Statement on the Killing of George Floyd

By Steve Bromage, MHS Executive Director

Maine Historical Society is deeply disturbed by this tragic moment in our history. We are horrified and fed up by George Floyd’s death, and those of countless other people of color. How can this happen again and again and again?

History will play a critical role in instituting the transformative social change that is required.

Together, we need:

  • to understand how we got to this moment—our shared history and the roles we each play in this story.
  • to be fearless in confronting the past—and to recognize how it shapes where we are today.
  • to start by truly acknowledging the problem—hundreds of years of institutionalized racism, ongoing economic inequality, and an embarrassingly broken political culture.

The materials that Maine Historical Society and historical organizations throughout Maine collect, preserve, and share will be an invaluable resource during this time.

Our collections reveal that Maine is part of the story that created structures of inequality. Maine, and the land that Maine Historical Society occupies, was the first region in North America where a permanent European settlement was founded. Since that time, the foundations of white privilege have created a system built on colonialism, racism, and a slave economy that helped fuel Maine’s hallmark industries like shipbuilding, trade, and manufacturing.

Our collections also show Mainers’ resilience, leadership, and ability to change the world.

Together, we have to unpack the underlying issues, to develop a plan that will lead to transformative change, and to take the first next steps.

We pledge MHS as a partner in helping lead this process, and to providing information, context, and perspective as our community confronts these issues.

Gladys Doten Chapman: A Life Well Lived

By Tessa Surette, MHS Volunteer

Gladys Chapman, circa 1907

I recently processed the Chapman-Doten family collection which documents the lives of a Portland family during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Chapmans — Philip Sr. (1884-1949), his wife Gladys (1886-1980) and their children Virginia (1910-2011), Marion (1913-1965) and Philip Jr. (1917-2001) — lived on Spring Street. Their lives are preserved through correspondence and numerous photographs.

While all five family members are represented in the collection, it is Gladys who emerges as its star. She lived a long and meaningful life as a wife, mother, suffragette, poet and active Portland citizen, and her papers are a valuable addition to the Maine Historical Society.

Gladys (3rd row from the top, 1st from the left) and her future husband Philip F. Chapman, Sr. (to her immediate left) with “The Crowd” on December 30, 1905

Gladys Doten Chapman was born in Maine to Roswell and Clara (Stevens) Doten. She attended Waynflete School and later graduated from Portland High School in 1902. She went on to Wellesley College, graduating in 1907. The decade following her graduation was a busy one. She married Philip F. Chapman Sr. in 1909, had three children, and dedicated herself to the fight for women’s suffrage. She played a prominent role in the Maine Suffrage League and was an original member of the Portland League of Women Voters.

Gladys with baby Virginia, circa 1910
The three Chapman siblings, circa 1917.
(L to R) Virginia, Philip Jr., and Marion outside their house at 375 Spring Street

In addition to politics, Gladys was involved in a wide array of organizations and hobbies. She wrote poetry throughout her life and some of her poems are preserved in this collection. During the 1930s, she wrote book reviews for the Portland Evening News. She was president of the YWCA, the first secretary of the Portland Players, and a longtime member of the Portland College Club. She was also involved in Greater Portland Landmarks, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and the Portland Museum of Art.

Gladys, circa 1929

While Gladys’s resume is impressive, it doesn’t tell the whole story. A list of accomplishments can illustrate a person’s interests, values and intellect, but not their personality. That is why the correspondence in this collection is such a treasure. During the 1930s and 1940s, Gladys wrote detailed letters to her daughter Virginia, regaling her with anecdotes and colorful commentary about her daily life. Here are a few examples:

In a letter from January 1937, she speaks of Philip Jr.’s attempt to fix their antique Ford.

“He spent about all of three solid days working on the antique Ford… When it finally started, it sounded like the bombardment of Madrid. I got up and looked out the window to see who [was] shooting machine guns, never suspecting it was coming from my own garage.”

Philip Chapman Jr. and his sister Marion, Dec. 28, 1944

In another letter from April 1937, she describes a shopping excursion with daughter Marion (nicknamed Emmy).

“Did she tell you how narrowly we escaped bringing a monkey home with us? If she had had the money I couldn’t have stopped her; but she had only ten dollars and I flatly refused to lend her the rest. It wasn’t like Stella; it was one of the kind with a greenish tinge to its coat and a hairless rear—you know. Also a bat tail, the kind that is the same size all the way down and stops suddenly and bluntly.”

Later in the same letter she mentions her work as a book reviewer and Emmy’s continued pursuit of a monkey.

“There is a pile of books waiting for me; I can’t bear to face the fiction ones… Emmy has been working by the hour clipping and pasting the last month’s reviews into my own book, to bring that up to date. I told her she was a fool if she didn’t take advantage of a chance to kill several birds with one stone and write my publishers’ letters for me and get secretarial practice and earn cold cash at the same time. I am afraid the desire to accumulate the price of a monkey is the driving motive.”

In another letter from September 1939, Gladys describes how she and Marion, who was recovering from a head cold, were inconvenienced by unexpected guests.

“This morning when we were looking our worst Joy and Mrs. Krahmer arrived. One of the disadvantages of being on the ground floor is that it is harder to refuse to see people. And since they had seen her before and she was undeniably better, it seemed impossible not to ask them in. Marian didn’t want to talk, so she pretended that she couldn’t and just whispered, hoping they would go soon. Then this afternoon… in drove Peter Lallemant, the attractive young man in the Casco Bay Timber… Of course having told the German ladies this morning that she could not speak aloud, she had to keep up the same fiction with him, and while it was poetic justice, it was a good deal of a strain whispering for nearly two hours.”

