Juliet V. Strauss

Location: 514 N. College St., Rockville, IN 47872 (Parke County, Indiana)

Installed 2012 Indiana Historical Bureau, Rockville Public Library, Parke County Historical Society, and Friends of Turkey Run

ID#: 61.2012.1

Text

Popular columnist writing as "The Country Contributor,"1 Strauss (1863-1918)2 idealized simple rural life and traditional roles for women3 in a time of national shifts in class and gender relations.4 Began writing for hometown newspaper, Rockville Tribune, 1880,5 for Indianapolis News, 1903,6 and for Ladies Home Journal, 1905, which reached a million readers worldwide.7

Through her columns and influence,8 Strauss worked to save old-growth forest, 9 called Turkey Run,10 from destruction by lumber company.11 Turkey Run became Indiana's second state park during Indiana's centennial celebration, 1916,12 at a time of heightened national interest in conservation.13 Indiana women's clubs dedicated a statue to her efforts at Turkey Run, 1922. 14

Annotations

[1] Grace Alexander, "Talented Writer at Home in Rockville," Indianapolis News, August 29, 1903, 14; Country Contributor, "Confessions of a Country Person," Indianapolis News, February 20, 1904; "Who is the Country Contributor and What is She Really Like? Some Frequently-Asked Questions Answered after a Visit to Her Home," Indianapolis News, May 5, 1906, 16; "Editors Seek Talent," Washington Post, February 3, 1907, 112; "Afternoon with Authors," Moberly Morning Monitor, December 10, 1911, 1; "'She is Still Beautiful,' Says Man of Country Contributor," Indianapolis News, December 10, 1915, 5; "Program of Ames Chautauqua July 4 to July 10," Roland Record, June 21, 1917; "Juliet V. Strauss Dead at Rockville, Indianapolis News, May 23, 1918, 23; "Obituary Notes," New York Times, May 23, 1918, 13; Lilian Habich Lennox, "The Country Contributor: An Appreciation," Indianapolis News, May 25, 1918; "Juliet Virginia Strauss, Author of Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune: Memorial Supplement, June 4, 1918; "Juliet V. Strauss Memorial Fountain," Rockville Tribune, July 5, 1922.

In an August 29, 1903 biographical article explaining Strauss' contributions to the paper thus far, the Indianapolis News reported that "from time to time, her stories and delightful sketches, signed merely 'The Country Contributor,' have appeared in the Indianapolis News and in other papers of the State, and have won many readers of the class that appreciate choice English and delicate distinctions." For more information on Strauss' newspaper columns see footnotes five and six.

Addressing her popularity, a May 5, 1906 Indianapolis News article reported that "there is no woman in Indiana concerning whom more questions are asked than of Mrs. Juliet V. Strauss . . . known to readers of the News as 'The Country Contributor'. . . Strauss' writings [have] made her a sort of heart-neighbor to thousands of women in Hoosierdom." A May 23, 1918 Indianapolis News article called her "one of the best known of Indiana writers." Newspapers across the country, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, also made mentions of the writer. The Rockville Tribune reported on July 5, 1922 that in response to Strauss' death, letters had come from all over the world showing "the wonderful influence of the 'Country Contributor's' homely philosophy on people in all walks in life." For more information on her national appeal, see footnote seven.

[2] "Julia Humphries," 1870 United States Federal Census, Rockville, Indiana, 40A, accessed June 16, 2011 through ancestry.com; "Strouse-Humphries," Rockville Tribune, December 30, 1881; "Juliet V. Strauss," Indianapolis News, May 23, 1918, 6; "Juliet V. Strauss Dead at Rockville," Indianapolis News, May 23, 1918, 23; "Obituary Notes," New York Times, May 23, 1918, 13; "Juliet V. Strauss," Rockville Tribune, May 28, 1918; "Juliet Virginia Strauss, Author of Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune: Memorial Supplement, June 4, 1918.

