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Tarbell, Ida M.

All in the Day's Work.


Inscribed to Malvinia Hoffman
Tarbell, Ida M. All in the Day's Work. An autobiography. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939.
8vo.; frontispiece black and white portrait of Tarbell; seven other photographs of Tarbell throughout; lightly tanned at gutters; orange cloth; stamped in black and gilt; orange, black, white, and gold dust-jacket; edgeworn; 3 ½ x 1" chip on lower panel.
First edition. A presentation copy, inscribed on the front endpaper to sculptor Malvinia Hoffman: To Malvina Hoffman/ who not only dares dream/ noble and beautiful things/ but has the disciplined and/ courageous genius to/ make them realities/ from her friend/ Ida M. Tarbell/ June 1939.
Ida M[inerva] Tarbell (1857-1944) was born and raised in Pennsylvania and had the distinction of being one of only five female students at her alma mater, Allegheny College, and the only woman to graduate with the class of 1880. She spent her early career teaching, lecturing, and doing editorial work for the monthly publication, The Chautauquan; she left the United States in 1891 to study at the Sorbonne. In Paris, Tarbell supported herself by writing for Scribner's. Her articles got the attention of publisher S.S. McClure, who convinced her to return to the States and write for his muckraking magazine, the now infamous McClure's. Tarbell's pieces on Napoleon, which were eventually published (A Short Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, New York and London: McClure, Phillips, 1901), gained her international fame and established her firmly in the pantheon of acclaimed journalists of her time. However, it was Tarbell's exposé on John D. Rockefeller's monopolization of the oil industry for which she is revered today: The History of the Standard Oil Company (New York: McClure, Phillips, 1904) is hailed as one of the iconic works of the American Progressive movement. It led to dramatic reforms in the oil industry and played a role the Supreme Court's decision to break up the Standard Oil trust in 1911.
Curiously, Tarbell did not support the work of suffragists as one might expect; though she was approached several times by leaders of the movement such as Carrie Chapman Catt and asked to use her influence and writing talents to garner support for women's rights, she always refused. Perhaps it was the highly public nature of the suffragist campaign that displeased Tarbell, who in The Business of Being a Woman (New York: Macmillan Co., 1912) concluded that "women had a business assigned by nature and society which was of more importance than public life." Ultimately, Tarbell believed women had a much greater calling as wives and mothers, and that it was in those roles that women could best hope to improve society, not as enfranchised members of society. After The Business of Being a Woman was published and Tarbell admitted to not supporting women's suffrage, Jane Addams reportedly remarked, "There is some limitation to Ida Tarbell's mind." (   
Never a woman to seek fame or celebrity status, Tarbell was reluctant to write an autobiography and waited until she was 82 years-old to do so. The modesty with which she recounts her achievements in All in the Day's Work is especially remarkable, as the humble title suggests. Tarbell notably disputes the label of "muckraker," preferring to think of herself as a historian, explaining in one chapter, "I was convinced that in the long run the public [the muckrakers] were trying to stir would weary of vituperation, that if you were to secure permanent results the mind must be convinced" (p. 242). If establishing a permanent ideological legacy was Tarbell's main goal, few would argue that she failed in that endeavor. Tarbell died of pneumonia in 1944 in a hospital in Connecticut. (NAW III, pp. 428-430;
Malvina Hoffman (1887-1966) studied with Auguste Rodin for sixteen months, and like Tarbell, spent several years in France, keeping company with the likes of Stein, Monet, Matisse, Brancusi, and many of the artists affiliated with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. When Hoffman no longer could afford one-on-one study with Rodin, he encouraged her to improve her methods by observing the human body from a medical perspective. Hoffman attended several classes in Anatomy and Dissection at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and later published a book on how her findings contributed to her technique: Sculpture Inside and Out (New York: Norton and Co., 1939).
After the outbreak of World War I, Hoffman joined forces with her sister and worked with the Red Cross. She also helped raise money for French war charities assisting struggling artists. Her most famous work, commissioned by the Chicago Field Museum, consists of a collection of over a hundred busts of men and women from around the world, many of whom were close friends of Hoffman, such as Katharine Cornell, Teilhard de Chardin, and Wendell Wilkie. Hoffman also won awards and garnered national attention for her sculptures of Anna Pavlova, a friend and fellow artist, and the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. There is no mention of Hoffman in Tarbell's autobiography, but it seems likely that the women crossed paths in France or at least knew of each other's work, judging by the warm inscription. (NAW The Modern Period, pp. 343-345; Fielding, Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, p. 412)
A compelling copy, uniting two American women who made substantial cultural contributions to two centuries in two artistic disciplines.

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