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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
April 2008

Scottish Women

Most of you will be receiving this issue just before Mothers Day so it seems appropriate to consider the role of women in our Society’s history. When the Great Fire occurred in 1871, the Society kept their records in the courthouse. When the courthouse fell, it took most of our early history. Because of this it is difficult to know the complete role women played.

We do know that the Annual Report for 1870-71, shows a list of nine women who were called “Lady Visitors, Assistants to Manager.” In the south division of Chicago 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. For the North Division there was Mrs. James Thomson, Mrs. Hugh Ritchie and Miss Dougall. We can perhaps assume that it would have been improper for the male Managers to investigate certain situations and thus the need for “lady visitors.”

Since we do not have complete records, we can only speculate about the role of the “Lady Visitors.” The Annual Report also states that “All of the persons relieved have been seen personally or visited at their places of residence, and their characters and wants carefully investigated, so that no deserving applicant has been neglected.” That year a total of 282 applications for relief were received and all but 12 received attention. It had been a busy year for everyone involved in the charity of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society including the “lady visitors.”

It is apparent that the Columbian Exposition of 1893 was of great 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. The History Club, last year considered the role played by Harriet Monroe who wrote the opening poem for the Exposition.

The Woman’s Building was designed by twenty-one year old Miss Sophia Hayden of Spanish heritage. The building was 200 x 400 feet; 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. 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 large mural 14x58 feet 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, although some continue the search and hope that one day it will be found.

At least one organization for Scottish women existed before the Fair. It was the Flora MacDonald Society of the Highland Association. The Highland Association was said to have been the largest Scottish society 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 Addie 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 hall at 20 Van Buren Street. The object of the organization was to be both social and benevolent. Mrs. Elizabeth Valentine was elected President. The other officers were: Mrs. Annie Crown, Mrs. Jeanette Russel and Mrs. Catherine Fraser. I am not sure that any local Daughters of Scotia still exists, but the national organization may still exist in New York State. Anyone know? Several of these ladies resided at the Scottish Home and the museum has some pins and books from the Scotia Society.

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. A photograph in the official program identifies, Mrs. M. Strong, Mrs. R. MacWatt, Mrs. R. Ballantine, Mrs. W. A. Barclay, Mrs. Fairweather and Miss Helen F. Lonie as members. The assistant secretary was Helen Fairgrieve Lonie. In 1904, Mrs. R. Ballantine was elected as one of four Directors. We have told Mrs. Ballantine’s story before and it is possible that without her efforts the Robert Burns Monument might never have been completed. The Ladies Auxiliary held their first official meeting in June, 1902. They had an official membership of 75 and held their meetings at the Paterson Shorthand Institute.

At the dedication of the monument, August 25, 1906, the statue was unveiled by Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson. We had assumed that she was part of the John Williamson family, but that apparently is not correct. 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, perhaps some of our readers can help us. The other women involved in the dedication was Mrs. Kate Campbell Saunders, the famous elocutionist. She would later serve on the Ladies Auxiliary board of the Scottish home. Mrs. Saunders died November 25, 1936, leaving one daughter Helen. Her place of burial is not yet identified. Many women also participated in the Burns Memorial Choir which sang at the dedication.

Ladies Auxiliary Burns Monument and Memorial Association 


1.  Mrs. Winlack
2.  Mrs. Littledale
3.  Mrs. Calder
4.  Mrs. Dick
5.  Mrs. Napier
6.  Mrs. Beattie
7.  Mrs. Kettles
8.  Miss Fraser
9.  Mrs. Adams
10.  Mrs. Cochran
11.  Mrs. Crowe
12.  Mrs. Bell
13.  Mrs. Wright
14.  Mrs. Nisbet
15.  Mrs. Fraser
16.  Mrs. Hutchison
17.  Mrs. Ballantine
18.  Mrs. Devar
19.  Mrs. Galbraith
20.  Mrs. Gould
21.  Mrs. Cooper
22.  Miss Mathers
23.  Mrs. McFarlane
24.  Mrs. Donaldson
25.  Mrs. Rice
26.  Mrs. Ewing
27.  Mrs. Johnson
28.  Mrs. Purvis
29.  Mrs. Orr
30.  Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson

More information on the Columbian Exposition is available at Chicago Historical Society.

Mrs. Carrie T. Alexander

Mrs. Alexander, who apparently lived in Belleville, Illinois, ran for University of Illinois Trustee in 1900. I have very little information about Mrs. Alexander, but it appears she may have been the first woman to run for the office of Trustee and perhaps the first woman to run for elected office in Illinois. The Mary A. Logan Republican club in the Thirteenth Ward, Chicago, took the lead in promoting her election. The President of the Club was Mrs. Robert Ballantine, the same lady who served as a Director in the Burns Memorial Association. Mrs. Ballantine organized an association of 1,200 British-American women of Chicago who pledged themselves to work for the Republican ticket.

