Elizabeth Robins Diary Podcast Notes

ER DiaryPodcast Notes

Notes by Joanne Gates on Natalie Kahler's Elizabeth Robins Diary Podcast

This independent project is found at https://www.erdiary.com/

Episode One.

(Comments on later episodes to be listed below)

Interview with Joanne Gates, preceded by reading of document entitled ER's Will, dated March 16, 1895

When ER's pseudonym was revealed, she wrote a letter published in The Daily Chronicle. More details at the commentary portion of Open Question on line at Robins Web:  https://www.jsu.edu/robinsweb/openq/opqaddre.html

 "The Herstory of a Button" was first published in 1990 in The American Voice. Permission obtained from Kentucky Foundation for Women to post at the Robins Web, https://www.jsu.edu/robinsweb/jgpaps/HerstoryOfAButtonImages.pdf.

Other feminist-coined words that might be attributed to Robins: "The Feministe Movement in England" was originally published in Collier's Weekly June 29, 1907, and is republished in Way Stations. Correspondence regarding ER's unique meaning of Paternalism is connected to the proofs of an essay "Woman Comes of Age—Throwing over the Traces of Paternalism," Fales Library ER papers. The letter praising the new coinage of the word is from Maude Pember Reeves, 2 February 1920, in the Time and Tide correspondence at Fales Library (cited in Gates Biography, p. 241, 276). 

Meeting Henry James quotations are from the unpublished "Whither and How," but quoted in the Gates biography, pp. 43-44. She notes in "Whither and How" that James, on welcoming her to de Vere Gardens, "had put me in a very deep armchair." Later when they move back to this room, "I remember feeling swallowed up in the armchair, and glancing over the deep arms with a vague consciousness of books, books, and pictures I did not verify or even glance at..." In Theatre and Friendship, Robins prefaces James's letter of November 17, 1896 with this explanation: "Mr. James, if I remember, was doing some refurnishing about this time. He found there were certain things that he had now no place for. 'The elephantine object' referred to, was the chair which, along with a couple of ancient mirrors ... have ever since been among my cherished possessions" (pp. 179-180).

More information on Alan's Wife, the play Robins co-adapted with Florence Bell is in that subdirectory. Includes a transcription, references to other publications and scholarship.

References to suffragists who carry dog-whips are found in The Convert. Miss Caxton is a suffrage speaker who is heckled for carrying one. Vida Levering, as yet still only exploring feminist politics, has a private conversation with her in Chapter Eleven, where Miss Caxton admits that the rough treatment is also sexually abusive: "They punish us by underhand maltreatment – of the kind most intolerable to a decent woman."

The most destructive of Suffrage protests, the window breaking of March 1, 1912, is discussed in detail in Midge MacKenzie's Shoulder to Shoulder. Robins' reactions to it are detailed in Gates biography, pp. 203-5.

The ER Introduction to Rebel Women by Evelyn Sharp is now at the RobinsWeb. Sharp's tribute to how a 1906 speech by Robins converted her to suffrage, from her autobiography Unfinished Adventure, is repeated online at a number of places, including her Wiki entry.

Angela John's biography of Sharp details the later dispute where Sharp criticized ER's Ancilla's Share and Robins published a reply. John also recognizes Sharp for her BBC broadcast remembering Robins as Hedda Gabler.

Door knocker "E Robins 1771": one of many family artifacts that Elizabeth Robins preserved. Originally at the Stone Academy in Zanesville. ER arranged for it to be installed at Chinsegut (and arranged for much furniture to be shipped from storage in Zanesville). See the photo page of Chinsegut Door Knocker
Appears in The Open Question as "E. Gano."
Look for passages in Chapter 5, 6, 13, 18, 33. Young Ethan finds the door knocker in the attic; and it is installed at the front door of "The Fort," the fictional iteration of The Stone Academy, ER's grandmother's home in Putnam, the northern (abolitionist) sector of Zanesville.
Biographer: A few things of substance remain…. I am moved most by the door knocker at Chinsegut, a heavy brass … monstrosity, almost, engraved with a scrolled script, "E. Robins 1771," belonging to Elizabeth's great grandfather, the first Ephraim Robins but loved by Elizabeth, because she was "E. Robins," too.  -- From Gates biography, Epilogue, p. 262
Natalie Kahler: "She brings the doorknocker as a character into that novel (The Open Question). You can gauge where that family is emotionally and financially by the condition of the door knocker, which I just thought was really brilliant."  (ERDiary Podcast Episode 1)

The "In 1872 Susan B. Anthony" quotation so far as we know only exists on a scrap of paper filed with drafts of "Theodora," unpublished. Quoted in the Gates biography at pages 7-8 and now at ERDiary.com, Episode One.

