Newspaper Page Text
The Omaha Sunday ' Bee
Go Into 1h Horn
THE OMAHA DEC
FAQIS 1 TO 4.
VOL. XXXVII NO. 82.
OMAIIA, SUNDAY MORNING, . JANUARY 26, 1908.
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
SARAH S. PLATT DECKER LEADER IN WOMAN'S MOVEMENT
Character Sketch of a Woman Who is Officially Listed in Her Home Town as "Doing Nothing" and Yet Has More Activity Than the Average Man Would Care to Assume as His Share of World's Work
OMAHA li to have a it guest thl week on ot the most
distinguished of American women Mr. Sarah a Piatt
Decker ot Denver. Alter this simpl addres might b
written a long list of title and office h ha and U11
hold bearjng testimony to the Justlc of her claim to th
distinction that la hers, but Just now the women of the land Ilk best
to speak of her a "Mr. Decker, president of th General Federation
of Women' Clubs." ,
To tell who Mrs. Decker Is would bo almost superfluous, whll
what she Is could scarcely be better expressed than It wa by on
of the papers of her home city: "A woman who stands for all that
Is progressive, all that 1 good and all that 1 womanly." A com
pliment indeed. ' ,
This will not be Mrs. Decker first visit to Omaha. She ha
been here several times before in the capacity of club woman, but
this time she comes also as one of the chief speakers before the
Conference ot Charities and Corrections this afternoon and Monday,
as well as the guest of the club women of Omaha and of the Second
district of the Nebraska Federation, which convenes here this week
in conjunction with th conference.
Wherever th woman' club is known, wherever charities and
corrections, child and woman labor reform, civil service reform or
Juvenile court work are known in this country "Mrs. Decker's name
la household word. For years these several interests and others
have had her sympathy and support and it has been a support that
has given them impetus. Despite her varied interests and activities,
however, Mrs. Decker can inno sense be classed with those person
who "belong" to things Just because they are popular or profitable.
Membership to her means responsibility and it is an axiom in her
city and state that when Mr. Decker takes hold there is something ,
Fine Example of Woman
Mrs. Decker is a conspicuous example of the possibilities of th
woman of wealth and social position who chooses to take a serious
part in the serious work of the world. There are few men or women
upon whom aro xiade heavier demands of a public or private nature,
but she Is peculiarly as well as fortunately fitted to meet thes
demands. A woman of more than ordinary wealth, she has In addi
tion the culture and the education that combined with a brilliant
mind and exceptional executive ability enable her to take a promi
nent part in whatever may enlist her Interest. And to all of this
nature ha added a robuBt constitution, without which she could
have compassed but a fraction of the heavy work she has carried
for years. And then there is a personality that never falls to attract
all who come within its range. Strength, big heartedness, wide sym
pathy and a never falling humor make up a combination that Is
Jrrtslstable and that is an important factor in her capacity for
A native of Vermont, she was reared in one of those sturdy
New England homes where' character was placed above accomplish
ments, but where education and culture were appreciated fof their
full value. She Is not a college bred woman, but she has made the
most of her exceptional talents and the result Is an education broad
and practical. Combined with her eastern rearing, she has that
progressive, energetic alertness that 1 characteristic of the westerner
end that has resulted from her years of reuldence in 'Denver. And ,
' in this matter of nativity and residence Mrs. Decker has enjoyed
another advantage. There is a tradition that. Independent of its
Justice, Is widely prevalent, that the easterner is reluctant at least
to concede that his equal in culture and education can come from the
west. This feeling ha been more noticeable among women perhaps
than among men, and because ot her sympathy and understanding
of. both sections Mrs. Decker has been free from this handicap and
the friction Incidental to it. An eastern woman by Wrth and a
western woman by adoption, she has done more than almost any'
other oae person in bringing about a better understanding and closer
syirpathy between th women of the east and the women of the west
in the General Federation of Women Clubs. So loyally and so truly
. does she stand for both that her closest friends claim her heart la
as much in one place as the other. s
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ncs8ed In a body of the character ot the biennial. Ignoring her
refusal, she was nominated aualn and again from the floor. Seeing
the detemili-ation of the house, Mrs. Decker rose from her seat in
the balcony nd declared she would not accept the office It she was
elected, but ll was not until she came to the rostrum and again
refused absolutely to serve that the convention subsided. Two year
later at St. Louts, when Mr. Dennlson had refused to serve another
term, Mrs. Decker allowed her name to be proposed as a candidate,
and her election was unanimous. At the St. Paul biennial in June,
1906, Mrs. Decker was unaLimously re-elected for a second term
and since that time has visited nearly every state federation in the
countn- for the finnunl state convention, strengthening club work
and gaining Inspiration.
