Gertrude Slaughter Papers, 1858-1963


Gertrude Elizabeth Taylor Slaughter, author and prominent Madison, Wisconsin resident in the first half of the twentieth century, was born in Cambridge, Ohio in 1870. She spent her youth in Cambridge and in North Berwick, Maine, home of her grandparents. Her mother was Elizabeth Hill Taylor, and her father, Joseph Danner Taylor (1830-1899), was a noted lawyer and Congressman from Ohio (1883-1885, 1887-1893).

In 1893, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College and married Moses Stephen Slaughter (1860-1923). A classics scholar, Slaughter received a B.A. from DePauw University in 1883 and a Ph.D. in 1891 from the Johns Hopkins University where he had studied Greek and Latin. After teaching at Bryn Mawr, Collegiate Institute in Hackettstown, New Jersey, and Iowa College, he joined the Latin Department of the University of Wisconsin in 1896, and eventually headed the Department of Ancient Classics.

From 1918 to 1919, the Slaughters lived in Venice while Moses served as a major in the Italian Commission of the American Red Cross in charge of the Venice District. Mrs. Slaughter was also very active in the organization, and for many years continued to be involved in philanthropic aid to southern Italy.

Although the Slaughters traveled extensively over the next thirty years and summered at Hancock Point on the coast of Maine, Madison remained their home. In Madison, Slaughter was part of the “Frances Street cabal” which included Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles Sumner Slichter, and Charles Van Hise. During summers in Maine, the Slaughters belonged to an academic and intellectual community which included the physicist Arthur Trowbridge and the historian Charles Homer Haskins. Among the Slaughters' closest friends were Anne Crosby Emery Allinson and her brother, Henry Crosby Emery. “Nancy” Allinson was an 1896 Bryn Mawr Ph.D. and the first Dean of Women at the University of Wisconsin.

The Slaughters had two daughters, Elizabeth Hill Slaughter and Gertrude Taylor Slaughter (“Trudles”), both of whom died in the early years of World War I. Moses Slaughter died suddenly in 1923 while in Rome on leave from the university.

In her long years as a widow, Mrs. Slaughter continued the active life she had known with her husband. She continued to spend summers in Maine and to participate in the life of the Hancock Point community. In Madison she was active in the Madison Art Association, the University League, the Madison Literary Club, and the Wisconsin Archeological Institute. She received an honorary degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1940, Phi Beta Kappa membership in 1950, and a citation from Bryn Mawr in 1960. She died in Madison on December 2, 1963.

Gertrude Slaughter's books include:

  • Two Children in Old Paris, From the Notes of a Journal by Their Mother, Gertrude Slaughter. Macmillan, 1918.
  • Shakespeare and the Heart of a Child. Macmillan, 1922.
  • Heirs of Old Venice. Yale University Press, 1927.
  • The Amazing Frederic. Macmillan, 1937.
  • Calabria, the First Italy. University of Wisconsin Press, 1939.
  • Saladin, 1138-1193, a Biography. Exposition Press, 1955.
  • Only the Past Is Ours: The Life Story of Gertrude Slaughter. Exposition Press, 1963.