175 – Marriage, and Then More Work

1919 had been a successful year for The Pawnee Power and Water Company.

Nathan Jones had founded his fourth startup company, and was beginning to realize his vision. Ralph Jarvis had risen quickly to the superintendent of construction.

Both men would marry. And 1920 promised to be a busy year for the power company.

Ralph Jarvis married Chleo Webb

Ralph and Chleo Jarvis – c 1919

Ralph Jarvis and Chleo Webb married on December 16, 1919.

They would make their home with Chleo’s mother Anna Webb in the Rock House in Larned.

Ralph was age 25 and Chleo was 19.

Larned Chronoscope – December 18, 2021

Nathan Jones married Blanche Marx

Larned Chronoscope – August 20, 1920

Nathan Jones and Blanche Marx married August 22, 1920, in Hutchinson, Kansas.

They would make their home in Larned.

Nathan was age 28 and Blanche was 23.

More towns want electricity

As other small towns around Larned witnessed the success of their neighboring towns, they wanted electricity too.

So there were new lines to build

As each town signed on, Ralph Jarvis and the linemen crews built transmission and distribution lines. Soon, Ralph was also traveling to the towns in advance to evaluate the work to be done and the costs involved.

Ralph and Chleo made their home with Chleo’s mother Anna Webb at the Rock House. It was a good arrangement for Chleo, because Ralph was often away from home.

And there are lines to maintain

The Vision Expands

Things were developing quickly in 1920. As Pawnee Power began delivering electricity, and as more towns signed on, Nathan Jones vision expanded.

He was buying electricity from the electric plants in Larned and Kinsley, but those two plants now couldn’t supply the increasing demand. Jones negotiated a contract with the electric plant in Hutchinson, a modern and high capacity plant.

Buying power from Hutchinson required building more lines between Hutchinson and Larned. That’s more than 65 miles. But that line could serve more towns.

Here are some excerpts from a news article in the Hutchinson Gazette.

With the completion this fall of electric transmission lines and the turning on of the current, Hutchinson will become the hub for the largest system of distributing electricity in Kansas.

Started primarily to serve farmers west of Larned along the Pawnee Valley as a power line for irrigation purposes, the system has spread out and there is universal demand from small towns for 24 hours current and power.

The transmission line “dream” has developed into a scheme for a “loop” from Hutchinson west along the Santa Fe main line to Larned, south to Kinsley and south to Turon and returning to Hutchinson along the Rock Island.

This “loop” will be the backbone of the system. With it completed, though it may require a year, it will ensure all the electric current for the fifty or more towns along the line.

The man behind this scheme, which means more to the Hutchinson territory than a good wheat crop for it insures a constant flow of water for irrigation purposes, is Nathan L. Jones, general manager of the Pawnee Water & Power Co., of Larned.

Starting two years ago as a power line at Garfield, Jones organized companies, put over bond issues, and built electric lines until today he has a corporation with properties worth $425,000 and is serving 23 towns with current.

Hutchinson Gazette, September 20, 1920

A Trip to Kansas City

Nathan Jones had become a prominent businessman in Larned. He valued the young talent that built and operated the lines. He counted on Ralph Jarvis to take care of the daily business of construction and maintenance.

In September 1920, Jones asked Ralph and Chleo to join his new bride Blanche and him on a business and pleasure trip to Kansas City. This relationship would thrive for the next decade.


Nibbles Extra Credit – The Roaring Twenties

Women

The Roaring Twenties are credited with the evolution of the “new woman.” Certainly, many things changed for women. But legal, cultural, economic, and sexual advancements were not equally enjoyed by all.

The right to vote

By 1920, women’s suffrage had been enacted in most western European countries and Australia and New Zealand.

The National Woman’s Party was a leading organization campaigning for women’s right to vote. It focused on passage of a constitutional amendment ensuring women’s suffrage. It was founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in 1913. There were numerous other organizations fighting the same battle.

National Woman’s Party picket in front of the White House in 1917.
Alice Paul celebrates ratification of the 19th Amendment – 1920

With the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women won the right. Kind of…

As usual, there are caveats. Here’s the language of the amendment.

19th Amendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Limitations

The amendment didn’t specifically give women the right to vote. Instead, it said that the vote wouldn’t be denied because of sex. In other words, other laws might prohibit voting for other reasons, like being black, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic. And southern Jim Crow practices like poll taxes and literacy tests further limited women’s voting.

Voting results

Even with limitations, more than 26 million new voters could head to the polls. But women’s voter turnout was about half that of men for many years. And, often, women voted the same ticket as their husbands, negating more of the advantage.

However, with about half of constituents being women, politicians began to listen to them and deal with women’s issues.

Equal Rights Amendment

In 1921, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party met with President Warren G. Harding to discuss a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing women equal rights. The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1923. It was never ratified.

Equal Rights Amendment rally – 1923

Working Women

World War I produced significant changes in the lives of working women. During the war, women took jobs that had historically been male-dominated, sometimes for the same wage and alongside male workers.

The end of the war reduced these jobs, but women realized they could work in factory jobs. Black women, who had been denied jobs in industry, found low-wage jobs here during the war.

After the war, many women gave up their wartime jobs and returned home. But they had a newfound sense of empowerment and independence.

In 1920, women composed about 23% of the workforce. This rose to 27% during the decade of the 20s. Today, women comprise half of the workforce.

Women worked in white-collar jobs and as factory workers. But 1/3 of women worked in low-paying domestic or farm jobs.

Cultural mores

During the 20s, women had more access to education and to news and information. This, too, increased their sense of worth and independence. For those lucky enough to be on the middle or upper rungs of the economic ladder, that sense of empowerment could be manifested.

Women could smoke. In public.

Women could drink. In public. Prohibition had changed the venue of public drinking. Before, the saloon was the domain of the male drinker. Women didn’t visit the saloon. But with saloons closed, public drinking moved to speakeasies and private clubs and homes. Women were welcome.

Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in Coward’s Private Lives

Sexuality

Most women were still conservative. But the 20s liberated many young middle and upper class women to stake a claim to their own bodies and become more sexually liberated. And they could publish and read a more liberal menu of literature.

Advertising

Royal Electric Vacuum Cleaner – 1920

Before the war, the vast majority of purchasers were men. Now, in the 20s, there was an explosion of consumer goods, many of which were used in the home. Women had the say in purchasing an iron or vacuum or washing machine.

Advertisers exploited the new buying power of women. Ads promoted new freedoms of the modern woman.

Fashion

Women’s fashion changed too. We’ll look at fashion in the next post.


Sources

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