And lasides being president ot the General Federation of Wo
men's Clubs, Mrs. Decker is a member of the National Child Lfcbor
ccr..nilttee, the National Juvenile Improvement association, the Na
tional Civics association and of the State Board of Charities and
Corrections ot Coiorado. In all of which organizations she actually
Woman Suffragist Also
Yes, and Mrs. Decker is a woman suffragist, too. She belluea
In it ilrmly and liux had an active part in the municipal and utate
politics of Denver and Colorado since the enfranchisement of me
wouion of that state. Upon the death of her husband. Judge Piatt
of Denver, the assumed the munagement of his estate for their
daughter, her only child, and herself. Eight years ago she married
Judge William S. Decker of Deuver, and a few years' later wa again
left a widow. Ia the management of her own business Interests
Mrs. Decker baye kLo Las come to appreciate more fully the iid
vantages the women of her state enjoy over women of tha. state
where they are less privileged politically.
Never have the women qt the deneral Federation of Women'
Clubs paid Mrs. Decker a greater compliment than when tliy s?
' lected her to present the long tabooed BUbject of woman suffrage
teiore the St. Louis biennial. So tactfully and so clearly did she
present it that Lefore the had concluded the majority of even ina
conservative women in the audience had made the surprising dis
covery that they had always believed in her doctrine. There was
nothing unwou.an) ror dangerous in the privilege as she presented
it. But with equal tocl sne has helped prevent this question comnig
before the biennials as an Issue, knowing that the General Federa
tion was not yet .-eady for it '
But she does advocate women Interesting themselves in civil
ervice reform. She has urged It upon club women as a positive duty
to inform themselves regarding the condition and management of
the various public Institutions maintained for the care of unfortu
nates. "This work," she says, "is not politics, it is religion." It is
upon this subject, civil service reform, that Mr. Decker will speak
in Omaha. It is not only the privilege but the duty of the mother
of the land to inform themselves upon the vital subjects of the day,
she claims. While heartily in sympathy with all that pertains to
culture and education, she is intensely practical, and one of her
favorite stories is of a town that supported three or four Shakespeare
and Browning societies, but that was appallingly run down at th
heels from a civic standpoint.
SARAH S. PLATT-DBCKER.
Orator and Parliamentarian
In spite of the numerous and varied revelation that have de
veloped with the new woman the public 1 tlll disposed to evince
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surprise mat tnere may oe prawrt uuuuk mem. ouuw ui
defined an orator as one who ha something to say and know how
to say it. This is true of Mrs. Decker. And more, she is recognized
uinong the most gifted speaker before the public today. Forceful
and convincing in personality, she ha ready wit. a fund of fgood
stories and a sense of humor that serve to strengthen her logic
and to soften the plain truths she tells. She has a fluent and rare
command of language and a magnetism that ways her audience and
holds 'it, too, even beyond the range of her strong voice. Repeatedly
Mr. Decker has held congregations of thousand while she has pre;
ronted the cause of some reform and the smiles and tears have
tucreeded each other alternately upon the face of her (auditors.
Wherever sho speaks, whether it'be an educational, Industrial or
some session in the interest of eform, she.is a "drawing card." As a
presiding officer she ha few equals. A skilled parliamentarian, she
also ha that other essential, especially in gatherings ot women,
of inspiring the timid one a well as holding the attention of all.
This ability she repeatedly demonstrated Vetor the Immense audi
ence that attended all the sessions ot the biennial convention ot the
General Federation of Women' Clubs held at St. Paul In June, 1906.
