SUFFRAGETTE ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
FACED OFF AGAINST SHERLOCKIAN
ILLUSTRATOR ARTHUR IGNATIUS KELLER
NEW YORK TIMES
MARCH 25, 1898
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Daughter Complain to the Board of Health of Crying Children.
THE BABIES' MOTHER IN REPLY
Artist Keller's Small Wife Expresses Her Scorn of Advanced Ideas Concerning the Hopes and Happiness of Her Sex.
It is likely that every woman and many men in the civilized world will be interested in the battle now pending between Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her daughter, Margaret Stanton Lawrence, representing the elderly woman with new ideas, on one side, and Mrs. A.I. Keller and her three babies on the other, representing the young woman with old ideas. The two parties are arrayed against each other in fourth-floor flats at 26 and 24 West Sixty-first Street, and are divided only by a seven-foot alleyway. Both have auxiliaries and reserves, and both have waged war through the Board of Health.
Sanitary Superintendent Charles F. Roberts handed in to the Board of Health yesterday a communication from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others living at 26 West Sixty-first Street. The gist of it is that Mrs. Keller, who lives on the fourth floor of No. 24, next door east, has children who, like the cherubim and seraphim in the Te Deum, continually do cry. Caroline A. Cabot, M.D., furnishes a certificate the Mrs. Margaret Stanton Lawrence, daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and sharing her apartments, has for three years "suffered from steadily increasing insomnia and neurastenia, largely due to the noise of crying children." Dr. Cabot adds the opinion that it is a willful annoyance, as "the said children could during the night easily be kept in the front room of said apartments."
INDUCED AND ABETTED BY THE BABIES.
Dr. Clarence C. Howard testifies that Mrs. Lawrence's nerasthenia and insomnia are "induced and abetted by the constant willful annoyance" of the Keller, who have refused to close a window on the west side of their apartments. Mrs. Stanton sends an appeal to the board signed by herself, Mrs. Lawrence, Elizabeth Merie Carhart, Anna Georgine Carhart, Kate Savin, and several other women physicians. This appeal summarizes the increasing wrongs done by the Kellers in these gloomy words:
"We have suffered from this nuisance for the past three years. At first there was on child. Next year two, and now, within the past two months, a third child has been added to the number, and each and every one is a persistent crier and screamer."
It adds that when the Kellers first moved into 24, three years ago, Mrs. Stanton, who is described as being eighty years old, the mother of seven children and an authority on children, "wrote a very sweet, motherly letter to young Mrs. Keller and asked her to bring her baby in to see her. Mrs. Stanton told Mrs. Keller that it was not natural for children to cry continually; that it always showed that there was something the matter, and that if she (Mrs. Keller) would kindly call she would give her the benefit of her years of study and experience."
The Keller, the appeal continues, gave this note no attention, but continued to have children and to leave the windows of their nursery open. The result was that Mrs. Lawrence, who is a teacher of physical culture, was compelled to leave home to go to sleep, and to employ a substitute to do her work. Another woman who lived on the third floor of 26 is alleged to have suffered from nervous prostration because of the Keller children. The Board of Health is asked to compel the Kellers to close their doors and windows.
THE BOARD ONLY LAUGHS.
Sanitary Inspector Roberts, who investigated the case, indorsed on the appeal an official recommendation that the board do nothing, and the board unanimously laughed for fifteen straight minutes and did as the Inspector suggested.
A reporter who called at 26 West Sixty-first Street yesterday afternoon and sent up a message to Mrs. Lawrence telling her that he wished to ask about the complaint, received the reply the Mrs. Lawrence had nothing to say on the subject. At 24 he saw Mr. and Mrs. Keller and the three little Kellers.
Mr. Keller is a newspaper and magazine artist who is known throughout the country, and whose work has won for him many prizes in Munich and here. He is a big, young man and a brunette, apparently in perpetual good humor. Mrs. Keller is a very little and pretty woman, and a blonde, and she expressed her sentiments and opinions freely.
