Marie Howland: The Soul of Owen's Venture

Edward and Marie Howland with Unidentified Colonist

Edward and Marie Howland with Unidentified Colonist

The Californian

The Californian

This publication of The Californian features a piece written by Marie Howland called “Education in Japan.” This piece was published eight years before Howland moved to Topolobampo. The beginning discusses the failure of America to use proper names for Japanese locations on maps. She claims that this failure caused American children to be miseducated about Japanese geography. Abruptly, this topic is abandoned, and the rest of the article praises Japan for adopting western education practices. Despite this, it is probably safe to assume that Howland did not want Japan to take up American map making methods.

 Howland, who was a prolific author and journalist, wrote by her own rules. She and her husband Edward started a newspaper in their Kansas home called The Credit Foncier of Sinaloa to promote the Topolobampo colony. They relocated the paper to Topolobampo when they moved there in 1888. While Howland was a skilled writer, she engaged in questionable practices. She frequently upset printers because she would revise articles after they had been type set. She also wrote and published a letter in her paper, purportedly from an anonymous stockholder. This was an effort to unseat Alvin Wilbur, who had been appointed by Owen as leader of the colony in his absence. The article started a firestorm, which resulted in Howland’s confession and her printer’s angry resignation. Surprisingly Wilbur forgave her, possibly because he agreed that he was a poor leader (Reynolds 58-59).

My Dear Albert

My Dear Albert

This letter from Marie Howland to Albert Owen, written in January of 1885, reveals the strong feelings that they had for each other. "My Dear Albert," Marie writes, "It is very sweet to hear you complain of my 'silence.' It shows that you have come to regard these letters as part of your 'daily bread.' But of course I wrote you Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday."

It is surprising that Albert would ever have had a chance to complain about Marie’s silence. In this letter, she points out that she has only missed writing to him for two days. She would continue to write him an incredible number of letters throughout their friendship. These letters ranged from “Dear Albert” to “My dear Allie,” depending on her mood. Sometimes they concerned colony or newspaper business, but many of them were personal and depicted colony life. In 1885, she and her husband Edward were still in Kansas and the colony had not yet begun, though the newspaper was already being published. Edward and Marie were the editors. These letters make it clear that Albert was important to Marie, but were her feelings merely platonic? Regardless of the answer to that question, she would discover that she could keep her letter writing habit up in Topolobampo. Though she and Edward moved there in 1888, Albert Owen was away from the colony much of the time.

Written by Erin Chavez

Edward and Marie Howland with Unidentified Colonist

Photo of Edward and Marie Howland with Unidentified Colonist

This photograph, taken by colony photographer Ira Kneeland, features Edward and Marie Howland with an unidentified colonist. When Marie met Edward, she was married to a lawyer named Lyman Case. Surprisingly, it was Case who suggested that Marie divorce him and marry Edward. Marie and Edward lived in Andre Godin’s familistiere, Godin was a Fourierist. This experience would inspire the setting for Marie’s own utopian novel, Papa’s Own Girl (Reynolds 25-26).

In 1882, Edward was stricken with a mysterious ailment that caused his health to deteriorate and eventually claimed his life (Reynolds 27). This was hard on Marie. In 1889, Marie wrote to Albert Owen: “Edward sleeps well, but looks ghastly! Poor Edward! O, how I wish you were here for an hour! O, how good it would be just to look at you or hear you speak” (Howland). As Edward’s condition progressed, he began to sit for long periods without speaking. Sometimes he was unable to lift his head (56). Marie clearly longed for both Edward and Albert’s company, but they would both continue to elude her. Edward died on Christmas Eve of 1890 (85) and Albert Owen continued to spend most of his time away from the colony.

Reynolds, Ray.  Cat’s Paw Utopia. 2nd ed., The Borgo Press, 1996.

