Papers of Bertha Humez Hatvary, 1892-2000
Papers of editor and writer Bertha Humez Hatvary.
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. The collection is open to research except for Box 7, which is closed until the death of the correspondent.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Bertha Humez Hatvary is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Extent5.42 linear feet ((5 cartons, 2 half file boxes) plus 4 folders of photographs)
This collection consists of correspondence, diaries, travel documents, and photographs, centering on the domestic lives, work, and family and friendship relationships of a mother and daughter, both Cambridge-born college-educated women. Charlessie Ethalind McKinnon Humez (1886-1972) and her daughter Bertha Malvina Humez Hatvary (b. 1923) wrote regular (ideally weekly) letters to one another during periods of separation and after Bertha moved to New York in the early 1950s, through Charlessie's death in 1972. In addition to the extraordinarily full mother-daughter correspondence, the collection includes many other letters Bertha received from friends and family members, spanning the 1940s through the 1970s. Bertha's sister Eloise Evans, and sister-in-law Elisabeth Gleason (Glea) Humez, are among her most frequent family correspondents. The collection also includes a set of dozens of letters Bertha received from an infatuated boyfriend over a short period of time prior to her marriage, a few letters documenting later romantic relationships, and occasional correspondence from several women friends. The diaries in the collection provide a few fascinating brief glimpses into more private feelings of each woman, as well as much detail about daily life--for Charlessie only up until her marriage at age 28, and for Bertha primarily during and after her marriage (which began when she was also 28, and ended in her mid-thirties).
This richly literate set of personal papers was saved by Bertha until her relocation to a nursing home in West Newton in 2005. Alexander Humez and Jean McMahon Humez (Bertha's nephew and niece-by-marriage) collected and preserved these materials when cleaning up Bertha's Greenwich Village apartment and country home in the Berkshires and donated the papers for the use of future historians who may be interested in how college-educated urban Northeast women of the twentieth century represented many facets of their lives in personal correspondence within family and friendship networks.
Correspondents or Characters appearing in the correspondence:
- The Allens (Betty, Bertha and Jim?). Charlessie's Hillcrest (Yarmouth, Nova Scotia) neighbors and possibly caretakers of the house. They would pick McKinnon/Humez family members up at the ferry and transport them to their house for the summer vacations.
- Evelyn Bailey. Charlessie's niece, corresponding from Peru in 1968.
- Ajit Bhattacharyya. Former boarder at 12 Clinton St; M.I.T. student who received Ph.D. in 1970.
- Nancy Boyle (later Nee, then Morrow). A friend who worked in and corresponded from the American Embassy in Cambodia in 1956; she later moved to California, and remarried twice.
- Frederick (Fritz) Brokaw. New York friend of Bertha, and uncle to newscaster Tom Brokaw.
- Mildred and George Buchanan. Sister and brother-in-law of Paul Humez. Mildred corresponded with Charlessie, and occasionally Bertha, from Mansfield, Massachusetts.
- Jerry and [ ? ] Cohane. New York friends of Bertha and George in 1950s.
- Camille H. Connolly. A cousin who sent Bertha some letters from Fontana, California.
- Adele Humez Corbett (Auntie Adele; d. 1974), sister of Paul Humez. Married to Percy Corbett in 1920; frequently wrote to Charlessie, and sometimes Bertha, from her home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in Charlessie's later years. Hand-painted birthday cards and long, chatty letters are in the collection. A letter to Charlessie dated Oct. 7, 1966, gives genealogical information about Paul Humez's family.
- Ed C. Friend of Bertha from late 1940s, son of journalist, parents living in New York. EC had lived in Paris sometime in mid-to-late 40s, and returned to finish Harvard in 1949, after interruption (probably including war service). Became enamored of Bertha on the eve of her departure for Paris in summer 1949, and declared his desire to have her return home and marry him in letters written to her in December 1949 and winter 1949-50. From the context of his letters (only his to her are extant), it appears they had a sexual relationship and brief romance, prior to her departure.
- Guy Denizard. Short-lived romantic interest of Bertha in 1961, living in Philadelphia.
- Cecil T. Derry. A Cambridge friend and neighbor during Bertha's childhood; some of his letters are to Charlessie and a few to Bertha.
- Vasu Desai. Female M.I.T. graduate student living at 12 Clinton St. with Charlessie in 1960s.
- Sue Edelman. Friend of Bertha and former colleague from New York University Press in 1960s.
- Don Geary. Artist, sculptor, and very helpful friend in early days of Bertha's life as a single woman in Greenwich Village (1960s).
- Raymond Gent. Interior designer and close friend of Bertha in early 1960s.
- Leo and Ida Gershoy. New York friends of Bertha and George.
- Barbara (Bobby) Gilbert (later O'Hearn). Childhood friend of Bertha, author of many early letters in Bertha's collection.
- Nettie Adeline McKinnon (Mrs. W.S.) Gilman. Living in Wilton, New Hampshire, she raised three children: Dorothy Gilman Kroh; Peggy Gilman; and Will Gilman.
- Dorothy Gilman Kroh. Charlessie's niece, daughter of Nettie McKinnon; lived in Hawaii for much of her adult life, and corresponded with Charlessie occasionally.