"Yes," she said, briskly, "I've had three children in three years and a half, and I'm glad of it, and I hope to have a dozen. That's one thing I married for -- to have a big family of children and make good American men and women of them. That's what I think is a woman's business."
Then she added, with a little energetic dash of vindictiveness, "And I'd like to have the whole dozen in this flat."
She laughed gleefully over the thought of the consternation of her complaining neighbors at the fulfillment of this ambition.
"Did Mrs. Stanton write you a note?" she was asked.
PLENTY OF GOOD ADVICE AT HOME.
Mrs. Keller made a brief little grimace and laughed again. "Yes, she did," she said. "The idea! It was my first baby, but one of the baby's grandmothers had had seven children and the other nine, and if I wanted advice do you think I would go to Mrs. Stanton for it? Beside" -- here Mrs. Keller sat very straight in her chair and looked dignified --"I'm told that Mrs. Stanton is very -- well--liberal in her ideas, and I'm not at all liberal. I'm not at all sure I could care for the honor of meeting her. The note seemed to me impertinent, and I took no notice of it. I've received several from those people since, all abusive, and I've taken no notice of them, either."
"Then we thought it possible the old lady had some kind of soothing syrup or patent medicine she was booming and wanted to sell us," interposed Mr. Keller.
It further appeared from the statements of the Kellers that there is a man, or person with a man's voice, connected with the complaining family in 26 who has for a long time made a habit of coming to the window opposite the Keller nursery and bellowing through a funnel or megaphone, or some such device. The Kellers keep two servants, and one of these, a certain Annie O'Reilly, being the nurse to the children, became so zealous and active in contriving ways for dropping things from the roof or heaving missiles at this offender that a good part of Mrs. Keller's time was occupied in interposing between the invention and execution of these operation of war. It was partly on the account the Miss O'Reily's services were at last dispensed with, a German woman equally faithful, but less fertile of combative schemes, replacing her.
"Many a time I've saved him from a broken head," Mrs. Keller said; "and we've never retaliated in any way."
"Except by adding to the crying force?" was suggested.
"Oh, yes," she answered, "I've done that, but it wasn't for that reason." Here she laughed heartily again. "I love children and want to have them, and my husband is man enough to take care of all I can have, and of me, too."
A BUGABOO WITH A MEGAPHONE.
"I could reach that fellow across the alley with a good, long club," Mr. Keller remarked regretfully, "but I can never catch him. He always keeps out of my way. I complained to the Board of Health about him some time ago, because he frightened my little girl. He's the bugaboo man of the oldest children, and makes them nervous at night. The Sanitary Inspector said he could do nothing. He threatened those people with getting their names in the papers, and they said that was just what they wanted, and I believe it, too."
"But do your children cry much?" was asked.
"Of course they cry," said Mrs. Keller. "All children cry. Did you ever know any who didn't? Mine don't cry any more than others. They've come pretty fast, and are all young -- the oldest three and a half. We gave them our dining room for a nursery, because the best we have isn't too good for them. Think I'll cut off fresh air from them to please Mrs. Lawrence? No, I won't, (very emphatic here.) Mr. Keller needs the front room for his studio because of the light. That's what we moved here for. Talk about physical culture! (Scornfully.) "What kind of physical culture is that for a woman when she can't stand a baby crying? I don't know much about physical culture, but I've had three children and taken good care of them and put up with their crying, and expect to have many more. Isn't that what a woman's for? Maybe these new women don't think so, but I do."
THE INNOCENT CAUSES OF THE WAR.
The three children were shown -- the oldest a girl, the others boys. They had just been put to bed and were not crying. The small girl was playing peacefully in her crib, the older boy was "snuggling" under his draperies, and the baby was staring with profound eyes at the gasjet, his countenance indicative of deep but not acrimonious thought. There was a pervading flavor of orris root about, and the face of each of the three was the shape and about the color of a ripe peach.
"There!" said Mrs. Keller, with a triumphant little comprehensive wave of her hand. "Do you think they look like crying children? Do you think a woman with three babies like that and a husband like mine has any reason to worry herself about any new women or Boards of Health?"