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Anita McCormick Blaine

Anita McCormick Blaine was an American philanthropist who was fascinated with, and a great supporter of innovative teaching methods and educational reform. She was an enthusiastic supporter of leftist politicians, such as the unsuccessful Progressive Party ticket of Henry A. Wallace and Senator Glen H. Taylor in the 1948 Presidential election. Attaining a lasting world peace and developing some sort of world government remained another of her great passions.

Anita was the daughter of Cyrus Hall McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical reaper. His farm innovations helped revolutionize farming around the world and made the McCormick family a fortune. She was a major stockholder of their farm implement company, which later became International Harvester.

Anita McCormick Blaine
Anita McCormick Blaine
Biographical fast facts

Full, original or maiden name at birth: Anita Eugenie McCormick

Date and place of birth: July 4, 1866, Manchester, Vermont, U.S.A.

Date and place of death: February 12, 1954, at 101 East Erie Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Spouse: Emmons Blaine (m. September 26, 1889 - June 18, 1892) (his death)
Wedding took place at 12 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church in Richfield Springs, New York, with Dr. Herrick Johnson officiating.

Son: Emmons Blaine, Jr. (b. August 30, 1890 - d. October 9, 1918, at 4 a.m., Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, of influenza/pneumonia)

Brothers: Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr. (1859-1936)
Robert Fowler McCormick (b. 1863 - d. January 6, 1865, of scarlet fever)
Harold Fowler McCormick (1872-1941)
Stanley Robert McCormick (1874-1947)

Sisters: Mary Virginia McCormick (known as Virginia McCormick) (1861-1941)
Alice McCormick (1870-1871)

Father: Cyrus Hall McCormick (b. 1809, Walnut Grove (their family farm), Rockbridge County, Virginia - d. May 13, 1884, at 7:10 a.m., at 675 Rush St., Chicago, Illinois)
Mother: "Nettie" McCormick (b. Nancy Maria Fowler, February 8, 1835, Brownsville, New York - d. July 5, 1923)

Error corrections or clarifications

A great deal of erroneous biographical data exists on Anita McCormick Blaine and her husband, Emmons Blaine.

A couple of sources mistakenly spell her name "Anita Eugenie McCormick Blame," while others misspell her maiden name "McCormack."

Some sources misspell her son's name "Emmous Baline."

A couple of sources incorrectly claim that Anita was the mother of Harold Fowler McCormick (her brother).

Another source incorrectly reports her husband "died less than a month after being married." (They were actually married September 26, 1889, and Emmons died June 18, 1892.)

Some sources erroneously report Emmons Blaine died in "1895," others say "1896," still others claim he passed in "1893." As previously stated, he died June 18, 1892. His obit appeared the next day in the June 19th, 1892 edition of most major U.S. newspapers.

A few sources mistakenly report Nettie McCormick gave birth to five kids. As noted above, she had seven children, though two did not survive infancy.

Biography - Hobbies/sidelines - Residences of Anita McCormick Blaine

July 4th, 1866, Anita Eugenie McCormick was born in Manchester, Vermont, to Cyrus Hall McCormick and Nettie Fowler McCormick. Her father was the inventor of the mechanical reaper, which revolutionized the harvesting of crops and helped modernize farming.

Anita had a comfortable upbringing with plenty of opportunities for world travel and cultural events. The affluent family suffered a setback in 1871, when their company, McCormick Reaping Machine Works, burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire. Her father reported losses of over $1,500,000, but did rebuild.

In 1883, she received her first marriage proposal. Her reply: "In returning your letter to you, I can but express my amazement that you should have so written to me . . . I consider it wholly inexcusable that you should have made such an advance to me. Permit me to say that your pardon can only be granted on the ground that I shall never again be interrupted by any repetition of any such sentiment on your part toward me." It was not the last marriage proposal she would receive, nor the last she would decline.

