‘Renaissance’ woman featured

December 28, 2013

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During the Roaring ’20s, the bold independence of a woman from Granbury caused tongues to wag faster than the hem of a flapper’s dress.

It is perhaps ironic that a woman who was quite the maverick grew up in what is now the Iron Horse Inn.

It was considered scandalous when Josephine Cogdell, the daughter of Granbury businessman and banker D.C. Cogdell, violated Texas law by marrying a black man from New York and giving birth to their biracial, child prodigy daughter.

Cogdell’s fascinating life, and her contribution to Harlem’s cultural renaissance, will be spotlighted next month during special events centered around Carla Kaplan, author of “Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance.” Kaplan’s visit is being sponsored by the Friends of the Library, the Hood County Historical Commission and Preserve Granbury.

Though Cogdell made a few trips back to Granbury before she died in 1969, her husband, journalist George Schuyler, never came with her. The couple knew he would not have been welcomed by local society. Their daughter, Philippa, a pianist known as the “little Harlem genius” because of her IQ of 180, never knew most of her Texas relatives.

Cogdell’s alleged bizarre methods of raising her daughter were detailed in the 1995 book “Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler,” written by Kathryn Talalay.

However, a description of Cogdell at The Bridge Street History Center near Granbury’s town square suggests that unflattering portrayals of the Granbury native as a “manipulative, demanding stage mother from hell” may not have been completely fair or accurate.

Kaplan is an award-winning professor and writer who holds the Stanton W. and Elisabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professorship in American Literature at Northeastern University. She also has taught at the University of Southern California and Yale University.

On Friday, Jan. 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Kaplan will be introduced at a small wine and cheese reception at the Iron Horse Inn on Thorp Spring Road. Admission is $5 per person, and reservations are required by calling 817-408-2570.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, from 2 to 4 p.m., the author will discuss and read from her book at the Hood County Library. Admission is free, and no reservations are required.

Copies of her book will be sold for $25 each, and Kaplan will be available for signings. The book can be purchased in advance of Kaplan’s appearance at the Friends of the Library Bookstore inside the library.

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