A new book explores the life of the teacher that most influenced Jim Thorpe. Her name was Marianne Moore. Moore would go on to be one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.
The book, "Holding on Upside Down the Life and Work of Marianne Moore" by Linda Leavell, briefly focuses on the period from 1911 to 1914 when Marianne Moore taught at the United States Indian Industrial School at Carlisle during the peak of the school's athletic fame; the period before, during and directly after Jim Thorpe won gold medals at the 1912 Olympics.
"Marianne Moore was hired to take charge of the commercial department at Carlisle Indian School," Leavell said, "which is what we would call today the business department-commercial arithmetic and bookkeeping along with typing, stenography, and commercial English. She taught typing and other business subjects. During that time, she developed her own course in commercial law because she wanted the students to learn how to defend their rights.
"She was in her early 20s, and many of her students, like Jim Thorpe and his wife, Iva Miller, were about the same age as she was."
"The director was hesitant to hire her because he didn't think that a young woman with a Bryn Mawr education would be able to handle the unruly boys in the class," Leavell explained. "This didn't intimidate her.
"She didn't seem to have much of a problem about that. She said that Jim Thorpe and the other older athletes in her class helped her control the younger students.
"Moore always referred to 'Jim' as James Thorpe. She was opposed to nicknames. He was not a terrific student but she admired him greatly, and she admired him as an athlete. What she especially seem to admire about him was his modesty-even though he became celebrated as an athlete. He was modest about his athletic achievements and didn't flaunt them."
Leavell remembers an anecdote that Moore would tell about Jim Thorpe. "The Carlisle Indian school had a policy that the students required an escort whenever they left the campus," Leavell said. One day, Marianne Moore escorted some students to the circus. Jim Thorpe was part of the group.
"Marianne was carrying a man's umbrella, which was too large and bulky for her. James asked her if he could carry her parasol for her. That made a deep impression on her because it showed Jim Thorpe 'chivalry toward her."
Moore never met her father, who had been institutionalized before her birth. She lived with her mother until her mother's death in 1947. Marianne was 60 years old at that time.
"Her mother was a very prim and proper Presbyterian who had a 10-year lesbian relationship with their preacher's daughter," Leavell said. "Marianne had little privacy. She found an escape for her adulthood autonomy in her poetry."
A lifelong interest in sports, perhaps somewhat influenced by Jim Thorpe in the Carlisle Indian School, led Moore to become a heartfelt baseball fan.
She was impressed with the injured Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson who integrated baseball and became a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She rarely went to baseball games, but she watched them on television.
The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and went to the World Series in 1956. On the day of the World Series, she wrote a poem about the Brooklyn Dodgers, Hometown Piece for Messrs. Alston and Reese, that appeared on the front page of the Herald Tribune.
After the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, she wrote a poem about the New York Yankees. In appreciation, the Yankees had her throw out the ball to open Yankee Stadium in 1968.
Linda Leavell is a native of Louisville, Kentucky; grew up in Waco, Texas; and is now retired to Fayetteville, Arkansas. She wrote her doctoral thesis at Oklahoma State University on Marion Moore. In 1999, she began this biography, completed it in 2012, and published it in October 2013. The book is available through amazon.com and independent bookstores.