The writer was born Julia Humphries to William and Susan Humphries in Rockville, Indiana January 7, 1863. In December 1881, she married her Rockville Tribune colleague, Isaac Strouse, and took "Strauss," a more traditional German spelling, for her last name. She died May 22, 1918.

[3] "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, February 9, 1893, 1; "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, February 16, 1893, 1; "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, April 13, 1893, 1; "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, May 9, 1900, 1; "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, April 3, 1901; Country Contributor, "The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor," Indianapolis News, November 21, 1903, 14; Country Contributor, "Housekeeping No Penance," Indianapolis News, November 28, 1903, 25; Country Contributor, "Confessions of a Country Person," Indianapolis News, February 20, 1904; "Who is the Country Contributor and What is She Really Like? Some Frequently-Asked Questions Answered after a Visit to Her Home," Indianapolis News, May 5, 1906, 16; " 'She is Still Beautiful,' Says Man of Country Contributor," Indianapolis News, December 10, 1915, 5; Juliet V. Strauss, "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, March 28, 1916; Juliet V. Strauss, "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, July 20, 1916; Country Contributor, "Another Phase of Democracy," Indianapolis News, May 11, 1918, 15; Lilian Habich Lennox, "The Country Contributor: An Appreciation," Indianapolis News, May 25, 1918.

Strauss' writings reflect her fondness for simple country living and her anxiety in the face of the increasing industrialization and urbanization of the Gilded Age. Born and raised in a rural setting, she frequently criticized city-living. In a May 9, 1900 Rockville Tribune article Strauss commented on how "we go on stupidly accepting changed conditions as improvements, which they are not, until we ourselves are parts in a great big machine, our lives robbed of all the spice of living…" Strauss emphasized the importance of housework and motherhood, believing that household duties be made a profession and recognized as such by husbands. For much of her life, she viewed the suffrage and club movements as distractions from a woman's duty to her family. In her February 16, 1893 "Squibs and Sayings" article in the Rockville Tribune, Strauss stated that "many people believe that progress for women means a departure from home and household cares, but this is a false idea: the real progress is towards domesticity, but includes that wide intelligence, that comprehension of the true meaning of life that will lift the household…above the level of mediocrity." She continued in a November 28, 1903 Indianapolis News article and wrote that "the woman who fails in this, who [e]ntrusts the duties of housekeeping to incompetent hirelings while she trots about to clubs and social 'functions' . . . is just simply a big failure as a woman." Despite these statements, Strauss' own life offered contradictions which reflect an era partially defined by changing gender roles (see footnotes four). She worked outside of the home at the Rockville Tribune; As her popularity increased, she became a sought-after speaker; She became a member of writers' associations; And she became politically and socially involved in the movement to make Turkey Run a state park, appealing to clubwomen to help.

[4] Laura F. Edwards, "Gender and the Changing Roles of Women," in A Companion to 19th-Century America, ed. William L. Barney (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 223-237; Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); Mary Rech Rockwell, "Gender Transformations: The Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties,"Organization of American Historians Magazine of History (2005) 19 (2): 31-40; Charles Rosenberg, "Sexuality, Class and Role in 19th-Century America," American Quarterly (1973) 25 (2): 131-153; Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) accessed through GoogleBooks; Independence Hall Association, "Women in the Gilded Age," USHistory.org.

[5] La Gitana, "At the Rink," Rockville Tribune, March 18, 1880, 1; "Strouse-Humphries," Rockville Tribune, December 30, 1881; "To the Reading Public," Rockville Tribune, November 10, 1882; No Title, Rockville Tribune, October 24, 1889; "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, February 9, 1893, 1; "Who is the Country Contributor and What is She Really Like? Some Frequently-Asked Questions Answered after a Visit to Her Home," Indianapolis News, May 5, 1906, 16.

