Smithsonian Magazine - 11.2019

(Joyce) #1


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6 SMITHSONIAN.COM | November 2019

Corrections:In “The Suspect in City Hall” we said
William O’Dwyer was awarded a general’s stripe for Army
service during World War II. In fact, the insignia for a
general is a star.

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THE ARTICLE in October’s “Secrets of American History” issue
that prompted the most passionate responses was “Sidelined,”
by Susan Dominus, about Margaret Rossiter’s eff orts to spotlight
overlooked female scientists. “No woman should ever again be
subjected to the ‘Matilda Eff ect,’” Linda Bergofsky of Poolesville,
Maryland, wrote, using Rossiter’s term for the phenomenon of
men getting credit for women’s achievements. “As a woman in
medicine...I had never heard of most of these women scientists,”
wrote Laura E. Al-Sayed of Missouri. “It is lovely to see these ac-
complished women fi nally ‘unearthed,’ but very sad to think of all
the women who were driven away before ever having a chance to
succeed.” Readers also praised the novelist Ken Follett’s ode to No-
tre Dame: “He brought the building of this magnifi cent cathedral
to life,” noted Sandra Alawine of Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


American Indian History
“The Trigger,” about George Washington’s role in the
French and Indian War, was interesting, but two maps
were distressing. Swaths of color showed the areas of
North and Central America claimed by European na-
tions. The key identifi ed the uncolored areas as “title
not established.” It would be more accurate to label
those areas (as well as the colored areas) “lands of Na-
tive Americans.” Smithsonian should not be promul-
gating European colonialist views in the 21st century,
at the expense of Native Americans.
— Pat Delo | West Springfi eld, Massachusetts

Prince’s Power
In “Making Purple Rain,” author Amanda Petrusich
says it “has always been something of a mystery” how
Prince “was able to conjure such gleeful and trans-
porting melodies.” The truth is more prosaic. I’m a
studio musician and songwriter and know people
who worked closely with Prince, and they all say he
worked harder and longer than anyone they had ever
met. It’s tempting to ascribe magical qualities to him,
but there is no mystery: It boils down to hours and
hours of solitary work, and fearlessly confronting the
things that keep you from achieving what you want.
— Seth Glassman | Pound Ridge, New York

Oklahoma Uprising
I greatly enjoyed Richard Grant’s account of the
Green Corn Rebellion (“Rebellion in Seminole Coun-
ty”), but surely it is an overstatement that an abor-
tive insurrection by a few hundred backcountry rab-
ble a century ago “wrecks” the notion of American
exceptionalism. Our national saga has at times fol-
lowed a complicated path, but a few aberrational up-
risings do not refute de Tocqueville’s conclusion that
America was—and remains—an egalitarian society
uniquely suited to democratic self-government.
— Mark Pulliam | Knoxville, Tennessee

The Woman Behind the Curtain
Matilda Gage’s contributions to the work of Marga-
ret Rossiter and American feminism (“Sidelined”)
are undeniable, but she made other contributions as
well. Her daughter, Maude Gage, married L. Frank
Baum, author of the “Oz” books. It takes no great
stretch of the imagination to see Matilda’s presence
in such forthright female characters as Dorothy
Gale, Princess Ozma and Glinda the Good Witch.
— Fred Erisman | Fort Worth, Texas

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