"All Day My Heart Has Gone Hungry": An Educator's Poetic Exclamations and Silences in the American West, c. 191025

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:50 AM
Stevens C-6 (Hilton Chicago)
Pamela J. Stewart, Arizona State University
‘All day my heart has gone hungry’: An Educator’s Poetic Exclamations and Silences in the American West, c. 1910-1925 brings into view the life of Ina E. Gittings (1885-1966), a never-married athlete and educator who ultimately became the director of women’s physical education and athletics at University of Arizona after time at University of Nebraska, University of Montana, homesteading, and serving as a trainer for the first generation of physical therapists during World War I. Immediately following her work as a reconstruction aide, as they were termed, she headed to Turkey to do relief work with Armenian refugees during what we now term a genocide, enduring typhoid and other threats documented in her surviving record. She returned to the US in 1920 and started at UA where she remained throughout her life, retiring in 1955. In early contact with family members who knew her, I was told that at her death in 1966 family members “threw out all the steamy love letters,” boxes dating back to WWI. More recently, family discovered a few poems probably written in the 1912-1920s era, which argue strongly in support of other evidence suggesting her affection and loyalties were particularly directed toward women. The poem referenced in the title is dedicated “to H.,” leaving specifics hidden from view. This book project has raised many questions, not only about how to assess what we term “sexuality” in an era when the term lesbian suggested mental incompetency, but how to question presumed heterosexuality in archival records—and family memory.