Friday, March 6, 2015

A Woman. A Journalist. An Esperantist

Matheson, about 1897
Florence Matheson’s moment of fame had nothing to do with Esperanto. I researching her life, the only statement that she had anything to do with the Esperanto movement comes from the March 6, 1918 Washington Times, even though she was both a journalist and engaged in many social organizations. Her membership in the “Esperanto Society” isn’t particularly surprising, as much as mystifying. But a little research identified it.

The Times article is one of those period things, in which the travels of more (or less) prominent people ended up in the newspaper. Judith Martin in one of her Miss Manners column cited the old adage that a woman’s name properly appears in the newspapers only three times: when she is born, when she is married, and when she dies. Martin forgot to add “and whenever she travels.” The Times gives a brief biography of of their subject.

One problem here is that she achieved her greatest fame as Florence Matheson. To go by Martin’s dictum, we would have four times, since Matheson was the name she adopted at the time of her first of two marriages. This raises the problem of what to call her. I’m going to settle on the name under which she was published. But, in 1918, she was the widowed Mrs. Philip Willis McIntyre.
Woman Writer Visits Here.
Mrs. Philip Willis McIntyre, of Portland, Me., who as been passing the winter in New York, is now in Washington visiting friends. Mrs. McIntyre is second vice president of the Civic Club of Portland, chairman of the Weights and Measures Committee of the Housewives’s League and a member of Le Cercle Boheme, the Esperanto Society and the Writer’s Club, and, as Florence Matheson, was one of the best known newspapers writers of the Pacific Coast.

She is the daughter of the late Elizabeth Akers Allen, whose “Make Me A Child Again” holds a permanent place in the people’s hearts, and the widow of New England’s foremost journalist, Philip McIntyre, better known to the reading public as Yorick and Alfred York. Mrs. McIntyre is in Washington for the purpose of continuing the war work in which she was engaged in Maine and New York city.

In her 1905 marriage application (to marry Mr. McIntyre), she gives her mother’s name as Elizabeth Percy, which combines Elizabeth Akers Allen’s first name and the surname she used as an early pseudonym, Florence Percy. According to the same document, her father’s name was Alfred Taylor. However, according to the license for her her 1877 first marriage, her father’s name was Marshall Taylor. Her mother is listed as a perfectly credible Elizabeth Chase Taylor.

[To digress on Elizabeth Chase Allen. The Wikipedia entry on her draws from the 1908–1908 Who’s Who in America, which says she was married until until 1861 to Paul Akers, and that her second marriage was to E. M. Allen of New York in 1865. But if this is true, then where does Florence Percy Taylor fit in? Encyclopedia Brittanica says that her first marriage was to Marshall S. M. Talyor, but that they were divorced after a few years, that she traveled in Europe from 1859–1960, after which she married Akers. It would seem that Ms. Allen didn’t want to let out that she had been through three husbands, instead of two.]

Matheson, about 1893
Ms. Matheson has the all-too-common problem of sudden aging between censuses. In 1900, she’s thirty-eight years old and has been married for twenty years (despite that the New York records put her marriage twenty-three years before). 1900 – 38 = 1862. But if she were born in 1862, that would have been after the death of her mother’s second husband, long after Ms. Allen had divorced Mr. Taylor.

Well, if she’s thirty-eight in 1900, in 1910, she should be forty-eight. But no, due to the ravages of sudden inter-census aging, she’s become fifty-seven. Oh. So, she was born in 1853, when her mother was married to a man named Taylor. Good. That clears that up.

When she married, she noted her status as widowed. This may be. I have not found an age of death for her husband Alexander Matheson Jr. The Matheson’s moved out to California, where she went to work as a journalist and he as carpenter, later working in real estate. But their marriage does not seem to have been a happy one. The San Francisco Call (the newspaper she worked for) reported in 1903 that a suit for divorce was filed
by Florence Percy Matheson against Alexander Matheson for neglect,
Two years later, she’s getting married in Maine. Her newspaper career seems to stretch from about 1892 until about the time when she divorced her husband. Afterwards, she seems (according to the 1914–1915 Who’s Who in American Women) to have concentrated on magazine publication.

Among her many clubs, Ms. Matheson was a very active member of the Pacific Coast Women’s Press Association. In the 1890s, references to her are often in regard to her official positions in the organization. An 1897 article on the Women’s Press Association notes that she is nearly finished writing a novel. No such work has come to light. But there’s one more organization to mention.

Her husband’s entry in Who’s Who in New England (1909) lists membership in the Portland Esperanto Society. Mr. McIntyre was president of the Portland Esperanto Society. A 1908 list of members in Amerika Esperantisto lists both Philip W. McIntyre and Mrs. Philip W. McIntyre. It seems likely she took it up after her marriage. For whatever reason, this was not included in her entry five years later, but it seems to have been among the information given to the Times in 1918. Florence Percy Taylor Matheson McIntyre historical importance is as a prominent early woman in journalism, not for any incidental activity in Esperanto.

You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...