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Marion Coates Hansen

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Marion Coates Hansen
Personal details
Born 3 June 1870[1]
Osbaldwick, Yorkshire[2]
Died 2 January 1947 (aged 75)
Great Ayton, Yorkshire
Political party Independent Labour Party
Women's Social and Political Union
Women's Freedom League
Spouse(s) Frederick Hansen

Marion Coates Hansen (née Coates; 3 June 1870 – 2 January 1947) was an English feminist and women's suffrage campaigner, an early member of the militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and a founder member of the Women's Freedom League (WFL) in 1907. She is generally credited with having influenced George Lansbury, the Labour politician and future party leader, to take up the cause of votes for women when she acted as his agent in the general election campaign of 1906. Lansbury became one of the strongest advocates for the women's cause in the pre-1914 era.

Hansen spent her almost her whole life in Middlesbrough, and was an active member of the local Independent Labour Party (ILP). Born into the well-to-do Coates family, she was drawn to socialism through her association with Joseph Fels, the American industrialist and social reformer for whom she worked as a nanny in Philadelphia in the early 1890s. She was one of a group who left the WSPU in protest against the increasingly autocratic attitudes of Emmeline Pankhurst and her family towards the organisation's general membership. After the First World War she took up local politics in Middlesbrough, became a local councillor in Middlesbrough, and was involved in housing reform and slum clearance. Her contributions to the cause of women's rights has largely been overlooked by historians, who have tended to concentrate on higher profile figures.