They were audience of thinking men and women; picked representa
tive ot every state in the union, with generous delegation from
Canada and abroad also. What the physical strain of those seven
days must have been no one in the house or even In the "press
boxes" at the toot of the rostrum could guess. There was no indica
tion of weariness or impatience, as she presided through the full
and frequently perplexing morning and evening sessions of every
d? . And Mrs. Decker has never committed herseir unless it was
p brief report she made after the meeting in wblch'she said: "And
(1 :i wonderful audiences! When the message reached the desk that
rut ritprht that there were 6,000 people in the hall and that 2,000
iv, ore had ben turned away and one policeman mauhed flat the
diM-oittlon of the presiding officer wa to send for a return ticket
and 1 ave oi the midnight train. The very thought'of facing such a
multitude for seven days was appalling even to the stoutest heart."
But if Mrs. Decker was appalled no one guessed It, and th local
pupet marveled at -such a convention of women.
1 . Mrs. Decker's Occupation
Put it ha not always been clear sailing for Mr. Decker. .How
t'.tr, she refuse to be disturbed because women and their work are
not taken more seriously by men. She Is An optimist by nature and
btt'fdey that experience has only served to strengthen her confidence
in an ultimate satisfactory adjustment of things. She Is a rare Btory
teller and nothing can better portray th situation a abe has found
it tban the following which she tell of herself. Her name had been
attached to petition to th city council ot Denver, but she- had
failed to Indicate her occupation. Upon this point a man was sent
to ber home to inquire. ,4
"What is your occupation, madam? he inquired.
" 'I m a housekeeper, sir,' I replied confidently and proudly,"
relate Mrs. Decker.
"Well, that doesn't count," replied the man promptly.
" 'Well. I am both father and mother to my family.' I an
nounced." "That doesn't count neither," he replfed firmly.
"Well, I transact all my own business." she said briskly. "I
collect my own rent and manage all my own affair." (Mr.
Docker ha a private fortune that It would keep the ordinary man
busy taking car of.) v-
"Ilav you got an ofllo down townt" Inquired th man.
"No, she said. "I transact all my business from my desk here
In my home."
"Ah, that doesn't count neither," the man replied obdurately.
v" "Well, sir." aaid Mrs. Decker at last. "I am president of the
General Federation of" Women's Clubs, an organization of over
800,000 women, and I attend to all my own correspondence," confi
dent this time that she had provided something worthy the name
of occupation; but that man Just took out his memorandum book
and said, "Well, I'll Just put you down as not doln anything."
Her Experience in Declining
An0 so Mrs. iiecker was classed In the city and state that
bettor than any other have had opportunity to know of her work
and her worth. For years she had been one of the workers In the
Woman' Christian Temperance union and -the Woman's club of
Denver. She served as president of the latter organization and later
a president pf the Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs. She
first came prominently before' the General Federation of Women's
Clubs when it held its fourth, biennial convention in Denver nine
year ago. . It was she who superintended the entertainment of the
convention, which wa the first of the really big biennial, and
which stillBtands unsurpassed. At that time th convention would
have honored Mrs. Decker with the presidency of the General Feder
ation, but she declined the honor, and Incidentally established the
precedent that practically eliminates the hostess city from the presi
dents contest if there chances to be one. But as- Mr. Decker'
popularity permitted her to establish precedents It also enabled her
to break them if she chose, but she did not choose to do so, and two
years later at the Milwaukee biennial, when her friends would have
violated the unwritten law that concedes a second term to each
president, she for a second time declined 'the honor, and Mrs.
Rebeca Douglas Lowe of Atlanta, Ga., was elected president. When
the convent loi met at Los Angeles two years later Mrs. Decker'
friends were determined she should accept the presidency of the
General Federation, but again she declined, Insisting that Mr.
Demies T. S. Dennison of New York, the vice president, who had
carried the burdens of the chief executive office during Mrs. Lowe'
absence in Europe the greater part of the term, should next have
the honor as well as the work of the first offlce. Following this
decision there came a demonstration such as seldom has been wit-
Her Outline of Woman's Work
Summed up, this busy woman cannot be more Justly estimated
than as the recognized competent leader of the great organization
of women, the General Federation of Women' Clubs, the purpose of
which she has outlined as follows:
"The General Federation 1b not a reform rganlzation per se.
