Memories of Jane Cunningham Croly, Jenny June online

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that her good constitution was beginning to break down.

However, the indomitable energy she possessed, and her trained
capacity for work enabled her to continue until the large volume was
finished and given to the public.

Early in June, 1898, Mrs. Croly had a serious fall in which she
fractured her hip, and she was confined to her room for many weeks.
Though she possessed unusual power of endurance, her lessening
strength could no longer bear the strain upon the delicate frame, and
her rallying power was perceptibly diminished. As the fracture slowly
healed she but feebly met the physical exertion necessary to go about
on crutches. Even then it was impossible for her to take life
serenely; she was restlessly eager to be up and doing. When she could
be removed with safety, which was not until the third of September,
she went abroad with her daughter, Mrs. Vida Croly Sidney, who had
come over from England for her, and she spent a year in London and the
vicinity. In August, 1899, they were in Switzerland, and Mrs. Croly
took the baths at Schinznach-les-Bains. She returned to America the
following September, and remained in New York through the winter of
1899-1900. The change agreed with, her, but her health cannot be said
to have improved, and she was still very infirm. Her natural affection
and interest in the Woman's Press Club led her to attend its meetings,
whenever she was able, going there in the carriage sent for her. On
the 12th of May she was present at a club meeting, and gave us an
informal talk, which proved to be her parting address, though at the
time we knew it not. That day her words were full of significance. She
expressed herself with fervor, chiefly on the importance of clubwomen
bearing a large measure of love and good-will towards one another, and
of the cultivation of the tie of divine charity. With earnestness she
urged again that we should stand "hand to hand to exercise patience in
judgment, and to be slow in criticism." "It is God-like," she said,
"to forgive. Remember," she continued, "that all that is good in this
life emanates from love; that it is the very best thing that this life
affords, and that there is nothing on earth that can take the place of
its ministry. Love has no limitations, and if you give the best talent
you possess to your club it will give it back to you. Club life is
often misunderstood, it is true, - but," she slowly added, "there is
nothing in this world _entirely_ perfect." She spoke touchingly of the
personal sense of loneliness she felt; that although she was a woman
among many women she lived many a lonely hour; and she wished it well
understood that the love and friendship of clubwomen was to her the
most precious thing in her life. In closing she emphasized the counsel
she had given, to be "United and conciliatory in our relations with
each other; to be just; to suspend judgment; and to wait long and
trust God who knows all. He," she declared, "will not misunderstand

At the end of May she returned to England. Though nature had not
become victorious over her feebleness, and she was still almost
helpless from the effect of the accident of 1898, she heroically
overcame these physical conditions as far as she was able. Something
continually impelled her onward. She attended the International
Congress of Women held during the Paris Exposition of that year, and
then went on to Ober-Ammergau to the Passion Play, accompanied by Mrs.
Sidney; and then returned to England, where she stayed until the 27th
of July, 1901, when she again sailed for New York, business matters
requiring her presence in this country.

On her arrival in August from the second visit abroad, the grave facts
that her health was not established, and that her time here was not to
be long, were soon evident to her friends. The struggle of nature not
only had begun, the shadow was even now sweeping near. She appeared at
the November business meeting of the Woman's Press Club, accompanied
by an attendant, and took the chair, but she was so much exhausted by
the effort that her nurse easily persuaded her to come away. During
the following four weeks her prostration and decline were steady.

As the final day of her human infirmity approached, she expressed to
the close friend who sat beside her a timid shrinking, common to all
human nature, from the passage out of this life. It may be counted a
special mercy that, as it afterwards proved, she need not have had any
disquietude concerning the inevitable moment, for a few hours before
the closing scene she fell into a state of coma, and passed beyond so
quietly and tranquilly that she did not herself know when the moment
came. She entered the world of infinite repose in the forenoon of
December 23, 1901.

The funeral service was held in the Church of the Transfiguration,
Mrs. Croly's friends gathering from far and near to pay their last
tributes of love and regard. The women's clubs and societies of
Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the suburbs, were represented in large
numbers, and every seat in the church was filled.

Mrs. Croly lies at rest beside her husband, David G. Croly, in the
beautiful cemetery near Lakewood, New Jersey.

"Yon's her step ... an' she's carryin' a licht in her hand; a see it
through the door."

From Caroline M. Morse

As Chairman of the Memorial Committee it is my privilege to add my
memories of Mrs. Croly to those which have preceded. Mine are not of
her club interests, nor of her identification with the woman's club
movement. So much has been written, and so well, regarding these
public phases of her life that it would seem almost officious for me
to add a stone to the already piled up cairn; I write rather of my
friend as my family knew her in her home, surrounded by husband and

It was in 1880 that we first knew Mr. and Mrs. Croly, and the
acquaintance soon became an intimacy that lasted for twenty-three
years. They were living in their own house in Seventy-first street, an
artistically furnished house, an ideal home full of a sweet

Intimate as we were it was frequently our privilege to gather with the
family at their Sunday evening supper, when Mrs. Croly was as
completely the "house-mother" fulfilling the homely duties of the
table, as, an hour later, she was the gracious, though more formal
hostess receiving in her drawing-room the usual Sunday night throng of
old friends and the strangers of distinction who, chancing to be in
town, were fortunate enough to have letters of introduction to her. I
see her slight figure moving from group to group, and the low English
voice and sweet smile with which she encouraged her visitors to speak
of themselves, and, if they were foreigners, of their missions to this
country. A characteristic act of hers was to carry around a little
silver tray on which there might be several glasses of a dainty punch,
the base of which was a light, non-alcoholic wine. This she offered to
friends whom she desired particularly to honor, and the act had all
the significance of the Russian custom of breaking bread and eating
salt with the host. These Sunday evenings at home, which were a
feature of the society in which she moved, were continued until a
short time before her death, or until she was incapacitated by