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>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. >> Anne Cecelia Holmes: It is an honor to introduce this evening's reader, Sandra Beasley. Sandra is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Count the Waves, along with I was a Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poet's prize, and Theories of falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, and two DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She lives right here, in Washington, D.C. and is on the faculty of the Low-Residency MFA program at the University of Tampa. I want to talk just a bit about Sandra Beasley's most recent collection, Count the Waves. In it, poems create and examine correspondence over distances, how the weariness of travel can code and twist and pull at our relationships. It's like participating in a game of telephone, but often lonelier. The end of the receiving line never gets to meet the original voice, or the connection is lost, or the preceding participants have all simply left, leaving reliability up for question. This is when Beasley's poems wildly and inventively re-imagine and retell history. They look around and take inventory of what deserves consideration and what doesn't. She uses humor in tandem with vulnerability to play out the ways in which intimacy can be both elevated and flattened, as in when I say I wish to correspond with you, what I mean is I want to bite your tongue across these many miles. Lines like this startle us, make us laugh, and ultimately reshape our sense of the truth. Please join me in welcoming Sandra Beasley. [ Applause ] >> Sandra Beasley: Good early evening. At the end of the festivities last night, there was a reception at the Library of Congress, and my husband said it's really fun to see you in your element. And I said, well what does that mean? And he said, you know, you went whoo a lot. And I did. This is an occasion for going whoo. We're celebrating such a great time for literature in this country. We're celebrating the leadership of Carla Hayden, we're celebrating a whole bunch of people being in the house today and just giving fantastic presentations. And I personally am celebrating the gratitude I have for those in the room right this moment. I see friends, I see students, I see fellow writers. And in particular, this opportunity that was given to me by the Library of Congress and the NEA, so Amy, Amy's incredible staff, Rob, Karen, my handler for the day, who made sure no one stole my purse. The staff at today's signing, and great people in the house, and my husband, Chance, he's hiding out there. All right. I really appreciated that introduction to Count the Waves, and so I'm going to jump right into reading from this series, and then we'll actually hear a few new poems, and then we'll open it up for questions. I went through a period of my life of about five years when I was traveling relentlessly. I put about 50,000 plus miles on my car. And so in some ways, Count the Waves is about the way that intimacy is both lost and, in some ways gained, over long distances. We allow ourselves to say things that perhaps we would not otherwise. And when I was going through that period of my life, many people mentioned that the practical thing would be for me to move my things into a storage unit, accept this nomadic time, and I couldn't do it. I could not give up the foot that was keeping me in Washington, D.C. So when I read this opening poem from the collection, which is called Inner Flamingo, I want you to understand that while birds are often appearing in metaphors in my work, these are literal flamingos, these are National Zoo flamingos, these are me getting home maybe once a month, twice a month, and the first thing I did on a pretty day was walking down to the National Zoo, taking in the open air aviary, having quality peacock time, checking on those teenager cheetahs, right, and looking at those flamingos and thinking, what love can I find that anchors me here the way I want to be anchored? And I did. Inner Flamingo. At night my body discovers her secret geometries, inner-flamingo knee hitch, inner-flamenco arm arch, Hermes' diagonal of flight across the mattress. The sleeping body is selfish. The sleeping body cannot lie. Once there was the man from whom I always woke huddled at the bed's edge. Then there was a man who laid his lust as a doorknocker at the small of my back. The first time I laid down with you, sweat-stuck, each onion-ed in the skin of the other, I assumed the unconscious hours would peel us free. Yet when sun cracked its eye over the horizon, we were as we'd been. And the pink of me cocked her head, listening. As you might imagine in a collection that chooses to start out with a poem of lasting love, if I tell you that I traveled relentlessly for 5 years and 50,000 miles, you might guess that there was some non lasting love prior to that. And so I'm going to read a trio of poems that describe that through line that you can locate in this book. Fidelity II. [ Laughter ] In some version, his pericardium was pierced, the body bleeding water. Some say only the usual red. In one story, a full moon, in another, hours of eclipse. Where gospels agree is at the door of the cave when a boulder rolls back and some woman, one Mary or another, names that first essential absence. It is April and he raises his fears every three days. He brings home a bouquet of muscular lilies. He waits for the miracle. She calls her name into a cave and the cave answers with her name. In the conversation in the signing line earlier, a young gentleman was kind enough to come up and ask how a poem worked, something about my process. And I talked about oysters and how, if you know anything about the actual anatomy of real oysters, this little bit of irritant grit gets into the creature. And for me, that might be an image, or a phrase, or a question. And what natural oyster will do is it'll try to protect itself from it, so it coats itself, coats that grit in juice and coats again, each layer hardening, each time, realizing oh, I still have not gotten that thing out of my body, coating it again, coating it again, until the pearl is formed. And what I was trying to communicate is that a lot of times, by the time I sit down to draft the poem, I've been working on the poem for days. And if I'm lucky, it's one of those perfect pearls, but usually it's like a freshwater pearl, kind of murky and misshapen, and, you know. But that metaphor of an oyster, that one stays with me. Parable. Worries come to a man and a woman, small ones, light in the hand. The man decides to swallow his worries, hiding them deep and within himself. The woman throws hers as far as she can from the porch. They touch each other, relieved. They make coffee and make plans for the seaside in May, all the while the worries of the man take his insides as their oyster, coating themselves in juice, first gastric, then nacreous, growing layer upon layer. And in the fields beyond the wash line, the worries of the woman take root, stretching tendrils through the rich soil. The parable tells us, consider the ravens. But the ravens caw useless from the gutters of this house. The parable tells us consider the lilies, but they shiver in the side yard, silent. What the parable does not tell you is that this woman collects porcelain cats. Some big, some small, some gilded, some plain. One cat stops doors, another cups cream, another sugar. This man knows they are tacky. Still when the one that had belonged to her great aunt fell and broke, he held her as she wept, held her even after her breath had lengthened to sleep. The parable