Pink Ladies

August 2008

Early in the week, I decided to keep a record of the “Naked ladies” along the pathway of the large senior apartment complex in which I live. They are also known as “Pink ladies”, “Resurrection Lilies” and properly named “Amaryllis Belladonnae”.  Their green leaves show brightly in early Spring, along the walkways, then by June they have died back.  Suddenly, in August, long after their green leaves have died back,  three foot high stems, pop up out of the ground, the way asparagus pop up when you don’t expect them to.  That was Monday.

Amaryllis by Enez35 @ Flikr Creative Commons

Amaryllis by Enez35 @ Flikr Creative Commons


Tuesday I watched the pink buds plump out, then I’ve been waiting for the blossoms.  Here it is Sunday and one or two are bravely blooming in our 60 degree summer (?) weather.

Instead, I will write about my most remember the Pink Ladies – hundreds of them, blowing wild against wind washed fences on the headlands over the Pacific Highway One, curves and all. An array of Pink Ladies  along the sea coast from Mendocino south almost to Jenner.

Maybe ours will bloom next week

Saving Robie House


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BY Marylou Hadditt

This is the story of how Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House was saved for posterity. I have no proof of what follows although much of it is probably documented in the Committee to Save Robie House papers on file at the Chicago Historical Society. Other people may have different memories. Mine is the recollection of a seventy-two year old woman about a series of events which happened forty three years ago.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School masterpiece, Robie House, located at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 58th Street, is immediately adjacent to the Gothic towers of the University of Chicago campus. Its side windows overlook an impressive Rockefeller Chapel and from it’s front loggia one can see the towers of the Oriental Institute, a museum of Egyptology and Syriology. Further west on 58th Street is the main quadrangle. In essence, an ideal situation for an important architectural landmark.

To the North, along Woodlawn Avenue, are several ordinary brick buildings, which belonged to the Chicago Theological Seminary, a consortium of various Protestant ministerial schools affiliated with the University of Chicago. In 1957 the Seminary decided it needed more dorm space and, naturally, more parking space. Robie House was slated to become a parking lot. Although today, Robie House is considered the cornerstone of modern architecture, at that time some thought it was “ugly”. It “looked like a boat”. Or maybe it like a “tank”. And the only people who cared about it were a bunch of architects.

Robie  House. Flikr image by wildcat dunny ( thank you)

Robie House. Flickr image by Wildcat Dunny

There was nominal publicity in the newspapers, some voices were raised in protest, but not many and not loudly. My husband, Tom Stauffer, grew up walking to school by way of Robie House. An aficionado of the arts, Tom was distressed at the pending demolition and immediately began to look for ways to preserve the architectural gem.

Several events happened in fairly rapid succession. Frank Lloyd Wright called a press conference in Chicago to announce a proposed Mile High building., Wright displayed plans for a five thousand foot high building which would be anchored on the Laurentian shield on which Chicago sits. All facilities would be within the building. High speed pressurized elevators would take people to schools, restaurants, entertainment and so on. The prairie would revert to its natural state for all the people who live in this mile high hi-rise to enjoy. came to Chicago, to announce a proposal for a mile high building. (Ken Burns never mentioned the Mile High proposal on his program about Wright.)

As a staff member of the community newspaper in which Robie House and the University were located, I attended the Wright press conference, taking my husband, Tom, along. Tom, Bill McDonald from the PBS-TV station, WTTW finagled our way through the mob to speak to Wright about Robie House. He had no prior knowledge of the threat and immediately called another press conference to be held that afternoon at Robie House. His old friend Carl Sandburg joined him. It was sparsely attended, but given good coverage by WTTW. This afternoon that Wright made his much quoted quip: “Isn’t is just like a man of the cloth to destroy a work of art for a parking lot”. The Chicago Sun Times carried a story by Ruth Moore, who later became an enthusiastic fan for Chicago architecture.