- Sylvia Gilman, Charlessie's great niece, daughter of nephew Will Gilman. Sylvia, who also lived in Cambridge, spent time with Charlessie in the 1960s, attending BSO concerts with her and occasionally sharing curry dinners prepared by Charlessie's M.I.T. boarders of the 1960s.
- Bert Gore. Friend of Bertha from Paris years, writer of romantic letters to Bertha as she returned to U.S. in 1951-2. Apparently she resisted his appeal and went on with her plan to marry George Hatvary.
- Helen Graham (Poppenwell). Friend of Bertha from years in Paris; later studied psychotherapy and lived in Berkeley. Married to Peter until 1957; remarried to Derek in 1959. Much correspondence during 1950s.
- Velma (Mrs. R. H. ) Guest, Correspondent of Charlessie from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, probably a cousin.
- Magda and Carlo Hatvary. George Hatvary's parents, living in Yonkers in 1950s.
- Ida. M. Humez. Paul Humez's step-mother (second wife of Ernest Desire Humez, 1866-1932, who emigrated from France to New York State in the mid-1880s.).
- Beatrice, Raymond and Muncie Hendler. Beatrice was a friend of Bertha's from her Paris years (see photo album). Raymond (possibly Bea's brother) was a painter. Muncie, Raymond's wife, originally a New Yorker, wrote several letters to Bertha expressing bitterness about the marriage and her life with him in Minnesota.
- Pierre and Win Hervieux. Boston Symphony Orchestra friends of Bertha's. Correspondence to Bertha comes from San Antonio, Orsay (France), Columbia (South Carolina.), Hartford (Connecticut) and Grafton (Vermont). T. N. Krishnan and Radha Krishnan.
- T.N. Krishnan was an M.I.T. graduate student boarder at 12 Clinton Street; later, after he married Radha and moved to New York, they socialized occasionally with Bertha as well as Charlessie.
- James Reed Lawlor. Friend from high school years (whose family lived in Carlisle). He and she collaborated on the class song for Cambridge High and Latin; and he wrote a love letter to Bertha in August 1940, as both went off to college. After finishing college, James worked in musical theater in Pittsburgh, coming to New York in summers. He later wrote entertaining letters to her during her marriage to George, characterizing himself as the first man who had proposed to her.
- Fritzie Manuel. Friend, living on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston in 1960.
- Rosario Mazzeo. Friend from Bertha's Boston Symphony Orchestra years.
- Denys Peter Myers, Junior (died 2003). Peter Myers was a former neighbor of the Humez family on Clinton Street, who spent much time socializing with the Humez siblings. Later he became an art and architectural historian. His parents, Denys Peter Myers and Ethel Myers, were friends of Charlessie. (The father joined the State Department during World War II and the family moved to Washington.) Several letters from both the parents and the son are included in the collection.
- John Nadean. Had a brief romantic friendship with Bertha in 1962-1963, while he was at Princeton.
- Tom O. New York Press operator; met Bertha while at New York University production department; they had a romantic relationship during the 1960s.
- Frank Peschka and Bill Murdock. New York friends of Bertha and creators of the puppet theater, The Little Players, in their Manhattan townhouse, 1960s. Frequently visited her at Porcupine House; presented her with many witty hand-stitched or watercolor gifts and hangings.
- John Roy. Australian, M.I.T. graduate student and boarder at 12 Clinton St.; later kept in touch with Charlessie intermittently.
- Jennifer Savery. Bertha's close friend in the late 1960 and 1970s; a translator. Correspondence includes her comments on end of Bertha's relationship with Tom O'Brien in 1970. In Bertha's will of 1974, Jennifer is listed as the executrix.
- Arjun Sengupta. Former boarder at 12 Clinton St.; Ph.D. from M.I. T. in 1970.
- Hannah Sherman. Cellist friend and correspondent during the 1950s; playing in Pops concerts on the Esplanade in 1952; living on Beacon St., Boston. In a letter dated May 5, 1952, tells Bertha a story about Arthur Fiedler's comments on women in the orchestra.
- Vikram Singh. Former tenant at 12 Clinton Street in 1960s.
- Loulie Snead. Correspondent of Charlessie from Daytona Beach, Florida.
- Nick Tores. A friend of Bertha's and George's, from the Paris years, also living in New York in the 1950s.
- William Valkenier. Boston Symphony Orchestra horn player, living in Dennisport, Massachusetts. He was friends with Bertha and George in the 1950s. Walter and Fanny Wilson.
- Walter Wilson may have arranged for Bertha and George to buy the property in Becket on George Carter Road in the late 50s. He and his wife Fanny lived in East Chatham, New York, and were friends of Bertha's in the 1960s and 1970s.
Charlessie McKinnon Humez (1886-1972) was the daughter of Charles Edeard McKinnon (1839-1916) and Louisa A. Oram McKinnon (1848-1928). Both parents were immigrants to Cambridge from Nova Scotia.
Charles McKinnon arrived from Canada in 1863, and within a few years had formed a house-building partnership with carpenter Samuel J. Kelley, who may also have come from Nova Scotia. Kelley was living in the McKinnon household in Ward 2 of Cambridge in 1870. In 1873, Charles and Samuel were both living at 15 Putnam Place, while Kelley & McKinnon had an establishment as carpenters and builders at 130 Green Street. By 1876, their residences were separate (Samuel living at 130 ½ Green; Charles at 58 Columbia) and their business address was 7 Western Ave. Together Charles and Samuel built the two almost identical houses at 10 and 12 Clinton Street for their own families in 1881 (Kelley residing next door to the McKinnons for some years). Their business partnership lasted through 1894, at which time each went out on his own--Samuel apparently more successfully than Charles, to judge from the number of construction permits recorded under each man's name in Cambridge city records.
