'I'm aware of ethics. That's the only thing connected to auctions I'm aware of. I feel it's a business that's been very low in ethics and somebody has got to start somewhere. I don't want to be the guardian angel, but those are my ethics.’’
Emma Bailey (1910-1999)
First female nationally recognized auctioneer from Brattleboro, VT, in reference to an auctioneer's practice of buying merchandise outright, pretending to sell it to a fictitious bidder if the price isn't high enough for an auctioneer's liking, and then re-auctioning the same piece at a later auction for a better price
Happy Sunday, WeCAN friends. This week is our last foray into Women's History in Vermont as part of Women's History Month and we'd like to close out the week with a pioneer in the field of Auctioneering. This week we feature Emma Bailey: a Western Avenue, Brattleboro resident and the first female auctioneer recognized by the National Auctioneers Association.
We Will Sell Anything—From a Plate to an Estate: Emma Bailey, First Woman Auctioneer
In 1945, Emma Bailey moved to Brattleboro, VT with her husband and two children. Since their new home was an old house in need of repair, and the family was having difficulty paying bills, Emma decided to start an auction business to supplement her husband's income. In April 1950, Bailey placed the following advertisement in the local newspaper:
“The Bailey Auction Barn on Black Mountain Road is prepared to handle auction sales. Courteous and efficient handling of all consignments, large or small. We will sell anything—from a plate to an estate, signed: Emma Bailey, Brattleboro's Woman Auctioneer.”
On May 12, 1950, Bailey sold her first item: a 50-year-old rocking chair for a price of $2.50. Her Saturday auctions soon became a regular local event, and her family helped out: Bailey's husband organized the sale items, and her daughters did the record-keeping and sold concessions. Bailey sold a wide range of items, including antiques, farm tools, books, and household furniture.
During her time as auctioneer, Bailey encountered some opposition based on her gender: in 1950 a male competitor sought to bar Mrs. Bailey from conducting her first auction, seizing on a zoning code regulation that he said made it illegal for her to conduct sales in the barn on her property. She overcame this obstacle and began regular auctions. Mrs. Bailey was one who also took firm exception to criticism of women auctioneers lacking stamina: “I have sold for eight solid hours without a break—a feat most men find difficult” she said.*
In 1952, after applying to the National Auctioneers Association, Bailey was accepted as the first female member of the Association. Later, when Bailey and a rival male auctioneer both expressed interest in the same sale, the man proposed that he should get the sale because "he had a family to support", whereas Bailey already had a working husband. Bailey lost the sale. ''This male auctioneer used sex in reverse to get that sale,'' she said to the Christian Science Monitor in 1982^. "He used it many times," she continued, "(but) I never used it. I didn't want the sex to be the tool. Men sell cars; women sell cars. There's no reason I can't sell antiques and understand them as well as a man.''
Despite her induction to the National Auctioneer's Association, Bailey was not always well supported by her peers. In 1960, when a reporter inquired about women auctioneers, the Association's response was that "although a woman had tried auctioneering in Vermont, she had found it too hard and quit". This was news to Mrs. Bailey as she was very active that year. In response, Mrs. Bailey had this to say: ''I took up auctioneering as a way to meet a specific need and not have to leave the house five days a week,'' she says. ''Oh, I could still auction if I wanted to, but I'd rather not. I keep turning them down. If I do it for one, I must do them for all.''^
She continued her auction sales for almost 20 years, before retiring "at the peak of her career" in the late 1960s. She wrote a book about her experiences, titled Sold to the Lady in the Green Hat (1962). For years after her retirement, Mrs. Bailey would still receive letters from fans and well-wishers: ''We still get letters from people, beginning in March and April, from way off in Oshkosh and such, saying: 'When I was a little girl, I used to come to your auctions, bring a picnic lunch, and sit under the trees during the sale. I'd like to come and bring my children. When are you having your next one?' I have to write back and say, 'I'm sorry but I'm retired now. It's like the old saying: Leave a party while you still want to dance.'' Mrs. Emma Bailey passed away in 1999 at the rumored age of 89.+
"These days I write more consciously and willingly. Sometimes I trick myself into writing to escape more daunting tasks like arranging dinner-parties or washing the kitchen floor. More often I write to expunge the memories and images I have been carrying around for years. When I succeed in putting those moments down on paper, I feel liberated from them in both positive and negative ways. It’s as if I’ve stepped outside those experiences and have objectified them so that they are no longer a part of me. I still ‘own’ them but they no longer own me."
