Some New Year Thoughts
January 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ve discovered an interesting coincidence. I am starting my life as a widow at the beginning of 2014, and Susan was a new widow exactly 100 years earlier. Her second husband, Lawrence Joergen-Dahl, had died July 26, 1913. Plagued by ill health, grief, and overwhelming responsibilities, Susan was at a low point in her life. In Chapter 12 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House I describe her state of mind:
Susan remained cloistered in the Lawrence House for the last half of 1913 and most of 1914. Her whole world was collapsing around her. While Europe, her frequent playground, was about to break into World War 1, Susan was nursing her cousin Flora back to health and trying to regain her strength. The resiliency that she had mustered in the past did not come easily this time.
Since I wrote the book, I have uncovered some new research references, and now know that while she almost completely disappeared from the society pages of the newspapers during that period, Susan was beginning to re-invent herself as an entrepreneur. An Illinois State Register article dated February 3, 1914, announced the re-organization of the Commercial Association council (perhaps a precursor of today’s Chamber of Commerce). According to the article, 40 groups representing specific commercial endeavors each had a chairman and secretary as well as two delegates to send to the council. The names of the groups included professions that one would expect such as architects and civil engineers as well as bankers and bond brokers. Other groups reflected the times. For example, horseshoers, locksmiths, junk dealers, roofers, and tinners; ice and brick manufacturers; steam railways; and saloons were listed. The article identified 160 members of the groups, and the only woman named was Mrs. Susan Lawrence Joergen-Dahl, the secretary of the capitalists group. In May of 1914, 150 members of the Commercial Association attended the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the Wilson Pneumatic Tire Company. The Illinois State Register reported that “Among the interested spectators present was Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana Joergen-Dahl, who had the honor of being the first woman in the city to purchase stock in the new concern.”
Susan recovered, and by February, 1915, she married her third husband Charles Gehrmann. In Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House I describe their ill-fated relationship as a business partnership. 1914 was a year of transition for Susan. She replaced the artistic life she had enjoyed with Lawrence with the adventurous business world of Charles. I wonder what 2014 has in store for me.