Louisa Oram married Charles McKinnon in 1866 (probably in her family's home town of Yarmouth) and came to Cambridge that same year as an eighteen-year old bride. Even after the McKinnon family had been established in Cambridge, they retained a house acquired around 1856 in Yarmouth, called "Hillcrest." During Charlessie's childhood and married years the women and young children of the family spent school summer vacations at this country house, travelling by the old Blue Nose ferry from Boston to Yarmouth, and joined by the husbands for shorter stays in the summers. As the children became old enough to work, they might forgo all or much of the Nova Scotia vacation to take summer jobs that would help the family with its finances.
Charles and Louisa McKinnon had three daughters, widely spaced in birth dates. The eldest daughter, Nettie Adeline McKinnon (b. 1869; d.1957 or 1958?) was born in Yarmouth, according to grand-daughter Sylvia Gilman--possibly during one of these vacation summers. Nettie married Willbert S. Gilman of Springfield, Vermont, in 1892 and moved with him to Wilton, New Hampshire, where they raised daughters Dorothy and Peggy, and son Will. There are several letters from the Gilman branch of the family in this collection.
The second sister, Bertha Louise McKinnon (1879-1922), married Charles Brunel Parker in 1899, and had only one child, Edward. Bertha Parker and her husband were living in the McKinnon household in 1900, the year their son was born, and they may have continued to live with her parents for several more years. They probably resettled in Hillsdale, New Jersey, a few years before Charlessie went to college-her diaries suggest her admiration of her older brother-in-law, Brunel, who may also have played a role in convincing Charles and Louisa to allow Charlessie to attend college. The Parkers' only child Edward is said to have run away from home at age 13. According to family lore he re-contacted Charlessie, with whom he had an affectionate relationship, many years later, in the later 1940s, after both his parents had died. Bertha McKinnon Parker died in New Jersey at age 43, one year before the birth of her niece and namesake, Bertha Humez.
Charlessie, the third daughter, was born and lived her whole life in the capacious Victorian house built by her father at 12 Clinton Street, Cambridge (near Central Square) in 1881.
Graduating from Cambridge High and Latin in 1904 (her Class Secretary's report for this year is in the collection), Charlessie went on to college at Boston University (enrolling in the fall of 1905, and graduating in 1909). (One of her diaries in this collection suggests that she and her mother travelled to Jacksonville, Florida, in September 1907, apparently enabling Charlessie to spend most of the academic year at Rollins College, a co-educational liberal arts college supported by the Congregational Church, founded in 1885, and located at Winter Park, Florida. The college marketed itself particularly to "youth of the North" who needed a less harsh climate in which to pursue their education. At least one life-long friendship, with Loulie Snead, may have been formed at Rollins College, according to family lore. The winter after Charlessie's graduation, 1909-10, it appears from a diary that she and both parents were in south Florida through April, when they returned by train, stopping off to visit the Parker family in Hillsdale en route.
Charlessie met her future husband, Paul E. Humez, shortly after graduating from college. A keyboard musician of French descent and a graduate of the New England Conservatory, Paul Humez demonstrated pianos for the Mason and Hamlin Piano Company (founded in Boston in 1854). Charlessie was impressed with his playing when she visited the store in which he was working. In one version of the story, the McKinnon family was shopping for a piano; in another, the family already had their piano, but Charlessie, who felt faint on a shopping trip downtown, went into the piano store and asked for a glass of water. Paul Humez later visited the McKinnons in Cambridge with his own father, Ernest Desire Humez, and so the courtship began. After several years of courtship (recorded in Charlessie's diaries for 1911, 1912 and 1914 in this collection) they married, in June 1914.
As the last daughter of aging parents (her father was 73 when she married), Charlessie may well have been expected to take care of Charles and Louisa until their deaths. Certainly Paul and Charlessie established their own household within her parents' household at 12 Clinton Street after their wedding. (And her diaries end shortly afterwards.)
According to the 1920 census, in that year Paul and Charlessie had two sons (Ronald, age 4 and David age 2), and were living with Louisa McKinnon, apparently widowed and then aged 72. By 1928, when Charlessie's own family had expanded to include Eloise and Bertha, Louisa McKinnon had seemingly moved back to Yarmouth. A letter to her from Charlessie dated March 14 of that year expresses thanks for a birthday present for Ronald, and impatience to see her "dear little Mother" again soon. "I am so thankful that you have Maggie and Aunt Nellie [probably Ellen Oram, Louisa's sister] with you. Probably they take as good care of you as I could, but I'd like to be doing it, just the same," Charlessie wrote. [Louisa McKinnon was probably the "Louisa Oram" who is buried in the Oram family plot in Yarmouth.]
