Tag Archives: Emily Grant Hutchings

EMILY and PEARL

may-1-1920-saturday-evening-post-the-ouija-boardPearl Curran and Emily Hutchings were best friends in the summer of 1912 although some might say they were as different as night and day.  Emily was a vivacious, social “woman about town“, known, according to Emily,  to all of the “big” women in St. Louis.  She was from a middle class family with seven brothers and one sister raised in Hannibal Missouri, childhood home of Mark Twain.  She was college educated, well travelled having lived in Germany for a year,  and known in St. Louis as a lecturer, arts librarian, and magazine and newspaper writer of topics of interest to women. She had a lot of writing credits to her name and had met and personally communicated with Mark Twain several times before he died.  Emily was married to Charles Edwin Hutchings and had no children.

Pearl Curran on the other hand was an only child, somewhat lonely at times and from a comparatively poor family living in Podunk towns in Texas, Missouri and Illinois, had a limited formal education, had not traveled much out of Missouri and Illinois but was an accomplished singer and piano teacher.  Before the arrival of Patience Worth she spent most of her time attending to household chores, cooking for and entertaining her husband, John H. Curran, stepdaughter, Julia Curran, mother Mary Pollard, father George Pollard and grandfather John Cordingley. The 1920 census also records Julia Davis and Joe Davis as members of the household.  (Mrs. Curran said she had one maid.)  Pearl would eventually have two children of her own; an adopted daughter Patience Worth Curran and her biological daughter, Eileen.   Pearl had no interest in writing or reading literature and was content with going to movies, playing the piano and singing.

John H. Curran

John H. Curran

Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth published in 1927, noted that in July 1912 Emily and Pearl, “were making a call on a neighbor who had an Ouija board, and during the call there came what purported to be a message from a relative of Mrs. Hutchings.  Thereupon the latter [Mrs. Hutching bought a board and took it to Mrs. Curran’s house with the idea of continuing these curious experiments.”  Pearl Curran’s father George Pollard was ill at the time and passed away about two months later.  “For a time Mrs. Curran refused to have anything more to do  with the board, but finally allowed herself to be persuaded.  Then (the deceased) Mr. Pollard and Mrs. Hutchings’s mother purported to communicate through the board.”  No record was kept of these sessions but Mrs. Hutchings or Pearl Curran’s mother, Mary Pollard would write down the words as they came from Pearl through the Ouija Board and, according to John Curran,  Emily Hutchings “would then take the notes home and rewrite and punctuate them.  Also she would make interpolations of her own in the record and, we found since, she would add to and take from and change ad libitum.”

Eventually, John Curran would take over the job of transcribing the notes thereby removing Emily from this task.  He states that “At first Mrs. Curran believed in the idea conveyed by Mrs. Hutchings that it was absolutely necessary for Mrs. Hutchings to be at the board with Mrs. Curran in order that anything might come.  At this date (January 5, 1915 ) this has been entirely disproven and the following people have already sat with us, there being no difference in the character or quality of the result no matter who sat.  (He then named 14 people in addition to himself and Mrs. Hutchings who had sat with Mrs. Curran and obtained good results.)

James H. Hyslop

James H. Hyslop

Apparently the relationship between Emily and Pearl  deteriorated somewhat after this and by early 1915, Emily is absent for a few months from the notes recorded  by John Curran.  Daniel Shea, in his book The Patience of Pearl  documented through letters written by Emily Hutchings  to James Hyslop, chief psychical researcher for the American Society of Psychical Research (ASPR) that Emily complained to Hyslop about the Currans that she was being replaced by a “copyist” and she was politely ignored when she offered to continue as stenographer.  Her dismissal, she wrote, resulted from her “uncompromising honesty” when she and her husband refused to agree with the Currans that it would make a better story if all supernormal communications were attributed to Patience Worth.

Soon after Emily stopped participating with Pearl Curran she began her association with Lola V. Hayes another medium who channeled spirits.  With Lola’s help Emily contacted the spirit of Mark Twain and began receiving his dictation of a couple of short stories and a short novel titled Jap Herron.  It is interesting that with Jap Herron, Emily assumed dominance over her medium, something Pearl Curran would not let her do with Patience Worth.   Even though Lola V. Hays channeled the book by Mark Twain, Emily claimed the credit and published the book along with a 42-page introduction about how she (Emily) accomplished the feat of writing for Mark Twain

Emily continued to elicit Hyslop’s sympathies through additional correspondence revealing that she had contacted Patience Worth, with Hyslop in return saying that he too had contacted her.   Hutchings did not think that Hyslop’s  Patience Worth ringed quite true and that her Patience Worth had told her that she (Patience) had not written Telka, the first long work from Curran’s Ouija board.  Instead Hutchings’s Patience Worth told her that “the man who composed it had chained her (Patience) and compelled her to send it across.”  Emily kept this communication going with Dr. Hyslop, behind Pearl’s back.  Emily stressed with Dr. Hyslop, her need for privacy “trusting you not to permit this letter to fall into other hands” since she “would not, for the world, have my dear friend, Mrs. Curran , offended or wounded by my recital of her mental or educational shortcomings”  .  Emily proposed to Hyslop that Jap Herron be conveyed to the ASPR, with the not-so-subtle bribe that Twain had offered to give 25 percent of the profits from the book to the cause of psychic research (presumably to the ASPR). Apparently Emily was successful in priming Dr. Hyslop  to rail against Pearl Curran and her Patience Worth in that he subsequently provided a scathing review of Casper Yost’s book about Patience Worth.  (Hyslop had not yet met Patience or Pearl at the time of his review.) However, Hyslop found Emily’s book, Jap Herron to have “abundant, indisputable, evidence that Mark Twain was behind the work.

