This Month in Ebell History: March 1896

by Loyce Braun

Buggies AD-LoyceBraunIn March of 1896, the nicely printed little Ebell Bulletin features an essay asking the question, “What Is The Ebell?”  “The Ebell,” the writer says, “stands for logical reasoning and correct thinking, for the betterment of uplifting of women, in its broadest and strictest sense an organization for improvement of educated women, through advancement in culture.”

To further this purpose, the Ebell’s constitution “provides for the organization of sections or classes for the study of special subjects.”  Departments in 1896 included music, physical culture, and German, and the bulletin describes lectures during the month which examined, among other subjects, the  “great English Philosophers,” The English artists Joshua Reynolds and Angelica Kaufman, and “the urgent need for improvement in the treatment of prisoners.”  A planned presentation on geology unfortunately had to be canceled, but Mr. A.M. Shields graciously stepped in and read his paper on “the California Condor and other birds bordering on extinction.”  “We are reminded,” Mr. Shields observed, “of women’s inhumanity to birds, with entire species being exterminated for their plumage to serve the commercial millinery business.”  Women could, however, Mr. Shields demurred, in clean conscience “adorn their hats to their hearts content” with the feathers of that ubiquitous interloper, the English Sparrow.

Another fascinating and well-received program featured a Dr. Davidson who lectured on “Trap Door Spiders,” a species I remember searching for in the fields surrounding my house at 130th Street and Budlong in south Los Angeles in 1952.

Even in 1896, the Ebell Bulletin featured advertising – for Chickering and Knabe Pianos, for Title Insurance, for Dry Goods available at the N.B. Blackstone Company, for Shoes from Avery-Staub Shoe Company and for all kinds of “buggies” offered by Hawley King and Company.

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