A Promoter of Spirit

GLOBE.JPG

Dublin Core

Title

A Promoter of Spirit

Subject

Art, Modernism, and Bohemia

Description

Hapgood’s “Shout Out” Acknowledges Dodge’s Achievements

Hutchins Hapgood’s column on Mabel Dodge shows that Dodge’s contemporaries were aware of her achievements and transfixed by her aesthetic. Hapgood paints her as a sort of urban legend, and in doing so, he uses his male privilege to give Dodge the credit she deserves for her work and draws attention to her social prowess. Hutchins Hapgood generally writes creative pieces and plays, along with his wife, Neith Boyce. It is significant that Hapgood would decide to write a column just on a specific person. It would not be uncommon for a publication like The Globe to write about an individual, but Hapgood’s piece is unique in that it’s almost more of an announcement than it is about Dodge. Hapgood’s portrait also conveys Bohemia’s appreciation for Dodge and draws further attention to the inaccuracy of describing Dodge as only a patroness or passerby in The Village. At the same time, Hapgood displays the blatant sexism of the village in the conclusion of his article when he places Dodge’s work into the same natural category with other women.

Hapgood begins his piece by depicting Dodge not fitting into any category. Hapgood writes, “There is a woman in New York City who is a promoter of the spirit. . . . We are all familiar in America with promoters in business, in land speculation, in philanthropy, but not so familiar with promoters of the spirit.” By establishing her indefinable quality, Hapgood demonstrates that he truly understood the complexity of Dodge’s character. Hapgood calls attention to Dodge’s pivotal role in the modern arts exhibition, where she was only named as an honorary board member: women were not allowed to serve officially on boards in the city in 1913. Hapgood doesn’t just explain that Dodge was important to the Armory Show’s success; he strives to reflect her enthusiasm in his prose. He writes, “I imagine her real purpose in coming here was to help advertise, exploit, and promote, what she thought was a new and important form of art, the kind of thing people now refer to as post-impressionism,” which displays her formative role in the show's conception (Hapgood).

Hapgood accurately displays Dodge’s restless thrust to stay at the center of reform and innovation in The Village by discussing Dodge’s subsequent involvement in the labor movement. His quick transition from her role in modern art to her role in labor reform illustrates Dodge’s quick leaps to latch onto the spirit of the new. Hapgood places Dodge at the center of the production of the Patterson Pageant, which is interesting because most sources would later describe the pageant as more belonging to John Reed. However, Hapgood writes about the pageant, saying, “At a gathering of radicals and strike leaders at which I was present, I heard her [Dodge] imagine and suggest the great strike pageant which took place last Saturday in Madison Square Garden.” Hapgood asserts, “It was her [Dodge’s] idea, and it was the act of an imaginative press agent of a high order.” Hapgood therefore uses his authority to give proper credit to Dodge’s creative and organizational role. Hapgood also attests to Dodge’s organizational prowess when he wrote, “Then, in the two weeks preparation, she threw herself into the game, sustaining, encouraging, and promoting the enterprise.” By outlining the time and only naming Dodge in the promotion of the pageant, Hapgood sheds light on the astounding nature of Dodge’s abilities. He adds, “In one way . . . this woman has accomplished a great deal in these four months,” to again convey how immediate and immersed Dodge was in The Village culture.

Dodge frequently attests to the plight of women in The Village, who were often diminished by the societal prejudices placed on their sex. Hapgood counteracts this notion in his introduction of the article by attesting to Dodge’s creative and organizational influence, but concludes by returning the credit to the men of the movements, saying, “When a woman in whom this promoting impulse is strong feels any spiritual power in a man or a movement, she quickly and completely becomes a kind of active reflector.” Hapgood is essentially saying that Dodge is just a very “good” woman because her work is to promote men. This is somewhat amusing because Dodge actively supported the work of female artists in The Village just as much as male ones. Sadly, Hapgood even takes more of the credit away from her and back to a masculine source by citing the Christian God. He claims Dodge “believes she is controlled by God.” Interestingly enough, Dodge frequently denounces patriarchal Christianity and in her own writing refers to herself as “Fate.” Dodge even writes in “The Mirror” that she “is God.” Hapgood accurately attests Dodge’s massive impact, but his piece stands as a reminder that even the radicals of The Village were heavily swayed by sexism.


Creator

Hutchins Hapgood

Source

Intimate Memories

Publisher

University of New Mexico Press

Date

1914

Format

Text

Language

English

Type

News Column

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

A Promoter of the Spirit
There is a woman in New York City who is a promoter of the spirit. . . . We are all familiar in America with promoters in business, in land speculation, in philanthropy, but not so familiar with promoters of the sport [sic].
This woman came to New York City about four months ago, a stranger to the town, and for many years to the country. . . .
I imagine her real purpose in coming here was to help advertise, exploit, and promote, what she thought was a new and important form of art, the kind of thing people now refer to as post-impressionism. She was associated with the big exhibition of modern art at the armory. . . . She made of her pleasant Fifth Avenue apartment a kind of “salon,” in which . . . the spirit of post-impressionistic literature was continually promoted.
She believed she was called on by God to help a new spiritual impulse to take possession of the earth.
Then she felt herself called to the labor movement. She felt called upon to promote, advertise and exploit the spirit of the Paterson Strike. Surrounded by men and women in the thick of this great industrial conflict she felt something new in the spirit of the Paterson workers. She felt that this spirit ought to have the chance to take possession of the world. So she started out to promote and advertise it. At a gathering of radicals and strike leaders at which I was present, I heard her imagine and suggest the great strike pageant which took place last Saturday in Madison Square Garden. It was her idea, and it was the act of an imaginative press agent of a high order. Then, in the two weeks preparation, she threw herself into the game, sustaining, encouraging, and promoting the enterprise.
In one way . . . this woman has accomplished a great deal in these four months. She has got in behind what she thought is the beginning of a new impulse of the spirit in art and life and has pushed with all her might. She has been successful in helping to bring out into the light of day important impulses in the development of our time.
One of the immemorial functions of women is to stand behind, to encourage, to cheer, to stimulate— whether it is in the bringing up of children or, failing these, in the close personal enhancement of a man’s activities, or of men’s activities. To promote something, whether it is a child’s growth and character, or the ideas and tendencies and work of men, has always been one of the passions of women.
When a woman in whom this promoting impulse is strong feels any spiritual power in a man or a movement, she quickly and completely becomes a kind of active reflector. She reflects and at the same time intensifies his direction . . . in order to enhance, set free, to promote the spirit that he represents.
The woman I refer to says she is nothing in herself. And this, in a way, is true. Before she becomes anything, she must be possessed— possessed by the spirit of something else. . . .
So she does not create anything. She only promotes. But she promotes the best she can find. . . .
This woman acts entirely on instinct. She knows and thinks of nothing except the thing that possesses her at the moment. . . . She believes she is controlled by God; that her every strong impulse is divine. . . .
. . . I am sure that she has with uncritical, instinctive emotion promoted in these recent months very good things.