…"Ergo, the year 1872 was one of considerable feminist activity in the U.S.A."

Details of the works by Brenda Weber (analysis of the unpublished White Violets), of the play version of My Little Sister edited by Katie Johnson, and Kerry Powell's publication of ER's essay on Oscar Wilde can be found at my Critical Papers subpage on the Robins Web. Search for bibliography of recent criticism at https://www.jsu.edu/robinsweb/jgpaps/index.html. Sue Thomas' original bibliography is linked from my External Links page, as are links to NYU Robins Collection and other important e-text indexes.

The suffragette jiu jitstu graphic novel mentioned by Natalie and linked in the notes to the Episode does not include Robins, as far as I can tell. There may be in the promotional material a credit to Robins as one of the creator's influences. This tale fantasizes a Christabel whose forced exile includes her being abducted by a proto-Nazi force. More pertinent to the label than the graphic novel fantasy might be the story of the suffragette bodyguards, as depicted in this short film, "No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards," available at: https://vimeo.com/275968947

Robins, to my knowledge, had no part in the Glasgow incident that instigated the aggressive self-defense. She was aware of the disguises Emmeline Pankhurst took to evade re-arrest and was likely in communication, through intermediaries, with Christabel. In her diary she records with humor the rumor from the postmaster in Henfield that she may be harboring Christabel at Backsettown.

In the Suffragette Bodyguards film, interestingly, the woman whose physical abuse is highlighted as the central incident of the body guards' founding is Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a daughter of the last maharaja of the Sikh empire, and goddaughter of Queen Victoria who recalls being pinned against a wall and observing excessive violence of Black Friday, 18 November, 1910. Robins mentions her as a leader of Suffragettes in Way Stations, page 257, in her searing description of that violence. Robins prefaces the action as she saw it from her point of view, describing "the largest deputation yet dispatched set out from Caxton Hall to the House of Commons--a via Dolorosa never to be forgotten either by the three hundred volunteers, or by other women in the throng threading Parliament Square and the tributary streets."

Robins' description of the window smashing event in which concealed hammers were used is "Sermons in Stones." Her Letter to the Times also expressed justification for property damage. See relevant chapters in Way Stations.  It is interesting that the magazine publication of the last chapter of Way Stations prints two photos of the Suffragette concealed weapons. On the title page is a draped stocking, but the caption reads: "Hammer concealed in a stocking, found in the middle of the road in Regent Street, London; an emblematic weapon of militant suffrage" p. 41.

Success of My Little Sister as a novel caused Robins to hope it could be turned into a play. One version is considered co-authored by Robins and Cicely Hamilton. William Archer wrote Robins that Hamilton's final act (which directly matched the novel's ending, with a monologue by the narrator presuming Bettina was dead and in a better place) would not do for the stage. Robins herself rewrote the final act, resulting in a dramatic rescue of Bettina just as she is about to be taken aboard a ship, drugged. The dramatic version was near to being staged just before war broke out in 1914. When Evelyn Nesbit played the older sister in the silent film version, it is clear from reviews that the ending matched the novel more than Robins' version of the play. The play text has now been published as My Little Sister, though it is archived at the Fales as Where Are You Going To? This title was also the title of the English edition of the novel.

Publication as My Little Sister,

Johnson, Katie N. Sex for Sale: Six Progressive-Era Brothel Dramas. University of Iowa Press (Studies in Theatre History and Culture), 2015. My Little Sister, pp.114-175, with Johnson's introduction and notes, pp. 107-113, 256-259. Note that Johnson presumes a 1912 publication date for the novel, due to the December 1912 first installment in McClures (a much-reduced text) with a shorter final installment in January 1913.

In November 1906, Robins wrote to Millicent Fawcett that the novel she was working on, adapted from her play, yet to be performed and re-named Votes for Women, "will be the first thing I shall have written under the pressure of a strong moral conviction." The letter is briefly quoted in Gates biography, p. 154, but can be viewed in full on line at the London School of Economics (formerly the Fawcett Library).Also collected here are numerous suffrage banners, of interest to the topics in Episode Two.


Episode Two.

Robins mentions her bicycle accident in the diary excerpt. In September 1907, anticipating the publication of The Convert, this accident was complicated by the fact that the dye in her stockings poisoned her wound. Such irony that the freedom of bicycle exercise collides with the garments made for women! Confined to bed for a number of days, she began a longer form of diary entry that she maintained for the rest of her life. 

Episode Three. 

