Thursday, January 11, 2018

FEMINIST---19th Century Style by Karla Stover

Does everyone have a list of deceased people who would have been fun to meet for a cup of coffee? Three Puget Sound ladies are on my list: Mrs. Alice Blackwell, who came in Tacoma 1873, when the future town was nothing more than a few dozen people living on Commencement Bay, and who helped her husband establish the first hotel there; author Betty MacDonald, whose books The Egg and I was a huge best-seller, but who wrote a wonderful memoir, Anybody Can Do Anything,  about being a single mom and trying to find a job in Seattle during the Depression, and camouflage artist, Enid Jackson Kemper.

Camouflage isn't new. The ancient Greeks painted their boats blue-gray for concealment; the reconnaissance/intelligence-gathering boats Julius Caesar sent to scoop out the coast of Britain were painted entirely in bluish-green wax, as were the sails, ropes and even the crew. The French are generally credited with developing camouflage for use in war. In fact, "a 15th-century French manuscript, The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus, shows a horse pulling a cart which contains a hunter armed with a crossbow under a cover of branches, perhaps serving as a hide." Then World War I came along and that brings us to Enid Jackson, as she was known then.

World War I Dazzle Camouflage

Enid was born I 1897 to a wealthy Canadian doctor, Robert G. Jackson and his wife, Robina Ann. The Jacksons moved to Tacoma sometime around 1912. She went to Annie Wright Seminary and after graduation began studying art at the Ogontz School for Young Ladies near Philadelphia. There she paid particular attention to learning how to disguise roofs. While in Tacoma, she learned to drive, while in Philadelphia, she learned to fly, saying, she wanted "to learn from the sky how to correct colors for purposes of deception."

The earliest camouflage artists came from France's Impressionism, Post-Impressionist and Fauve schools of art. However, cubism and vorticism, both of which often focused on disrupting outlines and played with abstraction and color theory, contributed to the war effort.

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Soldier inside a fake tree
As German aerial reconnaissance ramped up, disguising tanks became of paramount importance. British artist Solomon Solomon, (why would his parents do that?) a private in the Artists Rifles, a "home defense corps," was taken to the front lines to investigate techniques already being used by the French. He devised an elaborate four color scheme, which crews were required to copy exactly onto their own tanks. He also worked on tree observation posts and arguing tirelessly for camouflage netting. (tree, net, fake figures.)

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Hiding under netting

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Fake soldiers to fool the enemy

There appears to be no re4cords of how much war work Enid did. What is known is that she married into the wealthy Kansas City Kemper family, went through a kidnapping scare when a man broke into her home, and eventually made a substantial donation to Annie Wright Seminary, the school she attended in Tacoma.  What fun  it would have been to visit with these ladies.

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