The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
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
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
Miss Barbara Evelyn Williamson
More information on the Columbian Exposition is
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.