In 1880, while still a teenager, Juliet Humphries began writing for the Rockville Tribune under the penname "La Gitana," Spanish for "the gypsy," a nickname. Her first article, "At the Rink," was a colorful satire of the local skating rink and a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the moral hypocrisy of the upper class. After their marriage in 1881 (see footnote two), Isaac Strouse became a co-owner of the Tribune in 1882 and full owner in 1889. During this period, Juliet often took on managerial duties in addition to regular literary contributions.

Starting February 9, 1893, the Rockville Tribune began publishing her regular column, "Squibs and Sayings." Directed mainly to women, Strauss reflected on what she viewed as a simpler, earlier time in rural Indiana. Subjects she returned to often included what she saw as loosening morals, especially as shown through women's dress, and the negative and demoralizing impact of cities and industry.

[6] Grace Alexander, "Talented Writer at Home in Rockville," Indianapolis News, August 29, 1903, 14; Country Contributor, "The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor," Indianapolis News, November 21, 1903, 14; Country Contributor, "Housekeeping No Penance,"Indianapolis News, November 28, 1903, 25; Country Contributor, "The Woman Who Nags," Indianapolis News, March 11, 1911, 19; Lilian Habich Lennox, "The Country Contributor: An Appreciation," Indianapolis News, May 25, 1918.

Strauss began contributing articles to the Indianapolis News in 1903 under the name "The Country Contributor." A search of the paper by IHB staff revealed that the Indianapolis News published Strauss' column regularly starting in November 1903 and continued to publish it under the name "The Country Contributor" on Saturdays for the next fifteen years. The first issue of this column appeared on November 21, 1903, and was entitled "The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor." A May 25, 1918 Indianapolis News article confirmed that "for fifteen years she had steadily pointed the way for the people, particularly the women of Indiana" and that "week by week she ha[d] pressed home to them the realization of the sacred obligations of homemaking and motherhood." See footnote one for more information on her popularity as "The Country Contributor" and footnote three for examples of her writings.

[7] Edward Bok, "Apropos of Our Birthday," Ladies' Home Journal, November 1903, 20, accessed through ProQuest; "The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman," Ladies' Home Journal, November 1905, 26, accessed through ProQuest; "A Plain Country Woman's Ideas of Christmas,"Ladies' Home Journal, December 1905, 39, accessed through ProQuest; "The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman," Ladies' Home Journal, January 1906, 34, accessed through ProQuest; "Liked Mrs. Strauss's Work," Indianapolis News, January 28, 1907, 5; "Editors Seek Talent," Washington Post, February 3, 1907, 112; ""Country Contributor's" Message of Optimism in Book Form," Indianapolis News, March 28, 1908, 7; "The Country Contributor," The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman (Doubleday and Page, 1908), accessed through archive.org; Douglas B. Ward, "The Geography of the Ladies' Home Journal: An Analysis of a Magazine's Audience, 1911-55," Journalism History 34(1) (Spring 2008): 2-14.

The Ladies' Home Journal began publishing her monthly column "The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman" in November 1905. In 1908, Doubleday published a collection of her columns in book form, also titled The Ideas of a Plain County Woman.

In a January 28, 1907 Indianapolis News article, Edward Bok, editor of the Ladies Home Journal, stated that Strauss' columns in the Indianapolis paper were "so good that [he] engaged her regularly and she is now a member of the staff of the magazine." Quoted in a March 28, 1908 Indianapolis News article, Bok went on to say that Strauss had joined the Ladies' Home Journal staff three years ago (1905) and that he had "no hesitation in saying that her contributions have been more widely read and are today more popular than the writings of any single contributor to the magazine." He continued, "People by the millions have read and are today, each week and each month reading the writings of 'The Plain Country Woman'." According to Bok's November 1903 article in the Ladies' Home Journal and "The Geography of the Ladies' Home Journal: An Analysis of a Magazine's Audience, 1911-55," by 1903, the journal had reached a circulation of one million.

