Louise Halliburton Interview by Mary Allison Farley


Louise Halliburton Interview by Mary Allison Farley


Mary Allison Farley


An interview of Louise Herron Halliburton performed by interviewer Mary Allison Farley. Louise discusses her schooling, involvement in women's suffrage, interest in art, and her work as a drafter during World War I.


Oral history




Erika Alfieri



Rights Holder

The Center for Dubuque History at Loras College, 1450 Alta Vista Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52039



Date Created

1984 September 28



F: Louise Eugenia Herron Halliburton on the 28th of September 1984 in Dubuque.

H: We sort of thought that you might not use the name.

F: Oh, in the [[unintelligible]] final write up? Sure, I can leave that out. I’d be glad to. I wanted to ask you first just some background information about when you were born and where.

H: December 3rd, 1897, in Dubuque, Iowa.

F: Who were your parents and what did they do?

H: Well, my parents were Mary. Do you want the maiden name?

F: Mm-hmm.

H: Mary Kate C-R-O-U-S-E. Like Russell Crouse in My Fair Lady. It’s not the K, which is the more common spelling around here. My father was Edward William H-E-R-R-O-N. I can’t think what date they were married. My family record, I have loaned to a relative who now says he can’t find the book. So, that date I just don’t have now.

F: Well, were they Dubuquers? Did they grow up here or did they come from [[unintelligible]]?

H: My mother was born in Pennsylvania and my father in New York state. My father’s father came west. He married Elisa Allen who was born in Niagara Falls, Canada. When they came west, he came with the Illinois Central Railroad and eventually she joined him here in Dubuque.

F: I see.

H: My mother came to Iowa because her older brother had come here after he graduated from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He came by public conveyance – train I suppose – as far as Mount Carol, Illinois. I think there was some family connection there. I’m not clear about that. From Mount Carol, Illinois, he rode horseback to Grundy Center, Iowa.

F: [[laughter]]

H: He was a pioneer doctor and in some of the horrendous Iowa winters that he experienced after coming here, he and his team of horses would go on country calls after someone had come from the farm family to get the doctor. They would ride back, maybe over the top of fences, the snow drifts were so hard.

F: [[laughter]]

H: [[laughter]] Doesn’t sound much like today, does it? [[laughter]]

F: So that was your father’s father?

H: That was my mother’s brother.

F: Your mother’s brother.

H: Then after he was established there and all the Pennsylvania connection sort of dwindled away, his mother – my grandmother – was brought to Grundy Center, Iowa and two of her daughters, my mother, and my Aunt Margaret, I believe, accompanied her at that time. Then, they lived there for a time. My Aunt Margaret married someone who-- that she met in Grundy Center. They came to Dubuque to live, and my mother came along with her and lived in Dubuque for a number of years. It was here that she met my father. They both were artists. My mother even gave lessons, and it was in that connection that she met my father. He came to take some oil painting lessons from her.

F: They were married and then had a family that was- included you and other children, or?

H: I was the only child. Margaret’s daughter was about 11 years older than I. She-- Eventually that marriage had broke up and Margaret and Clara – Clara Keturah Van Nest – lived with my family.

F: I see.

H: I guess, first out on the Grandview home and then here, and here for many years, in this house.

F: Did anyone else live in your family household in the way of relatives or boarders or lodgers?

H: Here, in this house?

F: Well, I guess in both of them while you were growing up?

H: When I was growing it would have been my Aunt Margaret and my cousin Clara. No one else.

F: Clara was Margaret’s daughter?

H: Yes.

F: I see. Did your father then-- When your parents married, did they both continue working as artists? Did you know?

H: No, no. My father, in his early years, went out on surveying teams. I’m not even clear about this part, but one of the jobs took him to St. Paul. He was there briefly. I’m sure that was probably before they were married. Then he worked in that field, I suppose, maybe in the early years of their marriage and then he became the cashier at the city water works, city water office, and held that position until he retired.

F: What about your mother when she became a wife? Did she focus then on the home?

H: Yes.