Their plan was to build the campaign around a program of “elocutionary and song efforts” which would be duplicated in every city, ward and county district in the State. “Glee clubs will be organized, soloists and elocutionists employed; and then there will be a grand crusade for votes.” Miss Kate Campbell Sanders of Chicago was secured as chief elocutionist and with other women would scour the state for votes. Mr. Peter Grant was the campaign song writer. He was the poet laureate of the British societies of the United States and Canada. His song was sung to the music of “Yankee Doodle.” There were seven verses. Here are just two:

A ladies’ candidate we’ve got.
And we are bound to land her.
For all the handsome men will vote
For Carrie Alexander.

She will not stand for party “pull,”
And all the ills attendant;
For why, she owns no boss’ rule.
She’ free and independent.

With a song like that, who could lose? Mrs. Alexander didn’t lose; however, her term in office was very difficult. At the “annual circus” in Champaign, ten thousand people watched as students held a mock funeral, holding Mrs. Alexander up to public display. She was later censured by the other Trustees of the University because she protested the appropriation being sought and criticized the salary paid to its president, Edmund J. James. I don’t know the end of her story.

History Tour

The annual Summer History Tour will take place on Saturday, July 19, 2008. The charter bus will leave the Scottish Home at 1:00 p.m. and travel to the John A. Logan monument on South Michigan Avenue at 9th Street. We should arrive about 1:30, depending on the traffic. Individuals may join the tour at that point and you will be dropped off at this location later in the afternoon.

We will pass the Second Presbyterian Church with its wonderful architecture, stained glass, and Scottish history. The next stop will be at the burial place of Stephen Douglas on 35th street. This is the smallest State park in Illinois and contains the Vermont marble sarcophagus that holds the remains of Mr. Douglas. The entire structure rises to 96 feet and was designed by Leonard W. Volk. At the History Club meeting on June 7, we will review the life of Senator Douglas.

We are now in the general area of the first Scottish Old People’s Home. Just north of the Douglas Monument is a circle of brownstones that look a great deal like the picture that hangs in the lobby of the Scottish Home. We are also in the area of Camp Douglas, which started out to be a training camp, but ended up holding prisoners of war. We will drive by the home of John A. McGill at 4938 Drexel Blvd., which was built in 1892. Dr. McGill was President of the Saint Andrew Society and provided the funds to purchase the present property of the Scottish Home.

The final leg of our trip will be at the “Confederate Mound” in Oak Woods Cemetery. Close to 6,000 soldiers are buried here and all died at Camp Douglas. A 46-foot monument was dedicated on May 30, 1895, and President Cleveland and his cabinet attended. It is the largest Confederate burial ground in all the North.

Pictured first :  John A. McGill home
Pictured second:  Confederate Mound, Oak Woods Cemetery

Miscellaneous Notes

Dr. and Mrs. B. H. Griffith, who enjoy this newsletter, wrote to point out that Lincoln was nominated in the “Wigwam” in 1860 not 1863.

A number of people have sent in checks to help cover the cost of mailings, including Lois & Jim Sim.

Someone dropped off a number of letters written in the 1880s about William Kettles who served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces during WWI. If the family reads this, it would be nice to have more information about Mr. Kettles.

I recently had opportunity to attend a conference on Abraham Lincoln at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Millikin is a beautiful campus with a mixture of old and new buildings that blend almost perfectly. James Millikin, founder of the school, lived on the campus and his home, built in 1875, has been restored and is open to the public by appointment. James Millikin had a Scottish grandfather.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her father, Captain Arthur H. Keller, had fought with the Confederate Army at Vicksburg. She lost her sight at the age of seven. Her family took her to visit Alexander Graham Bell in Washington, D.C. and he recommended the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Her first teacher was Anne Sullivan who died in 1935.

Miss Polly Thomson, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, came to America in 1913 for a visit and met Helen Keller. It was the first deaf and blind person she had ever known and one year later she was hired as a reader, secretary and correspondent to Miss Keller. There is much more to the story, but we have been interested in the Scottish connection.

Helen Keller made a movie, learned foreign languages, graduated with honors from Radcliffe and traveled the world. She received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Glasgow. Her home was named “Arcan Ridge” after a favorite place in Scotland. This amazing lady died in the afternoon of June 1, 1968, just before her 88th birthday.

Hall of Fame

A number of women are in the Scottish American Hall of Fame. Some of them are: Williamina P. Fleming, Vachel Lindsay, Lila Bell Wallace, Isadora Duncan, Mary Garden, and Anna Mary Robertson.


Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546