Written by Erin Chavez

Minutes of Board Meetings (113)

Charges Against Marie Howland and Christian Hoffman

 An entry from a book of handwritten minutes chronicles a board meeting that took place on June 14th, 1889. Charges were brought against Marie Howland and Christian Hoffman: “A communication was read from Mr. Brink in regard to the conduct of Mrs. Howland and Mr. Hoffman on their trip to the Bay.” This accusation referred to an incident where Howland and Hoffman had apparently lain under the same blanket while traveling to the bay by wagon.  Howland would later admit that she and Hoffman did share a pillow and blanket, but stated that they only did so because they were cold. She also clarified that their feet were facing opposite directions (Reynolds 62-64).

The entry also refers to Howland’s “conduct at Guaymas.” While journeying to Topolobampo, Howland’s party was detained in Guaymas. Being stranded at the beach had the perk of allowing plenty of time to swim in the cool, comforting ocean water. Marie frequently took advantage of this opportunity and preferred to do so sans clothing. This upset one of her travel companions, Mrs. Standfast, who claimed that Howland would “go into the water naked and swim among the men and call out to the men on the beach who could not swim to come in and she would learn them” (Reynolds 62; qtd in 62).   

During this meeting, there was some conflict on how to proceed. One issue was that the swimming incidents had not occurred in Topolobampo. Did the board still have jurisdiction? Were the men who swam with Howland also to blame? Since there were so many questions to discuss, the matter was postponed until the next meeting.

Reynolds, Ray.  Cat’s Paw Utopia. 2nd ed., The Borgo Press, 1996.

Written by Erin Chavez

 

Minutes of Board Meetings (113) Minutes of Board Meetings (114)

Charges Against Marie Howland and Christian Hoffman Continued

On June 15th,  just one day after their previous discussion of the charges against Marie Howland, the board met again to discuss her case. Once again, there was disagreement on how to proceed. Mr. Wilbur and Dr. Schellhous thought that Mrs. Howland had a right to view and respond to the charges against her. Mr. Friend was in favor of setting a trial and argued that Mrs. Howland would not mind “the technicality” if she was innocent. The technicality was that the incidents had all happened before Howland had arrived in Topolobampo.  

Considering that the events occurred outside of the colony, perhaps the most logical course of action would have been to give Mrs. Howland a warning or dismiss the charges entirely. Why were the Standfasts so determined to see her formally charged? It is possible that real hatred had developed between the conservative couple and the free-spirited Mrs. Howland. They were forced to spend months in close quarters despite being complete opposites in personality. Christian Hoffman thought there was another reason. Hoffman believed that the Standfasts, along with Dr. Schellhous, wanted to take over the colony and figured that Mrs. Howland would be the easiest target among the leaders. Mrs. Howland thought Mr. Schellhous simply desired to oust her as education director so he could have the post himself (Reynolds 65). 

It is also interesting to note that the discussion of the charges against Hoffman were not resumed in this meeting. Clearly, Mrs. Howland was the focus. In the end, the board decided to give Mrs. Howland a chance to view her case and respond in writing before proceeding to the next step.

Reynolds, Ray.  Cat’s Paw Utopia. 2nd ed., The Borgo Press, 1996.

Written by Erin Chavez

Minutes of Board Meetings (115)

Let's Wait for Owen

Marie Howland attended the board meeting held on July 3rd, 1889. Facing the board, she asked, “Could any person in the Colony prefer charges against another?” Mr. Wilber, the chairman, stated that one could press charges as long as they were not “trivial or malicious.” Howland also stated that Christian Hoffman should be notified of the charges against him. The board questioned whether she had received the charges against her. She replied that she had, but that they were unusual and such a surprise to her that she would rather wait until Mr. Owen’s counsel could be obtained. It is not surprising that Howland wanted to wait for Albert Owen’s counsel. She and Owen had a long history dating back to their first meeting in New Jersey, many years before either one of them had made the trek to Topolobampo. Their shared vision of a successful Utopian colony created a quick bond and a close friendship. It was there, at her farmhouse, that she had showed Owen one of the many types of roses in her garden, a rose she called “Topolobampo” (Reynolds 26-27).