Paul Ernest Leopold Humez (1889-1954) was the American-born son of French immigrants to New York State. His mother was Malvina Leopoldine Desguin (1864-1894), the first wife of Paul's father, Ernest Desire Humez (1866-1932). Malvina died in childbirth with her second child, Adele Malvina Humez (b. 1894). Ernest Desire remarried, and the second wife, Ida M. Humez (1876-1946), was the mother of Paul's step-sister Mildred Olive Humez (1899-1985). Sometime after 1900, some of the Humez family had migrated from Cleveland, New York, to Mansfield, Massachusetts, probably to work in the tool-making industry there. Paul and his sisters Mildred Olive Humez (later Buchanan) and Adele Malvina Humez (later Corbett) may have attended school there (both sisters married husbands from Mansfield). According to family lore, Paul decided against going into the family trade of glass-blowing, after serving his apprenticeship. He was able to study music at the New England Conservatory of Music, probably between 1910 and 1914. [His father, Ernest Desire Humez, and step-mother, Ida M. Humez, are both buried in the Humez gravesite in Cleveland, New York.]
Paul became a piano teacher and also served as organist and choir director, first at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, and later at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cambridge. Charlessie, who had been brought up as a Baptist, attended the latter church with the children during her husband's employment. The children, Ronald, David, Eloise and Bertha, all sang in their father's choir at one time or another, and the whole family, including Charlessie, took a great deal of pleasure from music throughout their lives. Charlessie was the only family member who continued to find Christianity meaningful in adulthood, it would seem. Paul Humez retired from St. Paul's Episcopal Church only shortly before his death in October 1954, and both family lore and some of the correspondence in this collection suggest that the Humez family felt he had not been treated well by the church in later years. Charlessie began to attend the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, where she became active with the Women's Guild (documents related to her service from 1956 through 1962 are in the collection.)
Paul's modest income as a professional musician was supplemented by rental income from several multi-family Cambridge properties Charlessie inherited from Charles McKinnon (who had probably retained at least two of the properties he and Samuel Kelley built on Green Street in the 1870s and 1880s). At the time of Bertha's birth in 1923, Paul's occupation was listed as "salesman"-presumably of pianos. During the Depression years, Paul, who was said by Charlessie to be too soft-hearted for the job, often found it difficult to collect the rent payments on these apartments. All four children lived at home while attending college during the Depression and early war years on scholarships. Paul and Charlessie also supplemented their income by taking in student boarders during the war years (including female M.I.T. students). Letters to her son Ronald and daughter-in-law Roberta from 1944 attest to the full house of students during the period.
Paul Humez's death in 1954 at age 65 left Charlessie alone in the rambling 5-bedroom Clinton Street house. All four adult children were married by then, including Bertha, the youngest child, who was living in New York. Charlessie began to take in male graduate student boarders. Ultimately, in the 1960s and 1970s, she came to specialize in Indian engineering students from M.I.T., several of whom stayed for many years and became devoted friends of Charlessie, corresponding with her after they had returned to India and married in several cases. As Charlessie became more fragile with age, and especially in her last two or three years in the Clinton Street house, these student boarders took on more responsibility for looking out after her, including preparing meals and seeing that she got safely up the stairs to bed each evening. (Letters from some of her former student boarders to Charlessie and Bertha are included in the collection: V. Singh, T. K. Krishnan and Radha Krishnan, Ajit Bhattacharyya, and Arjun Sengupta.)
Charlessie and Bertha corresponded with each other on a weekly basis for many years. (Apparently Charlessie put quite a bit of pressure on each of her children to write weekly letters when away from home, not only in young adulthood but even when married and established in separate households. She and her husband both set good examples for writing weekly letters themselves as well.)
In the letters between Charlessie and Bertha, which are at the heart of this collection, we get a rich depiction of the social and familial lives of both women, right up until Charlessie's short hospital convalescence and death in 1972. We also get some more complex perspectives on the relationship between the two of them over forty years when we compare these with the letters each of them sent to other correspondents-to the extent that these have made it into this collection. Differences in their perspectives, in particular on generational questions of sexual morality and divorce, can be seen in some of Bertha's silences in letters to her mother, as well as in what she says overtly. Occasionally, as in a letter to her sister Eloise about the divorce from George Hatvary, Bertha wrote directly about how she had censored expressions of unhappiness in much of her former correspondence with her mother about her marriage. Yet the relationship with Charlessie, with all its familiar mother-daughter tensions at different times, was unquestionably a warm one, as the younger generation who heard Bertha talk about her mother in the 1980s and 1990s can attest.
Paul Ronald Humez (1916-1996) graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in Fine Arts in 1938. He served in the Army from 1941 through 1946, and was trained in Japanese in order to work in the Intelligence service. In 1943, he married Roberta Berry (whom he had met at Miss Katherine Dickson's dancing school in Harvard Square). Ronald went on to take a master's degree in physics and to work as an optical engineer. Ronald and Roberta had three daughters, Martha (nicknamed Mo; born 1945), Ellen (born 1947) and Phyllis (born 1953). A very small number of letters from Ronald to Bertha and his parents (from his military training camp during World War II) are included in this collection. There are also several letters from Roberta (a musician and music teacher, founder of the Boston-area children's choir Youth Pro Musica). Thank-you notes to both Charlessie and Bertha from Mo, Ellen and Phyllis as children are included in the collection, as well as some more mature correspondence from the later 1960s and early 1970s.