A few weeks later, a young architectural photographer and preservationist, Richard Nickel, read Tom’s name in the newspaper, called and asked “what can we do about Robie House?” Although Dick’s major interest was documenting and saving Louis Sullivan’s work, he joined the Robie House battle. Tom, Nickel and I became a Committee to Save Robie House , complete with official looking stationery. The Chicago Theological Seminary laughed at our efforts, but gave us a key to the house,. We planned to open it on weekends, hopefully to raise to enough money to bring it to public attention.

Late autumn, cold and blustery as Chicago can get, we opened Robie House to the public every Sunday afternoon, There was enough heat only to keep the pipes from bursting. We had a bridge table n the foyer with petitions and pamphlets – For those two or three people who stopped by out of curiosity we led “tours” through the deserted rooms of the abandoned house. Tom, Dick and I wore mufflers, woolly hats, heavy jackets, and mittens to keep from freezing on those winter afternoons at Robie House.  Part way through the winter an architect, Bill Hasbrouck wandered into the Robie House lobby with a bundle of exquisite little magazines “The Prairie School Review”. Bill and his wife Marilyn researched, wrote and printed it in their Park Forest basement with hand set fonts and an antique press. This gem of a publication was filled with drawings, photographs and information not only on Wright and Louis Sullivan but Maher and other Prairie School architects. One of those magazines today is, I am sure, is a collectors item, but as I recall, Bill wanted to sell it for $2.00 – one dollar to the Committee to Save Robie House and one dollar for the Hasbroucks. Thus our trio committee because a quartet, and sometimes a quintet when Marilyn joined her husband. We struggled along during the winter of 1957. Ruth Moore from the Sun Times gave us an encouraging boost with articles on architectural preservation. We tried, but were not able to enlist Ada Louise Huxtable, the New York Times preservation expert, until much later in the struggle.

The break-through came about in a series of extraordinary circumstances that at first had nothing to do with Robie House or architecture. Tom decided that our nine year old son, Steve, should have a pen pal from another country . He located a ten year old boy from Italy. The Italian boy’s letters were translated by our neighbor. Steve’s letters to the boy were translated by his teacher. Tom and the teacher began to exchange letters, ultimately becoming pen pals while Steve’s and the Italian boy’s interest waned. When Tom heard that the teacher’s fiancee was an architecture student at the University of Milan, he initiated a complex campaign to create an international press for the Robie House . He wrote press releases for the Milan newspaper which the teacher translated for his non-English speaking fiancee, She, in turn, obtained signatures on a petition from the faculty and student body to save that American treasure, Robie House. The fiancee took it to the Milan press. The Milan newspaper headlined the “travesty ” of the eminent destruction of that world famous architectural monument, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House located on the University of Chicago Campus.

Upon receiving a tear sheet, Tom immediately translated the Milan article into French, sent it to his WW II buddy, Jean Pierre who placed the story in Le Monde critical of the University of Chicago’s threat to demolish a great work of art. The Milan and Paris articles were parlayed into a Parliamentary Question, raised by another war-time buddy, Tom Driberg MP. . Ada Huxtable at The New York Times published a story on “the disgrace of the University of Chicago.’ Ruth Moore from the Chicago Sun Times did much the same, Fifth Ward Alderman, Leon Despres ,an anti-Daley independent, joined the struggle to save Robie House. (At a later date, Despres was responsible for the appointment of the Chicago Architectural Commission,. Today, forty years later, a vocal and important voice in Chicago architectural preservation.)

The administration of the world- class University of Chicago was embarrassed by the pending demolition of Robie House. The University manipulated its way out by convincing New York real estate developer, William Zeckendorf, to purchase Robie House from the Chicago Theological Seminary for use as a field office for his nearby Hyde Park Urban Renewal project. In 1963, at the completion of the renewal project, Zeckendorf deeded Robie House, sadly in need of repairs and restoration, to the University of Chicago.

At this writing, the building is a museum, open to the public under the protection of the Frank Lloyd Preservation Trust. Much restoration has taken place over the years, and now, again more restoration is being done. At one point Robie House served as offices of the University of Chicago Alumni Association displaying Wright-designed dining table, chairs, lounge chairs, sofas and other examples of Arts & Crafts furnishings.

