrist?
  9. How does lack of sleep affect our mental state?
  10. How does REM sleep affect our mental state?
  11. Do we need a certain amount of it? How to interpret dreams? Are specific images symbols for something else?
  12. Can exercise improve your mental health?
  13. What is the best way to keep your brain healthy as you age?
  14. What are the stages of brain development in infants from birth to two?
  15. Why do children need to play?

Psychology Today: Easy to understand articles on mental health topics

Discover: Current research on the mind and brain.

  1. Do women suffer more mental health problems than men?
  2. What causes some women to have postpartum depression?
  3. What is the best way to prevent postpartum depression?
  4. What is postpartum depression, or the “Baby Blues?” Is it a mental illness?
  5. Why do some mothers become so mentally ill that they harm their children?
  6. Why do so many women in developed nations experience depression?
  7. How do mental illnesses affect women differently?
  8. How does Infertility affect mental health in women?
  9. What are the side effects of antidepressants for women?
  10. What is the effect of long-term antidepressant use for women?
  11. Why do women attempt suicide more often than men?
  12. How do women’s symptoms of stress differ from the symptoms of men?
  13. Dr. Wanda K. Jones states that “Women’s mental health is critical to their overall health and the health of our Nation.” Agree or disagree with this statement.
  14. How do women’s friendships contribute to good or poor mental health?
  15. How is child abuse related to mental health issues?
  16. How do relationship problems damage a teen girl’s mental health?
  17. What are the signs of an eating disorder?
  18. How can you help someone who has an eating disorder?
  19. How can parents help their daughters have good mental health?
  20. How does the changing hormone levels of women affect their mental health?

Women’s Health.gov: Publications by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about Mental health issues and how these affect women.

World Health Organization: gender issues about mental health in women and children around the world.

  1. How does obesity affect mental health?
  2. How do you know when someone you love has a mental illness?
  3. What causes some children to become self-destructive?
  4. Why do teenagers cut themselves?
  5. What causes anorexia?
  6. Which is worse for returning soldiers, their physical, or their mental injuries?
  7. How do doctors treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress syndrome?
  8. What are the mental illnesses most common among returning soldiers?
  9. Which gender has the most mental illness, men or women?
  10. Are there some people who have no conscience?
  11. What is ADHD? What causes it?
  12. What is an obsessive-compulsive disorder? How can you tell if someone has this?
  13. How can a person with OCD prevent their disorder from taking over their lives?
  14. Do media such as video games, movies, and music tend to help people release pent-up emotion so that they are more mentally healthy, or does it tend to cause people to become more violent, angry and afraid?
  15. How can you know if you are mentally ill or not?
  16. What are phobias? What are the most common things people are afraid of? What are the most unusual fears?
  17. What is the physical effect of stress and anxiety? How does mental stress hurt our physical
  18. How did survivors of the Holocaust keep from becoming mentally ill?
  19. What is the youngest age a person can be mentally ill?
  20. Is there a genetic basis for some people becoming violent?
  21. How does the divorce of a parent affect the mental health of college students?
  22. When is a person a danger to themselves or others?
  23. Is there ever a time when physical violence should be forgiven and forgotten?
  24. Are adopted children as mentally healthy as children who stay with their birth parents?
  25. How does the mental health of Americans compare to mental health in other countries?
  26. Which country in the world has the best mental health? Why?
  27. Why are so many homeless people mentally ill?
  28. Should genetic testing be done to criminals? Should evidence that the criminal had poor impulse control or other genetic, mental weakness be taken into consideration during a trial?
  29. Why are so many artists mentally unstable?
  30. How is color related to a mental state?
  31. What is the effect on children of their parent’s divorce?
  32. Do children who are under five when their parents’ divorce do better or worse than older children?
  33. What is Sensory Deficit disorder? How can you tell when someone has it?
  34. Is mental illness genetic? How much do genes affect a person’s ability to have mental health?

National Institute of Mental Health: direct link to full-text online fact sheets about mental illness and information about many different mental disorders listed alphabetically. Information is available in English or En Espanol. The NIH is a government resource of information about studies and publications about many mental health issues.