does not care about such things. Worry has come to the house of a man and a woman. Their garden yields, greens gone, corn cowering in its husk, he asks himself what will we eat? They sit at the table and open the mail, a bill, a bill, a bill, an invitation. She turns a salt shaker cat between her palms and asks, but what will we wear? He rubs her wrist with his thumb, he wonders how to offer the string of pearls now writhing in his belly. Fidelity I. She did not mean to keep the whisk when she packed the kitchen of the apartment they once lived in. Night after night, he tried to emulsify soy sauce and peanut butter with a fork, before dumping the tan brown mess on lettuce and chicken breast boiled to lumps, good fat bubbling off to pool in the hollow of the burner. The whisk was an honest gift, curly cued and white ridged ribbon from a woman who trusted overpriced solutions, to a man who thought anything could blend if he worked his hand hard enough. So in addition to that narrative, there's another sequence that threads through Count the Waves. And I wanted to read poems from it, because I think that this was the work that the National Endowment for the Arts was kind enough to reward, to recognize with a fellowship, which really, quite literally, shored up my life. It came at a moment when I needed the support, I needed the encouragement. And I continued on this strange path of trying to make a living as a writer. In 1853, now this is real, a write named A.C. Baldwin published a compendium of phrases, and he referenced them by number. It was this code for conversations over long distances. He called this, this collection, The Traveler's Vade Mecum. Or, instantaneous letter writer by mail or telegraph for the convenience of persons traveling on business or for pleasure and for others whereby a vast amount of time, labor and trouble is saved. So in a collection that was already destined to be about long distances, I combed through this manuscript, in part inspired by an outside solicitation. There will be a whole anthology of Traveler's Vade Mecum poems out later this fall. And I picked the ones that resonated for me. So you'll hear, for each title, an actual line from the 1853 Traveler's Vade Mecum. And then under that, thinking about this idea of space, of intimacy lost and gained. The Traveler's Vade Mecum line 7,671. It is no secret here. Dirt, wrote a British anthropologist, is matter out of place. Drop a grape from bowl to table and we call it dirty. Drop a grape to the floor and it is trash. Bowl, table, these are ordering agents, ways to tell the functional from fallen. Skin, tendon, thee are ordering agents. You want to kiss my mouth, but not the teeth inside my mouth. You want to hold my hand, but not the blood within that hand. There is a truth in you, but it won't be the dirty truth until it tumbles into the air between us. In this city, there is always a long walk home at 7 AM light, high heels stabbing the subway grates, a walk home past gutters littered with the non sequitur of chicken bones, wings that once held a dream of flight. Anybody ever had a person in your life, and this happens to be about a he, but it's not gendered, who just consumed, like kind of locust like, whether it be emotionally or in terms of the cupboard, or just kind of never kept track of the available resources and just assumed that something would always come up to fill the pot? If you've ever encountered someone like this on your travels, you usually end up writing a poem about them. The Traveler's Vade Mecum line 1,181. The calamity is not serious. He catches the rain in his cooking pot. There's nothing to put in his cooking pot. He places a stone in the cooking pot. He dances by the fire as the water boils. Stone soup, stone soup, he sings, lend a little garnish, he tells our village, soon you'll each have a bowl. In go the carrot tops, the rosemary, in goes the ham bone with lard at lips. The children gather, the strays mewls. Sometimes it has to be button soup, sometimes ax soup, sometimes nail. In France, he is a soldier. In Portugal, he is a monk stirring sopa de pedra. Wherever he goes he is the clever man. Folktale 1548 in the Aarne-Thompson index. Not to be confused with his brothers, Eulenspiegel 1635, Master Thief 1525, or 1574, the flattering foreman. He'll never have a turn as the stupid man, the man looking for a wife, or the man who kills slash injures ogre. His is not the cat as helper 545 B. He will never be the lucky accident. He wakes each day with an empty pot and the spoon his grandmother gave him. Stone soup, stone soup, he sings. The heel on his left boot loosens, so he dances harder. Our village is his pantry. His is the recipe that needs no knife. I'll just read one more from this series. So I had to really think through the reality of 1853, because some phrases you might take on one surface level meaning for the contemporary day, only to think it through and realize people were approaching these words differently. In The Traveler's Vade Mecum, line 4,234 declares, flour is firm, which is thinking in terms of stocks, of commodities, but I thought, flour? And I returned myself to thinking what was being eaten in those days, what was being carried by those, perhaps, readying for service on the battlefield. Flour is firm. Baking two parts flour to one part water could stop a bullet. So good soldiers carries their hard tack over their hearts. Break it down with a rifle butt, flood it, fry it in pig fat to make hell fire stew. Gnaw it raw and praise the juice. Does wheat prepare for this as it grows, seeking the light in a half thawed field? Do stalks know their strength is merely in their number? What is ground down we name flour in promise that it will be made useful, otherwise, it's just dust. Sheet iron crackers, teeth dullers, would you call it starving, if a man dies with hard tack still tucked in his vest? Can you call it food, if the bullet comes only at the moment he gives in and swallows? I thought I wanted to read some new poems. I might never get to read at the National Book Festival again. I should go ahead and break it out. And I know that, as well as this being a day for readers, it's a day for writers. And I'm just not talking about the people on stage. I know there's a lot of people in this room right now who are drafting, who are working, who are revising, and you're up here with me. How many people here actually live in the D.C. area? Sweet. That's going to be my official Tweet for my presentations, sweet, that's Sandra Beasley. I want to read a sestina. You don't have to know that form. I mention it so that if you hear a repetition of words, it's not your imagination. The acrobatics of a sestina are that you commit to a set of six end words and then you have to use them in a particular pattern. And this is a D.C. sestina. It's called, American Rome. The dedication line recognizes Marion Shepilov Barry, JR, 1936 to 2014. Marion Barry, jams of Washington state, I thought they were mocking our city. Take a mayor and boil his sugar down, spoon spreadable, sweet. We take presidents and run them in a game's fourth inning stretch. We bullets and turn them to sea dogs. Do you remember that ballot? Sea dogs, dragons, stallions, express? The Washington Wizards was no more or less of a stretch. We waved gavels like wands in this city. We're the small town in which the president can plant some roses. Each time I sit down to say goodbye, all I ever write down is Dear City. My neighbor walks his dogs past a monument to a president's terrier, forever bronzed. Washington has no J Street, no Z, yet the city maps attend to fifty states and a stretch of five blocks. Northeast