Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rose Mary Thornally (1887 – 1977) My Grandaunt on my Mother’s Side

Rose Mary was the youngest child of William and Mary Thornally. She was born May 20, 1877. Rose had four older brothers – Will, Harry, John and Sam and an older sister Charlotte. Charlotte died in 1899 when Rose was eleven. Rose appeared on the 1900 census with her family – she was 13 and was listed as Rosie. At that time the family was living at 288 Bray Avenue, Fruitvale Precinct in the Brooklyn Township. This was before Brooklyn was annexed into the City of Oakland.

The 1906 Oakland City Directory listed Rose and showed her occupation as a stenographer. She was 19 years old and already working outside the home – this would have been unusual at that time. But Rose grew up in a family of boys who were all working tradesmen. She must have been an independent woman herself. She continued to work as a stenographer for many years. The 1910 census tells us that Rose was working for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Six years later, payroll records for the NorthwesternPacific Railroad Company tell us that she was earning $70 a week working in the general freight and passenger office.  By December of 1917 her salary had risen to $80 per week. Northwestern Pacific was a railroad company that serviced northern California. In 1916 in ran from Sonoma to Somoa - a small town north of Arcata. 
Northwestern Pacific train at the Santa Rosa Station

In 1910, Rose was still living with her family at 1707 Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland.  Thomas Brothers Block books for 1914 and 1917 show Rose Thornally as owning a lot within the Thornally Tract, next door to her brother Harry. I don't know if she simply owned the lot or actually lived there. After that she spent much of her adult life living in San Francisco. In 1919, she was living in a rooming house run by Ethel F Jackson. That was at 1040 Bush Street. The 1920 census listed 102 other women including Rose living at the same address. By 1926, Rose had moved again but was still in San Francisco and living at 2230 Pacific Avenue. When the 1930 census was taken Rose was living at 634 Powell also in San Francisco.
This house occupies the lot at 1650 35th Avenue that Rose
 owned. It was part of the Thornally Tract.

When Rose was in her 20s her name appeared in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Call newspaper’s Society columns when she attended engagement parties and weddings of her personal friends Gertrude Frost, Maude Kuester, and Ellen Desmond Valentine.

At some point between 1930 and 1935 Rose started working for her cousins the Ogilvie Sisters and moved to New York City. Rose’s mother Mary McGowan had a sister Catherine who had immigrated to the United States shortly before Mary. Catherine married John Ogilvie and they had seven daughters and one son. All of the sisters – Elizabeth, Anne, Mary Gladys, Jessica, Clara, Mable, and Georgiana as well as their brother William were actively involved in founding and running a very successful cosmetics business. The company was based in New York City and Paris, France. Ogilvie products still exist in 2016 – a hair conditioner for straightening hair. One can purchase an Ogilvie conditioning treatment from Amazon for $10.99. The Ogilvie sisters also developed, produced and sold hair coloring products, shampoos and home permanents. In the 1920s, they had patents for dry and oily hair tonics, a tonic for whitening gray hair, a freckle lotion, blackhead lotion, wave lotion, scalp pomade and Henna shampoo powder.
An Ogilvie sisters ad found on Google

According to the book “War Paint – Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden” in the early years the Ogilvie sisters rented salon space from Elizabeth Arden but after having a disagreement with Miss Arden they left. Later the Ogilvie Sisters “were the first importers of European pharmacist Eugene Schueller’s innovative hair dye called L’Oreal Compound Henna.” In War Paint the author refers to the Ogilvie Sisters as “an enterprising group of young women … two were skilled hairdressers already making a name for themselves in New York”. 
Castile soap - an Ogilvie sisters product

 According to “Becoming American in Paris: Transatlantic Politics & Culture Between the World Wars” by Brooke L. Blower published in 2011 there was a tremendous increase in the number of American’s traveling to France between World War I and World War II. Before WWI only 15,000 Americans travelled to France. By 1919 that number had grown to 30,000, 100,000 in 1921 and 400,000 in 1925. This no doubt was a key reason why the Ogilvie sisters established a branch of their enterprise in the Paris office of the Equitable Trust Company located at 23 Rue de la Paix on the inner Right Bank. In 1924 the Ogilvie Sisters authored a 24-page book titled “Beautiful Hair by Common Sense Methods” published by Vreeland Press, New York.
This book, published in 2011, mentions
the Ogilvie Sisters

 My second cousin Sue Tucker wrote about our grandaunt in an email, “When I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the late 60's I used to visit Aunt Rose in New York City. She was living at AllertonHouse on 57th and Lexington, a hotel for business and professional women.  Rose provided clerical and other administrative services to her cousins.”
The Allerton House where Rose lived
in the 1960s.

