Note to the reader

BERTHA BALLOU (1891-1978) led an exceptional life. This collection of letters will take you from the battlefields of WWI — where her father lead an army division — to the art communities of New York, Boston, and Italy, where Bertha trained as a professional painter.

Scroll down to read the entire correspondence in chronological order.

  • 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.
  • 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 wretched cat-filled home he helped clear out at the end of her life.

C.C. Ballou (her father)
Cora Hendricks (her mother)
Reba, Alice “Sally”, and Senn (her siblings)
Frank K. Buckler (husband, 1907-1960) – Their short-lived marriage is punctuated by his attempts to make it big out…
Marie Schubert (friend from art school) – Read her description of life as female commercial illustrator in the 1920s


The letters, preserved by Mary Gerard Leffelman Ballou, were scanned in 2015 by Stephen, Cora, and Eliza Ballou. Transcribed by “virtualkathleen” through Edited and posted online by Olivier Ballou.