F: Did she do anything to earn money?

H: No, no. Except, as every wife does, the management of your budget and the additions you make with conserving foodstuffs that come from the garden and all that. Which, I think is another job, entirely another job.

F: Just the food management?

H: They don’t get a formal pay. You get your living out of it. It’s kind of a demeaning thing in a way. That was an accepted practice and I’m sure my mother felt nothing demeaning about it at all.

F: Now, when--

H: I don’t know when this is on or off.

F: Oh, it’s going. It’s going.

H: So even our conversation is--

F: Yeah. Any time you want we can turn it off, but in general it’s going. Where did you go to school in Dubuque?

H: Well, if you have seen the Wartberg Seminary buildings at the end nearest, this nearest end of the campus, was just grass and no buildings on it. I imagine it didn’t even belong to seminary. That would be near Simpson St. and whatever this other one is. There was a little, one room schoolhouse; the [Morse?] schoolhouse. There were many grades.

I think my mother felt no need for me to go to kindergarten. I think I was excused from kindergarten. I think it existed, but we lived so far from the school, and I think – that may not be correct – but I think they convinced the powers that be that I was given enough attention and resources that I didn’t need kindergarten. I’m not quite sure how many grades there were in [[Morse?]] school.

Somewhere I have a photograph of us all standing out in front of the school. I think I had a blue, serge, sailor suit. I think it was about the 5th or 6th grade, probably, that I then transferred to Lincoln School, which was a good mile or more, maybe a mile and a quarter, away from my home. Nevertheless, I came home for lunch.

F: Did you walk it then?

H: Oh certainly, what else?

F: Boy, that was a brisk pace.

H: [[laughter]] Following that, I went to senior high school which was at 15th and [[Wilkus?]] St. The old, red stone building is still there. Of course, I also walked there. Not home for lunch. My first years there, there was no provision for a lunchroom. There was a high windowsill on the-- along the staircase down to the basement. As I remembered, I was the only one that carried my lunch. I would perch up on that ledge for my lunch. [[laughter]] Before-- I would assume, they did open another room in the basement which was not very attractive at all. More people, by that time, were carrying their lunch.

F: Most of the kids went home by that point?

H: Yeah. You had to be a good hiker those days.

F: You graduated from that high school?

H: Yes, mm-hmm.

F: Then what happened?

H: Well, then, because of my interest in drawing I had had what little opportunity there was for instruction. Miss Gertrude Meyer had a china painting studio and young ladies came to paint the pretty dishes that they did. Well, Miss Meyer thought wasn’t an appropriate way for me to start my art career, so--

F: Did they do that as a way of making money, do you mean or were they just [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]]?

H: No, I think not. She set up a drawing course for me. I have an old sketchbook somewhere. A boy my age also took drawing lessons from her. I went on to china painting, but not the full-blown roses and grapes and things that the young ladies were doing. She had me a do a more formal, conventional design which took much more accurate figuring. How to place-- I can show the pieces to you. You want to shut this off we can--

F: Sure.

[[recording paused]]

H: --going to take too much time for you.

F: No, this is fine. You’re in this china painting with Miss Meyer.

H: Well, so--

F: This is [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]] high school or was it throughout high school? Do you remember?

H: It was during high school, during high school. After high school, I went to Washington, D. C. where my Aunt Margaret and cousin Clara lived at. I think I told you over the phone. I told somebody. Clara graduated with honors from the University of Chicago – I don’t know what year – in the field of Latin and Greek. She was teaching in what they called an academy. Well, I suppose a little more than high school in Hiawatha, Kansas. She had an uncle and his family in Washington, D. C., on the father’s side. They wanted Margaret and Clara to come and see it – to visit them – which they did one summer.

While they were there, Clara’s uncle said, “Oh, you ought to be working here, in Washington. Why don’t you put in an application at the Library of Congress?” Which, very reluctantly she did. They told her, at the time, how many thousand were ahead of her in that particular category. Well, I don’t know how long after, she got back to Kansas, she got this call to come immediately to Washington. I don’t know the details of that either – whether she finished her school year in Hiawatha Kansas. She and her mother did go to Washington. They were there and I was not collegebound, but I was still very interested in drawing and painting.

