Week 8 of #AnniesDiary100 – Utica & New York #OnThisDay March 1924

100 years ago on 21 March 1924, a great sendoff in New York thanked Annie Hughes Griffiths and the ‘Welsh Peace Tour’ delegation for their efforts in bringing Wales’ Peace Petition to the women of America – and wished them well on their voyage home. How did they spend their last week in the United States?

Our last post from Annie’s Diary recorded their transcontinental railroad adventure returning from the West Coast of California, back towards the East Coast – a journey of several days, with an insight into 1920s sightseeing as they visited en route the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Chicago and Niagara Falls on the US / Canada border. This was the only part of their 2 month long US ‘peace tour’, where Annie and her travelling companion Gladys had given themselves a little respite from the endless talks, meetings and press interviews around the Women’s Peace Petition and just enjoyed ‘being tourists’. But they promptly made up for that in a flurry of engagements over the final week of the tour, returning to New York City via Utica in upstate New York.

Annie’s Diary Excerpts – 17-22 March 1924

Annies Diary – Digitised Pages

Annies Diary – Transcription

Annie’s Diary – Who’s Who

Page 52Page 53Page 54Page 55Page 56Page 57Page 58Page 59Page 60

Monday March 17th 1924: Niagara to Utica – and Elined’s Engagement

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“No sign of Elined.

Elined Prys at the Women’s Petition pesentation to the White House, 21 Feb 1924

We played round bought some trifles s.p. post came until 3.42pm when we left by train for Utica – Leaving Georgette [Belgian student they had befriended at Niagara Falls] alone on the platform. We had a pleasant trip by train to Utica; passing through Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, where Miss Carver & her brother in law came to see us pass through. Miss Carver looked well & bonnie & was very cheery & told us the news of Elined’s engagement to an Austrian Count!! She told us she intended sailing for home on April 5th.

This remarkable piece of news records Elined Prys’ engagement to Walter Maria Kotschnig -who was Austrian, if not quite a Count! A Swiss International Student Service activist, he had been ‘nursed to health’ by Elined as a League of Nations volunteer in the Netherlands following contraction of Tuberculosis. Walter Kotschnig went on to become Director of the High Commission for Refugees for the League of Nations, and was one of the founders of the United Nations at Dumbarton Oaks in 1945, and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State; his archives (1920-1984) are held at Albany (view New York Times obituary). He can be explored in UN Photos, along with a fascinating post about his role in the German Refugee Scholar Crisis of 1936.

After Elined’s women’s peace petition activities of 1924, the newly married couple settled in Geneva, before emigrating to the United States (Massachussets) in 1936. Elined was a prominent Quaker and leading Psychologist, an associate of Carl Jung, and went on to become influential in the study of psychology and religion. She founded the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology which remains active today. An excellent ‘life overview’ beynd the women’s petition, a short biography of Elined Prys Kotschnig is available here

We got to Utica at 9.42, where we were met by Rev T.O. Hughes of one of the Welsh American Churches who was supplying [as a Minister] at Utica – Mr Henry Hughes of the “Utica Press” & Mr Morris Williams secretary of the Cymreigyddion Society. We waited about for a time, hoping to have news of Elined & I gave Mr Hughes a short interview & then we went by taxi to the Hotel Utica, where reservations had been made for us by the Welsh friends.

Upon reaching the hotel we found several ladies awaiting our arrival – Shy, timid women who gave us a warm welcome, standing in a semi circle & beaming upon us & we were so tired, we just wanted to go to our rooms to rest- we were shown our rooms 605-606. Two rooms & a bathroom- reserved for Elined & Mrs Thomas and me.

We had just begun to unpack when two ladies arrived – Mrs Hitchcock, of whom more anon, & Mrs Lloyd, wife of brother in law to Mrs Elvet-Lewis, thro her first husband. The former talked & sputtered. The other tried to get in a little remark edgeways, but failed. We were then left in peace & had a good night’s rest.