Post cards of Robie House are ubiquitous in Chicago. Sightseeing buses stop at the corner of Woodlawn and 58th Street. Prairie School theme silk scarves umbrellas, shopping bags, stained glass windows, gift cards and lamps use Wright designs are available in almost every mail order gift catalog. The initial restoration, was carried out under the aegis of the noted architect and preservationist, Bill Hasbrouck one of the first Save Robie House volunteers.

Marylou Shira and grandsons (L to R) Ryan, Ben, David. Robie House Lego

Marylou Shira and grandsons (L to R) Ryan, Ben, David. Robie House Lego

Birthday Surprises

Preface: I dislike big parties, even more so when the host
and guest of honor are the only people I know. I was doing my
motherly duty to drive seventy-five miles to make an appearance at
my only son’s 60th birthday party. Instead I had the surprise of my

When I came in through the doorway Steve was playing his sax. Non-demonstrative Steve immediately set his horn aside, cried “Mom”and rushed over to give me the hugest most wonderful hug Steve has ever given me. I huggged him back and we just stood there, holding each other for quite a while. Steve was beaming. I don’t know that I’ve ever before seen him look as exquisitely happy as he looked that night.

There was music. unending, ongoing, music- varied and wonderful music. Rotating friends, musicians all, in and out with their instruments. Jazz, Salsa, Big Band – a bit of everything. I was sitting inside the music, rather than being on the outside listening. Quite an experience. Steve played his flute – on occasion switching to the sax. There was an older man on sax which made for great duets. I met one of the women with whom he plays a flute quartet … heard the two of them duet. I watched a series of different double bass players: a thin young woman half the size of the instrument; three different men of all sizes and ages, slapping that bass.

This all took place, at his girl friends’ home: a natural hostess. She did everything with ease and grace – and she, too, was beaming. This was her party for Steve and she gloried in it. For me, it was also a birthday. I connected with a small handful of people I knew: Johnny T, Steve’s mentor, Susan and Roberto who remembered me from twenty years. I gloried in shaking hands with anyone and everyone, “I’m Steve’s Mom”, I said, beaming. Beaming. I was so proud to be Steve’s mom.

January at the Art Institute of Chicago


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The best thing about Chicago is the Chicago Art Institute. I spent hours there. When I was in the depths of depression, I sat on a small bench in a small dark blue room losing myself in Caillebotte’s painting of a beautiful woman and handsome man walking on wet lavender cobblestones beneath a large black umbrella. Other, happier times, I gazed at Monet’s haystacks: haystacks in the snow, haystacks at sunset, haystacks at midday. A room full of happy haystacks.

For a year or so, I was a student, At that time, students had to walk through the museum to access the school which was located in the in the basement. The joy, of course, was classes started at 9am and the museum didn’ t open ‘til 10:30, With my student ID, I got to wander wherever,

One cold January a Georgia O’Keeffe perspective was being hung. Amid the unpacked wooden crates was O’Keeffe herself, dressed in black, with a large cane handled umbrella, pointing this way and that to properly hang her paintings. There were six or seven versions of her Jacks-in-the-Pulpit. When you entered the gallery, horizontally, at the end of the long hall way was her astonishing Sky Above the Clouds . O’Keeffe approvingly nodded at their installation.

Thank You, Daniel Ellsberg


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July 2013
A big thank you to Daniel Ellsberg for his column
on Edward Snowden in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (“Snowden made the right call”), In my opinion, this is one of the most important
pieces of journalism I’ve yet to read on the NSA Snowden affair.
Ellsberg clarifies where our country’s ideals of freedom were in
1971 and how far away from any of those ideals we have come in the
past 40 years. It tears my loyal heart in two when Ellsberg recalls
being released $50,000 bond and his own recognizance compared with
Bradley Manning’s three years of imprisonment, including eight
months of solitary confinement, with no charges. Ellsberg stated
that what Snowden “has given us is our best chance…to rescue
ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all
practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence
agencies.”. Face it or not folks, we are living in a police state.
Ellsberg’s column is our wake up call.