F: Had you decided not to go to college or was it a question of expense, or-- Do you remember?

H: Well, it probably would’ve-- No, I think it was mostly my decision. I had been an honor’s student in school. I didn’t like school, I really didn’t. We had a very bad class situation in Dubuque at that time. There were the kids whose parents belonged to the country club, and the rest of us. I’m sure, from the teacher’s point of view, they would say that this didn’t happen, but you had a feeling that the country club kids were getting preference. While I sat on the front row in the honor roll – I don’t remember which number, but it was well up toward the top – I hadn’t enjoyed my high school years at all.

F: In terms of a school situation, were the country club kids just being favored in school, is that what you mean? How could you see that they were being favored? How could you see those class differences as a child, as a teenager?

H: I guess that’s kind of hard to answer. Somehow or other they were always bringing expensive presents to the teachers. I remember a very embarrassing thing that happened. I was on an upper floor in the school, and I looked out the window and here on the windowsill was a wild duck. I assumed that it had struck the window and was killed. I immediately-- “Well, here’s a duck out here,” and I was very concerned that that bird had killed itself that way. They said, “Oh no, [[unintelligible]]’s father brought that to the teacher. It was just little, subtle things like that. I was often officer. From grade school I was the class president, which was kind of remarkable in 1916.

F: You were the class president of the senior class?

H: No, of grade school.
F: Of the grade school.

H: My competitor - who believed this could have happened? - was the son of the president of the president of - can’t even think of the school – is now University of Dubuque. Think it had another name. It was under the Presbyterian church. Ralph just assumed he would be the president. I think I told you this, how I’d forgotten my speech? Here was this woman’s suffrage class president. No problem with rehearsal. I had known the speech. It was no problem until I stood up there in front of all those people and I spied my cousin Clara and my Aunt Margaret who’d come all the way from Washington, D. C. to this momentous occasion. I didn’t have a word. I couldn’t think of one word of my speech.

F: You didn’t have your notes? Did you have any notes?

H: No, I didn’t have any notes. I had no proctor. I hadn’t had any problem with it. Miss [[Greenhouser?]] I suppose was just biting her nails witnessing this. I had no way of knowing how many hours I stood there, and then it came. I’m sure I didn’t do it very well.

F: Was this when you finished at Lincoln? That was probably 8th grade?

H: Yes. I had a bad start in public speaking and for years, way into my married years, I just could not say anything in front of anybody, to read something. It was a very traumatic thing. Hard to believe now, isn’t it? [[laughter]].

F: Well, you said when you were speaking jokingly of presenting that speech, you mentioned equal suffrage. Can we kind of nail down a date here, if possible?

H: Sure.

F: If we’re talking about Lincoln in 8th grade, were you--

H: Well, I graduated in 1916. No, wait a minute, that was high school.

F: That was high school. We’re talking--

H: That was four years before that.

F: Were you conscious of the suffrage issue at that time?

H: Oh, I’m pretty sure I was. Then later--

F: Did you address that issue at all in your speech?

H: No. Oh, no. I have no idea what the [[unintelligible]] was about. Not the remotest idea. Then, in the high school-- During the high school years, [Carey Chapman Cat?] was one of the pioneers in the woman’s suffrage vote. Spoke at the grand theater, and of course I was there. [[laughter]]

F: She had a full house, didn’t she?

H: Yes, I think so. Both supporters and posers.

F: Were there hecklers there then, or--

H: No, I don’t think that took place, I--

F: Do you remember how you felt about that presentation of hers?

H: Well, I think I was very impressed. I don’t remember anything tangible about it.

F: Do you happen to remember any meetings that people like Anna B. Lawther and I think, also, Bess Bissell had to get people-- Oh, this might have been-- This was in 1915 when there was a referendum in the state to get an amendment in Iowa that would allow women to vote. They had meetings around the county and in the city.