However Clara Clemens, Mark Twain’s daughter was not impressed with Dr. Hyslop’s evaluation of the book.  In a New York Times article published on February 11, 1918  she is quoted as characterizing Professor Hyslop’s assertions as “silly, foolish, stupid and crazy,” and announced that she had asked her attorney, Charles P. Lark of New York, to prevent the publication of Jap Herron through an injunction.

Pearl eventually telephoned Emily and wondered aloud with her why Hyslop had “so bitterly attacked Patience Worth” attempting to discover the source of Hyslop’s information about Patience Worth.  Emily evasively said to Pearl “I don’t know,” even though she had been writing to Hyslop about the whole Patience Worth affair.  Interestingly, according to Irving Litvag in his book “Singer in the Shadows”  he states that as a result of additional  verbal and written attacks on Patience Worth and Pearl Curran initiated as a result of the Hyslop condemnation, Emily [perhaps feeling guilty for what she had spawned stood up to defend Mrs. Curran by claiming “We who have worked with Patience Worth cannot lie supine while the skeptic annihilates her with so absurd a bludgeon as the Chaucer-and-Ozark theory.  (It was mistakenly claimed by some that Pearl Curran had picked up English archaisms from reading Chaucer and living in the Ozark mountains of Missouri.)  I have known Mrs. Curran long and intimately and I know to an ultimate certainty that she never read Chaucer in her life.  I know, too that the only reading of Chaucer that her husband did was in my home fully a year after the Patience Worth dialect had been coming. . .their argument has not a leg to stand on.”

Patience Worth commented upon the criticisms by saying “Ye art yet for to learn there ne’er wert a bloomed field, greened and sweet o’ grasses, but some ass seeked to browse therein.”

According to Daniel Shea, Pearl Curran was unaware that Emily had begun her own Ouija board communications with Patience Worth , Mark Twain and with Pearl’s deceased father, George Pollard, who according to Emily, readily discussed his daughter’s shortcomings with her as he dictated assurances to Emily that she “had been more a daughter to him than she of his flesh [Pearl ever was.”  Then revealing her insecurities, Emily queried Pearl’s father whether or not Pearl was planning to eliminate her from the Patience Worth sessions.

Four years before she died in 1960, Emily told a St. Louis Post Dispatch writer that she still believed completely in the reality of Patience Worth and that she never had doubted that Patience was truly the spirit of a woman who had died long before.

One might say that if it were not for Emily Grant Hutchings purchasing a Ouija Board and forcing Pearl Curran to use it with her, Patience Worth might never have found her voice in Pearl Curran.  In many ways I think that Emily Grant Hutchings was everything that Pearl Curran wanted to be but wasn’t.  Perhaps Patience Worth was Pearl’s way of “besting” her good friend Emily at her own game—writing. But regardless of the motive for Patience Worth and regardless of why the relationship between Emily Hutchings and Pearl Curran eventually soured, and whether or not the writing of Patience Worth was really from the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran, I think we can all say with much appreciation, “Thank you, Emily!” 

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EMILY: ‘That Hannibal Girl’

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”

Shakespeare:
‘As You LIke it’

Emily-Grant-Hutchings

Emily Grant Hutchings called “The Hannibal Girl” by the spirit of Mark Twain.

When Patience Worth first arrived in St. Louis on that hot summer night of July, 1913, it was with the help of Emily Grant Hutchings, a writer of some notoriety in the St. Louis Missouri area.  Seated with a Ouija board between them, Emily Hutchings and Pearl Curran received the first indication that messages purported to be coming from the spirit world were being sent by a spirit who called herself “Patience Worth”.  Emily and Pearl considered themselves to be best friends and they worked together at the Ouija board during the early days of Patience Worth dictation,  Unfortunately, their relationship quickly cooled and Emily Hutchings went her own way for a while, purportedly contacting Patience Worth on her own.  Eventually Emily would channel Mark Twain with the help of another medium, Lola V. Hays.  Together they would write a short novel titled, “Jap Herron” which Emily claimed was dictated by Mark Twain from beyond the grave.

Emily Grant Hutchings attended the public schools in Hannibal Missouri, where she was born in 1869, graduating from the High School at seventeen years old and going from there to Germany to a famous school for girls in Altenburg, the Karolinum Hohere Tochtere Schule, where she remained for one year.  On coming back to America she entered  State University at Columbia, Missouri taking a course in letters.  For two years she taught Latin and Greek, also German in the High School of Hannibal, and then came to St. Louis, taking a position as a feature writer on the “St. Louis Republic”

Emily Grant Hutchings (nee Emma Schmidt) wrote poetry and fiction and contributed to many magazines and newspapers. She was listed as one of the “Notable Women of St. Louis” in 1914 along with other prominent wealthy society women of that time (although Emily may have been prominent, she was not wealthy). She married Charles Edwin Hutchings a newspaper man and photographer in 1897.  Her home was described as “a center of artistic and literary people.”

