Friday

Nov. 12, 1999

In Addition to Faith, Hope and Charity

by Pattiann Rogers

Broadcast Date: FRIDAY: November 12, 1999

Poem: "In Addition to Faith, Hope and Charity" by Patti Ann Rogers from Fire Keeper published by Milkweed Editions.

It's the birthday of nonfiction writer Tracy Kidder, born in New York City (1945)—who is able to make a topic many people would assume to be nothing but dull (such as designing a new computer) into a compelling human interest story. A longtime contributing editor at the Atlantic Monthly magazine, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Soul of a New Machine (1981), about an 18-month struggle of engineers at the Data General Corporation to create a super-mini computer. For his book House (1985), which followed a new house from blueprints to finished product, he spent 6 months studying how the home-buyers, architect, and builders managed to get along, wrangling and compromising in a complex triangular relationship that eventually created a house—with digressions to explore such topics as the history of nails and Thoreau's Walden Pond shelter. Kidder's other books include Among Schoolchildren (1989), Old Friends (1993—about life in a nursing home) and Home Town (1999).

It's the birthday of Reader's Digest founder (William Roy) DeWitt Wallace, born in St. Paul, Minnesota (1889). His father, a minister, was president of the Presbyterian-related Macalester College in St. Paul; his mother was a minister's daughter. Recovering from a World War One wound, he pruned back some magazine articles as an exercise to keep himself busy. Back in St. Paul, he spent 6 months putting together a dummy issue of the Reader' s Digest, using 31 such pared-down articles that had appeared originally in other magazines. Potential backers rejected his concept as ridiculous; he shelved it until he was laid off from his advertising job. The Reader's Digest went on to enjoy the widest circulation of any magazine in the world.

It's the birthday of feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born in Johnstown, New York (1815). When her brother died, she was allowed to take his place in the Johnstown Academy; previously she hadn't been admitted. She won honors there, but even so, no college would take her. She studied law in her father's office, but wasn't allowed to take the bar exam or practice. In 1848, the first women's rights convention in America was held in her home in Seneca Falls, New York. With Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, she compiled the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage.

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