The photograph of Mrs. Glessner’s Monday Morning Reading Class, taken by her son George on May 5, 1902, is one of the most iconic images of Glessner House. Thousands of visitors see the image each year, as a copy is on display in the library where the class took place. It has also been reproduced in various articles and publications about Frances Glessner and her home.
But there have been a few fundamental problems with the interpretation of the photo. For one, the image is interpreted primarily as a group photo, with little thought given to the individuals within the class. Secondly, when the women are described, they are usually identified with respect to their husband. For example, one will learn that several of the women were the wives of professors at the University of Chicago. While this is true, it minimizes the women under the umbrella of their husbands and their husbands’ profession. Given Frances Glessner’s propensity for surrounding herself with people of cultural, artistic, and musical backgrounds and interests, it would seem that she in fact gave very careful thought to the women whom she invited to be members of the class. Mrs. X would not be selected simply because she was the wife of Mr. X, but rather because she would contribute to the intellectual and social structure of the class.
This led to a journey to discover the identity of the 34 women who are pictured. Social convention of the time made the journey a bit more difficult. On the one copy of the photo on which Frances Glessner identified all the ladies, she refers to them simply as Mrs. Clarke, Mrs. Perry, etc. with no first names. Additionally, the annual roster of the class she prepared only gives the initials, or occasionally the first name, of the husband. By consulting the 1902 Blue Book of Chicago and the 1905 Book of Chicagoans (with some additional help from Ancestry.com), we have, at long last, been able to give names to the faces we have so long gazed upon.
The roster for the 1901-1902 class year indicates that there were 64 members of the class, so just over half of those women were in attendance for the final class before it disbanded for the summer. It also happened to be the last class with Miss Anne E. Trimingham as reader, as she had earlier announced her retirement. Louise Goldsmith, one of the two sisters of Miss Trimingham who were members of the class, prepared and read a history of the class from the time of its founding in 1894.
Frances Glessner identified the women beginning with the ladies standing on the porch from left to right, then right to left for the middle row, and finally left to right again for the women seated in the front row. (See key below). For purposes of this article, the women are listed with their husband’s full name first, followed by their own name, including maiden name, in parentheses.
1 – Mrs. William R. Linn (Nellie B. Butler)
2 – Mrs. William R. Stirling (Alice I. Hibbard)
3 – Miss Helen Macbeth
4 – Mrs. Henry L. Frank (Henrietta Greenbaum)
5 – Mrs. Hugh J. McBirney (Mary Campbell)
6 – Mrs. John J. Glessner (Frances Macbeth)
7 – Mrs. William H. Colvin (Bessie Small)
8 – Miss Anne E. Trimingham, reader
9 – Mrs. Andrew R. Sheriff (Marguerite Mitchell)
10 – Mrs. Henry H. Donaldson (Julia Vaux)
11 – Mrs. Frederic I. Carpenter (Emma Cook)
12 – Mrs. Benjamin S. Terry (Mary Baldwin)
13 – Mrs. Shailer Mathews (Mary P. Elden)
14 – Mrs. Alfred L. Goldsmith (Louise Trimingham)
15 – Mrs. Frank S. Johnson (Elizabeth B. Ayer)
16 – Mrs. Frank Allport (Kate A. Ellwood)
17 – Mrs. Harry P. Judson (Rebecca A. Gilbert)
18 – Mrs. Philo A. Otis (Alice J. Sanford)
19 – Mrs. Robert B. Gregory (Addie V. Hibbard)
20 – Mrs. Secor Cunningham (Althea I. Stone)
21 – Mrs. John J. Herrick (Julia T. Dulon)
22 – Mrs. William H. Moore (Ada W. Small)
23 – Mrs. James N. Hyde (Alice L. Griswold)
24 – Mrs. Howard E. Perry (Grace Henderson)
25 – Mrs. William E. Casselberry (Lilian Hibbard)
26 – Mrs. William G. Hale (Harriet K. Swinburne)
27 – Mrs. John H. Hamline (Josephine Meade)
28 – Mrs. Carl D. Buck (Clarinda Swazey)
29 – Mrs. Blewett H. Lee (Frances Glessner)
30 – Mrs. Frederic A. Delano (Matilda A. Peabody)
31 – Mrs. Horace K. Tenney (Eleanor Favill)
32 – Mrs. William G. Hibbard, Jr. (Susan D. Follansbee)
33 – Mrs. Frank P. Wheeler (Elizabeth F. Trimingham)
34 – Mrs. Edmund A. S. Clarke (Louisa H. Ward)
There are only two single ladies in the photo – Miss Trimingham, the reader, and Helen Macbeth, the sister of Frances Glessner. As a general rule, only married women were invited into class membership. Additionally, residency on the South Side was a requirement, although one could remain a member of the class if they later moved to another part of the city. Only two of the women pictured had “defected” to the north side by 1902 – one moving to Cedar Street, the other to Wellington Avenue. (The number of north siders would increase dramatically in later years as Prairie Avenue fell into decline.) Seven of the ladies lived in Hyde Park due to their husbands being on the faculty of the University of Chicago, but it was interesting to note the presence of three women married to physicians who were also professors at Northwestern University.
Surprisingly, one lady pictured resided in New York City, Ada Small Moore. We shall learn more about her in our next installment.