The League’s Legends & Legacies


 

Phyllis Fergus and Pen Women Composers at the White House

By Marian Wilson Kimber
Professor of Musicology, University of Iowa

Phyllis Fergus (1887–1964) was the first musician president of the National League of American Pen Women. Energetic and ambitious, Fergus wanted to organize concerts of music by women composers all over the country. She believed that national recognition for women’s music could be achieved through performances at governor’s mansions in every state. While she was not successful in achieving this aim, Fergus did arrange two historic concerts of music by Pen Women at the White House.

As a composer, she specialized in “story poems,” pieces combining spoken word with piano accompaniment, frequently humorous works that dealt with courtship, marriage, and children. Fergus graduated from Smith College and the American Conservatory of Music, and was active in Chicago music clubs. She became a Pen Woman in 1924.

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Dorothy Langdon Timmons: A Des Moines Branch Icon

Dorothy Langdon Timmons, a Des Moines Branch member who celebrated her 100th birthday last December, is an inspiration to talented women who lack the opportunity to realize their creative potential until middle age.

She never hesitated to take on a challenge or be a trailblazer. When Dorothy was just 10 years old, her family lived in Hornersville, a tiny Missouri town bordering Tennessee and Arkansas. The town didn’t have any schools, so her parents put her on a train to Bellbuckle, Tennessee, to attend Webb Preparatory School.

In 1927, Webb was an all-boys’ boarding school that allowed local girls to attend classes. That didn’t discourage Dorothy, and she lived with the family of the assistant headmaster.

With few female extracurricular activities, she participated with the boys. Young Dorothy had an interest in acting and took the leading role in every play — even portraying a boy — according to her daughter, Nancy Timmons Eisinger.

Following graduation, Timmons attended Sweetbriar College in Virginia for a year and then, the University of Missouri, where she graduated with a bachelor’s of science in elementary education and a minor in applied art.

Timmons says that since childhood, she was fascinated by colors, textures, and shapes. She always wanted to paint, and college gave her the opportunity.

At the University of Missouri, a sorority sister arranged a blind double date, introducing Timmons to her future husband, John, an environmental economist. They married in 1937 and he took a job in a governmental agency in Washington, D.C.

Read the full story by Linda Hodges and Pat Underwood, Des Moines Branch.

Editor’s note:  As we prepare for the 2018 Biennial in Des Moines, Iowa, we are delighted to feature this legend from the Des Moines Branch.

 


Virginia Campbell King Frye

Jennie Campbell King Frye, seen here in her younger years, was a lifelong active member of the League.

Virginia Campbell King Frye (1861-1939), known as Jennie, was an established writer of short stories, magazine articles, and poetry. She had just been offered the position of editor of Mother’s Magazine when her husband was transferred to Washington, D.C. Like so many women who are forced to choose between career and family — even today — she turned down the offer and moved with their six children to D.C. And yet, her creativity flourished in her new environment.

The original League charter, framed, is displayed in the Pen Arts library. Dues were originally set at $1 per year.

In June 1897, Frye gathered with 16 other writers, journalists, and illustrators at the home of Margaret Sullivan Burke, the first woman to be admitted to the Press Gallery of Congress, along with Alice Longfellow O’Donoghue, to form a literary club. According to an article by Frye, the group became affiliated with the National Editorial Association and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Although the officers at first were to be residents of D.C., membership in the Pen Women organization was open nationally.

Read the full story by Frances Patton Statham,  Atlanta Branch.

 


Pauline ‘Polly’ Dages

Polly Dages self-portrait, oil

Polly Dages self-portrait, oil

Polly Dages has been a member of the league since 1973. as her life caused her to relocate, she just transferred her membership from a branch in North Carolina to Fort lauderdale and back again, and now is a member of the Yucca Branch in New Mexico.

At age 92, Polly attended the Biennial in Washington, D.C. in April 2016, and was at every luncheon and event, sharing her gracious smile with everyone around her.

Polly is defnitely a legend in the world of decoupage, repousse, moulage and other forms of sculptured decoupage. She studied oils at the University of Texas under Howard Tucker and began her experience with decoupage under the tutelage of Louise Hoyt, who was president of the National Guild of Decoupuers. She was a member of the National Guild of authentic Decoupuers, of which there were only 125 such artists in the world in 1973.

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