In your reserve, pride and super sensitiveness, you reflect my own nature

To Bertha from Cora Hendricks (Mother) – September 28, 1908

[Note: Bertha is 18 years old. She is has recently begun her studies at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. Until recently, she had lived in Fort Niobrara in northwest Nebraska.]

Fort Magara, New York

My dear little girl,

It is possible that I lectured you in two letters? Indeed I did not mean to do that. Perhaps I was too severe, dearie, but if so you must blame me only, for Reba [Note: Her sister] had not written one word to call down any censure on you. What you write in the letter I have just received, is the first I have heard of any lack of interest since you got there. I don’t want to be severe with you, Bertha, and I don’t at all believe that at heart you unappreciative of your opportunities. But sometimes your manner would lead one to think so. I also understand perfectly how much you dreaded going away from home and to a strange place again. I know it was much harder for you there for Reba, and I, believe I can appreciate your feelings and difficulties better than almost anyone else can for in your reserve, pride and super sensitiveness, you reflect my own nature so much that is like looking in a mirror. Those qualities are a handicap to you in some ways, a protection in others. I know they have been both to me, but it makes going among strangers rather hard.

Cora Hendricks
Cora Hendricks

I am sorry you were sick when you got there. Are you quite well now? Don’t be unjust to yourself, dear, even if you to feel that I have been unjust to you. We are all selfish, you are not more so than other people, quite the contrary, I think, and you are certainly not a fool, but an uncommonly bright girl. You think Reba is bright, so she is, and can no doubt excel you in some things, moreover, she has three years the advantage of you, but not only your father and myself, but many other recognize you as being the real superior. Your marks at school have always shown you to be well up and I have noticed that whenever you really set yourself to do anything, it is well and thoroughly done.

Now, girlie, don’t think everybody is slamming at you. Reba felt nearly as badly as you did because I scolded you, and I did not want to hurt you only to show you how you sometimes made yourself appear.

I do want you to be interested in your work not merely as a duty, but because it really does interest you, and I hope you will have a pleasant time too and not all grind. I want you to enjoy your college life and be able to look back to it with pleasure when it is over. As I said before, I do not intend to ask you to for another year, but I hope that you will want to do so.

I sent you a check a few days ago, not forty but thirty dollars as I was sure you had included what had already been paid. I hope you have gotten the notebooks but you have not gotten the pictures for they are not yet mailed although I wrapped some of them up a week ago. I will hunt up Reba’s book and mail them all this afternoon if I can. It is raining now for the first time in weeks and I may not get to the post office.

Clara is likely to be away another week and I find I am quite busy, and really have not felt very well lately. I think it has been more the weather than anything else. I will be alright again very soon, I dare say. Now, cheer up, girlie, and don’t think I was so very unjust to you.

Your loving mother,

Cora Ballou

I tried to convert him to woman’s suffrage and I don’t think he wanted to be converted

To Cora Hendricks from Bertha – February 23, 1913

[Note: Bertha’s letter is written immediately following the “The Ten Tragic Days” – a series of events that took place in Mexico City between February 9 and February 19, 1913, during the Mexican Revolution. This lead up to a coup d’état and the assassination of President Francisco Madero. The US government reacted strongly, and its intervention is credited with paving the way for increasing Mexican nationalism.]

Mrs. C.C. Ballou
Camp McGrath, Batangas
Philippine Islands

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Dear Mamma,

I imagine great excitement is reigning at Leavenworth today. The _____ left last night for Galveston so I _____ the paper this morning. The 19th is to go to the hospital company and the signal company and just about everything else. Just think, if Papa hadn’t had to go to the Islands, he would have to go into camp down in Galveston indefinitely with a possibly of being sent on into Mexico. They are hoping for the best here now though, and I think it is great that we have as conservative of a man as _____ to hold us off. It may not prove to be the best _____ but it meets with my approval at present anyway. I believe nothing further has been done about 1st Division. Bowd is probably just where he was and the news this morning said that the 13th Calvary would remain with headquarters at Bliss to patrol the border. This is rather as I had expected for it didn’t seem reasonable that they would move the troop engaged in guarding the border and besides they can gather them quickly if need be. I’m wondering if it was cheapness of transportation, the calmer aspect of afraid that determine the government to send the 5th Division instead of the 1st.