Another advantage of waiting for Owen’s counsel was the delay it would cause in the proceeding of the charges against her. Owen was frequently away from the colony. Perhaps Marie thought that by waiting for Owen, the board would move on to the next scandal and forget about her case altogether. In the end, this is what happened. The date for her trial came and passed and the issue was never pursued again. (Reynolds 65).

Reynolds, Ray.  Cat’s Paw Utopia. 2nd ed., The Borgo Press, 1996.

Written by Erin Chavez

Printing No. 171 of the Credit Foncier

A Day at the Credit Foncier of Sinaloa Office

This photograph, taken by colony photographer Ira Kneeland, shows Franz Schleuninger and John Dawkins working at the Credit Foncier of Sinaloa office while Marie Howland plays her fiddle. Marie Howland and her husband Edward had started the newspaper back in their New Jersey home. Marie had previously published articles in several magazines. When Marie and Edward moved to Topolobampo, they set up a new office there and continued publishing the newspaper (Moore 1).

The first man in the photo is John Dawkins. Dawkins, who was described by fellow colonist Charles Moore as being “kindly and efficient,” (27) was the foreman of the Credit Foncier of Sinaloa. He would later go on to oversee the commissary (20).

The second man is Franz Schleuninger (spelled Schelenger in the photograph), from Switzerland. In addition to his Credit Foncier duties, he made beautiful jewelry and ornaments out of turtle shells (25).

This photo also shows Marie Howland with her fiddle in hand. Whether she possessed the skill to play it is debatable. Charles Moore said: “Mrs. Howland had a $500 violin, which she thought she could play, and had an aesthetic appreciation of music as an art” (Moore 10). Despite this harsh judgement, Moore thought highly of Marie and said her eccentricities balanced with her “many good qualities" (27).

 

Moore, Charles W. “Paradise at Topolobampo.” The Journal of Arizona History, vol. 16, no. 1, 1975, pp. 1–28. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41695231.

Written by Erin Chavez

En Route to La Logia

En Route to La Logia

Marie Howland with Colonists and Horses

Marie, Colonists, and Horses

School House

School House

School House

Resignation of Marie Howland

Resignation of Marie Howland

Views of an Ex Director Views of an Ex Director

Views of an Ex-Director

This 1894 newspaper column was written following Marie Howland’s departure from Owen’s Pacific Colony to return to her former home in Hammonton, N.J.. The article explains Howland’s role as editor of Topolobampo’s The Credit Foncier newspaper and explores her views after leaving the colony. According to the article, when discussing her experience at Topolobampo, “She spoke with considerable reserve, but evidently felt discouraged as to the future of the colony,” noting that the saddest thing, for her, was that her husband, Edward, had gone to the colony so full of hope only to die there without having realized his dream.

Howland was one of Owen’s biggest supporters from the start of his venture, and she wrote him nearly every day for years. Before moving to the colony, Howland and her husband circulated the colony’s newspaper, and while in the colony she often played the role of mediator with disgruntled colonists while Owen was away on business.

Ultimately, even Marie Howland had to cut her losses at the colony eventually. Here, Howland echoes other colonists’ claims that the colony had poor management and relates the fact that she has lost faith in Topolobampo’s ability to reach the status of an ideal utopian community. Howland does not, however, give up on her own search for utopia. She would go on to live and work in Fairhope, Indiana, a single-tax intentional community, suggesting that even in the post-utopian aftermath, utopia is still worth pursuing.