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Tuesday 18 March 1924 – addressing the Welsh Communities of Utica

Had our breakfast brought up to me & then got dressed by 10.a.m. Had to give an address for this luncheon which was fixed for 12 o’clock. At 11.a.m. Mrs John Evans who had tried to arrange a Welsh tea party called at the Hotel to see me & with her was Mrs Professor (?) _ Evans. After discussing the matter I arranged to meet the Welsh women at 10:30 the following morning at the Welsh Schoolroom.

At 12 we went back to the room where luncheon was and where we found a company of 450 to 500 people assembled. Including a large number of men – the lunch had been arranged by the St. Davids’ Womens’ Club [still active 100 years later] & they had invited representatives of the 10 other womens’ clubs in the city & these 10 clubs and representatives at the speakers table.

Mrs Hitchcock [Mrs Clarence W Hitchcock, nee Jennie Williams, very active among American Welsh community] Pres. of the St Davids’ club presented – I after having a good meal – Mrs Hitchcock spoke & introduced me – then I spoke & then greetings were extended to me from the different representatives present – a bouquet of sweet peas was given to Mrs Thomas & me by the President of the Jewish Women’s Club who spoke afterwards & said something like this.

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Mr Morris Williams & Mrs Parry, Pres. of Cymreigyddion Society spoke to us & all acclaimed Wales & us for coming over with such a message & promised to do all they could towards promoting the ideals of World Peace – they also sent greetings & promises & appreciation to the women of Wales. It was a very pleasant gathering – well managed and successfully arranged. We heard echoes of domestic misunderstanding & differences.

St David’s Day Women’s Club, Utica – Y Drych, 24 April 1924

We held quite a reception after the luncheon was over until Mrs Hitchcock & a Mrs Hasard captured us & took us for a drive around the Boulevard of Utica – then to the Citizen Club – where we listened to the dullest accounts of some places on the Hudson – letters had been written by some people living in this place & were read by women who had no idea of the elements of voice production – then the chair woman called upon me quite unexpectedly to give my message – I did so – then _ with Mrs Alcock & Miss Butcher & some other ladies as guests of the Citizen Club – Then I had an hours rest mercifully for I was very tired.

To the Church where the Welsh meeting was to be held – presided over by Mrs Morris Williams – Dr Schneider gave greetings on behalf of the Churches of the City – & spoke splendidly. Some singing. Welsh hymns sung & I gave an account of the memorial & we were presented with an American flag by Mr Parry, President of the Cymreigyddion Soc: & after several other speakers had taken part the meeting terminated. Nellie Owen knew a Gwilym Owen in Liverpool. Several people came & spoke to us & we had quite a reception. We then walked back to the hotel with Mrs Hitchcock who took us into a restaurant – for an iced drink. A peculiar & clever lady this, – full of kindness, nouce, and ability, spends more

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than half her time from home – lives 5 miles outside Utica – has a husband & a boy in college & a girl training as librarian at college in Utica. Her husband has two telephones to the home but tells her he can never get her there. She attends various meetings & is out late almost every night & sees very little of her family – She has no maid & does most of her housework in the mornings before leaving for a days’ work outside her home. 

We were glad to get to bed as we were very tired – no news of Elined though I wired to Buffalo in the morning suggesting of her movements.”

Wednesday March 19th – Showered with Mementoes of Utica

“Had breakfast downstairs, packed and ready by 10 a.m. when Mrs Hitchcock called & took us & our baggage in a car to see Mrs Thomas, another lady from Ffestiniog who was well up in the affairs of Wales, tho ‘having’ left there many many years ago. A great admirer of Tom. Called her firstborn Tom Ellis [Annie’s first husband, who had died very young in 1899], her second William Evans Gladstone, her third  John Morley, and if she had had a 4th he was to be Owen Morgan Evans – very interesting and well read old lady but had got hold of some myth about her father and mine starting Aberystwyth College!!

From seeing her we went – on to the schoolroom of the Welsh Chapel, where about 50 women had assembled to meet us. Mrs Saw: (Proff) Evans presided & she expressed the satisfaction & pleasure of those present etc etc. I then said a few words – & then Mrs Thomas & I were presented with gifts. I had a silver fruit & flower vase – & Mrs Thomas had a pie slice. We both acknowledged the gifts with much emotion – it was such a surprise; coming from these women whom we had never known or not before – it was truly unexpected, but very pleasant.

