Friday, February 18, 2011

Hortense Neahr Bloomer

We finally got an answer to last week's trivia - I managed a hard one this week! Anyway, I thought I'd share some background on Nortense Neahr Bloomer, Betty Ford's mother:
Hortense Neahr, born 11 July 1884, Chicago, Illinois; married first to William Bloomer on 7 November 1904, Chicago Illinois; married secondly to Arthur Meigs Goodwin, Chicago banker, in 1940, in Grand Rapids, Michigan; died on 20 November 1948, Hollywood, Florida

Related to wealthy Grand Rapids furniture manufacturing families, socially prominent Hortense Neahr Bloomer worked in the unsalaried position of President of the Crippled Children Association of Grand Rapids. With her, Betty Ford frequently volunteered to work with children whose disabilities confined their limbs to braces. Between the death of her first husband and marriage to her second husband, Hortense Bloomer supported herself and three children by working as a real-estate agent. Betty Ford later reflected that the example of her mother’s independence would prove to be an important influence in shaping her views on equal pay for equal work policy issues.

Now someone guessed Minnie Pattillo Taylor, Lady Bird's mother, and this intrigued me, so I did some research on her as well:
Her mother, Minnie Lee Patillo Taylor, a tall, eccentric woman from an old and aristocratic Alabama family, liked to wear long white dresses and heavy veils. She fussed over food fads, played grand opera endlessly on the phonograph, loved to read the classics aloud to tiny Lady Bird. She scandalized people for miles around by entertaining Negroes in her home, and once even started to write a book about Negro religious practices, called Bio Baptism. Naturally, most folks thought Minnie weird and standoffish. Says a longtime friend of Lady Bird's, Mrs. Eugenia Lassater of Henderson, Texas: "Mrs. Taylor was a cultured woman. But she didn't consort with Karnack people."

As Minnie died when Lady Bird was a child, her Aunt Effie came to help raise her:
For nearly six years of her life, Lady Bird lived in the crosscurrents between the occult but enlightened aristocracy of her mother and the shrewd dollar-sign language of her father; her two brothers, Tony and Tom III (the latter died in 1959), were both much older and were away at school. Then in 1918 Minnie Lee Taylor fell down the length of the circular staircase in the old brick house and died—and Lady Bird was left with Cap Taylor.

Never one to neglect business, Cap took the little girl to his store every day for a while, sometimes let her sleep at night on a cot in his second-floor storeroom near what she recalls as "a row of peculiar long boxes." Her father told her they were "dry goods," but Lady Bird later learned they were coffins.

Soon Cap decided he couldn't both make money and raise a daughter all by himself. So Lady Bird's upbringing fell to her mother's sister, Aunt Effie, who moved from Alabama to Texas. Under Effie's strict discipline, Lady Bird read prodigiously, plowed through Ben-Hur when she was eight, memorized poems that she can still recite today. But the dainty spinster aunt could never really fill a mother's role. Says Lady Bird now: "She opened my spirit to beauty, but she neglected to give me any insight into the practical matters a girl should know about, such as how to dress or choose one's friends or learning to dance." In her early teen years, Lady Bird was a wallflower.

No comments: