When the Great Fire occurred in 1871, the Society was keeping their records in the court house of Chicago. When the court house fell, it took most of our early history. There was also an earlier fire in 1859 which I have not been able to document. Then 1871, and finally the Scottish Home fire in 1917. Because of these fires it has been difficult to know the role that women have played in our society.
We get a small glimpse from the annual report of 1870. It shows a list of nine women who were called “Lady Visitors, Assistance to Manager.” In those days, as it is today, the city was divided into three sections; North, South, and West. The Saint Andrew Society used the same division for their work of charity.
Assigned to the North division was Mrs. James Thomson, Mrs. Hugh Ritchie and Miss Dougall.
Assigned to the South division was Mrs. S. McKichan, Mrs. James Campbell and Miss Hamilton.
Assigned to the West division was Mrs. John Alston, Mrs A. M. Thomson and Miss H. Templeton.
Some of those names we recognize as being the wives of board members such as Ritchie, Campbell, Alston and Thomson. It’s interesting to note that each division had a single young lady as well. I recognize the name Dougal and Templeton.
We can assume that it would have been improper for the male managers to investigate certain situations and thus the need for “Lady visitors.” We can only speculate about the role these women played in the charitable work of the Society. The annual report for 1870 states “that all of the persons relieved have been seen personally visited at their places of residence, and their character and wants carefully investigated, so that no deserving applicant has been neglected.”
1870 was a busy year for they had a total of 282 applications for relief and all but 12 received attention. I am sure the Lady Visitors were extremely busy. It’s disappointing that we don’t have complete records.
The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was of importance to women and their search for equality. Bertha Palmer was without question the most important woman in Chicago and she became the president of the Board of Lady Managers which consisted of 115 members. The members were composed of ladies from all over the United States and they met on a regular basis in Chicago. At the urging of Mrs. Palmer the opening poem for the Exposition was written and read by Harriet Monroe. Her father was a prominent lawyer and active in Scottish events.
The Women’s Building was designed by 21 year old Miss Sophia Hayden of Spanish heritage. The building was 200 x 400' its framework covered by staff and painted a “rich old ivory color.” Above the second floor was a roof garden. Around the Gallery of Honor were the names of 75 of the most famous women known to history and art. (I have never seen this list but I’m sure it exists somewhere.) Wonder how many Scottish women were among the 75?
Mrs. Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, an American, was married to the Scottish man who designed the exquisite fountain in front of the Administration Building. She was also an artist and painted “The Primitive Woman,” a 14 x 58' mural that hung 40 feet off the floor. After the Fair it was displayed in France, St. Louis and the Art Institute. It was then stored in the basement of Mrs. Palmer’s mansion on Lake Shore drive. There is no information as to its whereabouts after 1910 and many are hoping that one day it will be found.
At least one organization for Scottish women existed before the Fair. It was the Flora McDonald Society of the Highland Association. The Highland Association was said to have been the largest Scottish organization in the United States at the time. At one of their meetings, Mrs. Robert Hill was voted the “most popular woman present” after “spirited” voting. Entertainment was the dancing of little Eddie Smith, “who danced before Queen Victoria last year.”
The Daughters of the Scotia Society of Chicago was formed on June 12, 1907 when 100 women met in the Atheneum building at 20 W. Van Buren St. The object of the organization was to be both social and benevolent. Mrs. Elizabeth Ballantine was elected president. The other officers were Mrs. Annie Crown, Mrs. Jeanette Russel, and Mrs. Catherine Fraser.
Following the social mores of their day, women held separate meetings for their organizations. It took the Burns Monument to bring both groups together. They were incorporated as the Burns Memorial and Monument Association of Illinois and at least six women were members. We have identified them as: Mrs. M. Strong, Mrs. R. MacWatt, Mrs. R Valentine, Mrs. W. A. Barclay and Miss Helen F. Lonnie.
In 1904, Mrs. Robert Valentine was elected one of the four directors of the Monument Association. The Ladies Auxiliary held their first official meeting in June, 1902 and had an official membership of 75. They held their meetings at the Patterson Shorthand Institute.
At the dedication of the Burns Monument, August 25, 1906, the statue was unveiled by Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson. Her father may have been J. D. Williamson who was on the committee for the “entertainment of guests.” We have been unable to follow her life. The other women involved in the Burns dedication was Mrs. Kate Campbell Saunders, the famous elocutionist. Mrs. Saunders died November 25, 1936 leaving one daughter, Helen. I do not know her place of burial. Many women also participated in the Burns Memorial Choir which sang at the dedication.
We have a photograph featuring the 29 women who served on the Ladies Auxiliary Board. They are all married except a Miss Mathers. Just for the historical record, here are the names (no first names were given): Winlack, Littledale, Calder, Dick, Napier, Beattie, Kettles, Fraser, Adams, Cochran, Crowe, Bell, Wright, Nisbet, Fraser, Hutchison, Ballantine, Devar, Galbraith, Gould, Cooper, McFarlane, Donaldson, Rice, Ewing, Johnson, Purvis and Orr.
If someday, you are searching through old boxes and you find documents, pictures, books, etc, of Scottish interest - please don’t throw them away. Call me or bring them to the Scottish Home.
Thanks to all the Victorian Ladies who gave of their time and energy to advance the work of Scottish organizations in Chicago.
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
September 6, 2014 - Our speaker is Bruce Allardice who is a Professor of History at South Suburban College. He is past president of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago and the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table. Professor Allardice has authored or coauthored six books and numerous articles on the Civil War. He is an avid sports historian and currently heads up the “Civil War Baseball” subcommittee for the Society of American Baseball Research. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and a lifelong resident of the Chicago area. He and his wife attended the Highland Games this year and left just minutes before the great storm arrived.
Bruce will be talking about baseball in Chicago during the Civil War. Many of these amateur stars served in the 65th Illinois Infantry. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and program begins at 10 o’clock. Reservations are not necessary but helpful. Call 708-408-5591.