It 1 broadly sympathetic with reform, but it is not a propaganda.
It is not philanthropic distinctly, though one ot the' greatest agencies
of the day for the careful study of methods and genuine helpfulness
In this direction. It la not purely sociological, though with living
interests and a splendid record for service In ths uplifting work. It
is In no sense political, yet its Influence and power are to be seen
in every state legislature, and it has the proud boast of having been'
a great factor in passing a long disputed federal measure through
the senate during a recent session of congress. It cannot be called
an academy or museum of art, yet one of the greatest authorities
of the age has said that the years ot study and demonstration In
the clubs and federations have proven the wonderful results shown
In the school room decorations and much of the arts and crafts
movement by which a' genuine love for and knowledge of art la
being instilled into the coming men and women. It id not a uni
versity, yet a surprising stimulus has been given to the study of
literature, science and history in hundreds and hundreds of American
home because of the club membership of mother or daughter. It
has no bureau of publicity, yet through Its membership of clubs and
federations ha been more far-reaching in decsemlnatlng knowledge
and arousing public sentiment upon the questions which make for
good citizenship than any, other body of workers because of its broad
inclusive lines and wide outlook."
Odd Corners in the Capitol That Are Little Known
WASHINGTON Jan. 26. The mora
one finds out about the capitol at
Washington, the more one realizes
that no other building in this coun
try approaches it in interest. There
are other buildings which are bis or beautiful or
historic. But for size, beauty and constantly
growing historical Importance, all rolled together,
the grand old capitol sits supreme.
Anyone who has tried to find out things about
the building has had convincing proof of its com
plexity. The number of things which aay one
official does know about it is surpassed only by. the
number of things he does not know. The place
is a labyrinth in more ways than one.
There are out-of-the-way corners,-queer little
rooms, winding stairs, dusty attics and a vast un
derworld of which even the congressmen them-
selves never dream. As for the tourist, he gets a
crick in the back of his neck by taking a ground
hog, view of the dome, acquires another crick
this time In his artistic perception by viewing
some of the ornaments ot Statuary hall, plunk
hlmslf though it is generally herself Into the
vice president' chair, if the gentleman himself is
absent, and gulps a few facts about Uncle Joe's
. domain in the house. But there are volumes of
history and acres of space which he does not sus
pect, much lees inspect. ' 1
There are over 430 rooms in the capitol. They
range in size from the hall ot the house of rep
resentatives, which 1 1S9 by 9S feet, to mere
crap of rooms hardly large enough to hold a ta
ble and a couple of chairs.
Some ot these little rooms are practically
within the great walls which form the foundations
of th rotunda; they are mere cells, circular in
shape, but have served, nevertheless, a the pri
vate offices of congressmen.
JuBt what will be done with them now that the
representatives have their offices in the new build
ing la not definitely decided. But the whole cap
itol 1 so crowded tliat every Inch ot space will b
Another cubby hole of Importance is just inside
the entrance to the ground floor of the house
wing; it a tucked in under the stairs, and proba
bly not one in a hundred of those who pass so
close to it knows of its existence. This is the key
room. It is fitted up with all the paraphernalia
of a locksmith's shop, that, being preciuelywhat
When in his absorption in the cares ot state a
representative has left his desk key In his other
clothes, or httR lost it outright, the locksmith
comes to the rescue. He has complete sets of
duplicate keys, not only for the house desks, but
for committee rooms a well.
If the emergency is only temporary he opens
the dc-fck with a duplicate key. If the original is
actually lost be makes another to take its place.
As this service is entirely free, perhaps the con
gressmen are more careless than the ordinary In
dividual who has to pay for a similar job. At any
rate, they do say that the(locksinlth Is one of the
busiest men in the building.