David Ernest Humez (1917-1993) had several tries before finally graduating from Harvard in Physics in 1946. He married Elisabeth Gleason (nicknamed Glea), a Radcliffe student who was three years older than Bertha, in 1943. Glea was Bertha's "big sister" at Radcliffe. After marrying David, she wrote many friendly letters to Bertha over the years of her marriage (which ended unhappily in divorce in 1970). During the years David and Glea lived together, first in Arlington and then in Lexington, David worked as an engineer in several companies including Clevite Transitor, Northrup-Nortronics, and Itek Corporation in the 1950s and 1960s. While raising their two sons, Alexander (b. 1945) and Nicholas (b. 1948), in Lexington in the 1950s, Glea also worked as a copy-editor and then as a high-school creative writing teacher (Lexington High). In her letters to Bertha, the problems in the relationship with David are chronicled in the late 1960s, as is their experiment with counseling. Glea spent the summers in a beach-front family cottage near Ellsworth, Maine, where Bertha visited more than once in the 1960s.
David Humez's second marriage, to Alice Davison Humez, another Radcliffe graduate and long-time friend of Glea Humez, began in December 1970. Bertha, despite split loyalties to her brother and his estranged wife, invited Glea for a trip together to London during the week of the wedding. Alice Humez gamely attempted to win a place in the family through cordial letters and exchanges of visits with Charlessie and Bertha.
Eloise Humez Evans (1921-2003) was one of only five women students in her class at M.I.T. during the years she attended (1939-1942). She married an M.I.T. graduate student, Howard Evans (1919-19??), in 1942, and with him established a family in the suburbs of Washington D.C., where she took a job with the Joint Committee for Powder Diffraction, now the International Centre of Diffraction Data. Their daughter Cecily was born in 1947; a son, Dana, was adopted in 1951. In the letters from Eloise to Bertha, the increasing emotional and behavioral problems of Dana are a major theme, as is Eloise's unhappiness in the marriage to Howard, which ultimately ended in divorce in 1966. Eloise did not remarry.
Bertha Malvina Humez Hatvary (born 1923) attended the Longfellow School and then Cambridge High and Latin High School. According to the high school graduation program in this collection, she contributed the class poem and the lyrics to the class song that year. She entered Radcliffe in 1940, majoring in Romance Languages and Literatures. Having spent summers at the family summer house in Nova Scotia when she was younger, she worked as a summer nanny in New Hampshire and Maine following her last year of high school and her first two years of college. She spent the summer of 1943 in the French immersion program at Middlebury College in Vermont. She graduated magna cum laude from Radcliffe in June 1944, and that fall she took a job as a code clerk for the wartime federal government, working in the cryptography service at Arlington Farms, Arlington, Virginia, from November 1944 through the late spring of 1945. Letters home to her parents during these years provide a lively picture of her social life and some of the challenges of her first years of employment.
Returning to Cambridge, she lived at home and worked as secretary to the assistant manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Perry, for the next four years, making several friends among the musicians and other staff who later corresponded with her. She spent the summers of 1946, 1947 and 1948 at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer campus, Tanglewood, in Lenox, Massachusetts. (In the summer of 1948, she helped her brother Ronald and sister-in-law Roberta obtain a summer job as house parents for the student musicians who came to Tanglewood.)
During these immediate postwar years when she continued to live at home with her parents, she also socialized with friends, and saw quite a bit of her married siblings who were still living in Cambridge or nearby and starting families and careers. In her sporadically kept diary for 1946, she uses nicknames for her siblings and their spouses: Ronald and Roberta [couple nickname Robald]; David and Glea (then living on Green Street, in a Humez family rental property) [couple nickname Gleavid]; and Eloise and Howard [couple nickname Eloard].
In December 1949, fulfilling a long-cherished ambition, Bertha traveled alone to Paris, found employment, and went on to spend an exciting year and a half working as a secretary for the United States government's ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration, a branch of the Mutual Security Agency) in Paris. The correspondence with family and friends during the Paris adventure is among the richest and most interesting in this collection.
For example, during her last months before leaving for Paris and her first few months there, she was besieged by letters from Ed C., a young Harvard senior and former G.I. (who later became a journalist). Bertha and this young man had apparently struck up a romance during the early summer of 1949. They wrote nearly daily letters for several months, and his letters to Bertha give an unusually absorbing and entertaining view of the sophisticated attitudes of the day toward marriage, pre-marital sexuality, and a range of other topics. [The letters from Ed C. are closed until her correspondent's death.] He pleaded with her to change her mind and return from Paris to marry him, a step she decided not to take. (The relationship cooled gradually, and the collection includes a cordial letter from him two years later, responding to her announcement of her marriage to George Hatvary.)
Living at first with a French roommate, Claudine Bouche (nickname Clo) Bertha had recurrent stomach problems during her early days in Paris, leading to an unexpected gall bladder surgery in September 1950. When she had recuperated, she found an apartment of her own, in October 1950, and was then able to act the part of charming salon hostess for a center of a group of young men students, many of them Americans in Paris on postwar fellowships. Chronically self-conscious about periods of overweight throughout her life, she had early developed a warm, charming and witty social self that attracted many friends and lovers. The reader of her Paris letters is struck by her intense enjoyment of this circle of admiring and intelligent young men. (Many photos in the collection document the recreational lives of Bertha and these friends.)
