Wanda Wednesday: "There is more than one kind of hunger in the world." & 'Was der Papa nicht thun konnt', muss die Wanda halt fertig machen.'

Everyone has pivotal moments in their lives, moments where a course is chosen, and all the rest is changed forever. In the introduction to Wanda Gág's Growing Pains, Gág explains how her father was an accomplished artist who always dreamed of studying art seriously, but his obligations to his family prevented him from doing so.  Then she goes on to tell how it is that she became an artist, and not a store clerk,

Wanda Gág's father, Anton Gág
"When I began my diary in October, 1908, I was fifteen years old and there were eight in our family- my mother and seven children. My father had died in May of that year. Our savings depleted by his long illness, our mother sick and weak from a year's nursing and anxiety, we felt dazed and helpless. Besides our home, there was left to us some twelve hundred dollars insurance money which, with the addition of eight dollars a month from the county, was made to stretch over the next six years.

"Through all this, my schooling had suffered several setbacks. In the fall of 1907 I had entered high school but, because of much extra work and home, I was able to attend afternoon sessions only. As my father's illness became critical I was needed at home all day, and at his death my school days seemed to be at an end forever. Along with the small county relief allowance, along with the personal charity of many kindly neighbors, came the community advice, almost an ultimatum: education was a fine thing if one could afford it... to have a talent for drawing was very nice but art didn't pay... therefore, Wanda as the oldest child had better forget about school, stop drawing, and clerk in a local store to help support the family.

"These suggestions were well meant, I knew, but there is more than one kind of hunger in the world, and the question 'What is to become of us?' assumed in my mind proportions far beyond our immediate material future. Were we all to be satisfied with a grammar school education, with jobs as clerks, bookkeepers or hired girls? And then as to myself- suppose I could stop drawing, had I a right to do so? Only Mama and I knew what had happened that day in May when Papa, calling me to his bedside and taking my hand, had said faintly, 'Was der Papa nicht thun konnt', muss die Wanda halt fertig machen.' (What papa couldn't do, Wanda will have to finish.) I nodded my head, speechless with the sudden realization that he was dying, and overwhelmed by the trust which had been placed in my keeping.

"Here was a justification for the ideas which were dimly but surely taking form in my mind; and in its wake came the youthful, rebellious resolve: 'I have a right to go on drawing. I will not be a clerk. And we are all going through high school!' Mama understood perfectly, and had no objection to this course if a way could be found to accomplish it. I had no definite plan of action but I made a start. I drew postcards and place cards, and instead of writing and illustrating stories and poems for pleasure, I now did so with the purpose of turning them into cash."

                                                                                         - (Wanda Gág, Growing Pains, xxxii)

And you know the ending, of course: she did it. They did it. They did all of it. They all graduated high school. And Wanda went to art school. And then some. Anton would have been very, very proud.

She had me at, "there is more than one kind of hunger in the world."  

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