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Met a dear old friend of Lily’s and a maid of Uncle D.C. Davies who gave me a present of a cup and saucer and plate which belonged to Uncle & Aunty Davies. Green & white. Met a relative of Tom’s – a Mrs Rees, who gave me a patchwork bag. From there we went under Mrs Louis Williams’ guidance to the station, where we met Mrs Hitchcock & some other ladies.

Contemporary poster for Train from Utica to NYC

One section sat on one side of the bench – another section on the other – Mrs Hitchcock representing one element – Mrs John Evans the other & they did not blend. They were all very kind to us, but not quite so understanding towards each other. We left Utica happily after receiving much kindness from the Welsh friends there.

We had a very pleasant trip down from Utica to New York – along the banks of the Hudson River – the scenery was quite Swiss in parts, the snow capped mountains behind & little islands appearing now and again all beautifully green-fresh looking.

Arriving at New York, we made our way to the Women’s University Club. I found letters and papers awaiting us – we had dinner at this Club and Miss Chaudor joined us. Then Mrs Thomas and I went to see “Stepping Stones” at the Globe Theatre [apparently a ‘musical comedy version of Little Red Riding Hood’] – Mrs Thomas’ standing treat. A very enjoyable entertainment. Mrs Fred Stone, Mrs Stone & their daughter being the chief actors – enjoyed it thoroughly. Back to club and to bed – had looked up Elined at Y.W.C.A, but did not get news of her.

Meanwhile, Elined Prys had been searching for Annie…

From letters written by Elined Prys in 1924 and now part of the Kotschnig family archive, it becomes apparent that she too had been looking for Annie – a reminder of an era long before mobile phones and ninstant messaging! With the benefit of modern day hindsight, here is her side of the story as uncovered by Dr Eirlys Barker from Heddwch Nain US. Elined stayed in the New York area following their trip to Washington in late March – first at the National Training School of the YWCA, and saw various doctors – had her hearing restored.  Her March 7 letter records:  “I’ve gained 600-800 per cent in the hearing of my right ear! And the left is now normal.” 

She had lots of friends from Europe (from her involvement in the Red Cross and YWCA) in Boston and Philadelphia and visited another in Canada, and gave informal talks.  She just managed to miss Annie in Utica somehow – though she did get her hair bobbed. From Elined’s letter dated March 16: “I was to have met Mrs. Griffiths & Mrs. Thomas there, but when I got to the hotel, there were going to stay at, I found nothing was known of them. So I left a note asking them to phone me here when they arrived, but they haven’t done so, & I don’t know where they can be. Probably they are at some other hotel, & had written to me at N.Y., but I left N.Y. on Friday, so didn’t get their letter. We were to have gone to Utica together to-day, to address the Welsh colony there, but since I have heard nothing, I shall just return to N.Y. overnight now – no doubt I’ll see them again there!”

Annie and Companions travelled from Utica (just SE of Lake Ontario) to New York City – map from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday March 20th – ‘Play up Wales!’ in New York

On finally catching up, Annie does not sound impressed…! “Elined arrived in the Club, told us she had been to Buffalo & Niagara but found no news of us, so went on to stay with some friends, making no effort to find out where we were in Utica. We went to change money & do a little shopping in the morning – & then returned to the Club.”

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New York Women’s Colony Club , where they were welcomed back to NYC from their ‘Peace Tour’ of the US

“Elined & I were invited to lunch at the Colony Club by Mrs Ruth Morgan [of the American League of Women Voters]. We got there by 1.15pm & met Miss Morgan & her mother, had a delicious lunch, & Mrs Morgan spoke of messages which should be sent by women of America to women of Wales in reply to their message. These replies were to be provided for the Annual Meeting of the Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union – in Whit week.”

The replies Annie refers to were indeeed published in the Welsh League of Nations Union’s 1925 Annual Report, presented to their membership gathering in Aberystwyth.

