BERTHA BALLOU (1891-1978) led an exceptional life. This collection of letters will take you from the battlefields of WWI — where her father led an army division — to the art communities of New York, Boston, and Italy — where Bertha trained as a professional painter — to Spokane, WA, where she lived out her days.
Click here to read the correspondence in chronological order (About 80 letters, including news clippings and artworks).
- A young Bertha sizes up West Point cadets who later became minor figures of military history.
- Bertha father, General C.C. Ballou, describes France in 1918.
- C.C. describes his grief at losing his daughter Reba to the Spanish Flu.
- C.C. advises Bertha — an aspiring artist — against perfectionism.
- A fellow art student described an encounter with a European art star.
- A friend gives Bertha tips on how to get her start as a commercial artist (graphic designer). She describes office gender politics in the 1920s here.
- Her husband shares his get-rich-quick scheme.
- A recently divorced Bertha describes a day in Fiesole, Italy.
- Her last preserved letter, sent to a childhood friend which is returned to sender, “cause: recipient deceased”.
- The epilogue, where great-grandson Stephen describes the cat-filled home he helped clear out after her death.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The letters, preserved by Mary Gerard Leffelman Ballou, were scanned in 2015 by Stephen, Cora, and Eliza Ballou. Transcribed by “virtualkathleen” through Fiverr.com. Edited and posted online by Olivier Ballou.
[Note: Some mundane or irrelevant letters were excluded from the collection. They can be read here.]