In the mid-1880s, a friendship developed between Anita McCormick and Emmons Blaine, a railroad administrator ten years her senior.

While vacationing at their rural retreat near Iron River, Wisconsin, in 1888, she survived a deep wound to the neck after her brother Harold lost control of his axe while chopping firewood. Later that year, Anita helped found and was elected treasurer of the Friday Club. Whereas the Fortnightly Club was for Chicago's grande dames, the Friday Club was a new women's club focused on the literary and artistic improvement of the city's younger women.

At 12 p.m., September 26th, 1889, she married Emmons Blaine, at the Presbyterian Church in Richfield Springs, New York. Their reception was held at the Clayton Lodge, followed by a honeymoon at the Blaine family cottage in Bar Harbor, Maine. In November, Emmons received a promotion, necessitating a move to Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1890, Emmons resigned from the West Virginia Central Railroad to become assistant general manager of the Baltimore and Ohio Line. It was an opportunity not only for advancement, but to relocate to Chicago, where Anita was raised.

August 30th, 1890, she gave birth to a son, Emmons Blaine, Jr. Less than two years later, her husband began suffering from an intestinal ailment. Later diagnosed as colic, he dies of "ptomaine intoxication with uremia as a fatal complication" on June 18th, 1892, in Chicago, Illinois. His death leaves Anita McCormick Blaine a widow at twenty-six. The loss is devastating for the young mother. Her weekends are spent grieving at an old country house in Elmhurst, west of Chicago, with summers spent in Bar Harbor, Maine, or her retreat in the Adirondacks.

As economic conditions worsened throughout 1893, workers were increasingly thrown out of work and their homes. Mrs. Blaine had always been quick to aid those in financial distress, but the economic troubles she saw around her, proved the perfect opportunity to expand her philanthropy. The working-class children at Hammond School in Chicago had little to look forward to that dreary holiday season, until Anita opened her pocketbook and bankrolled a huge Christmas celebration for the students. In addition to a grand party, she provided candy and gifts for the kids and sacks of groceries brimming with holiday meal provisions for needy neighborhood families. The outpouring of genuine appreciation she received from the recipients of her generosity brought tears to her eyes and provided renewed focus for the still-grieving widow. Her life of philanthropy was thus set in motion.

After Colonel Francis Wayland Parker piqued her interest in innovative teaching methods, she donated the funds in 1899 to establish the Chicago Institute, Academic and Pedagogic. Educational innovator, Col. Francis W. Parker, described the progressive school as "a great experiment in education . . . to prove that boys and girls could learn in school without force." The school later became part of the University of Chicago and was known as the University of Chicago School of Education. John Dewey took over as its head for a brief time following Col. Parker's death.

Two years later, her generous support allowed the progressive Francis W. Parker School to open in Chicago. Anita's own son attended and later graduated from the experimental school.

In 1905, she was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education. Anita relished the opportunity to promote improvements to education in area schools. The following year, she began hearing troubling reports about unruly children at the progressive school she helped found. Anita decided to take greater responsibility for the school by stepping in as assistant principal at the Francis W. Parker School. She discovered that in their zeal to adopt innovative teaching methods and shun "the old ways" they'd failed to provide needed structure the pupils required and promptly launched a search for a new leader to head the school.

As a result of all the political gamesmanship and backstabbing she experienced while serving on the Board of Education, she was relieved when her term expired in June 1908.

In 1917, her son, Emmons Blaine, Jr. married Eleanor Gooding. Eleanor was welcomed into the family, and Anita in particular, was thrilled that she finally had "a daughter." The following year, celebration over the announcement that the newlyweds would soon be parents was quickly blunted by news of Emmons' illness. At 4 a.m. on October 9th, 1918, "Em" Blaine died of influenza. Anita took his pregnant wife back to Chicago, where she prematurely gave birth to twins. The baby boy was stillborn, but the girl -- while small at four pounds -- was strong.

