Monthly Archives: January 2015

How Much Do You Know About…American Life in 1905?

January 26, 2015

Wright Brothers flight, 1905, wikipedia

American life was very different 110 years ago in terms of home life, technology, social mores, and much more. Take the following test to find out how much you know about American life in the year 1905.

1. The average life expectancy in the U.S. in 1905 was:

A. 55 years.
B. 68 years.
C. 47 years.

2. What percent of the homes in the U.S. had a bathtub?

A. 14%.
B. 50%.
C. 80%.

3. Women typically washed their hair:
A. Once a week.
B. Once a month.
C. Every few days.

4. Which disease was not among the top 5 leading causes of death in 1905?
A. Pneumonia and influenza.
B. Tuberculosis.
C. Cancer.
D. Diarrhea.
E. Heart disease.
F. Stroke.

5. The population of Las Vegas, Nevada in 1905 was:
A. 50,000.
B. 3,000.
C. 30.

6. Only one of these existed in 1905. Which one?
A. Crossword puzzles.
B. Canned beer.
C. Ice tea.
D. Pink Lemonade.

7. Which one was not available over the counter at the local corner drugstore?
A. Marijuana.
B. Heroin.
C. Morphine
D. Aspirin.


1. C. The average life expectancy in 1905 was 47 years old.

2. A. 14% of American households had bathtubs.

3. B. Most women washed their hair once a month, using borax and egg yolks for their shampoo.

4. C. Cancer was not one of the top five leading causes of death in 1905.

5. C. There was only a population of 30 in Las Vegas in 1905.

6. D. Only pink lemonade existed in 1905. It appears that 1863 was the first printed mention of pink lemonade:

Put two ounces of loaf sugar in a quart of water, also the rind of an orange or of one lemon. Half an hour after strain the whole, and press into it the juice of the orange, and a few drops of lemon juice. If found too strong, add water and sugar. It is a very good drink in summer, or for evening parties. A little currant jelly may be added to make a variety.”
—What to Eat and how to Cook It, Pierre Blot [D. Appleton and Company:New York] 1863 (p. 18)

7. D. Aspirin became available in 1915 as an OTC (over-the-counter, no prescription required) medication in tablet form.


The Emergence of Abstract Art

January 26, 2015

The Cow, 1910, wikipedia

When abstract painting burst on the scene at the beginning of the 20th century, it was a completely new and revolutionary form of art that came to dominate the art world for many decades. In his upcoming class, “The Creative Work of Art: The Emergence of the Abstract,” Professor Fernando Casas explores the ideological influences and circumstances that contributed to the birth of abstract art. We visited with him to find out more about this intriguing subject.

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about the emergence of abstract art?

Casas There is one fact about the sudden emergence of abstract art that is most remarkable in itself and also most interesting at this moment in time, and that fact is that it is directly connected with the terrorist attack of Charlie Hedbo

WIH Reporter: What parallels can be drawn between the two?

Casas: The appearance of abstract art at the hands of the two pioneers – Vassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich – is to be accounted by the confluence of very diverse factors and circumstances, all of them coming to influence and articulate the logic of art at the moment. But the final motivation that led these two artists to jump from representation to abstraction was religious iconophobia.

WIH Reporter: What do you mean by religious iconophobia?

Casas: This term is used to describe the dislike or hate for images. The most obvious origin of it is found in the Old Testament. This is the origin of the iconophobia existing in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity its most clear expression took place in the 8th Century when the creation of icons was forbidden and there ensued a wholesale destruction of images across the Roman Empire that lasted roughly a century.

WIH Reporter: How does this relate to Kandinsky and Malevich?

Casas: Both Kandinsky and Malevich had a certain ‘hate’ for the material world and yearned to rid their art of any connection to objects, that is, disengage completely from the task of representing material objects.  Kandinsky, and Malevich (in his own way),  both wanted to connect their art  - instead of with the physical – with another reality, the spiritual.  

WIH Reporter: What else should we know about conditions fostering the emergence of abstract art?

