Monday, May 3, 2010

Mrs. Robert (Elizabeth) Ballantine, a Leader Among Scottish Women in The Early 1900s.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the leader of Scottish women in Chicago was Mrs. Robert Ballantine. In spite of her public role, we have little information about her life. Most of the time, she is referred to as Mrs. Robert Ballantine. A newspaper article published April 20, 1909, may give us a first name of Elizabeth.

The Women’s Auxiliary of the St. Andrew’s Society and the Illinois Daughters of Scotia were helping raise money for a new Scottish Home in Riverside, Illinois. They were sponsoring an event at Library Hall in Austin. (Austin is now part of the City of Chicago, but apparently was once its own town.) “The affair is under the direction Mrs. Elizabeth Ballantine, president of the auxiliary.” Jimmy Shepherd, announced as “Chicago’s Harry Lauder”, Margaret Flaws Hunter and Kate Campbell Saunders, will give recitations. Two little girls: Bessie Dewar and Bella Sellars will dance. In the museum, we have the pipes once played by Jimmy Shepherd.

The first Scottish Home was located at 43 Bryant Avenue, near the Douglas Monument. The exact location is now covered by a large, low income, housing complex. The newspaper article continued: “It is proposed to acquire a country place in the vicinity of Chicago to accommodate from forty to fifty." The property obtained is the present location of the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.

Mrs. Robert Ballantine was instrumental in completing the statue of Robert Burns in Garfield Park. The sculptor, W. Grant Stevenson, of Edinburgh, Scotland, would not finish the statue until he had been paid in full and fund-raising efforts were slow. Mrs. Ballantine made a trip to Scotland and visited with Grant Stevenson and arranged for payments to be made. The first payment was sent on May 12, 1904, and one year later the statue and panels were successfully cast.

On the Society page of the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated Sept. 21, 1895. You can find this note: “Mr. & Mrs. Robert Ballantine, No.283 North Oakley avenue, celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their wedding last night. Mr. And Mrs. Ballantine received their friends in Washington Hall, corner of Washington and Ogden avenue. A large gathering was present.”

A diligent search has not given us any more information about her husband and no obituary can be found for either. We are still looking. Ballantine is a common name in Chicago Scottish history, but we owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Ballantine and it would be good to know more of her life. Any help would be appreciated.

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