Magazine article Humanities

Happy and the Go-Hawks

Magazine article Humanities

Happy and the Go-Hawks

Article excerpt

MISSISSIPPI MORE THAN FIFTY-TWO YEARS AGO IN A small, woodsy southern Mississippi town, a Midwestern woman nicknamed Happy lived in a residence known as the Doll's House on a stretch of land called Friendship Farm. For anyone meeting her for the first time in those later years of her life, Happy's invalid condition may have been deceptive. They may not have realized this former newspaper editor and children's author was an internationally lauded philanthropist. Happy-known as Emilie Blackmore Stapp-helped raise thousands of dollars for European orphans of World War I through her charitable organization, the Go-Hawks Happy Tribe. During World War II, she raised nearly $3 million (approximately $42 million today) in war bonds through the use of her avian literary creation, Isabella the Goose.

"Her work has been lost to time in a sense," says Daisha Walker, an instructor at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the lead researcher for the 2013 project of the Friends of the Stone County Libraries funded by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Walker explains that while many older residents of Wiggins remember Emilie and her sister Marie, their legacy has faded in part because the Stapps' home, the Doll's House, was demolished. Fortunately, Happy herself documented much of her community and charitable work. In addition, the sisters' stories "have come back to the forefront," Walker says, thanks in part to the oral history project Telling Trees, which "promotes the remembering and honoring of Stone County's story to the younger generations," Walker says.

Emilie Stapp was born in Madison, Indiana, in 1876. She later moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she worked as the literary editor for the Des Moines Capital. In 1908, she published the children's novel The Trail of the Go-Hawks, which inspired a club called the Go-Hawks Tribe. The popularity of the book and the club enabled Stapp to have her own "Happy Page" in the newspaper, where she could write news of tribe members and their charitable deeds. Both adults and children joined the tribe and membership grew to over 80,000-with members including James Whitcomb Riley and Rudyard Kipling, the "Big Chiefs" for the United States and England, respectively.

Following World War I, children belonging to the Go-Hawks raised funds for children orphaned in Europe by the war. Penny by penny, members collected $38,000-a feat that led to Stapp's recognition by the king of Belgium and the French government.

Stapp eventually left Iowa for Boston to be an editor at Houghton Mifflin, and then moved to Wiggins in 1925. …

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