  1. Can ADHD be cured? What is the best process of treatment?
  2. What is Music Therapy? How can music help people with mental disorders?
  3. How can drugs help memory loss?
  4. What is bulimia? How can it be treated?
  5. What is the relationship between religion and mental health? Can religious counseling, prayer, or other spiritual practices improve or treat mental illness?
  6. How does Art Therapy help mentally ill patients?
  7. Do St. John’s Wort and other supplements help with depression?
  8. What happens when someone is admitted to a mental hospital? What is the goal for treatment at such a facility? How does treatment in a mental hospital work? How is it different or better than being treated as an out-patient?
  9. What is neurofeedback therapy? How does it work, and how does it help?
  10. Can ADHD be cured? What is the best process of treatment?
  11. Do animals help our mental state? How can animals help us or be used in therapy with psychiatric patients?
  12. What is the most effective way to help mentally ill homeless people?
  13. In places where marijuana has become legal for recreational use, does mental health seem to have improved?
  14. What causes a person to develop Multiple Personality Disorder? What is the best treatment for that disease?
  15. Does marital counseling work?
  16. Why do people seek to counsel for life issues?
  17. What is the difference between a counselor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist?
  18. Which sort of mental illnesses are best served by a psychiatrist (or psychologist or counselor)?
  19. How can you help a person with OCD? (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  20. Is it possible for a sickness to be “all in your head?” Do people “think” themselves into real physical illnesses? Can you “think” yourself out of it?
  21. What causes people to have phobias? How can fears be overcome?
  22. Are vitamins and minerals related to mental health? Can some mental illness be treated effectively with vitamins, minerals, or other supplements?

Dutch Hex Signs Style & Symbolism Guide

When early Swedish and German Dutch settlers first came to Pennsylvania in the 17th century, they brought with them a rich cultural tradition of creating Hex Signs to commemorate special life events. Dutch Hex Signs can be seen painted on barns, sheds, and displayed across many homes in the northeast and the southern United States.

While the original meaning and purpose of the signs are open to interpretation, this has not affected their popularity over the centuries. The signs have become so popular that they are now a major tourist attraction in Pennsylvania. Very few decorative items hold such significant meaning with so much cultural heritage, so their value is still very much on the rise as time passes.

I have been studying the signs and the meanings for years and I still feel like I have only scratched the surface when it comes to creating custom signs and interpreting existing signs for their implied meaning. Information is often fragmented, abstract, and very much open to interpretation so I have been working diligently to create a style guide for traditional dutch hex signs. I would love to see these signs get a makeover for more modern aesthetics because they make wonderful gifts and heirloom quality keepsakes. With all of the advances in color printing technology today, there isn’t any reason why the tradition could not continue for centuries to come.

Implied meaning of symbols.



Many of the shapes and symbols here have been used for symbolic purposes across a wide variety of cultures and religions throughout human history. I have tried to relay the meaning implied by the Pennsylvania Fancy Dutch, which is rooted in the Christian faith. Independent research into the meaning of the older symbols, especially those of stars, will turn up some very questionable material pertaining to the occult. The important thing to keep in mind is the context in which these symbols are being used.

Fancy Dutch vs. Plain Dutch



Also, it is important to differentiate between “Fancy Dutch” and “Plain Dutch” as the communities are not synonymous. The Amish and Mennonite communities are considered “Plain Dutch” and did not participate in hexology as early “Fancy Dutch” settlers did. From what I have read, the Amish really don’t like being asked about Hex signs, so please approach the communities respectfully if you are touring popular Hex sign tourism routes.

Fancy Dutch groups for the most part have assimilated into other groups in the United States. Some Fancy Dutch communities are still thriving in the rural parts of Pennsylvania including; Reading, Allentown, York, and Lebanon.

Hex Signs are not the same as Barn Quilts.



Dutch Hex signs are always shown in a circular format or painted on circle plaques. In the last 20 years, there has been a rise in a similar art style: Barn Quilts. While the art style and symbolism is similar, it should not be confused with any affiliation to hex signs. Barn quilts originated in Ohio in 2001. This tradition is spreading rapidly and though I don’t have any evidence to support the theory, I believe the established popularity of hex signs may be the reason it has so quickly spread.

Colors

Colors are a subtle way to add additional symbolism and variance to traditional hex designs. 9 colors are predominately used and each color has a different symbolic meaning:

Black: Protection, Blends & Binds Elements Together

Blue: Protection, Peace, Spirituality, Calm

Brown: Earth, Friendship, Strength

Green: Growth, Fertility, Success, Ideas

Orange: Abundance

Red: Emotions, Passion, Charisma, Lust, Creativity

Purple: Royalty, All Things Sacred, Religion

White: Purity, Moon Power, Free Flowing Energy

Yellow: Health, Love, Sun, Connection To God

Birds: See “Birds” Section Below

Hereford Cow: The Hereford cow protects farm animals and pets. The Hereford also highlights the important role that food and food animals play in our lives.