We are still having most peculiar weather, a slight thunder, storm last night. The cook got drunk Friday night and we had a hilarious dinner but since she was discharged, the food has been excellent, which is lucky because I’m now sitting at the housekeeper’s table and can’t complain with as much satisfaction to myself and little offence to others and either to. I haven’t seen or heard from a soul lately except a few lines and a clipping from Mr. Godfrey last week. You know, he was down here one Saturday and I tried to convert him to woman’s suffrage and I don’t think he wanted to be converted. In fact, I really tried hard to shock him than to convert him, which was very tactless of me. Hence I fully expected that I had seen my last of him. He is too polite to be rude and insists that he is seeing things in a modified light but I do wish the English subjects would quiet down. They have chosen an inappropriate movement to be exceedingly rampant and I’m very much ashamed of them for I don’t think woman need a vote that badly and I don’t approve of suffrage as a movement of woman against men because when it is considered as a same proposition of the best men though, of course not as interested as women, are nevertheless in favor of their having the vote and are in every way devoted to women’s interests. [Note: Women’s suffrage would be enshrined in the US Constitution seven years later – in 1920.]

Since I began writing, Mrs. Guthrie’s fiend, Miss Eilers, has called and I have accepted an invitation to undertaking going over to Brooklyn but I can’t with Mrs. _____ and go to the opera afterwards tomorrow evening. I hope it doesn’t rain because Miss Eilers tell me that Mrs. Guthrie has a new little on, Belly. Isn’t that lovely? I didn’t know anything about it. I must write to her this afternoon to congratulate her.

I must write to Francis Newcomer too. [Note: Read more about Newcomer, who would become Governor of the Panama Canal Zone, here.] I haven’t heard from him in so long that we are quite strangers. Not since Christmas. I guess he’s busy and I know I am. I’m planning to run up to W.P. for the day when the excursions start, the river boats, in the spring. I want to take another _____ around before leaving this part of the country. I’ve nearly finished a waist I have been working on. I’m so glad because it makes it easier for me to sew them when things get finished almost without realizing it. Evelyn Hope and I are going to a lecture tonight. [Note: Read a letter from Evelyn Hope here] I am so busy these days that I can hardly turn around, work progressed much better last week. I had a very favorable criticism from Mr. Drummond in which he said he was expecting me to do something very good. That helps. Now I must close as I have lots more to do this evening.

Love to all.


Last night, Nell sent me home with a bag of tangerines and oranges

To Cora Hendricks from Bertha – March 2, 1913

Dear Mamma,

I just came back from a ______ to Miss Eilers in Brooklyn and had a delightful time and was most cordially welcomed. Nobody could have been nicer than they were to me. There were a lot of the about five daughters more or less and an older mother and father who will soon celebrate their golden wedding. The father is a gunman and is perfectly lovely. There was evidence of plenty about their old fashioned house and I should say on the whole it is the most luxurious-rich-man’s-sort-of-home I have ever been in. Everything was handsome and spacious. The old lady was huge and German _____ and dressed in black ______ with a sufficient but not over-decoration with pearls and diamonds in the shape of rings, bracelets, etcetera. The daughters were middle age women, all plainly and handsomely dressed. I had a fine time and was taken from the subway for a drive in one of the best looking limousine I ever saw. One of the ladies is an artist and I was very much interested in her pictures.

