Thursday, April 19, 2018
Portrait of Wenona Osborne Pinkham, ca. 1915-1920. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryPortrait of Wenona Osborne Pinkham, ca. 1915-1920. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

The situation was a dire one for Henry W. Pinkham, minister, socialist, and pacifist. It was spring 1905, and he had met the woman of his dreams, Wenona Osborne Pinkham, a teacher in the Denver public schools. But first he had to overcome the “emphatic disapproval” of her mother in view of his age (older), his background (from Massachusetts), and his religion (leaning towards Unitarian). Despite pages-long letters to his would-be mother-in-law, personal entreaties, and promises not to meet Wenona for one entire year without her mother’s consent, by the fall of 1906 Pinkham eventually wrote to Wenona that “I should just disappear from your horizon,” adding, “every scrap of writing I had from you has been burned.”

The library does not, in fact, have any of Wenona’s letters to Henry. But a few days later, the clouds had parted and his letters continue: “I felt that it was safe enough to rush matters as I did . . . My faith in womanhood helped to make me rash . . . I was ready, and more than ready, to trust myself to your judgment."

Yet years passed with no communication between the two lovers. In April 1911 a letter to Mrs. Osborne asks for her blessing, and by November they were married. Perhaps the cartoons he sent (see below) helped tip the scales. The couple moved to the Boston area where, as state chair for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, Wenona Pinkham spoke to audiences as a voter (women having had the vote in Colorado since 1893). She went on to serve as executive secretary of the Massachusetts Civic League until her sudden death in 1930. 

The Schlesinger Library has two collections of Wenona Pinkham’s papers:  there is a small holding in the Woman’s Rights Collection (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/002879293/catalog) as well as a larger collection donated by the family in 1998 (http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/007720677/catalog). 

 

Clippings sent to Wenona O. Pinkham from Henry Pinkham, August, 1911. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryClippings sent to Wenona O. Pinkham from Henry Pinkham, August, 1911. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

 

Author: 
Anne Engelhart