Irish Born Poet and University of Vermont Senior Lecturer
Friends, this week has been incredibly difficult. We want to once again thank you for your continued community efforts in and around Windham County and for your core moral belief in justice and equality. At times it can feel like your presence at an event or meeting doesn't matter when so much is happening around us; take this email as a gentle reminder that your very presence at a meeting or event alters it, for the better. You are valuable, you are needed, and you matter.Read more
"We must teach ourselves to believe that peace is not a 'utopian vision', but a responsibility that must be worked for each and every day."
Jody Williams (1950-Present)
Anti-Landmine Activist, Author of My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, and Windham County, VT Resident
This week, WeCAN readers, we will explore the life and career of 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Putney, VT resident Jody Williams as part of our nod to Women’s History Month.
Ms. Williams was studying international politics in the 1980s when she became involved in aid work in war-torn El Salvador. Landmines were a constant threat to the civilian population and she was given responsibility for providing artificial limbs for children who had lost arms and legs.
From 1991 on Jody Williams was a driving force in the launching of an international campaign against landmines. By 1997, thanks to her strength and organizational talent, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) had 1,000 organizations from 60 countries on its list of members. At that time she became the 10th woman – and third American woman – in its almost 100-year history to receive the Prize. Since her protests of the Vietnam War she has been a life-long advocate of freedom, self-determination and human and civil rights.+
The Ottawa Convention, which was signed by 120 states and entered into force in 1999, will always be associated with the names of Jody Williams and the ICBL. It banned the use, production, sale, and stock-piling of anti-personnel mines. In addition it contained provisions concerning mine clearance and the obligation to provide humanitarian assistance.*
Like others who have seen the ravages of war, she is an outspoken peace activist who struggles to reclaim the real meaning of peace – a concept which goes far beyond the absence of armed conflict and is defined by human security, not national security. Williams believes that working for peace is not for the faint of heart. It requires dogged persistence and a commitment to sustainable peace, built on environmental justice and meeting the basic needs of the majority of people on our planet.
Since January of 2006, Jody Williams has worked toward those ends through the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which she chairs. Along with sister Nobel Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi of Iran, she took the lead in establishing the Nobel Women’s Initiative. They were joined at that time by sister Nobel Laureates Wangari Maathai (Kenya), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) and Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire (Northern Ireland). The Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and the influence and access of the women Nobel Laureates themselves to support and amplify the efforts of women around the world working for sustainable peace with justice and equality.
She holds the Sam and Cele Keeper Endowed Professorship in Peace and Social Justice at the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston where she has been teaching since 2003. In academic year 2012-2013, she became the inaugural Jane Addams Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Social Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Her memoir on life as a grassroots activist, My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize was released by the University of California Press in early 2013. Click here for more information on Jody's work.
*Jody Williams – Facts. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2019. Sun. 10 Mar 2019. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1997/williams/facts/>
From WeCAN Reader Ann Smith of Lean Left, VT:
The Koch Brothers have a long term strategy to control the judiciary across the country. This year’s battle is the WI Supreme Court, where they hope to elect Scott Walker’s former legal counsel on April 2.
You can fight back by donating to Lisa Neubauer: https://judgeneubauer.com/contribute/
Read more on the Koch Bros plans: https://americansforprosperity.org/afp-scale-efforts-courts-2018/
Read more on the WI race: http://votingmatters.blog/2019/03/kochs-buying-judiciary/
"Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women…know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled…in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish.”
Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist best known for technical mastery and emotional expression in her writing; her poetry expressed anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life
Happy March, Friends, and happy Women's History Month as well! We'd like to continue our look into notable figures in Windham County with a look at Lucy Terry Prince (b.1724 - d.1821, in Sunderland, VT) and her extraordinary life as a freed slave turned unofficial lawyer, poet, and orator. She was the author of what is considered to be the oldest (and first) known printed work of literature by an African American, Bars Fight (pub.1855) and she successfully defended her family’s claim in a disputed land case in front of the newly formed U.S. Supreme Court.