1925 peace message response from women of America to women of Wales
New York’s prestigiious Biltmore Hotel, where on 19 February 1924 the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition was presented to the women of America at a ‘grand luncheon’ – and also venue for their ‘sendoff dinner’ on 21 March 1924

“Mrs Morgan brought us back to the Club in a taxi and left us there. Later in the afternoon we three went to Ex. Pres Roosevelt’s first home to tea, the house is now a museum. We were welcomed by Mrs Alexander Lambert who is much interested in the work of the museum. Then Mrs Laidlaw arrived & presented to with the the papers, appertaining to the arranging of the luncheon & the Hospitality Committee etc – all put up neatly in vellum cases. Then Mrs Lewis the Librarian joined us & we all had tea together. Elined left early to meet Dr Wylder. Mrs Thomas & I went with Mrs Laidlaw in a taxi to the Club.” 

We had some telephone calls to see to, including one from Leila Megane, who had decided to get married the following day, & wished me to give her away. We then dressed ourselves in our evening clothes, and sat waiting in the lobby for Miss Chaudor’s arrival. She had promised to take us to the League of Nations Non Partisan Dinner at the Biltmore Hotel.

Arrived there in good time, & met many old and new friends. I was put to sit at the speakers table between Mr Frank Emerson and Mrs James Neal. After speeches by Mrs Vanderlip, Mrs Little and Dr Levenmore I was called up to give a 2 mins speech – It was a case of “Play up Wales”.

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Friday March 21st 1924 – The Wedding of Leila Megane & Osborne Roberts

“In the morning we went down to White Star Offices & Customs House & got our tickets stamped & labels etc – Took a taxi from there to call upon Mr John Fairman – & bid him goodbye with many grateful thanks for all his kindness to us. From there went up Fifth Avenue to Maurice’s Restaurant 49th Street to meet Megane and her fiancé. They arrived in due time & we had lunch with them – & heard the final arrangements for the wedding.

After a very nice lunch, French looking, we four & Mr Schang the best man [an important theatrical agent, Frederick Schang was later manager to Paul Robeson] went in a taxi to the Welsh Chapel 120th Street. Megane dressed in a covert coating costume, light fawn with felt hat to match. Rev Jospeh Evans performed the ceremony in Welsh, & I gave the bride away.

[Minister D. J. Evans of the Welsh Presbyterian Church on 155th Street, New York. The child in the picture was Cobina Wright, whose mother, American of same name, had the same voice teacher as Leila in France]. 

Wedding of Leila Megane and Osborne Roberts, with Annie Hughes Griffiths ‘giving away’ the bride; best man and theatrical agent Frederick Schang; and child Cobina Wright. With thanks to the Kotschnig Family.

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“There were a few spectators – including Mr & Mrs Wm Hughes and Mrs Cobina Bright & her little girl – Mrs Roberts and Mrs Allison etc etc.From there, Mr and Mrs Hughes, Mrs Allison, Mrs Thomas & I went as far as Rev D.M. Richards’ house, & I went in to see how Mr Richards was – he was in bed, & was not too well. Stayed only a few minutes as they were all waiting for me in the car. We drove back to Mrs Hughes’ house & at 5.30pm the bride and groom arrived & we had a sumptuous dinner.

We then all went along to the Welsh Church where a reception had been arranged in our honour – Dr Keigwhin presided, the Minister of one of the Presbyterian Churches in New York – Addresses of welcome were delivered by Rev. Joseph Evans on behalf of the Welsh Churches of the city, by ladies representing different societies, by a gentleman kept a Welsh Lodge etc etc. Megane sang ‘Y. Nsfoedd a Cartref’ & her husband accompanied her. A beautiful bouquet of trees was presented to us by Mrs Wm Hughes who also made a charming speech. A farm – an oak tree – etc etc.

Megane got the flowers meant for Elined. I spoke for about 25 minutes, giving the message. Mr Bowman, a friend of Mr Hughes, took Mrs Thomas & me back to the Club in his car – via Broadway all lighted up and brilliant – getting there at midnight. I then started packing and got to bed bet. 1.30 or 2am.

Their last night in America

This was Annie’s final ‘peace message’ from the women of Wales to the women of America, at the completion of their tour of the States; and the following morning they set sail for the 7 day voyage home to Liverpool, on the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic.

Next and Final Post: Return to Southampton on the RMS Olympic

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