Anyway, they were all lovely to me and asked me to come often and kissed goodbye which is funny because Mrs. Guthrie and I were not particularly in kissing terms. Well, marvels will never cease and I try to adapt myself to conditions as much as I can. Tomorrow I’m going to have a letter from you I think and I can hardly wait. Last night I went out to see Nell and had supper, such a good one that I was sick after it. We had a thoroughly good time. When I got back, I found a letter from Francis Newcomer. [Note: Read more about Newcomer, who would become Governor of the Panama Canal Zone, here.] He is feeling sad over an inauguration parade which will relieve him from almost no classes at all. His first bit of uniform are being tried on and he has been informed by the instructor in Engineering that this time next year, he will be a first lieutenant which is quite cheering to him. I will also give quite a jump to come other Engineer friends if they have a large increase. His mother is in the hospital again and I must write to her right away though I haven’t time this afternoon, seeing rather for it must be after eight. I feel quite happy and restless tonight, more so than I have lately thought I’ve been having a good time right along. I guess it’s the effect of having been in a town where trees grow and among cordial people who have known somebody I have known. Also, I hope it’s a cheerful promotion that I am going to get some mail tomorrow. I’ve got to mail the _____ Guthrie a little cap a something when I have time. I am also engaged on a _____ _____ ought to be pretty if I ever get it together right now to undo all I have done. It would also be serviceable I think as it is a rather dark colored crepe. It’s hard to do all the things I want to do and read too.

I’m now reading “Venting on the Plains” by Mrs. Custer. Not a work of art but of considerable interest as a picture of the times through woman’s eyes. Also I’m reading the “Blue Bird” by Maeterlinck and have just finished Blackmore’s “Maid of Sker” which is not nearly as good a “Soma Doone.” I tried to read Boswell’s “Life of Johnson” but found it didn’t hold my attention and while I don’t read any trash at all to amount to anything, I am too busy to make myself read anything that doesn’t interest me. Perhaps I’ll grow up to Boswell by and by but in the meanwhile, there are lots of good books that I like to read better. It has turned a lot colder today and seems quite wintery again. I suppose it will keep on doin that for a long time yet.

Last night, Nell sent me home with a bag of tangerines and oranges, sent from Florida by her uncle, there was two girls in my room when I arrived, I gave my tangerine to a girl in the stairs, and the girls in my room ate respectively two and three tangerines and an orange each and I ate a tangerine. There now remains one orange which I think two of us will devour shortly as I see Evelyn Hope has refrained from it while I’ve been gone all day. Well, I hate quantities of her good southern pecans at Christmas time which I like better than oranges so I shall no resent her having the lions’ share this time. One thing I have to be thankful for.

The year has not yet ended but I have gone through five months of it without its lessening my friendship and respect for my roommates and after last year this seems a vision of harmony. Also I do not suffer from insomnia and my nerves are a negligible vanity. This time last year, I thought I was nearly made of nerves. Insomnia and nerves seem to be very closely associated. I never lose sleep when my nerves are all night and my digestion. I guess I told you we’ve been having a good cork. She’s going to leave but for the time being, things have been much better. Now, I must say goodnight as I have clothes to put in _____ and a diary to write into before I go to bed.

Love to all.

March 2nd, 1913

A rather nice young doctor whom I met on Sunday called last night

To Cora Hendricks from Bertha – March 5, 1913

Dear Mamma,

I got two letters from you Monday morning. They were a trifle old in this news of cause but I was enjoyed to get them. I had forgotten I had a sore foot. That is a think of the past. Also, I was sorry to find that I had failed to acknowledge the receipt of that first check from Papa. I suppose I got busy writing and forgot the most important think I had to say as usual. Anyway, in case I’ve forgotten some other time, let me say now that I have received all the checks sent, I am sure of that, the last being sent since your arrival in the Islands but I’m sure I wrote Papa about that one.

Concerning staying here another year, it’s a pretty serious matter to decide in some ways I think and I hardly know what to say. My work has not been as uniformly satisfactory as I would have wished and I realize more and more that there are so many promising students in this world that being one doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. Well, it’s a question so serious that I’m afraid to decide it. I’d much rather let things take their natural course though I suppose one must come to decisions once in a while. I’d gladly stay if I could get five or six additional months without staying longer than that time but the best time of the year here is from December on, which means a whole year longer without seeing you. That seems a very long time to me.