Lucy Terry was born in Africa and was stolen from her family and brought to the United States as an infant. As a young girl of about 5 years old she was moved to Deerfield, Massachusetts, where she was owned by Ebenezer Wells. By the time she was a young woman Lucy was held in esteem by her neighbors in Deerfield and was recorded as being the village poet and historian. In 1746 Lucy witnessed the terrible Native American (Indian) massacre, known as the Bars Fight (bars was the colonial term for meadow). Lucy was only sixteen at the time, but she wrote two poetic versions of the battle involving Native Americans and two settler families. It was called ’The fullest contemporary account of that bloody tragedy which has been preserved' at the time. In 1756 Lucy married Abijah Prince, a former slave to Reverend Benjamin Doolittle of nearby Northfield, Massachusetts who purchased Lucy from Wells. When Doolittle died he freed Bijah and deeded him land in a part of Northfield, MA that is now Vernon, Vermont.
Lucy and Bijah were married in Deerfield; their homestead became known during their time there as Bijah's Brook, and Lucy was called Luce (sic) Bijah. Here, her reputation as a storyteller and poet grew. According to Deerfield history she was popular with young people who would gather around her kitchen at night to hear her stories and original poems. 'Lucy was a noted character, and her house was a great place of resort for the young people, attracted thither by her wit and wisdom, often shown in her rhyme and stories.'
Bijah was never content to stay in one place for long and he seemed to have had a hunger for land. One of the first large parcels he owned was a 100-acre homestead in Guilford, Vermont, which was granted to him by Colonel David Field of Deerfield. He moved to Guilford with his family in 1764, but did not stay long. The Princes moved back to Deerfield for a while, and eventually to Sunderland, Vermont, near Bennington. Bijah was one of the original grantees of Sunderland, and the only one to actually homestead there. Unhappily, Bijah's claim to his land was contested by Colonel Eli Bronson and this led to a heated legal dispute which went all the way to the newly formed United States Supreme Court. Colonel Bronson hired two of Vermont's most prominent lawyers, General Stephen Bradley and Royal Tyler (later a chief justice of Vermont). The Princes hired Isaac Tichenor to draw the pleadings, but it was Lucy herself who argued the case in court! She not only won, but Samuel Chase, the presiding judge, was so impressed by her logic and passion that he claimed 'Lucy made a better argument than he had ever heard from a lawyer in Vermont.'
Around 1780 the Princes returned to their homestead in Guilford. Bijah again ran into trouble with his land. His neighbors to the north, the Noyes, for reasons undetermined. burned his fences and hayricks. The harassment continued unabated until the Princes were compelled to take legal action. They appealed to the highest state tribunal of the time (1785), the VT Governor's Council. Lucy again lead the case. The Princes were judged 'much injured’ and the Governor recommended to the Selectmen of Guilford to 'take some effectual Measures to protect the said Abijah, Lucy, and family.’
Lucy most likely lived to be over 100 years old. Sheldon commented in his book History of Deerfield, 'In the checked lives of Abijah Prince and Lucy Terry is found a realistic romance going beyond the wildest flights of fiction.' Lucy was lively and stubborn to the last. There is a story, probably apocryphal judging from her character, that when she returned to Deerfield, an elderly woman, to visit her former master, she refused to take supper at the family's dinner table, saying, 'No, no Missy, I know my place.'
As this account shows, Lucy never knew her place; instead, she made it.*
*Resources: https://www.guilfordvt.net/?SEC=25184677-0F84-4B60-B6CA-6B9B78CCB34B#D24AD6B0-4D45-441A-BE53-0F7C4045D43E, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bars_Fight, https://vermonthistory.org/research/vermont-women-s-history/timelines/women-1777-1900?id=852, https://vermonthistory.org/research/vermont-women-s-history/database/prince-lucy?tmpl=component&print=1&page=, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p15.htmlRead more