During this happy period (1950-1951) she met her future husband, George Egon Hatvary (born 1921), an American born of Hungarian immigrant parents. George and Bertha were already talking about the possibility of marriage by March 1951, when Bertha took a vacation trip by herself to Italy. George, who was in Paris as a graduate student that year, returned to New York in June of 1951, to complete work on his Ph.D. in English literature at New York University--a project that took several years, as he was also supporting himself with part-time teaching work. Bertha remained in Paris that summer and fall, until she was notified that her position at the Economic Cooperation Administration was to be terminated, in November. Rather than seek another position, she returned to the United States on the Ile de France, arriving at the very end of December. Again on the eve of departure she seems to have excited the admiration of another suitor, who wrote a set of amusing letters to her, including a passionate declaration of love, directed to her at her parents' home in Cambridge. She seems to have made up her mind to marry George Hatvary, however, and was not swayed by the other young man's last-minute appeals.
Despite some parental resistance alluded to in the correspondence, Bertha and George married in April 1952 and settled down to what proved to be relatively brief and childless marriage. During their eight years together, George finished his degree, taught courses part-time and as a replacement instructor, and worked on a novel. Bertha briefly considered a career as a teacher of French (enrolling in the School of Education at New York University in 1952), but did not pursue it. She worked for several years as an administrative assistant to New York University's head of public relations, and later (1956-1964) in a job with more responsibility and challenge, as a production editor for New York University Press. Letters to Charlessie and diary entries during the 1950s also show Bertha's efforts at domesticity on a very limited budget (decorating the apartment, entertaining friends, learning to drive with George and purchasing a used car), and provide a record of health problems both George and Bertha experienced. There is an occasional indication of the problems in the marriage itself, such as a diary entry for December 30, 1958: "Pregnant? Horrors. I hope not." And in October 1959, "Terrible blow-up with George."
In September 1960, increasingly unhappy with the relationship with George, Bertha announced in a suddenly frank letter to her parents and siblings that the marriage was ending. As many college-educated women did in this era when relationships were troubled, she sought psychoanalysis, and there are interesting self-analytical comments in some of the letters in this period. In a letter to her sister Eloise, Bertha commented on how much she was learning about problems related to her womanhood through her sessions with the analyst. Yet George's announcement of his intent to remarry, in 1961, was recorded with pain in Bertha's diary.
When they split up, the Hatvarys agreed that George would keep the Barrow Street apartment in Greenwich Village, while Bertha would keep the modest farmhouse they had just begun to purchase in Becket, Massachusetts, as a weekend country retreat. (George Hatvary later went on to a career as an academic and novelist, and remarried.)
Bertha moved into a new apartment on East Fourteenth Street, and continued to support herself with a variety of jobs. By May 1962 she had found the three-room rent-controlled apartment in the heart of the West Village near New York University, on West Fourth Street, in which she was to live for the next forty years. There she made many new close friends and began to enjoy a vibrant social life that included co-workers in publishing and several gay men who worked in arts-related fields. (Frank Peschka and Bill Murdock, creators of the witty puppet theater for adults called The Little Players, were among her closest friends in the 1970s, frequently visiting her at Porcupine House and presenting her with gifts of needlepoint and drawings).
She spent four years (1964-1968) as a publicity and news writer for New York University's News Bureau, going on to work primarily as a freelance editor and writer after 1968, including a stint as a speech writer and editor for the New York City Housing and Development Administration (1970-1973), another as an advertising copywriter. The letters to Charlessie contain periodic news about her challenges at work, offers of new positions, and the praise she often received from managers and supervisors for her unusual writing skills.
As part of the separation from George, Bertha had become the sole owner of Porcupine House (her country home located in Becket, Massachusetts, in the Berkshires-the once tumble-down farm house purchased near the end of her marriage in 1959-60), and she spent every possible weekend there. This retreat from the city evidently reminded her of summers spent in Nova Scotia as a child, at the family home called Hillcrest (sold in 1956, after "100 years of family life"). At Porcupine House Bertha enjoyed both solitude in which to work as a free-lance writer and entertaining her large community of friends, as well as family members (including nieces and nephews and their friends). She had a large screened deck built on the back of the small farmhouse, for country dances, and she lived in cheerful harmony with the porcupines in the apple trees, the garter snakes in the woodpile, and the visiting bats.
As an urbane divorced working woman, living on her own in Greenwich Village and in her summer home, Bertha had several short-term lovers over the years, and one longer-term partner, but she never seems to have considered remarrying. (In later years, she was less inclined to blame the failure of her marriage on herself than she had been immediately after it ended.) She patiently provided emotional support for her sister, Eloise, and her sister-in-law, Glea, during the break-up of their marriages in the 1970s. Nephews and nieces very much enjoyed their adolescent adventures visiting the sophisticated Aunt Bertha in New York during the 1950s and early 1960s, and she was able to form close and lasting relationships with many of the next generation in her family.
Though her life seemed very glamorous to the younger generation, her letters to her mother in the 1960s and early 1970s clearly attest to the chronic financial difficulties she experienced when supporting herself entirely on her own wages. Frequently she had to borrow small amounts of money from her mother, to be paid back in dribs and drabs as she was able to afford it. (Charlessie kept an account of the money loaned to her various adult children over the years, along with loan repayments.)
After Charlessie's death on April 8, 1972, the letters in this collection from Bertha come to an end; and there are only a few letters beyond 1972 from her other correspondents. (This should not be taken as an indication that she stopped writing and receiving letters-many of the later letters were simply not saved.) In the later 1970s, Bertha's diary became less personal, and evolved into an appointment book; and the diaries in this collection end in 1981.
