An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner

By James Thomas Flexner | Go to book overview

43
An Offer and a Refusal

DURING the very week when Simon Flexner learned that he was to be offered the directorship of the Rockefeller Institute, Helen Thomas copied into her vellum-bound notebook a prayer which she seems herself to have written: “Oh, Almighty God, who in Thy irresistible providence hast brought Thy people to this moment of time in eternity, make us submissive to Thy unalterable will and obedient to the promptings of Thy holy spirit, teaching us and all nature to aspire to an ever nearer and nearer approach to Thy perfection. Thou hast commanded us neither unduly to desire nor unduly scorn peace and happiness in this world; vouchsafe to our weakness strength to accept without lamentation not only our own sorrow but also the sorrows of all mankind, and finally grant us faith to believe that if we live the brief days of our mortal life in serenity and love, we shall not have lived in vain.”1

Helen was back at Bryn Mawr, her hospital imprisonment and her bout of sciatica behind her, living again with Lucy — but there was no serenity and only backbiting love. She had been, so we may assume, seeing enough of Simon Flexner to incite her longtime friend and roommate into passionate jealousy. “I must, I have learned to take upon me the complications of a morbid, abnormal mind, and help Lucy through with the situation that has developed [illegible] and desolating agonies, and yet one has no control over the third person, the determining cause of it all. I can help Lucy only by plunging in myself, by assisting and protecting her when I can…. It is useless to revolt against the task. It seems unnecessary, unreal, not sane, all this disturbance, but there it is, engulfing Lucy….

-393-

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An American Saga: The Story of Helen Thomas and Simon Flexner
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations (between Pages 238–239) xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • I - New Americans 1
  • 1 - Bohemia — Strasbourg — Kentucky 3
  • 2 - Germany — Paris — Kentucky 11
  • 3 - Simon Flexner, Delinquent 21
  • 4 - Hard Times 32
  • 5 - Simon Flexner, Unemployable 39
  • 6 - New Departures 44
  • II - Old Americans 51
  • 7 - Puritan to Quaker 53
  • 8 - Manumission and Aftermath 60
  • 9 - The Midnight Cry 70
  • 10 - Testimony against War 77
  • 11 - Private Intercourse with God 84
  • 12 - A Young Marriage 93
  • III - The Long Road Upward 101
  • 13 - The Gate Opens 103
  • 14 - Jacob’s Drugstore 108
  • 15 - Microscope with Wings 114
  • 16 - An Unprepared Student and a New University 120
  • 17 - Pathways for Escape 131
  • IV - Privileges and Traumas 141
  • 18 - Helen’s Childhood 143
  • 19 - Evangelists 156
  • 20 - Helen Growing 166
  • 21 - Sexual Divisions 174
  • 22 - Sexual Revulsion 181
  • 23 - Catastrophe 188
  • V - Miraculous Destiny 197
  • 24 - A New Life Starts 199
  • 25 - Settling in at the Hopkins 210
  • 26 - Breaking Trail 218
  • 27 - Rising 225
  • 28 - Danger at the Crossroads 236
  • 29 - Mission to the Philippines 276
  • 30 - The Further Adventures of Abraham 286
  • VI - Chiaroscuro 295
  • 31 - Seesaw 297
  • 32 - Entrapments and Escapes 308
  • 33 - Exploding Horizons 316
  • 34 - Friday’s Hill 326
  • 35 - Death of a Father 336
  • 36 - The Vellum Sanctuary 339
  • VII - Approaching Lives 347
  • 37 - Settling in at Philadelphia 349
  • 38 - Helen Thomas and Bertrand Russell 356
  • 39 - A Lion in Philadelphia 361
  • 40 - The Black Death 366
  • 41 - The Valley of Despair 373
  • 42 - Enter the Rockefeller Institute 382
  • 43 - An Offer and a Refusal 393
  • 44 - Abraham and Anne 403
  • VIII - Joining Together 415
  • 45 - Consummations 417
  • 46 - Great Changes 427
  • 47 - Lucy and Other Troubles 438
  • 48 - A Hectic Departure 448
  • 49 - The Mildness of a Strong Love 457
  • IX - Conclusion 463
  • 50 - The Later Years 465
  • Acknowledgments Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs Cast of Family Characters Bibliography Abbreviations Used in the Source References Source References 479
  • Acknowledgments 481
  • Acknowledgments for the Use of Photographs 483
  • Cast of Family Characters 485
  • Bibliography 489
  • Abbreviations Used in the Source References 501
  • Source References 503
  • Index 517
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