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Jan. 3rd, 1886 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen Jan. 3rd, 1886

Letters to Owen: Jan. 1886

(part one)

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Report on Colony Schools

Education in the Colony

This letter to Marie Howland was written by W.F. Romine, a school teacher at the colony. The educator reports on the status of the colony schools to Marie Howland who, at the time, was serving as the Director of Education and Amusement while still living in Hammonton, New Jersey. Romine explains that student attendance was in flux because new settlers were sporadically arriving while other colonists were being transferred to different settlements in the colony. Still, the average daily attendance remained at twenty-two pupils. Perhaps the most compelling part of this letter describes the state of the current schoolhouse and materials. Romine writes: “For temporary use we have a rude school room in the shade of a clump of cactus trees...the furniture of the room is limited to sufficient benches, made of poles and stones to seat the Children Scholars” (1). The materials at their disposal included a small blackboard, a few slates, and a few books, of which there were “scarcely two of the same grade and series, or by the same author” (2).Teachers at the colony often expressed frustration at having to answer to Marie Howland because of her lack of experience teaching. In fact, Howland spent a year teaching in a Mission school before attending and graduating from a New York normal school, which we can relate to a modern credential program, two and a half years later (Blake 149-150). Despite Howland’s experience and passion for education, which she believed essential to diminishing the then-dominant “separate spheres” ideals of separating gender, the schools at Topolobampo struggled to receive proper materials and accommodations to create a flourishing learning environment. 

Blake, Holly Jacklyn. “Marie Howland-19th-Century Leader for Women’s Economic Independence.” American Journal of Economics & Sociology, vol. 74, no. 5, Nov. 2015, pp. 878–1190. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/ajes.12128.

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

 

Letter to E.M. Hussey

Marie Howland's Letter to E.M. Hussey; April 28th, 1892

Writing to a Potential Colonist

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Papa's Own Girl

Papa's Own Girl by Marie Howland

Papa's Own Girl

Marie Howland’s socialist utopian novel Papa’s Own Girl, published in 1885, was later entitled The Familistere. A Novel. Pictured is the copy that was held in the Topolobampo Library, which was directed by Marie Howland for the duration of her time at the colony. In Lyman Tower Sargent's Utopian Literature in English: An Annotated Bibliography From 1516 to the Present, he notes that the two titles parallel two of the novel's main themes. The first, Papa's Own Girl, “reflects the desire of one of the main characters that his daughter grow up as a strong, independent woman, and she does”. The second, The Familistere, takes its name from the Fourierist community in Guise, France founded by Jean Baptiste Andre Godin (1817-88), which is “the basis of the intentional community that is the other focus of the novel” (Sargent).

In a later newspaper article written about Marie Howland's experiences post-Topolobampo, Howland mentions that Owen had read her novel, “which deals with labor subjects,” and that had prompted him to come see her at "Casatonti," the home she shared with her husband, Edward Howland, in New Jersey. Ray Reynolds, the author of Cat'spaw Utopia, believes that Marie Howland's ideas influenced Owen’s writings, such as Integral Co-Operation, which she may have had a hand in writing, as well as the ideas of Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward.

Reynolds, Ray.  Cat’s Paw Utopia. 2nd ed., The Borgo Press, 1996.

Sargent, Lyman Tower. “Papa’s Own Girl.” Utopian Literature in English: An Annotated Bibliography From 1516 to the Present. State College, PA: Penn State Libraries Open Publishing, 2016 and continuing. doi: 10.18113/P8WC77.

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Marie Howland & The Fairhope Library

Marie Howland: Fairhope's Libarian

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Postcard to J.A. Soliday

Postcard to J.A. Soliday

Contacting a Credit Foncier Subscriber

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Jan. 6th, 1886 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen, Jan. 6th, 1886

Letters to Owen: Jan. 1886

(part two)

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Jan. 9th, 1886 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen Jan. 9th, 1886

Letters to Owen: Jan. 1886

(part three)

Written by E. Makala Bowen 

Jan. 3rd, 1892 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen: Jan. 3rd, 1892

Letters to Owen: Jan. 1892

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Mar. 8th, 1886 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen Mar. 8th, 1886