Lesbian Archives of Sonoma County: The Beginning


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A Personal Summary of How LASC Came to Be


Summer of 2006, JJ Wilson, feminist. retired Sonoma State University English Professor, told me that someone in the SSU History Department was planning an oral history of the Sonoma County women’s movement. JJ suggested I volunteer to be sure lesbians were included.

Well. They weren’t.

A year later, six or eight of us local lesbians attended a well catered luncheon to celebrate the History students’ research and to examine their time line of women’s activities in Sonoma County. We found, to our disappointment and surprise, that absolutely no lesbian groups were mentioned: No Women’s Voices newspaper, no Lesbian Voters Action Caucus, no Women’s Studies department, no Pride Day parades. Nada.

A student’s justification was that the oral history of Sonoma County women was only a small part of the syllabus – the focus was on a history of feminism beginning with the American Revolution. She also pointed out that only the Press Democrat, a NY Times owned newspaper, was their research source. No one knew the existence of twenty-year old Women’s Voices Newspaper.

While their oversight made us invisible, we set out to make ourselves visible by creating an archive which describes the role that lesbians played in Sonoma County activism – and which made things better for all women.

My friend, Ruth Mahaney, feminist, lesbian and former chair of Sonoma State Women’s Studies, drove me home. We sat in my parking lot a long time, simmering down, seeking ways to change the situation.

“Hey. We can’t let this happen. We have to do something about it.”

“We need to organize the lesbian community”, I responded.

“I know. Let’s give a party. We’ll invite every lesbian we can think of.”

“Let’s make it a re-union.”

“Let’s have it out on my place on the Russian River”, said Ruth.

“And a pot luck, of course,” I replied.

We garnered enough names from our address books so that over thirty long time lesbians arrived, food in hand, for the first party. We recorded both video and audio memories and stories. About twenty people came to the second reunion, fifteen or so to the third, and at the last reunion six showed up: Nancy Moorhead, Mary Kowatch, Tina Dungan, Ann Neel, Ruth and me. We gave ourselves a name and formed the steering committee—Lesbian Archives of Sonoma County—LASC. Our purpose: to archive 30 years of lesbian activity from 1965 to l995 on video tape and with ephemera –to build an archive for future researchers and writers with knowledge about Sonoma County lesbian activists in the latter part of the 20th century.

In the past five years, we researched and listed sixty different local organizations and businesses started by lesbians. We have videotaped five individual community leaders and eighteen community action groups (ranging from Moonrise Café to Women’s Voices; from the Gang Band to Women’s Studies to Lesbian Voters and more.) And have more individual and group interviews scheduled for this year and next year.

We sponsored an historical afternoon with long time lesbian leaders, Sally Gearheart and Phyllis Lyons that attracted an audience from the entire Bay Area. With a grant, we purchased video and editing equipment. Our Steering committee has expanded from six to nine with the addition of Nancy Kelley, Tia Watts and Lynn Adler.

…a pretty good record for a handful of lesbians with a dream.

A Half Century of Peace Marches


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Chicago February 1952 Fifty one years ago this February I bundled myself and my two year old son, Steve, in layers of scarves, coats and mittens as protection against Chicago’s bitter windy lakefront. A hundred young parents, members of the Committee for Peaceful Alternatives, pushed strollers or held small children’s hands, as we walked a half mile along Hyde Park Boulevard to the frozen lake shore. Staunchly facing the bitter wind, even more staunchly rebelling against Harry Truman’s threat to use The Bomb against North Korea. (and today, how ironic, North Korea might use The Bomb against us.) Two weeks ago my son Steve, now 53, took his young nephews to the Peace March in San Francisco. I told Steve that if I’d had a wheel chair, it would be his turn to push me.

Washington, November 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium. I’d taken a charter bus filled with hippie students from the University of Chicago,. Forty-one year old me was caught in the midst of “never trusting any one over thirty” . We shared wine, bread, cheese, joints, passing them from one side of the bus aisle to the other. Someone in the back had a guitar, another a penny whistle. More festive than political. Songs and conversations softened to a hum late into the night. We awoke at daybreak in western Pennsylvania. A scattering of snow on the hillside was pink in the sunrise. From deep within the bus, a voice softly sang : “Oh beautiful for spacious skies”, until all the voices filled the entire bus – filled, it seemed the entire world. Even the driver joined in. How very much we loved our county.