The capitol is a world In itself, ft contains
book stores, drug stores, barber shops, restaurants,
baths, hardware store, postoffices, machine shop,
carpenter shop, banks, libraries, blacksmith shop,
boiler rooms, police station, telephone, telegraph
and messenger service, plumpers and electricians,
storerooms, repair shops, stenographers, physi
cians, preachers and even a bier upon which one's
coffin might Us in state. This sounds rather com-'
prehenslve, but It Is actually true.
To take the list in order. The book stores are
two in number. In fact, almost everything at the
capitol goes in pairs, one for the senate and one
for the house. The book stores, are the stationery
Each senator and representative is allowed
1126 a year for stationery. In the past that gen
eral head has covered a wide variety ot articles.
Up to a few weeks ago one could see In the show
case of the senate stationery room the most elabo
rate feminine fancies Ia card cases, pocketbook
and photograph casosv
Senators who did not need $12 6 worth of pa
per, blank books, pens, clips, etc., were allowed
to take out the balance in items which must have '
been extremely welcome to the female members
of thlr families. The knlcknacks have disap
peared from ths stationery room now and the sen
ators are dealing strictly in the usual items, to
which they are allowed to add the expense of such
newspapers as they subscribe for.
The drug stores are not elaborate; still they
contain a supply of the commoner remedies, as
well as som.e things for use in emergencies. The
barber shops are well known. Within the last
few years they have been very much improved.
The senators, by the way, are barbered free of
charge in their shop. At the house end members
pay for their shaves and hair cuts.
The baths adjoin the barber shop. Some of
the tubs are cut from solid marble, but most of
them are porcelain-lined. They will not be In so
great demand now tbat the office buildings will
Eupply better accommodations. In connection
with the bath rooms there are resting rooms,
where member can receive electrical treatments.
The restaurants are familiar to all capitol vis
itors. It is declared that capitol pies have a spe
cial delectabfe quaUty. The restaurant on the
house side has been enlarged within a' few years.
The postoffice, libraries and banks come in
pairs, one each for the senate and for the house.
The bank is not strictly a bank, but it looks Ilk
one and acts pretty much like one. It is the dis
bursing offlce where salaries are paid, money
changed, checks cashed, etc., but only, of course,
Down in the subbasement and in the marble
terrace along the west tront you could find, if any
one should guide you, the hardware store, the car
penter shop and all the other items which sound
o Irrelevant to the profession of law-making.
They all come under the control of the superln- .
tendent of the capitol, Elliott Woods.
The division of authority, by the way, Is on
ot th moat peculiar thing about th capltoL Mr,
Woods has control of the heating, lighting, venti
lating, repairs and alterations, the care of the
grounds,, of the engine house (fire) and the" bIT
bles, refurnishing and reconstruction, as well as
much' new construction. But under him the chief
clerk of the house control one group of supplies,
the sergeant-at-arms Is bos of something else and
the secretary of the senate of something else.
The doorkeepers run the galleries. The po
licing of the capitol is under the control of a board
composed of the sergeant-at-arms of the senate
and the superintendent of the capitol. But th
supreme authority goes back of this board and In
the senate belongs to the vice president, In the
house to the speaker and in the central part of the
building to the superintendent of the capitol. And
o it goes.
In the superintendent' domain below stair
you will find the hardware store, with every con
ceivable article for the use of carpenters and elec
tricians. Not far off one opens a door and finds
a carpenter busily sawing and nailing, making
.chests and railing and shelve and what not-
Painters, decorators, tllemakers, and elec
tricians are coming and going. There are about
20,000 incandescent lights in the capitol. These,
togetner with the wiring for telephones and elec
tire bells, it which there are hundreds, keep
corps of men busy all the time.
The great ventilating systems by which over
60,000 feet of fresh air Is supplied to the house of
representatives and a proportionate amount to th
senate occupy part of the subbasement. People
walking through the grounds often' wonder what
Is the purpose of two low vine-grown stone tower
several hundred feet from the building. They are
the nostrils through which fresh air is drawn for
the capitol to breathe.
A big oil painting hangs on the white wall of
the guage room of the ventilating plant. It is a
pretty poor painting in spite of it gilt frame and
brass plate. The latter state that the subject of
.(Continued on Pag Four.),