Plainview Couple Honor Two 'Precious Ladies' Who Inspired Love Of Poetry

  • News Photo 2362
    A new stained glass window at Armstrong Browning Library given by Mr. and Mrs. Rex Ramsower of Plainview contains scenes from the Italian hillside village of Asolo, which features in Robert Browning?s poetry.
  • News Photo 2363
    Poet Robert Browning died before he could accomplish his dream of building ?Pippa?s Tower? in the village of Asolo. The tower later was built by his son, Pen.
Nov. 17, 2004

by Alan Hunt

Treasured memories of a mother and grandmother who opened a little girl's eyes to the wonders of poetry and literature were the inspiration behind a new stained glass window recently unveiled at Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library.

Founded in 1951 by Dr. A.J. Armstrong, the Armstrong Browning Library houses the world's largest collection of research materials and memorabilia relating to Victorian poets Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Today, Mrs. Ethel Ramsower, who lives with her husband Rex Ramsower in Plainview, still enjoys that same love and appreciation of the Brownings' works instilled in her as a child by her mother, Laura Higginbotham Osborne, and grandmother, Ethel Lattimore Higginbotham.

The Ramsowers gave the new window in the library's Cox Reception Hall in memory of the two women who were such an influence on Mrs. Ramsower's childhood. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsower are the parents of Dr. Reagan M. Ramsower, Baylor's acting chief financial officer, dean of libraries, professor of information systems, and associate vice president and chief information officer.

The window features scenes from Asolo, the hillside village 20 miles above Venice, Italy, that Browning visited early in his life and then dreamed about for many years. Browning's play "Pippa Passes" which was centered around the village of Asolo, features the fictional character, Pippa, a lace worker who went around town on her one day of holiday singing and unknowingly affecting the lives of those who heard her song.

Mrs. Ramsower said she chose the Asolo theme for the window because "I had heard my grandmother refer to the poem 'Pippa Passes.' It was one of her favorites." She said Browning had referred to Asolo as "the most beautiful spot I ever was privileged to see." As an artist and having completed stained glass work herself, Mrs. Ramsower said she felt a special connection with the project.

Mrs. Ramsower said her mother received a bachelor's degree in English from Baylor in 1923 and published three poetry volumes under the name Laura Higginbotham Osborne. One of the book jackets quotes her, "I can express my feelings better in poetry than in any other way."

"My mother took classes from Dr. Armstrong," said Mrs. Ramsower. "She started a Browning club in Plainview after she was married and came to live in Plainview. This was a pretty large group of ladies who met for many years to study Browning. They also organized a Jr. Browning club." Mrs. Ramsower said her grandmother was one of the first women to attend Baylor as the university in Waco. "My grandmother was a good friend of Mrs. Armstrong and I believe helped her organize a Browning club in Dallas.

"My mother insisted that I be allowed to take a class from Dr. Armstrong when I was a freshman at Baylor, although the class was designated for upper classmen. This I did, and you can imagine after hearing of Browning all my life from these two and visiting their clubs when I was small, I was most anxious to know more about this beloved poet.

"These two precious ladies did open my eyes to Browning and to all of literature. I got a BA degree in English in 1950 from Baylor. I was extremely happy to be able to honor them with this beautiful window. They would be extremely proud of it and the window's wonderful placement in the room."

Rita S. Patteson, assistant professor and librarian/curator of manuscripts at the library, said the stained glass window is the fourth added to the Cox Reception Hall. She said Browning loved Asolo so much that he wanted to build his own place there and call it Pippa's Tower. "He was negotiating for property there, but it was not available soon enough. After Browning's death, his son, Pen, did build such a place and also invested in the silk mills that were prominent there."

Patteson said the middle vignette of the new window depicts Pippa's Tower and smaller ones around the window show significant areas of the town, including La Rocca, a castle fortress that is visible from all over Asolo. "I think it's one of the prettiest windows in the reception area," she said.

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