Metro track, a stretch named Puerto Rico Avenue. Bow down to the un-mapped names, Chocolate City, Simple, Ben Ali served up, chili dogs served up through a riot, and Walter Washington was the first and last time a president picked our mayor. The truth is, presidents come and go, four or eight years at a stretch. Barry said, I'm yours for life, Washington. Emperor Marion, who could get down with Chuck Brown. Later, reporters will dog, his bitch set me up, his graft. Dear City, will you let me claim you as my city? To love you is to defy precedent. Your quadrants hustle like a pack of dogs around the hydrant capitol. They stretch and paw, they yap and will not settle down. Traffic, the berry to Washington's jam. For city miles, Barry's motorcade stretched. We laid him among vice presidents, down where dogs play, by the banks of Washington. I want to thank the folks, thanks. [ Applause ] I just want to acknowledge and thank the fact that we have translators and cued speech professionals up here. It's, I imagine to do that on the fly is difficult for anyone, but poets are crazy. You never know what word's going to come out of our mouth. So I really appreciate the initiative to make this event inclusive for everyone, and your work. [ Applause ] Sestinas are, I can give myself over to a sestina and kind of make it work. Sonnets very rarely happen for me unless I literally happen to notice that the poem is already taking the form of a sonnet. I promised that I would read the poem that I just wrote, which is a sonnet that, well, I didn't know it was a sonnet. It was something that I started to draft two days ago and wrote yesterday. This is inspired by childhood memories of buying what, at the time, seemed like really fun toys, and in hindsight were kind of peculiar creatures help captive. I'm referred to what you sometimes see labeled Mexican jumping beans. North of the border, we're labeled Papa Pedro's Jumping Beans. Past the magnets, next to the fat fried snacks, in plastic boxes of red, white or green. Each bean 1.99 plus tax. We jump against light and jump against heat, inner larva wrenching toward cooler places, thinking we're on a Sinaloa peak. Still in the Sebastiana's embraces, our cocoon dies, know nothing of this land. We are no one's toy. We ready to fly. Perhaps these are the pods Jack took in hand so his beanstalk could breach the gold coined sky. A child can dream, but child you are lying. We're bought and sold for our style of dying. I'm going to finish with a couple of poems. One is from an anthology that is called Still Life with Poem. I think a lot of people don't realize, the editors that put their time and their effort, nobody's getting paid for these. We do these for the love of coming together in collaboration. I think the economy of poetry is a gift economy. This is a beautiful collection of poems that were written to, in response to or to create still lives on the page. I live with a painter, so I often think of still lives or figurative landscapes exactly of the kind that he assures me are not present in his work. You'll notice with the title, I'm claiming that, well, title's Still Life with Sex. Truth is, almost all still lives have sex in them. Anytime you see fruit, any time you see a fly, all the Flemish masters, they're all talking about death. Still life with sex, July 2015, but first a skull grinning amongst the grapes. But first, hydrangea moons barely risen, cratering. But first milky balls congregating in the sink. But first, sticky spoons congregating in the bowls. But first that vegetal smell. But first that clank of pipes filling with air again. But first dirt spilling on your side of the couch. But first dirt spilling from your Monday shoes. But first a canteen of water. But first five loggers. But first, Magnum P.I. is on. But first, Tom Selleck is on. But first, kiss me because you clutter the pewter. But first, kiss me because you track in the necessary dirt. You see a violin, an ad, prosciutto. The cat's back is bleeding, again. We are trying to make a space a hold it open. The skull, grinning amongst grapes grins at us. Those globes of hydrangea were once bright as June. [ Applause ] Yay for new work. Even though it scares the bejesus out of me to read it in front of you all. I'll just finish with a poem from Count the Waves. One of my favorite things about poetry is the conversation it creates, often with people who sometimes the first thing they say is, you know, I'm not really sure I love poetry. But, I've had conversations about capybara's, conversations about the obscure language of [inaudible], and thanks to this poem, a lot of conversations about ukulele's. Ukulele. The vessel is simple, a rowboat among yachts. No one hides a Tommy gun in its case. No blues man runs over his uke in a whiskey rage. The last of the Hawaiian queens translated the name gift that came here, while Portuguese historians translate jumping flea the way a player's fingers pick and fly. If you have a cigar box, it'll do. If you have fishing line, it'll sing. If there is to be one instrument of love, not love vanished or imagined, but love, it's this one. Fit a melody in the crook of your arm and strum. Thank you. [ Applause ] So I was asked to leave a few moments for questions if anybody wants to inquire. We have two microphones that you can queue up to. And if nobody has any questions, I'll just read a couple of more poems, so. I know, poetry, usually poetry both begins and ends with a strange moment of questioning, often when you get a moment like so what do you write poems about? And I always find myself wanting to say, ukulele's and prosciutto and skulls. Hello. >> Hello. You mentioned living with a painter, I'm wondering, I write and my father painted, and I've always felt like there's a relationship between poetry and painting, so I'm curious how that manifests itself in your house. >> Sandra Beasley: Well, my mother is also a visual artist, so I truly grew up surrounded by the modes and the active work process. You know, my husband and I can go to an art museum and walk through a gallery, and we can love the exact same six paintings and we can love them for totally different reasons, right? I find myself reaching for narrative, and he is able to sometimes recognize what to me is a very subtle level of craft. And similarly, when he's commenting on a poem or a literature it's probably more easily, it's probably more easy for him to respond to the theme or the subject, where as I might be saying goodness, that's a sestina, right? So I think that they are, they're dove tailing disciplines that allow us to each enrich and illuminate the others process. People sometimes ask if we collaborate. We collaborate on cooking, we do that really well. I stay out of his studio. But one thing I will just finish by saying is I love being around artists because they're messy, so even when I'm complaining about it, I kind of admire it. When you go to an art colony, you can always tell the artists who've put in a firm day's work because they are just, they're just dirty. Writers might, I've been known to wear my skirts, my nice shoes, you know, I admire that giving oneself over to the process. Yeah. Hello. >> Hey, I know you. >> Sandra Beasley: You do. >> I was wondering what sparks you poetry, usually, if there's a pattern with that? If it comes about with a feeling or if it comes about with an image that you see, or with something that you see in a literary work? >> Sandra Beasley: Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely, it changes. I go through different periods. So for example, when I found the Traveler's Vade Mecum, that allowed me to really sink in and kind of work