Emily and Edwin had no children and she is  quoted as saying that she had “attained a great local reputation as a cook.”  It was reported that  “she does her own housework, marketing, etc. preferring the occupation of a housewife to the easier, but less private life of a hotel.”

As stated in Notable Women of St. Louis,

“Many of her articles require a great deal of foraging for material, but she is so persistent that the word “fail” has no place in her vocabulary.  Frequently in search of material for one story she runs across another.  An idea will lie dormant in her mind as long as two years, sometimes even longer—when suddenly without warning it will present itself full-fledged to be written, and then dropping whatever she may be doing, puts it down just as it comes to her, rarely making any changes.  With few exceptions her work is sent to the publishers just as first written attributing this to the fact that all of her good work is the result of subconscious cerebration.  She has seen among her clippings articles that she would not believe were her own had she not found her initials at the end.  These stories would sometimes require a vast amount of research, but could be dismissed from the memory as quickly as acquired, and again others have impressed themselves on her mind so vividly that she could repeat them almost verbatim.  Her memory is unusual, and her mind is a storehouse of information.  It is, in fact remarkable—wholly isolated items of information that have been picked up in the course of years, coming up at the time most needed.

From her varied experiences Mrs. Hutchings is a very interesting woman; she possesses the rare tact of being a good listener, as well as entertaining in conversation.  She has a lovable disposition and is a woman whom all other women admire.”

 According to Emily she “wrote for a newspaper syndicate and did a good deal of feature writing for McClure’s, (where she wrote an article on Mark Twain)  and for the St. Louis newspapers.”  She contributed to “Current Literature,” “Cosmopolitan,” “Country Life,” “Current Magazine,” “The Open Court,” “Philistine,” “Atlantic Monthly,” and others.  She wrote one novel that was published in the “Sunday Associated Magazine of Chicago,” entitled “Chriskios —Divine Healer.”  For two years she wrote “Art and Home Decorations for Beautiful Homes.” published monthly in St. Louis.  She contributed ten chapters of the “Women’s Atheneum” part of a work in ten volumes which covers every phase of woman’s activity, including themes as Art in Dress; Art in Home Decorations; The History and Study of Art; Women as Writers; The Teaching Profession for Women; The Ethics of Handiwork for Women.

She was art editor of the  St. Louis Globe-Democrat. and was published for four years as the “Mysterious Woman About Town.”  At one time she wrote the “Saturday Dinner Sketches,” using the name of “Frank Harwin.”    In an article in the Oakland Tribune published on September 10, 1922 Emily is quoted as saying, “It has been part of my job, all through my newspaper work, to consult with women’s clubs, to advise them on their programs and I have come to know personally most of the big women in such organizations in Missouri and in other states.” 

Mrs. Hutchings was also on the publicity staff of the General Press Bureau during the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis as Chief Feature Writer “and in that capacity she sent out articles in seven languages. She wrote a story a day for twenty-four weeks which were printed all over the world.  In their preparation she interviewed practically every official and head of the department connected with the fair.   She was the last member of the press bureau to be dropped after the Fair had been disbanded.  She was reported to be a lecturer and librarian of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts.   Mrs. Hutchings has also done much work for ‘The Mirror” along the line of art criticisms, municipal improvement work, etc.  It is interesting to know that she made inspections in the Industrial School, publishing the facts in that paper which four years later were proven by municipal investigation to be absolutely correct, and the city officials who scorned her actions at the time were the first to make apologies when they found her reports to have been verified..”

For two years she was on the editorial staff of the “Valley Magazine,” taking the Children’s and Domestic Science departments.  She prepared about one-half of the first issue of “Myerson’s American Family Magazine,” using seven pen names, and was on the staff for one year.  Emily is reported to have stated, “In my childhood I wanted to be a physician; but the first time I saw a cadaver, I fainted.  That settled my career.  My brother, who is a surgeon, laughed at me.  So I took to literature instead.”

Emily’s mother, Margaret Schmidt did train as a physician to “make herself more useful” to  her husband as he contemplated a missionary appointment in Japan but “in those days the rights of womankind were disregarded by medical colleges and she was not allowed to take a degree .”  Although her husband did not become a missionary due to poor health, Margaret Schmidt’s services as a physician “were soon in great demand in the vicinity of her home and she was recognized by all as a physician of ability.  Her field of labor widened and at last she had clientele not exceeded by any other practitioner in Hannibal (Missouri).  She continued in professional work until declining years led to her withdrawal from active practice .”

Emily Hutchings died at home in St. Louis in 1960 and poignantly, after such an outstanding career, obituaries remembered her as little more than the widow of Edwin Hutchings.  No mentions were made of her literary career or love affair with the Ouija board or spiritualism.