Woman of the Century/Joanna Baker
BAKER, Miss Joanna, linguist and educator, born in New Rochefle, Ogle county, Ill., 14th February, 1862. She is professor of Greek, language, literature and philosophy in Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa. Her name has come conspicuously before the public on account of her early and unusual proficiency in ancient and modern languages. Her parents, Orlando H. and Mary C. Ridley Baker, were both teachers and linguists, and began to instruct her in Greek and Latin as soon as she could speak English clearly. Her father for her amusement taught her, instead of Mother Goose melodies, the conjugation of the verb in Greek and Latin, which she learned merely from the rhythm. It was in her fourth year she was put to the systematic study of three languages, one lesson each day except Sunday. Mondays and Thursdays it was Greek, Tuesdays and Fridays, Latin, and Wednesdays and Saturdays, French. This system of instruction was continued with only the variation of oral exercises, and with scarcely ever an intermission, for several years. The lessons assigned were short, but the standard was perfection. She learned her lessons so easily that it took but a small part of the morning, and she seemed to have as much time for voluntary reading and childish amusements, of which she was very fond, as those children who had no studies. Before she was eight years old, she had thoroughly finished the primary books in Greek, Latin and French. She had read, besides, in Greek the first book of Xenophon's JOANNA BAKER. Anabasis and three books of Homer's Iliad. In Latin she had read Harkness' Reader entire, the first book of Caesar, and two books of Virgil's Aeneid. She took daily grammar lessons in Hadley's Greek grammar and Harkness' Latin, and all the grammatical references and notes annexed to the texts both of Latin and Greek. She had read in French a book of fables and stories, and learned Fasquelle's French course. Homer, Virgil and Fasquelle were recited with college classes. These were her studies in language before her eighth birthday. Her parents removed to Algona, Iowa, where she became a student in Algona College. At the age of twelve years, besides the above studies, she had read other books of Homer and Virgil, Herodotus, Memorabilia, Demosthenes de Corona, Sallust, Cicero de Senectute et Amicitia, Orations against Catiline, with frequent exercise in Latin and Greek composition. It is not to be supposed that she was wholly occupied with classical studies. She was initiated early into the mysteries of practical housekeeping, from the kitchen up. She read history, biography and such current literature as fell into her hands, and was always ready to take her place with girls of her age in excursions and sports. At twelve years of age she began to study arithmetic and finished it so far as the subject of interest in three months. She took up algebra, geometry and trigonometry in rapid succession, and showed as much ability in mathematics as in languages. Before her fourteenth year she had read several times over CEdipus Tvrannus in Greek, and made a complete lexicon of it, with critical notes on the text. At sixteen she had read most of the Greek and Latin of a college course and, having returned to Simpson College, was appointed by President Berry tutor of Greek. This was the occasion of the first public notice taken of her early linguistic attainments. The notice made of her in the Indianola "Herald" was copied with comments and variations all over America and in many countries of Europe. At eighteen years of age she published an original literal translation of Plato's Apology, which received commendation from eminent Greek scholars. Some years before she had begun the study of music and German. This language became a favorite and she soon acquired a speaking knowledge of it. In 1881 she entered Cornell College, Iowa, and in 1882 graduated, receiving the degree of A.B. She entered DePauw University in 1886, for special instruction in Greek, German, French and music. After two years of study, during which she acted as tutor of Greek, she received the degree of A.M. pro merito, was admitted an alumna of that university, ad eundem gradum, and was elected instructor of Latin by the board of trustees, in which position she served for one year. She was re-elected the second year, but, having received an offer of the chair of Greek in Simpson College, a position her father had filled twenty years before, she accepted the latter. A year after she lost her mother to whom she was affectionately attached. She has three younger sisters. The older, Myra. is now professor of German and French in Napa College, California, and the other two are still at home, students in college. Miss Baker is a clear, forcible writer and a ready speaker. Her public lectures are well attended. She is an interesting conversationist, has a pleasing address and is unassuming. She is popular with her students and imbues them with her own enthusiasm and love for the Greek language and its literature. She organized all students of Greek in the college into a club called "Hoi Hellenikoi." especially for the study of Greek home life and customs, mythology and civil polity; and to gain familiarity with choice passages from the best authors in the original Greek. Miss Baker is fond of company, plays the piano and violin, and sings. She is a devoted Christian, a member of the Methodist Church, and an enthuiastic worker in the Epworth League and the Sunday-school.