through a project where I was thinking about this particular time and these spaces, this mode of traveling. In I Was the Jukebox, I have a whole series of poems that are speaks poems. I wanted to inhabit bodies outside my own. And usually my access point for getting the poems started was to really research the anatomy of a platypus, or a capybara, or the nature of orcas, which are really curious. And then that would give me the grist I needed to step into that life. So I do, I get, I get, I get attached, I never thought of myself as a project person and I absolutely am. I will, I'm noticing some folks slipping in, and I always, as a matter of good forum, want to make sure they hear a poem when they show up to a poetry reading, so I'll just read one other poem that is, answers, speaks to that question because it is the series that I'm working through now, which, among other things, I'm situating the speaker at memorials and monuments. And I'm having the speaker speak to their understanding of those people. Siri wants in on the poetry reading. I'm having people speak to the larger context of knowledge that we have. [ Laughter ] Seriously, Siri like spontaneously started up. I've been using it as my clock. So the idea is, what would a D.C. person or someone really couched in American history and the ambiguities and the complexities that surround these figures who inspire memorials, what would they think? And I'm working on a whole series of poems this way. So this one is titled, Jefferson, Midnight. One of my favorite things about the memorials is that you can go at any time of day, so you can go at midnight. And for some years now, I've been finding ways to do that. Jefferson, midnight. In another version of this story, he's a naturalist who dabbled in politics. He reinvented the plow, he joined the American Philosophical Society's bone committee. And while trying to prove the great western lion, gave us our first giant sloth. He shipped a rotting moose to France to demonstrate the greatness of our mammals. He is a father of paleontology who didn't believe extinction was part of God's plan. He asked Louis and Clark, should they encounter the mammoth, to capture one for him. For months, his sea wall has been sinking, the Potomac's mud flaps sucking at the support timbers. In 1918 and then for six months after, the tidal basin was chlorinated so that this bank could become a beach, white's only. Those drawn to rising heat heavily populate the ceiling of Jefferson's Memorial. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops, they lose their grip and fall, bodies bounce off my shoulders, bodies land in my hair, guards call this the spider rain. Thank you. [ Applause ] I no longer have track of the time because Siri can, is not, oh, 5 minutes left. And thank you to the woman keeping us all on time. Are there any other questions? Anybody? Yes? >> What do you read in your? >> Sandra Beasley: I'll repeat the question. >> Spare time? >> Sandra Beasley: What do I read in my spare time? So I actually, you might have sensed from some of the poems I have read, I also work in non fiction, and, in fact, right now I'm working on a collection of creative non fiction. So I don't know if I would characterize it as spare time, but the other part of my attention is to seek out memoirs, to seek out kind of experimental or essay collections. I love reading non fiction. I love reading about the science and the texture of the world around us, right? So that's it. And plus, I, sometimes when people act as if arts and stem, so to speak, have to be on opposite sides, I try to remind them I went to a high school for science and technology. Like, they trusted me with the key to a helium neon laser at some point. So, you know, I think that anything that feeds that part of my intellect, I'm thrilled to kind of nourish it. Yeah. There's another, we have two more questions, and I think I'll be able to get to them both. Yeah. [ Inaudible ] >> Sandra Beasley: Do I still have my extreme food allergies? So, both in my first collection, Theories of Falling, and in a memoir I published called, Don't Kill the Birthday Girl, Tales From an Allergic Life, I deal with the fact that I have an incredible and aggressive and severe range of allergies, including milk, eggs, beef, shrimp, cucumbers, cashews, macadamia, yeah, they're all at work. I still write about food allergies. It's an important part, when I see the opportunity to advocate for more sensitivity and more awareness, I do. [ Inaudible ] The odds of, the question is, could I outgrow them? The odds of me outgrowing them at this point in my life, there are several critical moments where bodies change, and we associate that with changes in allergies. It can happen during pregnancy. It can happen as a normal growth phase at 5, at 13, at 20, I'm past all of those. So, you know, I'm okay with that. I think that having the allergies that I do has had costs, but it's also made me an incredibly aware presence in the world. And for all I know, I wouldn't be the poet that I am if I didn't have it. So, you know, you take the whole package. And the whole package includes the Epi Pen that I've got in my purse at all times. We have one more question? >> Yeah, who are some of your favorite poets and influences [inaudible]? >> Sandra Beasley: Yeah, so when there, if you, I'm hesitating because what I try to be honest about is that there was a time when, if you asked me that, I felt like I had to answer people who were just canonically appreciated, and I'll tell you the four poets, the five poets who really made me love to write when I was younger. And that would be Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath, Sandra Cisneros. Yeah. And they are, they are great, great authors who I continue to, if you love an author and you're in the option to either mentor or to teach, teach their work. Don't teach who the canon is telling you you need to be teaching. Teach the people who you feel passionate about, who maybe you want to write. That's how we change the canon. [ Applause ] So they were the ones I loved. Yeah. We have two minutes left. Any other questions? Yeah. [ Inaudible ] Yeah. Okay, there's a request to come to the microphone if possible? >> What do you want your legacy to be as a poet? >> Sandra Beasley: What do I want my legacy to be as a poet? I think that there is an unfortunate and false dichotomy that has been created where people feel like oh, I'm a formal poet, or oh, I don't write with form, I don't do that. I don't know how that came about. Every poem has form. Every poem has rigor. Every poem is making decisions on the page. Otherwise, you're talking about some strange word splooge thing that I'm not, probably, going to be drawn into. Yeah. I don't know how you signified that word, but that's okay. [ Laughter ] What I'd like to be know as is a poet who can have a collection where a sestina and a sonnet and a free verse poem and a prose poem sit side by side, and what you're thinking about is the themes and the concerns and the poetry. And you're not thinking about which camp I align with, which conference I go to, which buddies helped me get in what place. I want to be known for the work. And that, to me, involves a kind of relentless formal, because rigorous curiosity, not only about what I choose to write about, but how I shape it on the page. >> Great. Thanks. >> Sandra Beasley: Thank you, so much. All right. [ Applause ] I'm honored by this time. Thank you all, and have a great evening. Thanks, again, to the National Endowment for the Arts, Library of Congress and all of our sponsoring groups. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us as