In her later years, Bertha's cherished hobby of English country dancing led her to become involved in volunteer teaching. After a stint on the Board of Directors of the Country Dance and Song Society, she took a paid position as the national director of the Country Dance and Song Society (1979-1981). She reluctantly resigned from her position as a teacher of English country dance only when her memory problems began to become apparent (in 1997). Bowing to the repeated urgings of younger family members concerned about her safety, Bertha graciously agreed to give up driving (and sell her beloved Porcupine House) in 2000. (A brief notebook from 1999-2000 documents poignantly her gallant struggle to keep herself organized during this period.)
With some assistance from family members and from a home-health program offered by the City of New York, Bertha was able to stay in her beloved West Fourth Street apartment in New York even as her Alzheimer's disease progressed over the next few years, until an emergency hospitalization in 2005 made it clear that she could no longer return to her home. At that point she relocated to a nursing home facility in West Newton. Hatvary died in October 2013.
Charlessie McKinnon Humez and Bertha Humez Hatvary were both strong-willed vibrant women with sharp intellects, a love of language and music, highly cultivated conversational skills (both in person and in writing), and loving networks of family and friends. Their younger family members are proud and happy that the Schlesinger Library is able to preserve their papers for others to study and enjoy.
- 1839Birth of Charles E. McKinnon, Nova Scotia.
- 1848Birth of Louisa A. Oram, Nova Scotia.
- 1863Charles McKinnon immigrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- 1866Marriage of Charles and Louisa McKinnon.
- 1866Birth of Ernest Desire Humez.
- 1869Birth of Nettie Adeline McKinnon.
- 1877Birth of Ida M. Humez.
- 1879Birth of Bertha Louise McKinnon.
- 1881House at 12 Clinton St. built by Charles McKinnon.
- 1886Birth of Charlessie Ethaline McKinnon.
- 1889 Birth of Paul Ernest Humez.
- 1904Charlessie's graduation from Cambridge High and Latin.
- 1909Charlessie's graduation from Boston University.
- 1910Charlessie meets Paul Ernest Humez in piano shop.
- 1914Marriage of Paul Ernest Humez and Charlessie McKinnon Humez .
- 1916Birth of Paul Ronald Humez.
- 1917Birth of David Ernest Humez.
- 1921Birth of Eloise Evans Humez.
- 1923Birth of Bertha Malvina Humez.
- 1938Ronald Humez's graduation from Harvard.
- 1940Bertha Humez's graduation from Cambridge High and Latin.
- 1940 Summer.Bertha Humez works as nanny, Manomet, Massachusetts.
- 1941Army service of Ronald Humez begins.
- 1941Bertha Humez works as nanny, Cranberry Island, Maine.
- 1942Eloise Humez's graduation from M.I.T.
- 1942Eloise Humez's marriage to Howard Evans.
- 1942 Summer.Bertha Humez works as nanny, Sunapee, New Hampshire.
- 1943Marriage of Ronald and Roberta Berry Humez.
- 1943Marriage of David and Elisabeth Gleason Humez.
- 1943 Summer.Bertha Humez at Middlebury College French Immersion program.
- 1944 Bertha Humez's graduation from Radcliffe College.
- 1944 November.Bertha Humez employed as code clerk in Arlington Farms, Virginia.
- 1945Bertha back to Cambridge to take secretarial course; work at Boston Symphony Orchestra begins.
- 1945Birth of Paul Alexander Humez; birth of Martha Humez.
- 1946Bertha spends summer at Boston Symphony's summer campus, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts.
- 1946David Humez graduates from Harvard.
- 1947Birth of Ellen Humez; birth of Cecily Evans.
- 1947Bertha spends summer at Tanglewood; Ronald and Roberta Humez have summer job as house parents to Tanglewood students.
- 1948Birth of Nicholas Humez.
- 1948Bertha spends summer at Tanglewood.
- 1949Bertha ends her Boston Symphony Orchestra job and leaves for Paris in November.
- 1950Bertha works for Economic Cooperation Administration in Paris.
- 1950 September.Bertha has gall bladder surgery. October, Bertha moves into her own apartment.
- 1951. June.George Hatvary returns to New York. December: Bertha returns to United States via Ile de France.
- 1951Dana Evans adopted.
- 1952 April.Bertha and George Hatvary marry in New York. Bertha begins work for Chancellor of New York University.
- 1953Birth of Phyllis Humez.
- 1954Death of Paul Ernest Humez, shortly after retirement.
- 1956Bertha begins work as production editor for New York University Press.
- 1959-60.Bertha and George Hatvary shop for a country place; locate Porcupine House, in Becket, Masschusetts (near Tanglewood).
- 1960 September.Bertha writes to family about impending dissolution of marriage to George. Moves to East Fourteenth Street.
- 1962 Bertha moves to West Fourth Street apartment, where she stays for forty years.
- 1960sCharlessie's boarders include a series of Indian graduate students at M.I.T.
- 1964Bertha starts to work as publicity and news writer for New York University's News Bureau.
- 1966Divorce of Eloise and Howard Evans.
- 1968Bertha begins freelance editing and writing career.
- 1970Divorce of David and Glea Humez; David Humez remarries, to Alice Davison. Bertha and Glea take a trip to London during the wedding week (December 1970).