H: I don’t remember that. I’d imagine-- I did not go places at night much.

[[end of recording]]


H: --then it is, but at Lincoln school there was domestic science and you had to take domestic science if you were a girl. I did of course, but when I got to high school, I went to the principal and said, “I want to take manual training.” I was pretty sure one of my friends would like to do it also, but she hadn’t come back from vacation, but she was back very shortly and said she would like to take manual training, too. Well, he pointed out that girls had never taken manual training. But I suppose her [[unintelligible]] he let us sign on. Well, the manual training not only included the use of the saws, and the hammers, and the rest of it, it included mechanical drawing. The teacher would call the boys over to my table to see how they should be done, where the lines should cross. I got high marks on my mechanical drawing.

H: I had a set of instruments that had been my father’s. I made some small pieces, which I can show you. Mildred [[Berg?]], my friend who took it with me, made a library table, which was one of those big jobs.

F: How did it go in the class? Were the boys okay with you or--?

H: The boys were real nice. I must say, we never-- even though Mr. Martin would call them over to look how that plate should be done and not the way they’d smeared theirs up. I must say we had very good relationship with the boys.

F: How about the other girls? Did you ever-- Did they ever--

H: Well, that didn’t make any difference [[unintelligible]] way or the other. Ours was done in rather inconvenient conditions. The shop was down on Central Avenue in a school down there; probably would’ve been Iowa Street. It was several blocks from the old, red, stone building. We just had to race back to get back to Miss [[Jess’?]] English class. She, I know, always frowns severely. We came in a little late. That’s the only way it could be done [[unintelligible]].

F: You think-- Were there girls after you who did the manual--

H: Immediately after, I don’t think so.

F: [[crosstalk]] --training?

H: Immediately after, I don’t think so, but now that’s common place. We broke the ice; I have to say that I think. The teachers couldn’t have been nicer. Of course, we had drawing [[unintelligible]]. My drafting teacher, as kind of a conclusion for the course, set up an architectural program for me at which I was-- You look at kind of a ¾ view of a building and see both, two sides of it. Not just-- Part of your drawing would be the flat sided things and then the different levels of mechanical drawing. But this other was a side view, corner view of the building. Then, that you wound up coloring too. Oh, he was so proud of that. He’d gone to a lot of work to set this up just for me. Nobody-- None of the boys were taking this. He did that just for me. That was sent to an exhibition in the east somewhere, where it was lost.

F: Now, were you--

H: That was a Mr. Russell.

F: Mr. Russell. Were you taking manual training with him throughout high school or was that a couple of years?

H: Yes.

F: Do you remember?

H: I really don’t remember how many years.

F: Was that special project your last year?

H: Well, yes. That would’ve been-- Yes, that would’ve been. This would’ve been the same time period as the cooking and sewing class we were taking.

F: I see.

H: Maybe a couple of years. I just don’t remember.

F: You and Mildred didn’t take the cooking and you did the manual-- I see. Back to something you said a little earlier, the issue of class differences in Dubuque. Could you see it in terms of who people socialized with?

H: Oh, that was very evident, yes. The country club kids. It was very, very sharp differences, that way. I really - it kind of amazes me when I talk about it now – how I got selected for class officers at different times. I suppose there were just enough of the other group that supported me in some of these things because-- Let me see if I can get this straight. When it came to the graduation activities in the class-- whatever they call it. The dinner, and so on, and dance, that was at Union Park, which, you took a streetcar out. It’s no longer in existence. It’s out to Sageville Road and you turn off.

F: I know, I’ve read about it.

H: Yes, yes. Well, that was before the flood and disaster that swept the buildings away. There was a pavilion where we had our dinner and then there was the dance hall. In this preparation for it, our class advisor, Miss White, I said, “So many of us do not dance. We’re not going to pay for the dance. The ones that dance can pay for the dance.” Well, John McDonald, one of the leading manufacturing families, “Oh, that’s just not right. You’ve got to-- We all in the class pay for the dance, whether you go or not.” I said nothing doing. Miss White supported me, and we didn’t. So, they paid for their own dance, the ones that went to the dance.