Casas: It’s important to note that the emergence of abstract art took place during a short period of time that some historians consider the most revolutionary in the history of the West: 1900 to 1919. At that time profound scientific, technological, artistic, philosophical and political and social revolutions took place. The sudden emergence of abstract art after the long tradition of  thousands of years of figurative art,  was at the time a shocking and seemingly inexplicable event. Yet today we can come to understand why it came about,  and what significance it had when we examine – as we will do in this course – the complex yet fascinating logic of art that unfolded at that time.

WIH Reporter: What misconceptions might we have about this class?

Casas: This is not an art class or a “history of art” class proper.  My interest is in the history of ideas: scientific, artistic, philosophical, religious, etc. Surely, we will examine quite closely  the logic of art at that particular moment in history, and  will  also examine quite closely each and (almost) all the artists that  played a role  in the emergence of the abstract  Van Gogh,  Gauguin, Munch, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso etc.

WIH Reporter: In what ways will it be different from a typical art history class?

Casas: In addition to examining the logic of the art of that time, we will also dedicate a good amount of time to explain how such things as  1) the discovery of the atomic structure by Rutherford, 2)  the science of optics,  3) the existential philosophy of Nietzsche,  4) the invention of the steamboat,  5) Freud’s publication of The Interpretation of Dreams,  6) Christianity’s notion of the Fall and sin, 7) philosophical idealism,  and other factors contributed to the astonishing emergence of the abstract in 1910.

(This class begins on 02 – 02 – 2015, from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm. For more information, or to register for this class, click here.)

Behind the Scenes: Caring for your Art Collection

January 26, 2015

View of a  frame-maker’s workshop, oil on canvas, 1900, anonymous, (Wikipedia)

Art Connection: Behind the Scenes – Collection Care” is the fifth class of an ongoing series taught by Liz Anders, intended for art enthusiasts and for those who are interested in the inner workings of Houston’s extensive fine art scene.  In this series, Anders covers the topic of caring for your art collection. To this end, the class will meet with various local professionals to discuss conservation, restoration, proper framing practices, appraisals, and insuring artwork. We visited with Anders to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Anders: In the past several Art Connection classes, we have discussed buying art, selling art, collecting art, but this class will be focused on a very important topic that some people tend to forget about, which is taking care of your artwork. Once you make the decision to own artwork, you really need to know the best practices for ensuring that your artwork lasts for your lifetime and lifetimes yet to come!

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Anders: I think some might fear the class will not be as exciting as past Art Connection classes but in fact, we will visit a conservation lab, hear from insurance company representatives, visit with a framer to discuss how important framing can be, and look at artwork examples firsthand. It will be very interesting to meet with some of the best art professionals in town who are all talented in their specific fields.

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class? 

Anders: We will meet at the Women’s institute once and then go offsite. for the remaining classes. If you care about the art work you own, and are invested in it emotionally or monetarily, you must make sure you are doing all of the necessary steps to ensure it will remain in good condition for years to come! 

(For more information or to register for this class,click here.)

Life Transformation and the Art of Goal-Making

January 26, 2015

goals“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” ~ Pablo Picasso.      

Goal-creation is an art, and Dr. Joyce Gayles is offering a four-week class, “Design Your Best Year Yet“, to introduce us into the secret of setting goals in order to make the next 12 months the most successful, productive, and fulfilling year yet. We wanted to find out more about this class.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class? 

Gayles: “Design Your Best Year Yet” is a transformative experience. Over the last 8 years, I have coached scores of people through this process, developed by Ginny Ditzler, with powerful, life changing results. The process takes you to the depth of your consciousness where you can discover and formulate a true vision and goals for your next 12 months.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Gayles: You’ll be surprised by the degree of self-discovery and enlightenment you are able to reach and the results that are so practical and doable.

WIH Reporter:What mistaken impressions might we have about the subject of your class?

Gayles: You are mistaken if you think this is another ordinary goal-setting class.

WIH Reporter: In what ways is this class different from goal-setting classes of the past?

GaylesDesign Your Best Year Yet” is about breaking through to the core of what’s important to you and enables you to make choices that ensure personal satisfaction and joyful success in the important areas of your life.

