Anita McCormick Blaine Correspondence and Papers, 1828-1958

Scope and Content Note

The daughter of industrialists/philanthropists Cyrus Hall McCormick and Nettie Fowler McCormick, Anita in 1889 married Emmons Blaine, attorney and son of James G. Blaine. Her husband's death in 1892 left her with one son, Emmons Blaine Jr., born in 1890, whom she enrolled in the laboratory school of Cook County Normal School in 1897. For the next two decades her attention focused chiefly on education and child welfare. Following World War I, Mrs. Blaine's interests expanded to include America's entry into the League of Nations, problems of world peace, and the United Nations. In their treatment of all those interests, her papers are extensive and revealing, demonstrating the depth and breadth of her own involvement both personally and financially.

At about the age of thirty Anita Blaine came under the influence of Colonel Francis W. (Francis Wayland) Parker and the movement toward a system of progressive education. She conceived of an ideal teacher-training institution under Parker's direction, and the Chicago Institute thus came into being. Her papers contain extensive records relating to this experimental school, including correspondence, minutes of trustee meetings, memoranda of conferences, financial statements, salary schedules, endowment agreements, and negotiations with the University of Chicago when that institution absorbed the Institute to form its School of Education.

Mrs. Blaine established the Francis W. Parker elementary school on Chicago's near north side and assisted its first principal, Flora J. Cooke. Her papers demonstrate the extent to which she gave of her own time to insure its success. Between 1905 and 1907 her service as a member of Chicago's Board of Education produced a large file of minutes, reports, recommendations, and correspondence relating to Chicago's public schools. Although less personally involved, her concern for education expanded to include institutions throughout the country and abroad, as documented in her correspondence.

Convinced that inherited wealth was a trust to be used in behalf of others--the papers are replete with letters and drafts of ideas expressing this principle--Anita Blaine did not confine her activities to education. Correspondence, reports, speeches, and proposals reveal that she was simultaneously working with corporations and individuals involved in child welfare and social reform, particularly in Chicago. Through the years her activities created a large file relating to the Chicago City Council and many of its bureaus and committees. The papers contain ample evidence of her readiness to express her views to other persons of influence, and in 1936 she appeared on weekly radio in behalf of the Good Neighbor League, as evidenced by correspondence and clippings.

Mrs. Blaine's greatest interest was in finding a means to achieve permanent world peace. This concern is reflected in the great number of manuscripts in the 1920s and 1930s relating to various organizations which she supported, especially the World Citizens Association, organized in 1938 in her home to research and publicize the need for world co-operation. She served the association as vice-chairman, contributed funds, and co-authored The World at the Crossroads. With the approach of World War II, the papers pertain also to her work on the executive committee of the International Rescue Committee to aid refugees from Fascist countries, and her support of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. Among other things she helped plan and finance the Pocono Pines (Pennsylvania) Conference to discuss extra-governmental ways to resolve differences between peoples. Out of this came her million-dollar gift to the Foundation for World Government, for which her papers contain the Foundation's correspondence, minutes, speeches, memoranda, agreements, bank statements, records of grants, and audits.

Correspondence relating to politics and other matters was carried on with presidents and other noteworthy individuals, and her service with the women's division of the Illinois Political Action Committee led her to become one of the moving forces in creation of the Progressive Party. For the Henry A. Wallace presidential campaign of 1948 a file contains correspondence with Wallace and others, memoranda of meetings in her home, speeches, and records of her large contributions.

In addition to these causes that claimed most of her attention, the papers contain a variety of materials relating to many other philanthropies and interests. For instance, she corresponded with James G.K. McClure Sr., John Timothy Stone, and Andrew C. Zenos of the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago; Charles Oliver Gray of Tusculum College; Chauncy B. McCormick concerning the Art Institute of Chicago and Polish relief; Fletcher S. Brockman, Sherwood Eddy, and John R. Mott regarding the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and other topics; Harriet Taylor of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA); Dwight L. Moody and Emma Dryer relating to their Bible work; Henry Winters Luce concerning Peking University in China; William Plumer Jacobs of the Thornwell Orphanage in South Carolina; James G.K. McClure Jr. of the Farmer's Federation of North Carolina; and Henry Van Dyke of Princeton. She received letters and reports from psychiatrists Adolf Meyer and William Alanson White, and cooperated with her brothers in contributing to psychiatric research at Johns Hopkins University. A large gift to the Chinese people in 1943 was followed by notes from Madame Chiang Kai-shek, to whom she presented the fund.

Although there is evidence that institutional religion was less important to her than to her mother, the papers show much concern for her own Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, the ministerial fund, and mission work of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. She also continued to support many of the other causes supported by her parents.

In behalf of her many projects she received letters and landscape designs from Warren H. Manning. Included in her correspondence are also letters from Britishers interested in psychic phenomena--Helen V. Alvey, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Oliver Lodge--a subject that increasingly intrigued her in her later years. The files on Cyrus Bentley and his son, Richard, and those of McCormick Estates and the International Harvester Company provide the most complete record of Mrs. Blaine's financial situation. As her friend and personal attorney, Cyrus Bentley helped manage her business affairs and took an active part in many of the same organizations as she.

Letters, clippings, photographs, ledgers, and memoranda concerning her family and personal business show her to have been in close contact with her mother and brothers. Because the activities, finances, and trusteeships of Nettie McCormick and her children Cyrus Jr., Anita, and Harold were so interlocking, they held many conferences, for most of which minutes are filed. As a trustee for the care and estates of her incompetent sister and brother, Mary Virginia and Stanley, voluminous correspondence was carried on by Anita with their many companions, doctors, and lawyers. In addition to a large number of friends, Mrs. Blaine corresponded with many members of the Adams, Blaine, and McCormick families.