F: Now this was your high school graduation?

H: High school graduation; 1916. I was always supported by my parents. They--

F: Would you said-- When you think back on that time can you come up with distinctive neighborhoods in Dubuque at that time. I’ve heard people talk about The Flats, which would’ve been, I think, a working-class neighborhood.

H: Oh, very definitely. I don’t think is-- Here on the street, I don’t think there was any class distinctions at all. There were carpenters and people that had a small [[unintelligible]].

F: Can you-- This is a map that shows the streetcar routes. Now, when people talk about The Flats, they mean Rhomberg and Lincoln Avenue area, don’t they, or am I wrong on that?

H: No, it was really the-- I’d say it was kind of around the packing-- Around what-- There isn’t a packing house on-- Kind of an extension of 8th street and 12th street. I think there were little communities. Kind of-- There were some down near the Milwaukee Railroad tracks. Well, Lincoln Avenue along there, a little, but actually-- I think there must have been kind of a squatter community.

F: Down in there?

H: There actually was the level along the river. Not close to the river but back near the tracks and so on. I can almost think you could see across the tracks.

F: Where would you have thought--

H: Because they’re very old, very secure neighborhoods on some of these other streets like Rhomberg and--

F: Mm-hmm. Well, where-- Do you have a sense that the established families, the country club families were living in a certain section of Dubuque?

H: No, I would say they were pretty well scattered over town.

F: All around?

H: Mm-hmm. Because if you were to drive around Dubuque, you’d find remnants of fine, old houses in many different areas.

F: I see, so they were pretty [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]] neighborhoods?

H: There was no-- Yes, they were. Now, this big house up at the corner. That’s an old, old house. That was the [[Close?]] family. His name comes from English people originally. Around up here, it was quite an English neighborhood. They had been quite-- I’d say maybe the city was a little more divided on--

F: [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]]

H: [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]] ethnic backgrounds. The Irish were pretty much down the south end, like more Main Street and Locust Street and Southern Avenue. But then, always, there’d be exceptions. There’d be a big old house somewhere, maybe, in the area. Then the Germans were pretty much the rest of the town. A large, German population.

F: How did religion fit in there?

H: Always predominantly Catholic, I think, from early times. All of the Irish and a good many of the Germans, though there’s always been a substantial German Lutheran community. Some of the churches that started early were German Lutheran. It’s pretty largely always been a democratic town which must have included a lot of the Germans, too. I really wouldn’t know what the English community might’ve-- What that would’ve been. I don’t know.

F: What about your family. Were you affiliated with anything?

H: Well, my father and his father were Democrats from way back, I guess. My mother really-- Her brother was a doctor. She had started in a Republican family, but she became a Democrat. [[laughter]]

F: Did your parents belong to a particular church in Dubuque?

H: Well, my father was baptized in St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is still here. He was-- He did not have any college education or anything like that, but he was a great student, just a natural student - read extensively and so on. I think he found the basis of religious life in things that maybe he read and not in the church. He lived a very honorable life. The church had really no-- That little confirmation service, I’m sure didn’t affect his whole life, exactly. [[laughter]]

F: What about you?

H: My mother started in as a Baptist. No, she probably started in as a Presbyterian because the churchyard in Pennsylvania for my grandparents - her mother and father are buried - was in a Presbyterian church. She-- The association with her sister who had become a Baptist and so mother was a Baptist. In more recent years the congregation here was a struggling congregation. Well, I can’t say-- a congregation. There was so much-- Always a problem with money. It seemed to be that my mother didn’t feel she was getting much religion out of the association, so she just moved across the street to St. Luke’s church where she became a Methodist. I married a man who started out as a Presbyterian and then, in later years, that didn’t seem too satisfying to him. He was very attracted to the Religious Society of Friends. When we were living in Jersey City, we would go on a streetcar up to Mount Claire, New Jersey for a friend’s meeting and that was very satisfying to him. They arranged sometime; he was to meet with some of the weighty Friends and he joined. I mean, that’s a very simple process if you know anything about the Society of Friends.

