Gratia Alta Countryman (top) 1892
An image of Gratia (later director of Minneapolis Public Library and founder of Hennepin County Library) soon after she was hired by Minneapolis Public Library, posing in the library art gallery with fellow MPL staff.
Although she was engaged to marry Horace Winchell he ended up marrying another woman. They remained friends until he died. Gratia later entered into a “Boston Marriage” with librarian Marie Todd from 1902 until Marie’s death in 1940. Gratia wrote this to Marie in 1901, “Thee says in a letter just received that thee is staking everything on the chance of being with me, and I know thee is coming for love’s sake. But not staking, dear, there is no gamble in loving, there are only profits…”
Marie noticed a homeless boy at the library in 1917, Wellington Wilson. He spent many Saturdays and most school days in the children’s area of the downtown library reading books. Gratia looked into his background and realized he needed a foster home and volunteered to be his foster mother. She wrote, “We have taken a homeless little boy to live with us. He is nearly eight years old and bright and affectionate. We have grown very fond of him in the four weeks we have had him…if he turns out to be as nice a child as he seems, I may possibly adopt him.” After his adoption in 1918, Gratia and “Aunt Marie” both raised Wellington. He later wrote,”In those years, my mother was the disciplinarian while Aunt Marie was the arbitrator. One might say my mother performed the masculine role and Aunt Marie the feminine.” Wellington Countryman later married and had a daughter, Alta Marie Countryman in 1939.
This information is drawn from Jane Pejsa’s Gratia Countryman: her life, her loves and her library.
National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week
May has taken us from winter to summer, just in time for National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week, May 13-17.
“Minneapolis, because of its fine roads, is an especially fine town for bicycles. The country is level, and for a person who gets but little exercise the bike is just the thing.” From The Minneapolis Tribune, April 26, 1903.
There are various opportunities to get your bike out on those fine Minneapolis roads. Take a historic Minneapolis tour by bike, or travel through time with these Minneapolis bicycle photos. Preserve Minneapolis will also be rolling out historic bicycle tours for the summer. Pictured above is Mrs. Bradshaw of the Minneapolis Junior League taking a Girl Scout troop on a bicycle hike at Lake of the Isles on September 1, 1947.
Minnesota History Day 2013 results
On Saturday, May 4th, students from all over Minnesota came to the University of Minnesota to compete in the State History Day. There are junior and senior divisions in the following categories: exhibit, website, documentary, performance and paper. One of us judged Junior Individual Documentary and was blown away by the expertise of the middle-schoolers in creating the videos and choosing their topic. The above pin was swag for judges and participants, a re-creation of the First Minnesota Volunteers trefoil. If you want to learn more about the First Minnesota and the Civil War, Minnesota Historical Society opened a new exhibit. They are always looking for volunteer judges - if you are interested in judging next year, bookmark this webpage for the fall.
We always enjoy History Day season and Hennepin County Library’s History Day Hullabaloo - we had some great researchers come in and use Special Collections. Congratulations to all the winners and participants. First and second place winners are eligible to go to National History Day in College Park, MD.
Rock-Throwing Co-op Occupier, Minneapolis, 1975
Tensions between two factions in the rapidly expanding Twin Cities food cooperative movement escalated into open hostilities on May 5, 1975. A group calling itself the Co-op Organization (CO) took over the People’s Warehouse, a cooperative food distribution center located in Minneapolis’s West Bank neighborhood. The CO was a politically motivated group focused on empowering the working class. Their opponents were idealistic “hippies” who just wanted to provide healthful and socially-responsible alternatives to the big grocery stores. The CO’s occupation of the People’s Warehouse, while tactically successful, was a strategic blunder. Its whole-foods opponents responded to the takeover by boycotting the warehouse and establishing an alternative food distribution system. In the months that followed, CO activists occasionally resorted to violence and intimidation in their attempts to take control. They did not succeed. In the end, they just came off as a bunch of Marxist bullies.
Photo via Minnesota Historical Society
Here is some more on the co-op wars available at the library.