In 1937, Rose accompanied Gladys Ogilvie on a trip to Europe. They travelled on the Queen Mary to Southampton, England on May 10th and returned to New York on June 23rd.  On another trip they sailed on a ship called Paris from Le Havre, France to New York. The ships passenger list noted that when they returned to New York they would be staying at 399 Park Avenue, which is very close to where Rose and her cousins were living at that time. 
A menu from the Queen Mary provided by
Ann Brurud, Rose's neice

In 1935, Rose was living with her cousins in an apartment building at 375 Park Avenue. They were at the same location when the 1940 census was taken. Rose listed her profession as the accountant for the Ogilvie Beauty Salon. Her cousin Anne was the company manager, Mabel the assistant manager, Jessica was the executive for merchandising, Clara was the executive of manufacturing, and Gladys was an instructor. The household included two servants Mary Puzzeller and Eana Helbig. In 1935 it is hard to imagine a more glamorous or exciting place to be working. Even today women executives are comparatively rare. Though Ann’s husband John was identified as the general manager these women each held positions of power and authority. They were running a multi-national corporation. It is no wonder that my mother spoke of Rose with a sense of awe.

Dining on the Queen Mary. Rose in the middle, Gladys
Ogilvie left and Marion Forcada, a friend of Rose's, right, 1937
Like many other American businesses The Ogilvie Sisters Company went through a number of mergers and acquisitions. In 1956 the business was acquired by Lehn & Fink Products Corporation, which was purchased by Sterling Drug, Inc. in 1966, and Eastman Kodak in 1988. That version of the company was renamed L&F Products in 1990. In 1994 L&F was acquired by Reckitt & Colman Ltd. which was purchased by Playtex in 1998, and in 1999 Playtex merged with Reckitt Benckiser.
Sue Tucker found this fabulous photo of the Ogilivie sisters

Anne Ogilvie died June 27, 1942. She was buried in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in New York.  Sometime after that Rose married Anne’s widowed husband John `Jack’ Curry. That was probably in the mid to late 1940s. So far, I have not been able to find a marriage record that would provide the exact date and place where Rose and Jack were married. Rose would have been in her mid to late 50s when she married for the first time. Were she and Jack secretly in love since the 30s or was this a marriage of convenience?  I suspect the latter, but we may never know for sure. 
Rose during a family visit
 Social security records tell us that Rose retired in 1956 when she was 68 – so she worked professionally a long time – nearly 50 years.  
Rose visiting with her niece Dee
Thornally Martin 

I remember visiting Rose with my mother Lottie in the mid-1970s, when Rose was living in a retirement home in Berkeley called Grandma’s. In 2016 the building is named the Rose Garden Inn and is located at 2740 Telegraph. I don’t really have any personal recollections of Rose but I do recall that my mother held Rose in high regard. Mom considered Rose to be – as Mom would say, “A classy lady”. 
Rose was living here on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley
 in the 1970s shortly before she died.

She died a few years later on Christmas day in 1977 – 22 years after her only living sibling John had died. Rose is buried along with her brothers and other Thornally family members in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Her father, mother and sister Charlotte are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in East Oakland. 

This is the book written
by the Ogilvie Sisters

Rose's headstone in Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery

1 comment:

  1. Chris, I really enjoyed this piece about Aunt Rose. The "unknown" woman at the table on the Queen Mary is Marion Forcada. She and Rose had worked together at the phone company in San Francisco when they were young. In 1945 (I think) my mother accompanied Marion to visit Rose in New York. I have a photo of the three together. When Rose would write to Marion she and Annie Solari, her sister, would forward the letters to my mom. Those notes were usually signed "Rosina". Marion died May 12, 1963. From her trip to Europe Marion gave me a beautiful coin purse and evening bag. She said the only thing that disappointed her on the trip was that the Danube was not blue.
    Your cousin,