Virginia and Gladys, January 1971

The Chapman-Doten family collection (Coll. 4113), now available for research, contains correspondence, numerous photographs, book reviews, illustrations, newspaper clippings and Gladys’ English assignments from Wellesley College.

Notes from the Archives: Duncan Howlett papers

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

Rev. Duncan Howlett (1906-2003) — minister, Doctor of Philosophy, author, social justice activist, and…tree farmer? After an illustrious career in the ministry, Duncan Howlett retired to Maine, and began a whole new career as a tree farmer. Even then, he wouldn’t simply sit on his porch and watch his trees grow. He organized and was the first President of the Small Woodland Owners Association. One can find papers related to his work in Maine at the University of Maine, Orono.

Rev. Howlett’s papers regarding his life before moving to Maine – as well as when he lived in Maine and kept his fingers in his former life as a Unitarian clergyman – are now processed and available at Maine Historical Society. This collection (Coll. 2993) is voluminous (51.25 linear ft.) in content and subject matter.

So, who was Duncan Howlett?

Born in 1906 in Newton, Massachusetts, he studied law at Harvard and spent two years as a lawyer. In 1933, he yielded to a lifelong interest in religion and returned to Harvard where he was awarded the STB degree (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) with honors in 1936, while serving as Minister of the Second Church, Unitarian, in Salem, Massachusetts, having been ordained to the ministry in 1935. Howlett served at that church from 1933 to 1938. From there, he went to the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford (1938-1946). In September 1946 he became Minister of the First Church in Boston, Unitarian, a position he held for the next twelve years. In 1958, he was called to All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C., the position from which he retired in 1968. In May of that year he was appointed to Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign staff.

Interested in public affairs during the entire range of his ministry, Howlett also played an active role in Unitarian denominational affairs, serving as President and Chairman of many national organizations, including the Unitarian Historical Society and the Washington, D.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

A prolific author and writer, his works include: Man Against the Church; The Struggle Between Religion and Ecclesiasticism (1954); The Essenes and Christianity; An Interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1957); The Fourth American Faith (1964); The Critical Way in Religion (1980); and The Fatal Flaw at the Heart of Religious Liberalism (1995).

Howlett also wrote No Greater Love: The James Reeb Story (1966). James Reeb served under Howlett as assistant minister at All Souls Church in Washington, D.C. Tragically, Reeb was later murdered while participating in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. The correspondence with the Reeb family is especially heartwarming.

Upon retiring from the active parish ministry in 1968, Howlett became deeply involved in the environmental movement, particularly in the area of forestry, after studying forestry at the University of Maine. In Maine, he organized and was the first President of the Small Woodland Owners Association, popularly known as SWOAM. The conservation of natural resources emphasizing the responsible management of woodlands on the part of citizen forest owners became a “second career” for him. But even while involved in the environmental movement, he still served in the religion and church realm, including as interim minsters at various churches in Westport, Connecticut, and Atlanta Georgia, and Acting Dean of the College Chapel at Mt. Holyoke College. He also continued to write books and travel on Unitarian related trips.

Duncan Howlett was first married to Margaret L. Merritt in 1931 who died just two years later. He later married Carolyn Abbot Chance in 1943 in Summit, New Jersey. He had four children: Margaret (Susan) Howlett Hasty, Albert D. Howlett, Richard C. Howlett, and Carolyn (Lynn) Korth. After living in Center Lovell, Maine, for the last 35 years of his life, Rev. Howlett died in 2003 at age 97.

Duncan Howlett’s papers were given to the Bangor Theological Seminary. When the seminary closed and the BTS records were transferred to Maine Historical Society, Rev. Howlett’s papers were included in that gift.

This collection contains many sermons, correspondence, and printed material. Subject matter includes the Civil Rights movement (including James Reeb), Howlett’s extensive travels, and the general day-to-day business of being a minister in the Unitarian Church, not only locally, but nationally and internationally. Howlett had an inquiring mind, and was interested in many subjects, as one can see from the various files of information he gathered over the years.

One of my favorite parts of the collection is Box 23, which contains materials regarding Howlett’s early travels in the mid-1930s, apparently after his first wife died. This part of his story includes his sailing in 1935 on various ships – including the Cunard White Star “Majestic” – to Paris, Persia, Singapore, and Calcutta — and an overland trip with a friend where they drove in a stock model Ford across Europe and Asia. Mementos and souvenirs in this box are from such exotic places as Agra, British Malaya, Tokyo, Delhi, Japan, Turkey, Hungary, Jerusalem, and Persia. Howlett was a lifelong traveler, and much of Coll. 2993 is evidence of this.

Coll. 2993 Duncan Howlett papers 1935 travel letters

The Civil Rights materials are also fascinating, including hate mail. Rev. Howlett was in the thick of the movement, researching, writing, and preaching about it. From being involved in the grand sweeping movements, to corresponding to church members and international leaders, to the day-to-day details of running a church, this collection is rich in fleshing out this amazing man and the times he lived in. (There is a whole box on the “Sixties” with folder titles such as “Dancing in the aisle,” “Hippies,” and “Protest, dissent, etc.”)

Coll. 2993 Duncan Howlett papers Wallace letter and clipping

Coll. 2993 Duncan Howlett papers hate mail 1

Howlett also corresponded with Karol Grycz-Smilowski (1885-1959), a Polish Lutheran priest who sought to reestablish the Polish Brethren of the period 1565-1658.

 

Coll. 2993 Duncan Howlett letter from Karol Grycz-Smilowski

Duncan Howlett was a mover and a shaker in his world of being a Unitarian minister as well as a social justice activist – there was no separation of church and state in his eyes. Maine Historical Society is honored to be a repository of his records.