[8] "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, April 13, 1893, 1; "John Lusk Dead," Rockville Tribune, March 23, 1915, 1; Juliet Strauss to Governor Ralston, letter, January 9, 1916, Indiana State Archives, Ralston Papers, Box 128, Folder 2; Secretary to Juliet V. Strauss, letter, January 14, 1916, Indiana State Archives, Ralston Papers, Box 128, Folder 2; "Turkey Run, Indiana's Wonderland of Trees, Gorges and Waterfalls Must Be Saved from the Timbermen, Says Governor's Commission," Indianapolis News, February 12, 1916, 15; Juliet V. Strauss, "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, March 7, 1916, 5; Country Contributor, "The State Park Movement," Indianapolis News, March 25, 1916, 15; Juliet V. Strouse, 'The Country Contributor,' "State Parks-An Appeal to Patriotism," April 11, 1916; "Discusses Origin of Turkey Run Park Plan," Indianapolis News, April 24, 1916, 14; "State Park Subscriptions," Rockville Tribune, May 2, 1916, 1; Juliet Strauss to Governor Ralston, letter, May 27, 1916, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Manuscript Collection; Governor Ralston to Juliet Strauss, letter, May 31, 1916, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Manuscript Collection; "State Parks Win Ralston's Praise,"Indianapolis News, August 9, 1924; Suellen M. Hoy, "Governor Samuel Ralston and Indiana's Centennial Celebration," Indiana Magazine of History 71(3) (September 1975): 245-266.

In 1915, Strauss began working to protect a primitive area of land in Parke County known as Turkey Run, thus becoming involved in the state park movement. Through her articles in the Indianapolis News and Rockville Tribune, she detailed her personal connection to the area, her conviction that it must be saved from destruction (see footnotes 10 and 11), and encouraged others to get involved. In April 1915 she reportedly wrote to Governor Samuel Ralston regarding the tract of land and ultimately helped in the creation of the Turkey Run Commission (see footnote 11). Suellen Hoy references this letter in her article "Governor Samuel M. Ralston and Indiana's Centennial Celebration." IHB staff contacted the Indiana State Archives and Lilly Library for a copy of this letter, but staff members at those institutions were unable to locate it. The Indianapolis News reported on February 12, 1916, that "perhaps no individual has been more energetic in the battle to save Turkey Run and its environs than My Lady of the Out-of-Doors, the Country Contributor. Mrs. Strauss knows every foot of [the area]." For more information on Strauss' interest in saving Turkey Run, see her article "The State Park Movement" Indianapolis News, March 25, 1916, 15.

[9] "Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Preserve," Indiana Department of Natural Resources, accessed at http://www.in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve/files/np-Rocky_Hollow-color.pdf .

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) refers to Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Nature Preserve, an expansive tract of land located within Turkey Run State Park, as an "old-growth mesophytic forest." For more information on Turkey Run and the flora and fauna in the area seeTurkey Run State Park: A History and Description (Indianapolis: Department of Conservation, 1919), accessed through GoogleBooks.

[10] "John Lusk Dead," Rockville Tribune, March 23, 1915, 1; "Public Spirit Needed to Save Turkey Run," Indianapolis News, May 21, 1915, 3; "Plan to Buy Turkey Run," Indianapolis News, February 4, 1916, 9; "Turkey Run, Indiana's Wonderland of Trees, Gorges and Waterfalls Must Be Saved from the Timbermen, Says Governor's Commission," Indianapolis News, February 12, 1916, 15; Juliet V. Strauss, "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, March 7, 1916, 5.

Both the Rockville Tribune and Indianapolis News described the vast expanse of land comprising Turkey Run. According to a March 23, 1915 Rockville Tribune article, the area was regarded as "one of the most beautiful scenic spots in [Parke] county" and a May 21, 1915 article in the Indianapolis News referred to Sugar Creek, which cuts through the land, as "the most beautiful rock-bordered stream in [the] state." According to a February 12, 1916 article in the Indianapolis News, Strauss stated that all people living within a twenty-mile radius of Turkey Run had some connection to it and that "no visitor ever departed from the place without sensing its individual charm." Previously owned by the Lusk family for several decades, and traversed by numerous tourists and campers, the land was endangered in 1915 when John Lusk, the last surviving member, died, leaving no will. On February 4, 1916, the Indianapolis News reported that Turkey Run had been advertised for sale on May 18 by order of the Parke County circuit court.

