On December 1st, 1939, two years after she started as editor of the National Historical Magazine, Frances Keyes submitted her resignation and renounced her membership to the Daughters of the American Revolution. According to the afterword in her autobiography, written by her son Henry:
“Mrs. Keyes, on her part, became disenchanted with a budget which was less than the allowance for official flowers… she pleaded with the society to pay secretarial salaries commensurate with those then current in Washington. The climax came when Marian Anderson’s scheduled concert at Constitution Hall – owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution – was canceled. The latter may not have been to blame, but Mrs. Keyes thought they could and should have insisted that the concert take place there. She resigned as editor of the magazine and, with much regret, as a member of the organization.”
So What is the Truth?
One of the most overlooked aspects of Frances’s departure from the DAR is the fact that she quit ten months after the news broke that Marian Anderson had been denied a chance to perform at Constitution Hall. She was not of the masses who resigned alongside Eleanor Roosevelt in solidarity against the DAR’s policy.
The presumed connection between Frances and Marian Anderson stems from a portion of her resignation letter, where she states that she had intended to resign in April but stayed on out of respect for her friendship with the President General and because she was not “in accord with certain policies and actions, which seem to [her] at variance to the activities and aims for which [she] long had so much respect.” Many people have understood these two things to imply she was resigning in part because of the racist practices of the DAR.
In reality, her resignation was a long time coming and purely because of financial concerns and lack of control over the publication she had worked so hard to curate. The 1940 budget and the stipulations it came with was the final straw that drove Frances to resign.
Running on a Deficit
While the DAR had numerous problems with its operations and attitudes, it is disingenuous of Keyes to state that the heads of the DAR were not, at least initially, financially supportive of the magazine. Account statements from quarterly meetings show that while Keyes was editor, the magazine was consistently the second most well funded department after clerical services. However it general fluctuated between taking up 10-20% of costs, and it was an uphill battle of Keyes trying to convince the heads of the DAR that the magazine was an asset rather than a money draining liability, given the magazine was consistently running on a deficit.
The Subscription Declines
In between the February and April budget meetings in 1939, the magazine had lost over $3,000 in subscriptions, possibly due to the loss of so many members after the scandal with Marian Anderson. By the October 1939 meeting, it had dropped another $1,000. Although Frances had increased subscriptions throught 1938, the number was beginning to level off, the DAR figured there was a yearly cycle of about 1,000 subscriptions that came in and out, so the increase during 1938 was not substantial enough to merit more funding.
The Fiction Serials
One of the unexpected costs that arose during Frances’s tenure was fiction serials. Before, most articles were written by members of the DAR, but fiction writing required the DAR to contract independent writers, which ended up being much more expensive.
Although subscriptions had greatly increased since Frances took charge of the magazine, due in part to the appeal of fiction serials, they had begun to level off in early 1939. In April, when Frances had first tried to resign, was also when that the board moved to end the publication of fiction serials in the magazine. This
was presumably a huge loss to Frances, who had worked hard and used her connections to modernize and popularize the magazine through the introduction of fiction.
The 1940 Budget
After the October meeting in 1939, a committee was gathered to determine the budget for 1940, without consulting Frances. Eventually they created a budget of $7,500 for every three month period. The only time Frances had come close to that number was the February 1938 total, which was $7,092. The other three month expenditures were double, almost triple that amount.
To stay within this new budget, Frances would have to cut down or completely eliminate several sections of the magazine as well as change printers. She had already cut out chapter information and slimmed down the genealogy department, the national society had eliminated fiction serials, and now they were asking her to cut book reviews, parliamentary procedure, and her own personal section, “Contributors, Collaborators, and Critics.”
Printing the National Historical Magazine made up half, if not more, of the costs associated with running the magazine. At the beginning of November, Frances was informed by the Magazine Committee that in accordance with the new budget, a change in printers would be necessary. For this to happen, Frances would have to find a new printer within two week in order to get the January issue printed on time. This caused a great deal of frustration and anxiety for Frances since she had built a working relationship with their current printer who gave them a fair discount and was willing to accommodate them. The Committee was pushing a new company who Frances feared would not stay within the allocated budget, and was ignored in her pleas to stay with their current printer despite his affirmations that he could work within the new price point. Frances also argued that there were fluctuations in how many magazines were printed given the high demand in June and the lapse in subscriptions in November, and that the amount needed for printing could be adjusted, but the Committee would not listen.
The final straw for Frances was the Magazine Committee’s inability to communicate with the President General and Frances, leaving Frances with “responsibility without authority” over the magazine. At one point Mrs. Schermerhorn, one of the women on the Magazine Committee, told Frances to include an additional statement to a letter she is publishing in the magazine, after the magazine had already gone to print and despite the fact that this addition would cause the magazine to go over the budget that Schermerhorn herself had approved. Frances could get no clear communication from other members of the committee or the President General, leaving her in a bind.
Frances also felt that they should trust her to do her job and allocate funds where they needed to go in order to successfully edit and publish the National Historical Magazine. She compares it to entrusting her housekeeper with a certain amount of money each month to buy the food and goods necessary, and because Frances is not the housekeeper she would not dare tell the housekeeper how much she needs to spend on chicken or vegetables a month because she does not know how the kitchen is run – just like the Magazine Committee does not fully understand how the magazine is run, they should not presume to tell Frances exactly how to do her job. They would not listen to her budget recommendations, her thoughts on the printer, or what articles should be cut and in the end Frances states that she can not put her name on the January 1940 issue because it is not something she approves of or is proud of.
In the End…
In a letter written to a saddened member, Frances even explicitly states that her resignation had nothing to do with the “Anderson episode,” or with Eleanor Roosevelt’s resignation. Frances’s resignation as a member of the DAR and editor of their magazine was not, as so often told, because of her belief in civil rights and equality, but because of monetary disagreements and the diminishment of her editorial powers. In fact, there is no evidence of any belief in racial equality whatsoever. While Frances was certainly a unique woman in her time, she was not as forward thinking as one would hope her to be.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” December, 1937.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” March, 1938.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” June, 1938.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” December, 1938.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” March, 1939.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” June, 1939.
“Minutes: National Board of Management.” December, 1939.
Binford, Marcia. Marcia Binford to Frances Keyes, November 2, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. Frances Keyes to Isabella Nason, November 22, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Nason, Isabelle. Isabella Nason to Frances Keyes, November 23, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. Frances Keyes to Isabelle Nason, November 25, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Nason, Isabelle. Isabella Nason to Frances Keyes, November 27, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. Frances Keyes to Isabelle Nason, November 29, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. Frances Keyes to Sarah Robert, December 1, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. Frances Keyes to Clara Stoddard, December 27, 1939. Letter. From Tulane Library, The Frances Parkinson Keyes Papers, 1898-1971.
Keyes, Frances. All Flags Flying. 1972. 651-652.