WIH Reporter: How is the class organized?

Gayles: Design Your Best Year Yet” is organized around the exercise of answering 10 simple questions.  These questions help you to clarify your thinking about what’s most important to you, reveals what are the obstacles and challenges that block you, and ultimately leads you to have a simple one-page plan to guide you through your next twelve months.

 (Dr. Joyce Gayle’s 4-week class, Design Your Best Year Yetstarts on February 5th from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. For more information or to register, click here.)

Dorothy Johnson Book Signing at WIH

January 26, 2015

Dorothy Johnson, a former board member, has published her memoir “From Village to Boomtown” and has a book signing on Wednesday, January 28th, from 1:00 to 2:30. Johnson participated in Susan Briggs Wright’s memoir class to accomplish the writing and production of the book. Please join us in honoring Dorothy’s accomplishment as she signs copies of her book (there is no charge for her book at this event). In addition to having been on the WIH board and having served as vice-president, she is a retired Exxon employee who volunteers her time which is matched by Exxon in contributions. We visited with Dorothy to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What inspired you to write this memoir?

Johnson: I grew up in a small town of less than 600 people in New York near Rochester, which was completely different from my children’s growing up in Houston which had over 938,000 residents in 1960. I wanted to leave my children a sense of how different our lives had been growing up.

WIH Reporter: How did the memoir get started?

Johnson: I was a regular student at The Women’s Institute, and when I saw that Susan Wright was going to be teaching a class on memoir writing in Spring 2007, I decided that was the time to get started. I stayed in that class through Spring 2013, when I decided I had to get it finished, and worked one-on-one with Susan to complete it.

WIH Reporter: It sounds like you include a lot of memories about Houston in the past. What stories do you include in the memoir?

Johnson: I divided my book into various subjects starting with a description of the area in which I grew up, The Finger Lakes, and included a little family information such as a description of the houses we lived in while I was growing up.  Then I took my readers through my life, growing up, which included my time in college and my early life in Houston.

Next, I described my life with my husband as we moved from a small duplex home to Sharpstown, and then to Nottingham, where I have lived for over 50 years.  In each of these chapters, I include what was going on with my children, and some of what was going on in Houston and the world, all of which affected our lives.  As the children left home, we became empty nesters, and after Carroll’s death, I describe widowhood and retirement.

Since my grandchildren are in their late 20’s and 30’s, I have a chapter on advice to great grandchildren in which I impart advice about living the good life, which is also applicable to all generations.  I finish with some information on family genealogy and end with a chronology which helps to put events in my life and my family’s lives in perspective, with the events of their worlds.

WIH Reporter: What has been the response so far?

Johnson: I have had several comments from friends who have read the book about my description of rationing during WW II.  The younger ones never experienced it as they were born after the War, and the older ones had forgotten it.

Some friends have wondered how I remembered so many subjects which my book covers.  It was comparatively easy.  In Susan’s class, we read whatever we had written in the previous week, and so many of the readings of my classmates reminded me of things that happened in my life. I noted them so that I could tell of similar experiences in my life.

WIH Reporter: How did you go about the publishing process?

Johnson: When I got ready to publish in July, 2014, I had a friend, Chuck, who managed the process.  He had owned a printing company which he sold when he retired, but “he kept his hand in” and managed negotiations with the printer.  I emailed the document to the printer which indicated where photos were to be inserted.  My friend delivered those and got a price for the book which I felt was reasonable, and I signed off on it.  I received 3 or 4 iterations of the book via email, made changes to them, and finally the book went to print in October.  I received the final product in late November.  I believe having someone handle the publishing made the process much easier.

WIH Reporter: How many books have you disseminated?

Johnson: So far I have given away around 350 copies, and have received great response from those who have read it – quite a few who read it in one sitting!

 Dorothy Johnson’s book signing takes place on Wednesday, January 28th, from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm, and everyone is invited to attend. Image above shows The Shamrock Hotel on what was the edge of countryside south of Houston, Texas in 1949, shortly after construction.