By 1921, family and friends had become increasingly concerned when she reported hearing "voices" that were instructing her do to certain things. (Her interest in spiritualism, meditation, and psychic phenomena had intensified following the death of her son.) Though her "voices" and mandatory meditation before making most decisions certainly raised eyebrows, most considered them nothing more than the eccentricities of a rich philanthropist.

Her commitment to fostering a lasting world peace was demonstrated when she provided the funds necessary to establish the World Citizens Association. It was an attempt to found an American division of the World Foundation, which was one of many groups working to find the key to world peace.

In the aftermath of World War II, she offered increasing support to liberal politicians, such as the 1948 Progressive Party ticket of Henry A. Wallace and Senator Glen H. Taylor. Mrs. Blaine gave substantial funds to the campaign that garnered considerable attention, but few votes in the 1948 Presidential election.

In 1948, she pledged $1,000,000 to establish a World Constituent Assembly to forge a World Constitution. The organization, which was known as the Foundation for World Government, quickly burned through her donated funds, doing little to advance the cause of world peace and achieving few, if any of its lofty goals.

Her enthusiasm for journalism is renewed in 1949, when a struggling liberal newspaper, the Weekly National Guardian, reported that it was on the verge of bankruptcy. She lends $200,000 to the paper to ensure its survival. This sparked her interest in launching a liberal daily newspaper in New York City. She furnished $300,000 to establish the leftist Daily Compass. The venture lost money at a phenomenal rate and ceased publication within a few short years.

Anita McCormick Blaine continued her passionate support of educational reform, leftist politicians, and world peace, until her declining health forced her onto the sidelines. A hospital stay in 1949, for an intestinal operation, marked her final foray from her Chicago home at 101 E. Erie Street. Her mental acuity faded, she lost the power of coherent speech and failed to recognize family members and longtime servants. February 12th, 1954, she died at her home.

Organizations she championed and/or supported financially:
Augusta, Maine public library ($10,000 in 1893)
Presbyterian Church of Richfield Springs, N.Y. (a magnificent pipe organ presented in 1896)
University of Chicago
Francis W. Parker School, Chicago, IL. (over $3,000,000 given over the course of her life)
The Audubon Society
North Shore Country Day School, Winnetka, Illinois
United Charities of Chicago
Henry Baird Favill Laboratory at St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, IL. ($68,000)
League to Enforce Peace ($5,000 in 1919)
League of Nations Non-Partisan Association
Illinois Committee for International Cooperation (in excess of $100,000 over the years)
World Citizens Association ($170,000 over the years)
Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
World War II Chinese war orphans ($100,000)
American Veterans Committee ($50,000)
Progressive Citizens of America
National Citizens Political Action Committee (NCPAC)
Wallace for President Committee
Progressive Party (over $750,000)
Foundation for World Government ($1,000,000)

NOTE: She gave away more than $10,000,000 in her lifetime, and at her death, endowed the New World Foundation to distribute her estate valued at over $20,000,000. In addition to her considerable donations to educational institutions and charities, she often gave to individuals in need, without being asked. She'd provide housing and cash for orphans, food for the poor, funds for families who'd lost their breadwinner in mining disasters, and provided gifts for American troops. Most of her donations were given without fanfare or publicity, with many presented anonymously.

She enjoyed fencing, tennis, was a pianist, loved to waltz and doted on her granddaughter, Nancy Blaine.

Residences of Anita McCormick:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Anita owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that she called them home at one point or another in her life.

40 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Caroline Court Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Sheldon and Fulton Streets, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
675 Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
The Raymond, Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
101 East Erie St., Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.


The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile:
A Timeless Affair: The Life of Anita McCormick Blaine, by Gilbert A. Harrison (1979)
Cyrus Hall McCormick: His Life and Work, by Herbert N. Casson (1909)
Cyrus McCormick and the Mechanical Reaper, by Lisa J. Aldrich (2002)

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