An ethical legacy from Katherine Dreier
What I tried so hard to develop in you was the inner power of perseverance which gives one the moral will-power to continue and complete a job, no matter how bored or tired one may be with it.
Katherine Dreier, co-founder with Marcel Duchamp of the Société Anonyme, knew my great-grandmother Ruth Seely Preston and Ruth’s mother, Charlotte Seely. I inherited a letter from Katherine Dreier to Ruth Seely in which Dreier writes to the census bureau because Ruth had no birth certificate:
This is to certify that I was one of the workers at the Girls Friendly Society at the time that Charlotte Seely, the mother of Ruth Seely Preston belonged to the Girls Friendly Society of Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church of Brooklyn: Dr. S. McConnell, being the rector and Miss Rodman the deaconess, at that time.
I was very fond of Charlotte Seely and therefore recall perfectly when she gave birth to her daughter Ruth Seely in the spring of 1901 in Jersey City.
I recall it very clearly because I had hoped to take charge of little Ruth, when her mother found it impossible to support herself and take care of her child. This turned out not to be feasible.
I can therefore certify that Ruth Seely Preston was born in this country.
In the section of the letter written to Ruth, she writes:
What I tried so hard to develop in you was the inner power of perseverance which gives one the moral will-power to continue and complete a job, no matter how bored or tired one may be with it. Maybe I tried too hard!! Perseverance and endurance are twins! If one develops perseverance one has endurance. But it must be developed in each of us — very few are born with it — and the best way to develop it is through loving what we are doing — not always easy!
It is a great quality to know that we do not know it all — but it is best to keep it to oneself — for few have reached that wisdom and do not understand. As I have grown older I realized more and more that there is not — good and evil — only understanding or no understanding.
If we understood — we would not do many things — for every action has it re-action — and we often wonder why life is so hard. This also teaches us great tolerance — which is very needed in the world today.
Something to grown on and something to chew on. Legacies like this letter are just as valuable, if not more so, than material heirlooms.