Kenwood February 2003. I watched throngs worldwide march on a soundless TV while I listened to KPFA radio. My tears flowed when I heard an aged, cracked and weak- voiced Pete Seeger sing “Over the Rainbow.” I hoped he would sing “Down by the Riverside” as I’d heard him do so many times, but if he did, Pacifica did not broadcast it – Seeger, whom I first heard at Union Square, New York City in 1948 when I went to a rally for Henry Wallace for president. Pete Seeger – remembered rent parties in the 50’s after he’d been black listed and couldn’t get gigs. He often sang at Steve’s nursery school. Seeger, Studs Terkel, Zero Mostel, Shirley Lens – among those who stuck by their ideals and principals and lost their jobs to blacklists.

Marylou Shira and grandson Nile, 4th of July 1985 (?) Photo by Sean Sprague.

Marylou Shira and grandson Nile, 4th of July 1985 (?) Photo by Sean Sprague.

Santa Rosa January 2003, I stand on the street corner waving a sign, looking like an aging Barbra Streisand. I forward emails; I sign petitions, I call senators and representatives. And everywhere I hear and see and smell that unspeakable thing that I don’t want to write about. Instead I look out my window and see the jonquils budding and think about spring – spring that comes and blooms and renews itself and renews loving.

And that’s what we need to do. Love. Pray. The Jews have a myth: that if every Jew everywhere in the world kept Shabbat all on the same Saturday, the messiah will come and bring peace. I’m trying to find hope in all this chaos. My daughter, Gail, read me a letter from a Buddhist friend who wrote that we need to love everywhere and everyone. We even need. to love Bush and Hussein. And maybe if we love everyone, all of us all at the same time, we will have peace. I feel alone sitting here at my computer. Alone as when Roosevelt died or when Kennedy was shot or when King was killed. My world is teetering. I want to be very small and curl up on a fat comforting lap and be patted and hear a kind voice say that I am only watching a bad TV show. And then I can turn off the TV. I yearn to be like those bright jonquils— growing up from the dark damp earth, bringing springtime, bringing hope.

Her names tell the story of her life

In addition to all of the above and its various mutations, my life has included two husbands, two traumatic lovers, four children, some travel, and forty years of being bipolar 1 (That’s the bad kind of bipolar.) You can get a better picture of all my various manifestations, by what I wrote as a sign to go on the urn of my ashes:

“Here lies the remains of:
Mary Louise (Boots, Bootsie) Holzman, Deutsch, Stauffer
Also know as
Marylou Hadditt
Whose Hebrew name is

Her names tell the story of her life.

And that is what you will find in this blog. Bits of pieces of what I’ve done, where I’ve been, who I lived with, loved with and fought with.; pieces of joy and clumps of regrets; victories and disappointments. Paper dolls and illustrated stories. Trip journals and photos of long lost friends.

I invented my last name in 1975, when I entered the Women’s Movement and left my second husband. Here’s what I wrote at that time:

I’m tired of a sir name
I want a her name.
I’ve had my first husband’s name.
I’ve had my second husband’s name.
I’ve had my father’s name
and my grandfather’s
and my great grandfather’s
all the way back to Adam’s rib.

I’ve had it!

That’s it.
I got it.
My her name.
I love it!
Marylou Hadditt,
That’s me.

For my mom

Welcome to Marylou Shira’s blog. I’m her daughter, Penny, and I have made it for her. My mom is 85, and I think this will be a great venue for her to share a life’s worth of writing and artwork.  I was inspired by the blog,  Margaret and Helen and thought, “well, Marylou certainly has lots to share.”

As one of her daughters, I’ve witnessed only  a portion of my mom’s journey. I know her story includes growing up privileged and Jewish in the South during the depression, civil rights activism, being a working woman before the term even existed, through feminism, divorce, mental illness, lesbian activism, recovery and renewal. She is also an accomplished writer and artist.

ML PS 1961

I will be in the background – this is Marylou Shira’s blog. Welcome to the world.