“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, May 17, 1921, Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 Seventh Avenue, New York City, New York

This all started back in February.

Ruth Hale, 34, journalist and theatrical agent, received her passport in the mail from the U. S. State Department. It was made out to “Mrs. Broun.”

Ruth Hale

Well, the only “Mrs. Broun” in her Upper West Side house is the cat. So she refused to accept it.

Four years ago, when she agreed to marry fellow journalist and sportswriter Heywood Broun, 32, they agreed she would keep her surname. Which hasn’t been easy. She fights with authorities every time she has to sign anything.

One of her friends, New York Times reporter Jane Grant, 28, is waging the same battle, with some support from her husband, magazine editor Harold Ross, also 28.

Jane Grant

The four of them lunch regularly in midtown at the Algonquin Hotel, with other writers and critics from the city’s major newspapers. And they are often part of late night poker games at Ross and Grant’s apartment. Which Ross expects Grant to clean up after.

At least Hale, who insists on living on a separate floor from Broun in their house, had him agree to split the child care raising their son, Heywood Hale, 3.

The talk at lunch always turns to Hale and Grant complaining about the injustice of being expected to give up their surnames. A few weeks ago, Ross was sick of listening to them and said,

Why don’t you just go hire a hall?”

So here they are at the Hotel Pennsylvania for the founding meeting of the Lucy Stone League.

Ad for the Hotel Pennsylvania

They have managed to cajole some of their other lunch buddies to join, including FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 39, the top columnist in Manhattan; Neysa McMein, 33, an illustrator whose apartment has become a favorite haunt for the group; and Beatrice Kaufman, 26, publicist and wife of the playwright George S Kaufman, 31.

Broun joins; Ross doesn’t. And one of their woman friends from the Algonquin gang says no also:  Dorothy Rothschild Parker, 27, tells them,

I married to change my name.”

The Lucy Stone League honors the 19th century suffragist who was the first American woman to use her birth name even after she married. Guess she never needed a passport.

With this group of writers and PR women involved, the League won’t have trouble getting the word out. However, the Times reporter is referring to them as “The Maiden Namers.”

Just nine months ago American women finally secured, through the 19th Amendment, the right to vote in all elections. Among the rights the League’s founders—Hale as President, Grant as Secretary-Treasurer—feel they will have to fight for include opening a bank account, holding a copyright, registering at a hotel, and signing up for a store account, an insurance policy, or a library card.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

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