Horse: Ensures protection for farm animals and pets. Protects against disease and lightning. Commonly placed in 5 point or 8 Pointed Stars. Original livestock hexes and barn blessings used horses as the horse played a major role in early farm life of the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers.

Lambs: Represents children. Commonly used in “Bless This Child” hex signs with child’s name enclosed in a heart. Lambs can also symbolize wonder and innocence. Lambs are commonly painted on hex signs with distelfinks (luck), tulips (faith, hope, charity), and a heart border to represent everlasting love.

Snakes: Represents temptation. Commonly shown in proximity to trinity tulips on marriage hexes.

Unicorn: The mythological white unicorn had a horn and a lion’s tail. Unicorns symbolize piety and virtue on Dutch Hex Signs. Placing unicorns close to each other on the sign is designed to show how all of God’s creature’s, even “wild animals”, can live in peace and harmony.

Unicorn signs are often decorated with hearts and trinity tulips. Unicorns are commonly shown facing each other. Overall this design represents piety, virtue, peace, and contentment. It is often designed to place on hope chests of young women. This unconquerable animal was also believed to become tame when confronted by a maiden. He would lay his head in her lap and was easily taken by hunter.

Bird of Paradise: Symbolizes beauty, wonder, and mystery of life on earth.

Distelfink: Symbolizes good luck and happiness. The distelfink was a bird that ate thistle seed and thus called the “Thistlefinch”. The Pennsylvania Dutch referred to it as a “Distelfink”. It is a stylized version of the common gold finch, though some believe its features are more heavily borrowed from European varieties of gold finches.

Using 2 distelfinks together on a hex represents “double good luck.” Depicting 2 Distelfinks crossed over each other or intertwined means “true friendship”.

Doves: Doves represent friendship and peace in marriage. Referred to as the “Doves of Peace”. When doves are shown turned away from each other, this is also said to represent peace and trust in marriage.

Eagles: Eagles symbolize strength, courage, and protection. Double headed eagles are also commonly used in marriage signs. Double headed eagles are paired with laced or scalloped hearts to represent Strength and Courage in marriage. Eagles may also be paired with trinity tulips to represent faith, hope, and charity.

Some rare and older hexes depict a more Germanic Double Headed Eagle seen in German heraldry as well as versions akin to the “Albanian Eagle”.

Roosters: Like the eagle, roosters also symbolize strength, courage, and protection.

Leaves: Leaves represent long life, strength, and nature. Maple and oak leaves are the most common leaves shown on Dutch hex signs and are often embellished with acorns as well. Leaves can also represent diversity and beauty of life on earth.

The oak leaf seems to carry heavier symbolic weight than the maple leaf. Oak leaves are also used to symbolize strength in body, mind, and character. Can also symbolize smooth sailing in autumn years of life or the representation of strength of masculinity.

Pineapple: Represents warmth and hospitality for all. The pineapple is often used in Welcome signs and home blessings.

Pomegranate: A rare symbol used to symbolize abundance and fertility (due to the number of seeds it contains).

Shamrock: Represents luck and the “luck of the Irish”.

Tree of Life: A different kind of hex sign that uses a tree with many branches containing different symbols. The symbols on tree represent God’s bountiful fruit. The symbols inside circles on tree are hearts, tulips, rosettes, stars, and similar geometric designs.

Tulips: Tulips represent faith, hope, and charity, and can also be used to represent Holy Trinity. Tulips are frequently shown in multiples of 3 and are shown to represent a form of a lily. Another implied and eloquent meaning can include: “Faith in yourself, faith in what you do, and faith in your fellow man.”

Sometimes, a snake is shown on or around a trinity tulip in marriage signs to serve as a warning to resist temptation.

Wheat: Wheat stencils represent abundance. Signs depicting wheat are not as popular as other motifs, but can still be easily found.

Stars generally representluck and protection.

Please note I had a difficult time finding the specific meaning of the points on stars (4 point-12 point) from any documented Dutch hexology material, so I had to research the symbolism of stars by relying heavily on accepted numerology in the Christian faith.

4 Point Star: The Morning Star,The Christian Cross, Star of Bethlehem. Native Americans also believed the morning star is a sign of courage and purity of spirit.