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I will get Reba’s _____ cloth and whatever else you want for yourself and thank you very much in advance for my birthday gift. I’ve already tried to think what I will do with it. I’d like books but they are heavy to put in my trunk and will perhaps not be the wisest choice at the present time. On the whole as I’d like to put the money into something permanent I rather imagine I will settle on a silver card case as that will be something I will always be glad to have and can always make use of. I judge that Miss McCoy is the only girl on the post. She is certainly very unfortunate and as you say, it makes me feel my own blessing to see a person so afflicted. I will miss not having more girls but after all, we will have a lot of fun by ourselves. Senn [Note: Her brother] has left home by this time. I hope he will do well at his new school. I am making a little cap for baby Guthrie. Do you know I find that lots of things that I used to think terribly hard have found so easy. I used to think hemstitching hard was accordingly have not done any in years and have vastly admired people who hemstitched, that’s hemstitch I think on the whole, who hemstitched handkerchiefs but now I find that I can do it very quickly and neatly having been forced to try again.


I want very much to have Captain and Mrs. Guthrie for real, permanent friends. It’s queer how some people appeal so much more than others and I feel it particularly in this case since I have met their friends, the Eilers, their friends speak for them and a more wholly cordial and delightfully welcome. I can’t imagine them from any family to a complete stranger. I called Mrs. May yesterday but she had a headache unfortunately so only saw her cousin, Miss Mann. They are going south in a few days but will not be there very long I imagine.

A rather nice young doctor whom I met on Sunday called last night. He seems very pleasant but I’m half inclined to think I will not be at home the next time he calls if he does again for I have a very queer feeling about knowing men whom I don’t meet at home even when they are introduced by lady people. I suppose it’s rather absurd and I ought not to cultivate it.

I have not heard from Mr. Godfrey in some time. I’m sorry to say as he also made a little impression at the Studio Club though not as great a one as Mr. Loughborough. Mr. Godfrey’s ideas are very peculiar on some subjects particularly including women I think and I’m much too matter of fact to interest him. To him, a woman is cobwebby, ethereal creature of dreams. I don’t think he has met many of that kind but I imagine he thinks even I am to him like the heroine of an ultra-sentimental story, so he says, another little “Weaver of Dreams,” not me but Mr. Godfrey, I’m the “Very Tired Girl” who was an artist and lived in New York. I’m going to try to live up to it if I can resist this temptation to tease him, always pondering he ever turns up again which doesn’t seem highly probably considering. Well, the discussion of a play to be given in the spring is coming up again and as it’s being discussed in my room and I’ll have to stop.

Love to all.

The discussion is over so I’ll write a little more. Mrs. Newcomer has been again, is still in the hospital in Chicago and Colonel Newcomer is with her. I must write to her very soon, tonight if I have time and I think I’ll try to make her a little Easter gift after I finish with Billy Guthrie, if I have time. Oh, lady! She has been having a very hard time and Francis writes to her every night which is one reason why I have only heard from him once since Christmas. Work is better again this week. I believe I’m really picking up again though it’s a little soon to feel elated. I worked awfully hard today and quite enjoyed doing it. I’ve found a certain spot ______ the lighting attracts me and there I intend to stick if possible until I get my work really well in hard. I like doing portraits and I’m sure it is my real field if I have any because it is what I have always wanted to do more than anything else. We have a laughing model this week and she is intensely interesting. I hope very much that I will get a D as I did on my last week’s portrait which was a better likeness, I think.

Love to all.



I’m wondering how large a town Batangas is

To Cora Hendricks from Bertha – March 20, 1913

[Note: Bertha’s father C.C. Ballou is stationed in Batangas, Philippines]

Mrs. C. C. Ballou
Camp McGarth
Philippine Islands

Dear Mamma:

I received a money order for thirty-four dollars and fifty cents from Mr. Green yesterday and as it was a very bright sunny day – our first real Spring Day, I set out forthright with Evelyn Hope who also had some money sent her by her mother for a present. We went to McCutchen’s and bought a most lovely and beautiful tablecloth for Reba. I must confess that I went over your limit because it was so much nicer and paid $17.50 but I also went and bought me what I wanted – a card case at $12.50 so it averages up to the amount I had permission to spend – and it was a most beautiful tablecloth to my way of thinking – plain linen in the middle and a lovely pattern around the outside – with scrolls and a conventional design of roses. I had it sent right on from the store so I saved postage and registering which also helps to reconcile my conscience. My present is very pretty indeed. It is a good sized silver card case with a plain but substantial chain. The sides are pretty with a conventional design and two round places, on on each side the monogram. Inside there is a place for money and a place for cards – also a small mirror. Altogether it is very satisfactory and I’m waiting impatiently to get it back from the markers.