- 1970sBertha socializes frequently with Frank Peschka and Bill Murdock of the Little Players, entertains family and friends at Porcupine House in the summers.
- 1972Death of Charlessie Humez in April, after brief hospitalization.
- 1979Bertha becomes national director of Country Dance and Song Society.
- 1997Bertha resigns as country dance teacher, as her memory begins to fail.
- 2000Sale of Porcupine House.
- 2005Bertha relocates to West Newton nursing home facility.
- 2013Death of Bertha in October.
- Birth of Charles E. McKinnon, Nova Scotia.
- Birth of Louisa A. Oram, Nova Scotia.
- Charles McKinnon immigrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Marriage of Charles and Louisa McKinnon.
- Birth of Ernest Desire Humez.
- Birth of Nettie Adeline McKinnon.
- Birth of Ida M. Humez.
- Birth of Bertha Louise McKinnon.
- House at 12 Clinton St. built by Charles McKinnon.
- Birth of Charlessie Ethaline McKinnon.
- Birth of Paul Ernest Humez.
- Charlessie's graduation from Cambridge High and Latin.
- Charlessie's graduation from Boston University.
- Charlessie meets Paul Ernest Humez in piano shop.
- Marriage of Paul Ernest Humez and Charlessie McKinnon Humez .
- Birth of Paul Ronald Humez.
- Birth of David Ernest Humez.
- Birth of Eloise Evans Humez.
- Birth of Bertha Malvina Humez.
- Ronald Humez's graduation from Harvard.
- Bertha Humez's graduation from Cambridge High and Latin.
- 1940 Summer.
- Bertha Humez works as nanny, Manomet, Massachusetts.
- Army service of Ronald Humez begins.
- Bertha Humez works as nanny, Cranberry Island, Maine.
- Eloise Humez's graduation from M.I.T.
- Eloise Humez's marriage to Howard Evans.
- 1942 Summer.
- Bertha Humez works as nanny, Sunapee, New Hampshire.
- Marriage of Ronald and Roberta Berry Humez.
- Marriage of David and Elisabeth Gleason Humez.
- 1943 Summer.
- Bertha Humez at Middlebury College French Immersion program.
- Bertha Humez's graduation from Radcliffe College.
- 1944 November.
- Bertha Humez employed as code clerk in Arlington Farms, Virginia.
- Bertha back to Cambridge to take secretarial course; work at Boston Symphony Orchestra begins.
- Birth of Paul Alexander Humez; birth of Martha Humez.
- Bertha spends summer at Boston Symphony's summer campus, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts.
- David Humez graduates from Harvard.
- Birth of Ellen Humez; birth of Cecily Evans.
- Bertha spends summer at Tanglewood; Ronald and Roberta Humez have summer job as house parents to Tanglewood students.
- Birth of Nicholas Humez.
- Bertha spends summer at Tanglewood.
- Bertha ends her Boston Symphony Orchestra job and leaves for Paris in November.
- Bertha works for Economic Cooperation Administration in Paris.
- 1950 September.
- Bertha has gall bladder surgery. October, Bertha moves into her own apartment.
- 1951. June.
- George Hatvary returns to New York. December: Bertha returns to United States via Ile de France.
- Dana Evans adopted.
- 1952 April.
- Bertha and George Hatvary marry in New York. Bertha begins work for Chancellor of New York University.
- Birth of Phyllis Humez.
- Death of Paul Ernest Humez, shortly after retirement.
- Bertha begins work as production editor for New York University Press.
- Bertha and George Hatvary shop for a country place; locate Porcupine House, in Becket, Masschusetts (near Tanglewood).
- 1960 September.
- Bertha writes to family about impending dissolution of marriage to George. Moves to East Fourteenth Street.
- Bertha moves to West Fourth Street apartment, where she stays for forty years.
- Charlessie's boarders include a series of Indian graduate students at M.I.T.
- Bertha starts to work as publicity and news writer for New York University's News Bureau.
- Divorce of Eloise and Howard Evans.
- Bertha begins freelance editing and writing career.
- Divorce of David and Glea Humez; David Humez remarries, to Alice Davison. Bertha and Glea take a trip to London during the wedding week (December 1970).
- Bertha socializes frequently with Frank Peschka and Bill Murdock of the Little Players, entertains family and friends at Porcupine House in the summers.
- Death of Charlessie Humez in April, after brief hospitalization.
- Bertha becomes national director of Country Dance and Song Society.
- Bertha resigns as country dance teacher, as her memory begins to fail.
- Sale of Porcupine House.
- Bertha relocates to West Newton nursing home facility.
- Death of Bertha in October.
The collection is arranged in three series:
- Series I. Charlessie McKinnon Humez, 1892, 1938-1972 (#1.1-2.30)
- Series II. Bertha Humez Hatvary, 1940-2000 (#3.1-7.11)
- Series III. Title, Photographs, 1899-ca.1995 (#PD.1-PD.4)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession number: 2008-M174
The papers of Bertha Humez Hatvary were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alexander Humez and Jean M. Humez (Hatvary's nephew and niece-by-marriage), in October 2008.
Processed: July 2009
By: Jean M. Humez
- Hatvary, Bertha Humez, 1923-2013. Papers of Bertha Humez Hatvary, 1892-2000: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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