Peg and I stepped back in history last night at Lakewood City Hall. We were treated to The Life and Times of Dr. B. Elizabeth Drake as performed by Karen Haas. The B preceding Elizabeth was in honor of her mother, also Bertie. History doesn't have to go back thousands of years or even hundreds of years. Sometimes it’s in the house just next door.
Elizabeth Drake was born in 1882 and died in 1978. The family home was on Prospect Hill in Tacoma, which sits above Old Town with views across Commencement Bay to Browns Point. As a child she wanted to be a doctor. She even wrote up a card for her bedroom door stating “B. Elizabeth Drake, Office hours from ten to two.”
When she was ready for college, her mom sent her back east, but not to a medical school. Elizabeth continuously lobbied her mother to allow her to attend medical school. Finally Mrs. Drake sent her to medical school, but, once again, the following year she found herself at Stanford, a non-medical school campus at the time. She continued to lobby and finally her mother relented and Elizabeth completed her education at the University of Oregon Medical School.
Just knowing a particular span of years doesn't tell us much without context. Dr. Drake began setting up her practice in 1909/1910. Around this time there was an awakening of community spirit. Rotary was founded in 1910 . . . Boy Scouts of America also in1910 . . . National Exchange Club in 1911 . . . Kiwanis in 1915 and Lions Club in 1917. However, the awakening didn't include some people. In searching for news articles about Dr. Drake, many unkind articles on "suffragettes" (and she certainly was one) were found. Women finally received the right to vote in 1920. Predating the awakening of 1910-1920 was the founding of P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1869 whose primary focus remains providing educational opportunities for female students. Karen Haas is a member and a number of her sisters were in attendance.
Dr. Drake's practice was in downtown Tacoma. She later had a home built on Wildaire Road in Lakewood. She probably commuted daily from her family home on Prospect Hill to downtown and then spent weekends are her own Wildaire home. Years later, she moved her office to her home. She was a doctor and a surgeon, specializing in women's health issues.
Dr. Drake liked the outdoors, dogs, horses, and boating. She captained her own yacht at the Tacoma Yacht Club. (It was very unusual for a woman to be a full member at the time) Dr. Drake never married. She died in 1978. Her Lakewood home, in need of remodeling and refreshing, recently sold. The new owner was in attendance. He brought along a photo album which he found in Dr. Drake’s basement.
In 1957 my family moved to Lakewood where I attended Park Lodge School which was only a few blocks from Dr. Drake’s home. I rode my bike all over Lakewood and most likely passed her home without knowing it. History truly is as close as our own neighborhood.
This was the first time I have seen Karen Hass in action. Peg has talked about her portrayals of historical women for years. Karen has about nine different programs she presents. I think I’d like to see all of them. Dr. Drake was an eye-opener.
I would love to see Karen's presentation Remember the Ladies: Revolutionary Points of View: "The American Colonists in 1776 were deeply divided: many were in favor of rebellion, many wanted to stay part of England and many just wanted to be left alone. Karen brings this pivotal era for our nation to life as she portrays Patriot Susannah Foote of Boston and Loyalist Eliza Fowler of New York. Their contrasting points of view shine a light on the past that can help us see our modern times more clearly."
One of my favorite novels based on history is Kenneth Roberts's Oliver Wiswell. "It is a unique Revolutionary War novel in that it presents very convincingly the injustices endured by Americans broadly described as loyalists. These people were both educated, successful professional people and simple country people content to continue to live their lives without being interfered with by others." I would love to re-read the 800 page book and then see Karen's presentation. History should make you think.
Peg has seen her presentation of Thea Foss in a Swedish accent, twice; three women active in the westward movement and life at a Hudson Bay fort, and a storyteller. She brings her own props and costume, and sometimes musical instruments and samples of women’s handcrafts.
Karen makes her own authentic costumes based on historical research in old magazines, books, photos, drawings, and searchable databases; she’s a regular at the Tacoma Public Library Main Branch in their Northwest Room, a precursor to the Tacoma Historical Society.
Even Karen's shoes as Dr. Drake were period and looked brand new with shiny brown leather and buttons. Nordstrom's circa 1910?
As a teacher and a Museum Curator of Education, Karen found movement a persuasive method of getting information into kids’ memories. She has presented to kids, adults and seniors, club meetings, and historical events. She’s a regular presenter at the Old Tacoma Cemetery as a Tacoma personage, at the Candlelight Tour as a woman active at Fort Nisqually in the 1800s and many other persons from Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest. To find out more about Karen, go to her website Karenstoryteller.com or find her on Facebook.com/karenstoryteller.