Early life

Little information has been published about Hansen's early life, education and upbringing. She was born Marion Coates in 1870 or 1871, in Osbaldwick, Yorkshire. While she was still a young child, the family moved to the Linthorpe district of Middlesbrough.[3] Among her siblings were two older brothers: Charles and Walter, who became successful businessmen, and were associated with the American industrialist and social reformer Joseph Fels.[4][5] Through the Fels connection Hansen travelled to Philadelphia, probably in the late 1880s or early 1890s, where she worked for a time as a nanny in the Fels household.[6]

During her American sojourn Hansen discovered and was inspired by the poetry and democratic philosophy of Walt Whitman.[6] On her return to England she became an active proponent of socialism and women's rights, using the pages of the radical socialist journal Justice to attack the standard Victorian male prejudices concerning the roles of women in society.[7] When one leading socialist opined that women ought to be "captivated and charmed by the beauties and possibilities of socialism", Hansen wrote a condemnatory reply in Justice magazine: "We women are not going to be bought like goodies ... We are coming as comrades, friends, warriors to a state worthy of us, not to dolldom".[8] Around 1900 she married Frederick Hansen, a member of a well-to-do Middlesbrough family with socialistic beliefs. The Hansen and the Coates families were influential members of the local Independent Labour Party (ILP), in which Marion Hansen, as branch secretary, was the driving force; she, her family and their associates were known in local socialist circles as "the Linthorpe set". From time to time this group's influence and their paternalistic attitudes, in particular their permanent control over the branch's executive committee, caused resentment among the more working class membership. Another point of contention was the conflict of interest between Hansen's ILP duties and her growing interest in the politics of feminism.[6] In 1903, when the Women's Social and Political Union was founded to promote the cause of women's suffrage, Hansen became an early member.[9]



A WSPU meeting, circa 1908
A WSPU meeting, circa 1908

The WPSU, founded in 1903, was a breakaway movement from the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) which, led by Millicent Fawcett, promoted the cause of women's suffrage by gradualist, law-abiding methods.[10] Certain NUWSS members, led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her family, wanted a more active strategy and a more specific goal: to secure voting rights for women on the same basis as for men.[11] They founded the WPSU with the motto "Deeds not Words", and the new body began to build an activist membership.[12] Initially, the WPSU did not promote the kinds of disruptive actions which later became its hallmark; the change in tactic occurred in 1905, when it appeared that reform via the parliamentary route was doomed to failure. In February 1905 the Liberal opposition MP, Bamford Slack, introduced a bill to the House of Commons, which would give votes to women in parliamentary elections. When the bill was debated on 12 May, it was "talked out" by its opponents and was not put to the vote. Sensing that the Liberals would soon become the governing party, the WSPU sought assurances from the party's spokesmen that they would, when in power, legislate on votes for women. The failure of the Liberal leadership to give this commitment led to the adoption by the WSPU of more aggressive tactics.[13] From the autumn onwards Liberal party meetings were regularly heckled and harassed; Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney were imprisoned after disrupting a meeting in Manchester, obstructing the police and refusing to pay the fine.[14]

Association with George Lansbury

George Lansbury in old age (1938). Under Hansen's influence he became an ardent supporter of women' suffrage after 1906.
George Lansbury in old age (1938). Under Hansen's influence he became an ardent supporter of women' suffrage after 1906.