In addition to the Raymond and I title in print form, there is an electronic edition at Hathi Trust. Elizabeth worked on this almost a full year after Raymond's amnesia episode of late 1932, closely revising her detailed diary of 1900. When she met with him in New York with her final manuscript, he forbade its publication during his lifetime. This devasted her. She entrusted it to Leonard Woolf, who published it in England (Hogarth Press) and in America (Macmillan, without the fronticepiece portrait of ER) in 1956. While preparing The Alaska-Klondike Diary of 1900, available from U of Alaska Press, it was possible to track exact portions and incidents from this diary, though these notations were removed from the printed volume. Of course, Raymond and I changes names of most of the principals. It also greatly reduces the attention to ER's travel after Nome. With the 1999 publication of the diary in its original form we see more of how Elizabeth recreates her brothers' trip up the Yukon to Dawson. The diary shows how pleasure travel had come to the Yukon and documents her meeting with Saxton. (Raymond had his older brother disguise himself under a different name when they had traveled together, then retold his Alasaka travel without any mention of Saxton.)

Raymond and the Lenin Plaque

A publicly accessible copy of Alexander Gumberg & Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1933by James K. Libbey uses the Gumberg archive at Wisconsin State History Archives to document Raymond Robins' activities with regards to Soviet Russia. Originally, U of Kentucky Press, 1977, and now available at: 


Dr. James Clark mentions this informative article which includes a photo of the Lenin Oak:

Lichtenstein, Alex. "In the Shade of the Lenin Oak: 'Colonel' Raymond Robins, Senator Claude Pepper, and the Cold War." American Communist History, vol. 3, no. 2 (December 2004), pp. 185-214. Includes the reproduction of several photographs, including Fig. 2, on page 194, Raymond Robins with several others, the American and Soviet flags, in front of the Lenin Oak. The caption reads:

Fig. 2. Margaret Dreier Robins, Raymond's wife, planted the "Lenin Oak" at the Robins estate at Chinsegut Hill, Florida, on May 1st 1918, while Raymond was still in Revolutionary Russia. It served Robins as a constant reminder of his devotion to the ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution, which he had witnessed. (Photo E-524, #2] Claude Pepper Library, Florida State University).

One can find the photo at the FSU archive. Their caption is more precise:

Those pictured under the Lenen [sic] Live Oak are, from left to right, Mary Dreier, Mrs. Troyanovsky, Raymond Robins, Ambassador Troyanovsky, and Margaret Dreier Robins.

My (J. Gates) comment on the photo. Raymond's spinal accident was in September 1935, and he was hospitalized for three months. Various carts and tricycles assisted his mobility. Likely this is taken in 1937 or after. The Soviet flag is perhaps home-made, with a thin hammer and sickle. The hand drafted signpost for "Lenin Oak" was replaced after Raymond's death.

The following derives from notes of my taped interview with Lisa Von Borowsky (January 1987): Lisa recalls asking Raymond if a plaque could mark the tree, and he dictated the inscription. She may have referred to a nearby photo that contains the inscription, but I do not have that wording verbatim. The same engraver who inscribed Raymond's grave marker did the plaque. It was meant to be discreet, only two inches above the ground, and as she remembers, often covered with leaves. Boy scouts discovered it when Lisa was summering in Maine. It was reported to the American Legion, and the Superintendent of Chinsegut contacted her. She contacted her lawyer. The lawyer did not want her to take possession of the plaque, so she ordered that he get rid of it. She verifies that it was melted and the metal thrown into Lake Lindsey. She later had to apologize for directing the destruction of "government" property. (And the apology was willingly accepted.) The disclosure during the height of the Red Scare and McCarthy hearings caused both Margaret and Raymond to be investigated by Congressional committee.

After Lisa Von Borowsky explained her involvement with the incident, she detailed how Ambassador Troyanovsky and presumably others posed underneath the Oak, planted by Margaret on the one-year anniversary of the May 1, 1917 Lenin-organized Bolshevik workers rally, with Raymond still in Russia. The planting was more probably a seedling (not an acorn). Lisa also recalled renditions she had heard of the debates Raymond had with Lenin, Raymond standing up for Democracy and Capitalism, authenticating Raymond's later vindication of his position with regards to the recognition of the USSR.

Further notes: Of course, the complexity of Robins' mission to Russia as a Red Cross officer (which is how he got the designation "Colonel") is difficult to effectively distill. The Resources for this Episode include Neil Salzman's Reform and Revolution: The Life and Times of Raymond Robins. The biography not only mines the rich resources of the political scene in Russia during Raymond's mission there; it relies heavily on the remarkably detailed letters Raymond wrote to Margaret and which she recirculated.

Episode Four. 