[11] "Preserve Turkey Run," Rockville Tribune, May 4, 1915, 1; "Public Spirit Needed to Save Turkey Run," Indianapolis News, May 21, 1915, 3; Juliet V. Strauss, "Squibs and Sayings," Rockville Tribune, March 7, 1916, 5; "Richard Lieber Heads State Park Committee," Indianapolis News, March 18, 1916, 1; Country Contributor, "The State Park Movement," Indianapolis News, March 25, 1916, 15; "State Park Subscriptions," Rockville Tribune, May 2, 1916, 1; "Turkey Run Sold to a Timber Man," Indianapolis News, May 19, 1916, 1.

According to a May 4, 1915 article in the Indianapolis News, Governor Samuel Ralston appointed a Turkey Run Commission in April "to save from deterioration as well as desecration the grandeur of nature thus displayed in [Turkey Run's] primitive beauty." (As reported in a 1924 article, Ralston mistakenly said that he appointed the commission in August 1915, but the sources above confirm the April date). Strauss was not only a commission member, but was largely responsible for its creation thanks to a letter she reportedly wrote to Ralston urging him to take steps to preserve Turkey Run. In March 1916, the Indianapolis News reported that the commission had merged with the State Park Memorial Committee of the Indiana Historical Commission. Writing in her "Squibs and Sayings" column on March 7, 1916, Strauss stated that those involved hoped to purchase Turkey Run and establish it "as the nucleus for a State-wide park system." Subscriptions listed in the Rockville Tribune in May 1916 include Strauss' name among others who donated funds to save the area. Despite their efforts, however, the Hoosier Veneer Company outbid them and purchased Turkey Run for $30,200 on May 18, 1916.

For more information on Ralston, Indiana's Centennial, and the state park movement see "Governor Samuel M. Ralston and Indiana's Centennial Celebration" in Indiana Magazine of History. Richard Lieber was also invaluable to the creation of Turkey Run as a state park and to the larger state park movement in Indiana. For more information see "Richard Lieber and Indiana's Forest Heritage" in Indiana Magazine of History .

[12] "Creation of State Parks Advocated," Indianapolis News, November 17, 1915; "Richard Lieber Heads State Park Committee," Indianapolis News, March 18, 1916, 1; "State Park System," Rockville Tribune, March 21, 1916; "Joint Committee Will Assist Park Movement," Indianapolis News, March 23, 1916, 9; "Organize Campaign to Get State Park Money," Indianapolis News, April 11, 1916, p. 11; Juliet V. Strouse, "The Country Contributor," "State Parks-An Appeal to Patriotism," Rockville Tribune, April 11, 1916; "Indiana's Athens Favors Park Plan," Indianapolis News, April 20, 1916, 2; "Discusses Origin of Turkey Run Park Plan," Indianapolis News, April 24, 1916; "President of the United States Commends Movement for State Parks in Indiana," Rockville Tribune, April 25, 1916; "Turkey Run," Rockville Tribune, May 23, 1916; 'State Buys First Park," Rockville Tribune, May 30, 1916, 1; "Turkey Run is Now State Park," Indianapolis News, November 11, 1916, 1; Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1917 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1918), accessed through Indiana University Digital Library; Lindley, Harlow, ed. Indiana Centennial, 1916: A Record of the Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of Indiana's Admission to Statehood (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1919); "Turkey Run State Park," brochure, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

As detailed in the Indianapolis News in November 1915, the creation of a state park system in Indiana was advocated "as a fitting incident to the state's centennial celebration" for the following year. Throughout March and April 1916, the Indianapolis News and Rockville Tribune described the work of the State Park Memorial Committee and referred to the state park system as "the lasting memorial to which all of the celebrations of [the] year [would] be directed." Writing on April 11, 1916 in the Indianapolis News, Strauss described how the "institution of State Parks furnishes every citizen of Indiana with a personal interest in something higher…[giving] each man, woman, and child a share in a priceless estate."