F: Not about their membership but I know about what it’s like at their meetings.

H: There’s no public anything. I was just so contrary; I didn’t feel like it. I had never joined anything. Somehow, though my cousin Clara and her mother were very involved in their church, nobody ever pressured me. I think back and I think what wonderful relatives I had that they didn’t pressure me into joining something that I really felt no interest in.

F: Even as a child then, you didn’t have to go to--

H: Well, I had to go to Sunday school, and it was the worst day of the week for me. I just despised it. Sunday, when my daddy was home and he was working out in the farm garden or something and I could be with him and we’d talk about the plants, and the trees, and the animals and things-- I had to go up the street in my white hat with rosebuds around it - apple blossoms I think - and walk ¾ of a mile to the streetcar and ride on the streetcar and go down to this dark - well it wasn’t too dark, I guess - basement. From the lovely spring outdoors to this church basement and hear about all this dull stuff they were talking about. [[laughter]] God and everything was here, up in the sky there somewhere, but controlling all this wonderful stuff that grew and behaved itself. I never did join anything. I’m still a [[rank heathen?]]. [[laughter]] However, I might add this: over the past several years, occasionally - it isn’t regular at all - we have Quaker meeting in this room. There’s nothing wrong about it, they do marvelous work, I’m very impressed by the Society of Friends. There are some other people who are not happy in the church situations and over the years they’re always traveling Friends. That’s part of the Quaker history - people in the early years that went into the wilderness to spread the word - that’s kind of a tradition of Friends. We’ve had wonderful people who’ve come up from Des Moines - just close, dear friends of ours - because they’ve come and told us what American Friends Service Committee is doing in [[Waterloo Valley?]] and darkest Africa, and everywhere. Hitler even met with some Friends one time. It’s been a very worthwhile association even though I’m not a member. I sense something to support, the service committee.

F: In terms of your childhood, for a Dubuque family, your family was a little different in terms of not having a central kind of focus on the church that a lot of--

H: Yeah, I think so.

F: Back to--

H: You can see why I don’t dare have my name attached to it. I bet a lot of people don’t know I’m a heathen. [[laughter]]

F: No, they just know and liked you, I’m sure. Well, jumping back here to china painting which was going on during your high school years and you then told me about your work in the manual training. When you finished high school, then did you go right to Washington?

H: Yes.

F: Was there work for you there or were you taking classes?

H: No, I went to school there. I lived with Clara and her mother.

F: Can I get you to move in a bit more to the mic? I want to make sure we--

H: I think my great aunt who-- Liz-- Lizzie left me a small amount of money when she died. That served as my trip to Washington and my tuition which was - I don’t think - it was an endowed-- It was an art school in connection with the Cocoran School of Art, Cocoran Gallery of-- Art Gallery, which is just directly across from the war department in Washington on 17th Street in the basement of that art gallery was the art school.

F: How long did you live there? [[crosstalk]]

H: Well, I think three years. [[crosstalk]] I’m just not clear about how long I-- Then, well, maybe-- Time it a little with the war when the war started. When the war started - first world war - anybody that could hold a drafting pen could get a job. Several of my friends at the art school-- How do you regulate this that I don’t interfere with your writing?

F: Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. I’m just--

H: Oh. You have certain [[names?]]. [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]].

F: [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]] --highlights and things that I’m trying-- kind of looking for, but this keeps just going on.

H: Yeah.

F: [[laughter]]

H: I hope the battery doesn’t cost too much.

F: I just have to get tapes [[unintelligible]]. So, war service--

H: Several of us wound up there in the drafting room in the water transport service.

F: You think that was right at the start of the war, Louise, or?

H: It was pretty close to the start. Maybe not right at the beginning, but--

F: Now, when you said something like when the war started anybody that could pick up a drafting pen could get a job, what-- I’m going to have to admit, I’m a little ignorant. What do you mean by that?