My friend had none of the usual failings of the traditionary
"emancipated woman"; she would sit down to her basket on an afternoon
and take up a bit of household sewing with the same spirit and
aptitude that had guided her in the forenoon in the writing of an
editorial article or the preparation of a paper to be read before a

I recall with especial joy the long walks we used to take together.
After a day of wearisome work, it was one of her great delights to
leave the piled-up desk and find herself in the street, her arm linked
in mine. At such times much of her talk was ravishing speculation upon
things seen and unseen. It was as if, released for the moment from
the pressure of work, her mind sprang into a world removed from the
practical and immediate, to revel in contemplation of the divine. Yet
she was no visionary, and the world of sight held her cheerful
allegiance. Hers was never "the dyer's hand subdued to what it works
in," and this is the more remarkable since she never relinquished
work, even for our beloved walks, without a mild protest at laying
aside her pen. One afternoon I called, intending to take her out for
one of our "play-hours," but I failed to find her in her apartment.
Next morning the post brought me this note:


"I was so glad to get your card, and so sorry to miss you.
It was just that hour out-of-doors with you that I was
longing for. I have been so long away, and since my return
have been so busy with much detail of correspondence that in
quantity is always more or less depressing, that I needed a
sight of you to tone me up and restore my standard. I have
also taken advantage of enforced quiet to brace up for an
heroic two weeks of dentistry, and have therefore been in
absolute retirement and upon baby diet of the most innocuous

"I am afraid this recapitulation will take away all desire
to repeat your effort in my direction. But I trust that
this may find you in a missionary humor, and that you will
see that I need 'looking after' - a far stronger motive with
most women than friendship, isn't it? Anyway, come again
soon, won't you? Afternoon is our gadding time, you know.

"Really and lovingly your friend.

"P.S. - This note will show that I truly have not command of
all my faculties and need a human tonic."

All out-of-doors was dear to her. Trees were to her as men - rooted,
and she often naively talked to them as if to friends while we
strolled in the twilight. Her love of nature even seemed to affect her
choice of diet, for she preferred simply prepared dishes and the
natural foods. This was doubtless due in part to her unmixed Old World
nationality and to her early surroundings in rural England: as she was
in girlhood, so, in spite of the complex life of this distracting New
World, she remained to the last.

My friend dwelt lovingly upon anniversaries; the true spirit of
Christmas entered her heart at every Yuletide season, and her gifts
showed generous care in selection and in the dainty wrappings in which
they were sent to us. She delighted in the Christmas and Thanksgiving
dinners, but St. Valentine's was the dearest, as it was the
anniversary of her marriage. This the Woman's Press Club of New York
has always observed as the date of its annual dinner.

She had a keen sense of humor, yet never did she forget herself either
in posing or pranks, for hers was the unerring sense of the fitness of
things. An instance of her ready wit comes to me: Soon after her
return from her last visit to England she came to us to stay for a few
days. It was in September, three months before her death. On Sunday
evening several friends dropped in, and from general conversation we
drifted into singing some of the old songs. Now and then she would add
her own low tones to our untrained vocalizing, crooning or
cantillating the tune as if she were musing aloud. We had been singing
for a full hour, she, with crutch near at hand, sitting apart from us
at the open window. We had just sung one of her favorites, the old
ballad "Far Away," and were beginning another with all the energy of
amateurs when it occurred to me that Mrs. Croly might be tired and
ready to go to her room for the night. Bending over I whispered,
"Come, dear, you must be weary of all this." She turned slowly in her
chair, and looking up into my face, smiling whimsically, said: "Oh,
no, not yet! I am enjoying the music just as if it were good!"

I have already intimated that the home life of the family was happy.
There existed between husband and wife a genuine congeniality in
tastes and pursuits; yet between any two minds when both are strong
and original there will generally be a divergence; and it has always
seemed to me that the origin of Sorosis might be traced by the
psychological analyst to some such divergence between Mrs. Croly's
lines of intellectual development and those of her equally gifted
husband, David G. Croly. The power of initiative was strong in each of
these two, and in each it produced excellent though differing results.

It is cause for regret that Mrs. Croly did not write more in her
latter years, when her native wisdom had ripened in the soil of a rich

Her philosophy was the fruit of a rightly-lived, useful life, and even
after the distressing accident which lamed her, her enthusiasm never
waned, but rather seemed intensified and glorified. Seldom do the
heart and brain work together as did hers. She will ever stand to
those who knew her as a fine specimen of a rare type. She had
convictions, and she had the courage to uphold them. She hated shams
and hypocrisy with the vigor of Carlyle. The bravery of her public
life was matched by the beauty of her private life. Good and Truth
were her watchwords. "Good has faculty," says Swedenborg, "but not
determinate except by truth. Determinate faculty is actual power." In
the dear friend whom we here commemorate, faculty was determinate.

Brave and honest pleader for woman; true, tender, sincere friend, you
fought the good fight well; the world is better for your work, and
among your saddest survivors are those whom you smote with a deserved
pen-stroke, or with spoken words, who have long since given you
grateful thanks.



She cut a path through tangled underwood
Of old traditions out to broader ways.
She lived to hear her work called brave and good,
But oh! the thorns, before the crown of bays.
The world gives lashes to its pioneers
Until the goal is reached - then deafening cheers.


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Online LibraryVariousMemories of Jane Cunningham Croly, Jenny June → online text (page 11 of 11)