Advisory: Read This First!

I have stated this several times in my annotations to the Milton News columns that have been transcribed and posted on this site, but I will state it again here: David A. Conner and the people of Milton lived in a society in which sexism and racism were pervasive, and the content of many Milton News columns reflects the prevailing attitudes of the day.  Although I have annotated the Milton News columns to explain some “pop culture” references and quotations to 21st century readers, I have not censored or abridged any of the content.

I have heard women taking offense at the wording on some of the dedications on the LBC Museum’s stained glass windows, wording that apparently submerges the wife’s identity under the husband’s (e.g “William G. Fearing and Wife,” “N. Wallace White and Wife”); these women have a good point, and it doesn’t get any better in the Milton News columns. Given that David A. Conner was not a journalist by training, he gave free rein to his opinions and biases, which his editors seemed to have no problem with. He summarily dismissed women’s suffrage when the subject was raised; he felt that a woman’s place was in the home, caring for her family, or serving in Church-sanctioned organizations; work was okay for single young women, but not after marriage; he idealized women and girls according to Victorian standards and placed them on a pedestal, but those who fell off the pedestal were viewed harshly. In this, he was no different than the majority of his male contemporaries, but I have no doubt some readers will find his views on women distasteful at the least.

The problems get worse when we consider racial issues. The Milford Chronicle was published for a white readership; this would be true for most other Delaware newspapers of the day. The language used in the portrayal of African Americans reflects that basic fact, and plays to the worst notions of whites about minorities. Of the lives of Milton’s people of color, Conner knows very little and mentions even less, save in the case of criminal activity. Derogatory slang terms for African Americans are used with easy fluidity. One of Conner’s pieces about Milton’s lone Chinese laundryman in a state of agitation was done in “no tickee, no washee” dialect.

I find these early 20th century attitudes disturbing at best, and deeply offensive in the most extreme cases. I will, however, not abridge or exclude material that offends contemporary sensibilities. To understand the people of Milton in 1906, we need to look at them unflinchingly.

It is my hope that as awareness of this repository spreads, African Americans and Native Americans with roots in Milton will ask for their side of history to be included here. This I will gladly do, and I will do the same for women who would like to tell a more nuanced story of gender roles in early 20th century Milton.