H: [[laughter]]

F: What did they need drafters for? Hired drafters?

H: Oh, it’s a form of drawing. It’s a mechanical drawing. You had a little pen--

F: I know what it is, but what was the-- They needed-- What did you need to be-- What did they need you drawing?

H: Oh, plans for ships of various kinds.

F: They’re routes and their attack plans, or?

H: No, the ships themselves.

F: Oh, the design.

H: Yes.

F: I see.

H: They were naval architects - you should have that term: naval architects - who drew the plans for the ship and then I would - as a copyist draftsman - I would trace, with tracing cloth, over their drawing which would be done with mechanical tools; the pen and all kinds of curved things that-- They followed a set of rules that you had to use. Then the engineers and naval architects would have done the plan and then this cloth would be put over it and then we, as copyists, would trace the design.

[[end of recording]] 


F: --then the copyists put the--

H: --would put the transparent material over the architect’s drawing and then retrace with our traces and had to follow exactly so the design was completely repeated on this transparent cloth. Then the blueprints were made from that. Then, the blueprints were given to the contractors or the people who came to bid on it. That was a big bidding process. Several people would-- there’d be many blueprints made and they would be distributed to the contractors.

F: Were you working largely with men at that point?

H: Pretty largely, yes.

F: What was that like? Was it--

H: No problem.

F: No?

H: No, they accepted us. Everything was all right.

F: Was there-- Were you with a friend? Were there any woman friends that were doing it with you?

H: Yes, well, ones that I finally learned and knew that hadn’t come from art school--

F: I see. [[crosstalk]]

H: [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]] --otherwise, long time, lifetime friends.

F: Well, if you picture the office that you worked in, how many women and how many men were in there? Could you remember that or is that too [[unintelligible]]?

H: Well, sometimes the woman who would be there probably was the stenographer. In our immediate office there would be maybe four women copyists, draftsmen. One would be the secretary. The supervisor was a military man. Then, at one point, for some reason I’ve forgotten that - they wanted all the drafting people up in New York. They went up with the shipping board. I was the only individual left in the drafting room.

F: God.

H: The Colonel in charge had to dream up something for me to do. [[laughter]]. He didn’t fire me. I’m amazed at that, why they didn’t fire me.

F: You had said you couldn’t move, or you didn’t want to?

H: No, it wouldn’t have been up to me at all.

F: They said, “You stay here.”?

H: Oh, yes, yes. I don’t remember why I didn’t have to go to New York. I think the others-- Well, I don’t remember. I don’t remember. The Colonel had had to dream up something for me to draft, to lay out. I laid out-- Oh, and I should show you those. The ship-- The plans for the hull of the ship are so interesting. That was the next thing that I had to do, for a river steamer. I decided how long it should be: a hundred and thirty feet. It was just make-work, I’m sure. I don’t he had any bid at all for a river steamer.

F: Before the group went up to New York were there any men draftsmen in that office that you were in?

H: Oh, yes.

F: How many [[unintelligible]] being in there with the four of you women?

H: I should remember that. Well, probably 6 or 8 maybe. Maybe not as many as 8. This might date it for you a little. One of them was a nephew of the second Mrs. Wilson.

F: Hm.

H: Her name had been Galt. His name was Galt, I think.

F: Did you-- when you were in that office was there much interaction between you and the women draftsmen and the men. Did you socialize together there in the office?

H: You mean after hours?

F: Well actually, while you were there working was there-- [[crosstalk]]

H: Well it was-- [[unintelligible]], [[crosstalk]]

F: [[crosstalk]] --camaraderie or--

H: Oh, yeah. They were nice. If they had any objection to us, I would not have known it.

F: You didn’t feel like--

H: That was where I met my husband.

F: I see.