Letters to Owen: March 1886

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

April 26th, 1892 Letter to A.K. Owen

Letter to A.K. Owen April 26th, 1892

Letters to Owen: April 26th, 1892

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Postcard to A.K. Owen

Postcard to A.K. Owen Mar. 15, 1886

Postcard to Owen: March 1886

Written by E. Makaela Bowen 

Colonial Library Rules

Colonial Library Rules

Marie Howland's Library Rules

Among other responsibilities at Topolobampo, Marie Howland also voluntarily served as the colony’s librarian, bringing many books from her personal collection. Howland was well-read and evidently was proud of her collection, which was probably quite extensive given that this book is labelled number three-hundred-and-thirty-one. Perhaps this is why her colonial library rules seem so strict. Rule number four even seems to personify the books, stating that,“If the book is injured it must be paid for in CASH.” A writer herself, Marie Howland also translated the works of French socialist Jean-Baptiste André Godin’s Solutions Sociales (1871) into the English Social Solutions and read and was inspired by other authors and thinkers. Indeed literature, both utopian and dystopian has had the most significant impact on the discourse of utopian studies. From Plato’s The Republic,Thomas More’s Utopiaand the emergence of utopian literature and art from around the world, such as the Tao Yuanming’s 421 CE China The Peach Blossom Springand Bessie Head’s When Rain Clouds Gatherset in 1960’s Botswana. 

The value Howland placed on books, and by extension literature, and the need for a library Library as a necessary entity in a colony that was lacking many basic sustenance needs suggest that books feed something inside of us all. While Topolobampo was decidedly not the tropical, fruitful paradise many colonists had dreamed of, books in the Credit Foncier Colonial Library’s collection, like Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwardmay have offered an escape from the reality of unrealized utopia and hope that one day a utopia could be achieved.

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Principles Constituting the Basis of True Marriage

Marie Howland's "True Marriage" Principles

Principles Constituting the Basis of True Marriage 

In this statement originally sent to fellow colonist Dr. Schellhous, Marie Howland outlines her personal principles constituting the basis of “true marriage”. This statement defending her personal morals was made in the wake of the accusations against Mrs. Howland and Christian Hoffman, and the surrounding negative conversations those accusations, among the others concerning  her swimming nude with other men, brought to her name and reputation. Marie Howland insists that her views are not “lax” “with reference to the relations of the sexes,” despite the fact that she has been “informed” otherwise. The “principles she outlines are:

I. Sincere, profound, mutual love and reverence

II. The desire that offspring may result, or at least the willingness that they should

III. Worldly conditions necessary for the support and Education of children: the most sacred function of parents and of this state

IV. Honorable marriage before the community, securing all possible legal advantages to the relation.

Howland maintains that, “all of these conditions are demanded by high morality for the justification of the sexual act; and that when any one of them becomes wanting in the experience of conjugal partners, they should cease their marital and assume platonic relations to each other.” Holly Jacklyn Blake, who provides an extensive account of Marie Howland’s life and work, writes that, “Howland made it her life's work to remove barriers to economic independence for women . . .She wanted women to have the economic freedom to marry for love, not economic necessity, leave a bad marriage, survive widowhood, or not marry at all” (Blake 1). These beliefs translated into her lived experience, as she “made sure that her personal relationships with men were based on free love and mutual respect, not economic necessity and legal contract” (Blake 1).

While Howland may have been an advocate of "free love,” what that looked like to her had more to do with advocating the ability for women to fairly choose romantic and sexual partners, and less to do with the idea of having many lovers. Reading her “principles” closely juxtaposed with the fact that her husband, Edward, had been physically disabled for some time, we may understand that any relationship with Hoffman may have fallen under her moral code, for she would have conceivably resumed a “platonic” relationship with Edward by this time.

Blake, Holly Jacklyn. “Marie Howland-19th-Century Leader for Women’s Economic Independence.” American Journal of Economics & Sociology, vol. 74, no. 5, Nov. 2015, pp. 878–1190. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/ajes.12128.

Written by E. Makaela Bowen

Marie Howland: The Soul of Owen's Venture