Hansen's first recorded contribution to the WSPU cause came in September 1905. Anticipating that a general election would be held in the near future, she secured the candidacy of the socialist activist George Lansbury in the Middlesbrough constituency, on a programme that included a specific commitment to votes for women.[6] Lansbury was a local councillor and Poor Law guardian in Poplar, a tireless worker among the poor and disadvantaged of the East End of London.[15] He became known to Hansen through the Coates family's connection with Joseph Fels, who had worked with Lansbury in the organisation of work schemes to assist the unemployed. In 1889 Lansbury had acted as agent for Jane Cobden when she was elected to the London County Council,[16] and was known to Emmeline Pankhurst who had campaigned for him at Walworth during the 1895 general election.[17] Since the Cobden election, Lansbury's priorities had shifted to poverty and unemployment.[18]

Because the local ILP was bound by a secret election pact with the Liberals to support the Liberal candidate, Joseph Havelock Wilson, they could not endorse Lansbury. Hansen tried without success to bypass this restriction. She wrote to Ramsay MacDonald, the secretary of the Labour Representation Committee, pointing out the advantages for the Labour movement in supporting a candidate such as Lansbury, but MacDonald was unable to help; Lansbury stood as an independent socialist. Hansen persuaded Lansbury to include in his election address not only a commitment to women's enfranchisement but other radical socialist policies: Irish Home Rule, state pensions, full employment and trade union recognition. Her close involvement with Lansbury's campaign—she acted as his agent—angered some in her local party, but she fulfilled her duties with calm efficiency; according to Shepherd she "displayed the essential quality of any agent ... to maintain optimism in all situations, whatever the daunting difficulties". Her husband Frederick acted as campaign treasurer, and most of costs was borne by Fels and Walter Coates. Nevertheless, when the election came in January 1906, Lansbury's socialist brew proved too much for what his biographer John Shepherd describes as "the mainly working-class, all-male electorate", and Lansbury was heavily defeated. Wilson received 9,227 votes, his Conservative opponent 6,846 and Lansbury 1,484—less than 9 percent of the total vote.[19]

Hansen was primarily responsible in introducing Lansbury to and educating him in the issue of women's suffrage, a fact that he acknowledged when writing to her in October 1912. Shepherd writes that in due course, "gender was to replace social class at the head of his concerns and preoccupations" and votes for women became for him the overwhelming question of the day.[20] After Lansbury finally entered parliament in 1910 he expressed to Hansen his lack of faith in the ability of his fellow-Labour MPs to secure women's enfranchisement, despite the party by then having a formal policy commitment. In 1912 Lansbury resigned his parliamentary seat—against Hansen's passionate pleas against such action—to fight for it on the single issue of votes for women;[21] Hansen was devastated when he lost the ensuing by-election: "a more unhappy time I have never lived through".[22] In August 1913 Lansbury was imprisoned for incitement, after publicly supporting the militant tactics of the suffragist bodies which had by then passed well beyond the threshold of lawfulness. Although he was quickly released, Hansen wrote to him with approval: "You have done a big thing for us. It ... shows how far in the dark ages we still are, especially in matters concerning the welfare of women".[23]

Hansen's concerns for Lansbury extended to his family, especially to his wife Bessie with whom she formed a warm and lasting friendship. She felt that Bessie needed a break from her responsibilities for her large family, and invited her to stay in Middlesbrough for a holiday: "The boys can look after the [younger] children, the girls can cook dinner and Mr Lansbury can darn his socks".[24]

WSPU activist

Christabel Pankhurst, a leading WSPU activist, photographed on graduation in 1905
Christabel Pankhurst, a leading WSPU activist, photographed on graduation in 1905

In the year following the January 1906 general election, won by the Liberals with a large majority, the WSPU was active in a number of by-election contests. Hansen took part in several of these campaigns. At Cockermouth in August 1906, a divergence of view arose within the WSPU over whether Robert Smillie, the ILP candidate, should be supported. Smillie favoured women's suffrage in a general way, but was not a declared supporter; he shared with most Labour MPs the view that trade union reforms should take precedence over women's issues. Christabel Pankhurst and others decided on a separate campaign against all three declared candidates, and accordingly arranged rival meetings. This created difficulties for those such as Hansen and Mary Gawthorpe, who had strong ILP loyalties.[25] Although Gawthorpe spoke on behalf of Smillie, Hansen followed Christabel's line, a course of action that further antagonised her local ILP and caused her temporary resignation from the secretaryship.[6]

In her memoirs written many years later, the suffragist Hannah Mitchell provides a number of glimpses of Hansen during the 1906–10 period. Mitchell remembers her campaigning during a by-election at Huddersfield in November; a little later, while leading a series of meetings, Mitchell caught a chill: "I became so ill that my hostess, Mrs Coates-Hanson [sic], put me to bed at once ... Thanks to her kindness I managed to get through all the meetings, and she insisted on my staying a few days to rest. The Hanson home was lovely, and it was the first time in my life I had ever been waited on, and nursed, while the beautiful courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Hanson to each other, and to their guests, made those few days like a glimpse of Paradise".[26]

The WSPU continued to grow rapidly, but many members were become increasingly dissatisfied by the organisation's lack of democracy and its detachment from the Labour movement. The historian Martin Pugh remarks that to many, "[the WSPU] represented no more than a small central coterie that took little notice of its members' opinions".[27] When in September 1907 Emmeline Pankhurst abandoned the constitution and appointed an executive committee of her own nominees a number of members, including Hansen, left the WSPU and formed the Women's Freedom League (WFL). The WFL, while fully committed to the activist struggle, adopted a democratic constitution. It collected many of the WSPU's working class members and promoted better relations with the Labour movement in parliament.[28] Hansen, together with Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Greig joined the WFL's initial executive committee.[29]