William T. Stead was one of Robins' first supporters, in that she introduced herself to him in preparation for her 1990 travel to the passion play at Ober-Ammergau. See analysis in Gates biography, 36-8. Unlike Stead's book on the experience that stressed Christian faith, Robins wrote of her experience converted by the idea that theatre itself could be a holy profession. Those who knew Stead in the early '90s in London knew him for the principles behind his journalistic scheme to expose underage prostitution. See the William T. Stead Resource site for his series of July 1885, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon as well as the resulting trial (Eliza Armstrong Case). Though he was tried and served time for is role in procuring a girl, he remained unrepentant for the action. Reportedly, he wore his prison uniform every year on the anniversary of his conviction. As a result of his exposé, the age of consent was raised from 13 to 16 in 1885.

It is significant to understand Robins for her interest in the sex trafficking, not just through her friendship with Stead but for the issue of prostitution as it related to the suffrage campaign. Sue Thomas' article, cited in my bibliography and below, gives a comprehensive background on the genesis of the novel. Yet she acknowledges that the diary excerpt that begins the podcast as Angela John sees it, "a stage in the careful shaping of a narrative" (John, p. 188). Now that the podcast reproduces the full entry, I think it is fair to see it instead as the more precise reporting of a vivid, just-lived experience. I also see it as only marginally influencing the drafting of My Little Sister, with the main composition of the story occurring earlier and Robins only editing for slight changes as this point in her composition. (Keep in mind that "Where Are You Going To…" was the English title of the novel My Little Sister. The NYU Fales collection uses "Where Are You Going To?" as the title of the play adaptation, which has now been published as My Little Sister. See bibliography, Katie N. Johnson.

Thomas, Sue. “Crying ‘the Horror’ of Prostitution: Elizabeth Robins’s ‘Where Are You Going To...?’ And the Moral Crusade of the Women’s Social and Political Union.” Women, vol. 16, no. 2, Summer 2005, pp. 203–21.

Episode Five Chinsegut and the CCC

Chinsegut's Civilian Conversation Corps,

As mentioned in the Podcast, Chinsegut CCC did produce a newspaper, now archived at.


Searchable by state, alphabetical 

The following link goes to the page on the web where two Chinsegut Star issues can be downloaded.


Colonel Raymond Robins authored an article for the first issue. Selecting the file will perform an auto download. As a politician who was not enthusiastic about FDR's election, the endorsement of the CCC serves as a part of his transformation to accept New Deal politics.

Episode 007 Rest Cures. 

ER wrote the novel of 1905, A Dark Lantern, based on her various experiences with rest cures, but especially the total rest of Dr. Vaughn Harley.

Here are additional sources not mentioned in the Episode:

An article on Weir Mitchell, mentioning Gilman, Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton (but not Robins):

Poirier, Suzanne. "The Weir Mitchell Rest Cure: Doctors and Patients."  Women's Studies, Jan1983, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p15, 26p. (Article), Database: Literary Reference Center Plus. 

The following dissertation is quite useful in its detailed contrast between ER diary experience and the fictionalization in A Dark Lantern:

Blackie, Michael Robert. Rest cures: The narrative life of a medical practice. University of Southern California, 2006, 250 pages. 3236481. This is available through ProQuest Dissertation Database. 

Although Blackie faults the two Robins biographies by Angela John and Joanne E. Gates for subscribing to the Gilman negativity of Rest Cures, his details of the novel and the diary experience recorded by Robins are worth noting.

As I write in my biography, some of the most searing condemnations of ER's rest cure experience come in her diary entries (detailed by Blackie), and a preliminary letter to Bell, "Even the cards that come with the flowers do not reach me" (Gates. ER, p. 137, quoting ER to FB, 28 Oct. 1903). My discussion of A Dark Lantern follows, pp. 139-43. At the time of composing the novel, she was determined to publish only under a pseudonym because she was fearful that her doctor's name, Vaughn Harley, would be associated with the character she created, but her publisher, Heinemann, was against this.

In the fiction of A Dark Lantern, Robins reasonably anticipated the "transference" concept that accorded with the novel's romanticization of the patient-doctor relationship, that the patient becomes so dependent on the doctor that all is well when he is present. In real life, Robins embraced alternate forms of a rest cure, none so severe as the Harley and Mitchell approach that required total bed rest and no reading nor writing.

To my knowledge, Robins made no connection between Marion Lea's soon-to-be husband, Landgon Mitchell, and his father, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. Lea's marriage to playwright Langdon in 1892 and their return to America was the reason for the dissolution of ER and Marion's "Joint Management" production company, following Hedda Gabler and at least one other production in 1891-2. Nor do I suspect Robins would have known of Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." Although reprinted just once in her lifetime, Gilman's work did not regain widespread readership until the Feminist Press reissued it. Gilman's single-page essay "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper?" (published in October 1913, in Gilman's own magazine, The Forerunner), is generally taught together with the story.

Robins became fond of recommending a kür, of the German sort, primarily at water spas. (Christabel Pankhurst and other suffragists may have taken her advice to seek out the same kür.)