H: When a call came from one of the head offices - some other part in the building - from General Goethals, who was the engineer for the Panama Canal, he was up in the [[years?]] but he had something that he wanted-- some lettering done on some certificates he was going to give to somebody for something. Robert Alexander Halliburton, we already were good friends but no engagement or anything, he picked me out to go up to meet General Goethals. [[laughter]] I came down with the material and that General probably wasn’t that familiar with a drafting room. He’d gone far beyond that, and he didn’t realize that every draftsman would letter differently. The certificates came out with one person doing one line and they were not acceptable so that job was pulled. [[laughter]] There were a lot of interesting sidelines to it.

F: Uh-huh. Did you ever get any sense, or did you ever hear people talking about the idea that women were taking men’s jobs? Was that around during World War I?

H: If it was, I don’t think I ever was aware of it. The people with the skills were needed then. I really-- No, I never had any feeling of that. I’m sure it’s quite pronounced now.

F: How long were you then working there? You said you got married in 1925. Did you go straight through until ‘25?

H: No.

F: No.

H: I think whenever the war ended, whenever that was.

F: 1919.

H: Mm-hmm. Then I spent those several years here without any really stimulating work. There just wasn’t, well--

F: Did you have different jobs at that point or--

H: I did this-- Copying the plans for the-- Well, it was used with real estate. People wanted to know what their lot borders were. Then somebody got a little job, and she gave my name, apparently, to these people and she did some of the work, but I think didn’t do it too long and then they contacted me. That was decorating the edge of breadboards.

F: Huh.

H: It was up in someone’s home, up on Central Avenue. At first, I was the only one and then some others came in, too. They had a brisk business in these breadboard-- The husband turned out the breadboards, a hard maple wood of some kind. His wife painted the edge, or shellacked or something, the wood part. Then, she painted the border of the breadboard different colors. Then we came in and put a design on it, kind of a spindly, viny thing on that with a kind of an enamel paint, that the blossoms stood up a little bit. It was a far cry from art class in Corcoran Art School.

F: Yeah, or in a drafting work--

H: Yeah. I did tell you I took drawing from the human figure when I was in art school.

F: Mm-hmm.

H: I had, I think, a really-- Now I don’t think-- It wouldn’t make any difference now, but in my time, I think it would’ve been good if girls had been exposed to that a lot. You knew the human figure was a wonderful piece of machinery. There was nothing funny about it. The men wore a little, what do they call it?

F: Loincloth?

H: Yes. The woman was just out there, the whole works. Men and women in the class-- There was nothing-- I had no experience of anything unpleasant at all about it, but I always felt afterwards, I’m so glad I’d had that experience.

F: That hadn’t been available in Dubuque for example, or--

H: Oh, no. [[laughter]] Mercy, no.

F: It was still--

H: Well, I mean--

F: Was it a new kind of a thing at that time, do you think?

H: I think people that were knowledgeable would’ve known that that sort of thing took place. It was alright for an artist. That included also - I don’t think we did it many times - but we did go to George Washington University, to their medical school and we sat in these high, steep-- They have a-- What is it called? It’s kind of an unusual name. I can’t think of-- Where the dissections would be done for medical schools. There would be a body brought in-- I think what I remember most was just an arm that we saw, skin all removed. We saw the muscle structure. This is quite-- The forearm is quite interesting because the bones actually kind of crisscross over each other as it turns. You can’t do it to the same extent in the leg, you see, but it’s really made to do that. One big bone here and the two smaller ones. That was kind of different. [[laughter]] When I look back-- I have a next-door neighbor - a darling young woman - and she just can’t get over the things that I’ve done and the experiences that I’ve had which aren’t at all in her background, of course.

F: Yeah, well it’s really wonderful to get to talk to you about them; appreciate it a lot. Can you think of anything else we should mention in terms of your work in those earlier days?

H: Well, I think I’ve covered it [[minutely?]].

F: [[crosstalk]], [[unintelligible]]

H: More than you’re ever going to want to handle.

[[end of recording]]

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Mary Allison Farley, “Louise Halliburton Interview by Mary Allison Farley,” Loras College Digital Collections, accessed May 19, 2024, https://digitalcollections.loras.edu/items/show/7677.