I first became interested in gardening through Elizabethan textiles, English country estates and the photos of Edward Steichen. Those ideas and images of gardens eventually led me to the real thing: creating my own garden. I dreamed of someday growing a shad blow tree (below) like the one Steichen photographed in a famous pictorial series that I first saw in the mid-1960s. Steichen spent his early years in Wisconsin and left a record of that time with scenes of misty Milwaukee woods (bottom) and a stunning portrait of his sister, Lilian, and her husband, Carl Sandburg (directly below).
On December 29, 1907, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen when she stopped by the Milwaukee headquarters of the Wisconsin Social-Democratic party to say hello to her socialist friends. It was Sandburg's first day on the job as an organizer for the party. You can read details of their romantic correspondence and relationship here, in an article published in the Wisconsin Academy Review.
But what I love most about this young couple is their passion for progressive politics. According to the Wisconsin Academy Review, Lilian was actively involved in politics, translating socialist pamphlets from German to English, and vice versa. She and her mother were often the only women in attendance at the Social-Democratic party meetings. Among their friends were famed Wisconsin socialists, Victor Berger and Emil Seidel.
In 1908, the year Lilian and Carl were married, he was often away working on the presidential campaign of Eugene Debs. The following year they moved to Milwaukee where Carl was a newpaper reporter. When the Socialists took office in the spring of 1910, Carl became secretary to Mayor Emil Seidel.
If you know your Wisconsin history, then you know that this state has a proud history of socialism. It was under their leadership at the local and state level that some of the most progressive legislation in Wisconsin history was written and and passed into law.
So today I'll be voting in our local elections channeling the spirit of Lilian and Carl. Then I'll go home and remember Edward Steichen as I work in my garden.