Women's Freedom League

Despite her role in the formation of the WFL, there are few records of Hansen's activities on its behalf, although her correspondence with Lansbury in the years up to 1914 indicates that she remained passionately committed to the cause of women's suffrage. She may have been one of the WFL members who attempted to petition King Edward VII at the State Opening of Parliament on 29 January 1908, and may have participated in the mass pickets of the House of Commons and 10 Downing Street, organised by the WFL in the summer of 1909.[29] Hansen's future sister-in-law Alice Schofield (she married Charles Coates in 1910) had greater visibility; an active WFL organiser, she was imprisoned in 1909 for her part in a demonstration at the House of Commons.[9] Although the two women shared common political and ideological concerns, they were not close; Alice Coates's daughter Marion Johnson, interviewed in 1975, revealed that the two disliked each other, and where possible kept their distance.[5]

Later life

After the First World War, during which the women's suffrage campaign was largely suspended, Hansen does not appear to have resumed her WFL activities. In 1919 she and Alice Coates became the first women elected to Middlesbrough Borough Council–Coates was elected a week before Hansen. The two were among the very few active suffragists who took up local politics.[30] Hansen's main concerns as a councillor were related to slum clearance and housing; during the 1930s she spoke against the indiscriminate destruction of properties in the historic district of St Hilda's, maintaining that many houses scheduled for demolition "possessed fine elevations and interiors which make fault finding a difficult task".[31]

From 1911 Hansen, who was childless, lived with her husband in the Nunthorpe district of the town.[32] Later, after Frederick Hansen's death, Hansen lived in Great Ayton, outside Middlesbrough, where she died on 2 January 1947.[33] Shepherd quotes Lansbury's description of Hansen as "a very slightly built woman: her frail body possesses an iron will and a courageous spirit. The freedom for which she strove was one which would emancipate body, soul and spirit".[34] Shepherd also remarks on Hansen's relative invisibility after her active life was over: "[H}er name is rarely even mentioned in the standard histories of the suffragette movement".[6] the local history society at Nunthorpe refers to her as "an extraordinary feminist whom historians have forgotten".[32]

See also


  1. ^ Marion Coates-Hansen in Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934
  2. ^ 1901 England Census
  3. ^ "All 1881 UK Census Collection results for Marion Coates". Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  4. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 61 and p. 84
  5. ^ a b "Johnson, Mrs Marion". The Women's Library. 12 April 1975. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Shepherd 2002, pp. 84–85
  7. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 39
  8. ^ Hunt, p. 201
  9. ^ a b Crawford, p. 130
  10. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 118
  11. ^ Purvis, June (January 2011). "Pankhurst (née Goulden), Emmeline". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online edition. Retrieved 6 March 2013. (subscription required)
  12. ^ "Women and the Vote: Start of the suffragette movement". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  13. ^ Purvis 2002, pp. 72–75
  14. ^ Purvis, June (January 2011). "Pankhurst, Dame Christabel Harriette". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online edition. Retrieved 8 March 2013. (subscription required)
  15. ^ Shepherd, John (January 2011). "Lansbury, George". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online edition. Retrieved 2 February 2013. (subscription required)
  16. ^ Scheer, pp. 71–75
  17. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 45
  18. ^ Scheer, p. 87
  19. ^ Shepherd 2002, pp. 86–88
  20. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 89 and p. 121
  21. ^ Shepherd 2002, pp. 121–22
  22. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 128
  23. ^ Shepherd 2002, p. 133
  24. ^ Shepherd 2002, pp. 352–53
  25. ^ Rosen, pp. 69–71
  26. ^ Mitchell, p. 35 and pp. 88–89
  27. ^ Pugh, p. 144
  28. ^ Pugh, pp. 163–67
  29. ^ a b Crawford, pp. 721–22
  30. ^ "Challenge and Change: A Brief History of Women Councillors in Yorkshire & the Humber" (PDF). Center for Women & Democracy. 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  31. ^ Delplanque, Paul (11 June 2010). "Over the Border". Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  32. ^ a b "Famous people of Nunthorpe". Nunthorpe History Group. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  33. ^ "Name of deceased (surname first)" (PDF). The London Gazette: 3038. 1 July 1947.
  34. ^ Shepherd, pp. 117–18


  • Crawford, Dorothy (1999). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23926-5.
  • Hunt, Karen (1996). Equivocal Feminists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55451-9.
  • Mitchell, Hannah (1968). The Hard Way Up. London: Faber. OCLC 461064.
  • Pugh, Martin (2008). The Pankhursts. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-0-099-52043-6.
  • Purvis, June (2002). Emmeline Pankhurst: a biography. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23978-8.
  • Rosen, Andrew (2013). Rise Up, Women!. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-62384-1. (First published by Routledge in 1974)
  • Scheer, Jonathan (1990). George Lansbury: Lives of the Left. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-2170-7.
  • Shepherd, John (2002). George Lansbury: at the Heart of Old Labour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-198-20164-8.
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