Calling Card Case from 1913
Calling Card Case from 1913

Evelyn Hope got a lovely Rembrandt print. I decided that something less bulky would be better for me at the present time. I wrote you I was thinking of staying longer here. I’m half regretting my decision now so I guess I won’t stay long. I guess a month will be long enough.

Yesterday, I decided to go down to interview the doctor about a bit of rheumatism and Sally [Note: Her sister] went with me. As I said before, it was a perfectly glorious day and this was right after breakfast so we put on our suits and took the subway down to Bowling Green and found our way without the slightest difficulty to the Army Building – found an accommodating elevator man and went up to the Doctor’s. He wasn’t there but the steward told me we could have any medicine we wanted. We didn’t want any just then so we left.

Outside, it looked so nice that, not having anything else pressing, we decided to look around. First we started up the street and then we changed our minds and decided to go down to the ferries and look around. Just then I thought about the Governor’s Island boat. Se we hunted it out – found that it was leaving in just seven minutes and decided to go for a sail. Our ocean voyage was all too short. We arrived at Governor’s Island and looked the whole place over as far as my experienced eye suggested that it would be desirable. We went into the little chapel and saw it even and we saw the Statue of Liberty on one side and the Point of Manhattan on the other. As it was a cloudless Spring day, we were quite please with our adventure and took the boat back to New York, quite determined to come again and bring Evelyn Hope.

New York from Governors Island (1917)

I object to loafers and picnickers on a government reservation but I felt that there was a distinction where we were concerned because I knew where we could go and we went very quietly and without leaving any banana peels or paper bags in our wake, although, it was strictly a sightseeing expedition. After we landed, we caught one of the new hobble-skirt surface cars, the first we’d ever been on, and rode slowly up Broadway – I pointing out the places of interest that Papa had previously shown me with such effect that Sally was moved to say that my father must be a very interesting man to go around with.

Hobble skirt cars on Broadway in New York City (1914)
Hobble skirt cars on Broadway in New York City (1914)

Altogether, we had an awfully good time because we just followed our impulses and did the things that suggested themselves. It was a lot more fun that it would have been if we had planned things out ahead. Someday, if we can, we all want to go up to West Point by boat. I hope we can for it’s so pretty and I’d like the boat trip and I think too the other girls would have a better time if they went with me because they wouldn’t have the fear of going where they weren’t sure they were allowed. Anyway, we are planning a trip and I hope the boats will stay before Sally has to go away.

I’m rather sorry to see our family break up as it will in about five weeks more for we have been very congenial. We all have good times together and we all have a thorough respect for each other so we could live together a long time without regretting it. Evelyn Hope and Sally are from North Carolina and Virginia so they are likely to meet again especially as they both expect to be back next year but as for me, my wanderings are so uncertain of course that it is hard to guess whether I will ever meet them again or not. At any rate, we’ve had a pretty good time.

Today it is raining so hard it is hardly possible to see how it was clear yesterday. I see that there is mail coming in on Saturday. I’m going out to Mrs. May’s so I will not get it until Sunday night – if I return at that time as I hope. This is probably my last trip out to Mrs. May’s as I am going to be too busy from now on to be able to go. It the rain lets up at all, I’m going to make a call in Brooklyn this afternoon and I ought to go to Nell’s this evening. I am in hopes it will clear off.

I’m wondering how large a town Batangas is. I had no idea there would be any stores where you could get much of anything but you spoke of something as if there might be a dry goods place of some description. That surprised me greatly.

Reba seems farther off than you do. I hear from her so seldom. I wonder what she does with herself all the time for she certainly is not a good correspondent. [Note: In fact, no letters from Reba have been preserved. She would die five years later of the Spanish flu.]

I had a note from Col. Newcomer the other day. Mrs. Newcomer is improving slowly and they hope soon to be able to go home. Both send regards to you.

Now it is clearing up so I must finish this and a letter I started to Reba and write a note to Mrs. May and then take them all out and mail them as they are all rather pressing and must be sent immediately.