According to a May 30, 1916 article in the Rockville Tribune, Turkey Run represented the state's "first effort to buy a park." After losing that land to the Hoosier Veneer Company on May 18, 1916, McCormick's Creek canyon in Owen County became Indiana's first state park. Negotiations with the Hoosier Veneer Company continued, and on November 11, 1916, the Indianapolis News reported that the state had successfully purchased Turkey Run for $40,200. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources confirms the purchase during the centennial year and recognizes it as Indiana's second state park.

[13] "A System of State Parks," Indianapolis News, March 23, 1916, 6; "Lyman Abbott for Park Plan," Indianapolis News, April 17, 1916, 11; Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1917 (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1918), accessed through Indiana University Digital Library; Philips, Clifton J. Indiana in Transition: The Emergence of an Industrial Commonwealth, 1880-1920 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and Indiana Historical Society, 1968), 220-223.

In Indiana in Transition, Clifton Philips describes how "interest in the conservation of the natural environment was heightened in the second decade of the twentieth century in Indiana as in the nation, under the stimulus of President Theodore Roosevelt." The Proceedings of the 4th National Conservation Congress, held in Indianapolis in 1912, described the breadth of the conservation movement, stating that it covered "every phase of human thought" and worked to improve citizens in every way. Protecting forest life and promoting the development of state parks grew out of this movement. The Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1917 states that "while state parks present[ed] a new idea to Indiana, there [were] successful examples to be found in other states." In a March 7, 1916 Rockville Tribune article, Strauss stated that "in this movement we hope to keep pace with some of our neighbor States who have already inaugurated a State park organization."

[14] "State Park Head Urges Memorial to Juliet V. Strauss at Turkey Run, Recognizing Her Service in Helping to Save Indiana's Beauty Spot," Indianapolis News, June 1, 1918; "Society," Indianapolis Star, June 12, 1918; "Memorial at Turkey Run for Mrs. Juliet V. Strauss," Rockville Tribune, June 18, 1918; "Site for Memorial at Turkey Run Selected," Indianapolis News, July 18, 1918, 18; "Woman's Press Committee Visits Site of Strauss Memorial," Logansport Daily Tribune, July 23, 1918, in Woman's Press Club collection, Box 9, Indiana Historical Society; "Architect is Selected for Memorial Fountain," Indianapolis News, October 14, 1919, 13; "Campaign for Strauss Memorial is Resumed," Indianapolis News, June 20, 1919, 26; "Many Gifts for Memorial to Country Contributor," Indianapolis News, May 27, 1920; "Memorial to Juliet V. Strauss to Be Unveiled at Turkey Run," Indianapolis News, July 1, 1922, 21; "Juliet V. Strauss Memorial Fountain," Rockville Tribune, July 5, 1922.

Immediately after Strauss' death in May 1918, a suggestion was made to honor her work at Turkey Run. According to a June 1, 1918 Indianapolis News article, Richard Lieber believed that "Indiana owed Mrs. Strauss a great debt" and that "some fitting memorial, marking her devotion to the cause of state parks, should be placed in Turkey Run." The Rockville Tribune reported on June 18, 1918 that the Woman's Press Club of Indiana, of which Strauss had been a member, voted unanimously to sponsor the movement for such a memorial. The Indianapolis News covered the campaign for funds, and on May 27, 1920, it reported that "women's clubs throughout Indiana [had] contributed generously to the Country Contributor Memorial fund through the Woman's Press Club of Indiana." Additionally, a July 5, 1922 article in the Rockville Tribune stated that letters with contributions came "from every state in the Union-from Canada, from England, and even far off Australia," highlighting Strauss' international reputation. A memorial fountain dedicated to Strauss was unveiled in July 1922.