5 Point Star: Good Luck, Compass, Nautical Star

6 Point Star “Hexagram”: 6 Days of Creation, or the 6 attributes of God (Wisdom, Power, Majesty, Love, Mercy, and Justice)

8 Point Star: Star of Redemption or Regeneration. Represents baptism in Christian faith.

10 Point Star: Harmony in natural kingdom, Spiritual well being. Could also represent 10 of the 12 apostles. (Judas is omitted due to his betrayal of Jesus and Peter is omitted because of his denial of Jesus.)

12 Point Star: Represents completeness. Also used to represent the Epiphany (12th Day of Christmas)

Triple Star Motif: Good Luck, Success, and Happiness. This motif is comprised of 3 nautical 5 point stars that are layered and rotated to reveal all points of all stars. When a brown outer ring is used, it symbolizes the cycle of the life making this particular sign a wish for a lifetime of happiness.

Barn Wheel: Wheel of Fortune, most common with 32 spokes and often accompanied with a lucky star in the center.

Crescent Moons: Shown in a swirl pattern to represent the 4 Seasons.

Daddy Hex: One of the most popular hex signs used to bring “Good Luck All Year”. Adding a rosette in center circle is for an added measure of good luck during difficult times of the year.

Haus Segen: “Home Blessing” in German.

Hearts: Hearts represent love. When used in circle border it signifies “endless” love. Scalloped, laced, or intertwined hearts represent marriage.

Irish Symbolism: 2 distinct Irish symbols are commonly seen on Dutch Hex signs.Shamrocks are seen for luck and the Claddagh Ring is shown to represent love, loyalty, and friendship.

Raindrops: Represents water and crop abundance. Raindrops are depicted in a paisley shape and can be large or small.

Rosettes (Oldest Symbol): Good Luck. Six Petal rosette is most common. Red hearts are commonly placed between rosette’s blue, red, and gold petals to ensure luck in love. 12 point rosettes represent good luck all year. Red is used to symbolize strength and green for life. Enclosed in scalloped border and means “Good Luck In Life”. Wards off evil, disease, and pestilence

The rosette is one of the most basic and most ancient designs in western culture. The rosette appears on buildings, furniture, graves, and pottery dating all the way back to the Egyptians.

Scallops: Representocean waves and “Smooth Sailing Through Life”.

Swastika: Symbolizes good fortune and well being. Hitler has tainted the well meaning symbolism of the swastika in modern times, but I’m sure it will far outlast Hitler’s reign of terror.

Swastiaks can be seen in “Sun Wheel” designs and may also be called “Swirling Ray Swastikas”. Sun wheels are somewhat of a stylizied swastika and represents warmth and fertility.

Swirling ray swastika motifs are rare. When they are used, modern signs are not commonly depicted with more than 4 rays. It is believed that 5 and 6 ray swastikas were once much more common.

Sun, Rain, & Fertility Motif: This motif is an 8 Pointed star with sun center. It has a substantial meaning: “Sun warms mother earth and lights our lives. Raindrops are shown in an endless circle, providing unending moisture critical to life. Together they provide all God’s people with a bountiful harvest and renewed life. This design offers abundance in field, barn, and home.”

Wilkommen / Wilkom– Two different way to say welcome in Dutch. Used for signs to display warm greetings to one and all.

When hand painting or creating a digital rendering of a hex sign with traditional Dutch features, using appropriate lettering can add additional authenticity to the design. Early Dutch settlers used Fraktur, which is a type of blackletter calligraphy deeply steeped in European folk cultures. It is very similar to old english fonts, but has a very distinct style. Comparing fraktur to old english side by side, fraktur seems to contain more solid lines and less filigree details. Dafont has a great selection of free blackletter fonts to experiment with on your own signs. My personal favorites to use when making hex signs are Augusta and Perry Gothic.

This style guide will be continuously updated and revised as new information is found.

Very few things in modern times are as meaningful or as steeped in history as the Dutch hex sign. As time passes and the world changes, I would love for the long legacy of these signs to continue to grow and change with us. Humans, despite how advanced we like to think we are, will always find comfort and contentment in symbols that conjure luck and happiness in a chaotic world. The human connection to abstract symbols may be one of the very few ways we can maintain a sense of wonder about the beautiful world around us. I don’t believe that these signs or any other talisman has mystical powers or the ability to change the course of my life. I do believe that the signs are meant to inspire love, hope, happiness, and compassion in ourselves and to those we care about the most. That, my friends, is a beautiful message and is as relevant today as it was when the first Dutch settlers came to this country full of hope and wonder.

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