Emily Oland Squires
October 14, 1999
RE: Report of findings on the O’Conor administration (January 11, 1939-January
3, 1947) from newspaper articles, The Evening Capital, January,
1939 through November, 1945.
After skimming The Evening Capital for articles on Mrs. O’Conor
and Government House during the O’Conor administration, I can report the
following observations and conclusions:
I. General observations and conclusions:
1) The O’Conors lived year-round in Government House and celebrated
Thanksgiving and Christmas there. In the summer of 1942, they took a house
in Bay Ridge for July and August for reasons that went unreported (6/8/42,
7/2/42). They moved back to Government House at the end of the summer.
2) During her entire tenure as First Lady of Maryland, the Evening
Capital did not once call her the First Lady of Maryland but always
referred to her as "the wife of the Governor." This is in contrast to references
to Eleanor Roosevelt, who is referred to as "First Lady" (2/6/39, 2/8/39,
2/10/39, and others).
3) Evidence suggests that Mrs. O’Conor should not be classified as a
"modern" First Lady in that she appears to have played a traditional supporting
role as wife and mother rather than a leading role as a community leader
or activist who initiated activities unconnected to her husband’s job as
governor. Evidence suggests that she initiated very few if any public activities
apart from those of her husband (it is not clear who initiated the holding
of the many receptions at Government House).
4) Articles about the O’Conors’ social activities dropped off dramatically
when the war in Europe started and especially after 1943. The Evening
Capital did not report that Mrs. O’Conor played a significant role
in supporting the war effort; she gave blood (10/15/43), attended a meeting
of the Women’s division of the Maryland Council of Defense where Governor
O’Conor spoke (10/28/41), served as patron with her husband for a Jamboree
of 1945, sponsored by Tau Omicron Phi, service sorority, for the benefit
of the National War Fund (1/8/45), served as patron with her husband for
an art exhibit held by the Junior Woman’s Club of Annapolis for the benefit
of war relief (3/31/45), and held a reception with her husband at Government
House for servicemen stationed at Fort Meade (5/21/45). Evidence suggests
that Mrs. O’Conor maintained a relatively low profile during World War
II. She might have requested that The Evening Capital not report
on her social activities during the war, although some social activities
were scatteringly reported.
5) At the beginning of the first O’Conor administration, the five O’Conor
children were aged 16, 14,13, 10 and three. Four of them attended school
in Baltimore, and Mrs. O’Conor spent a lot of time driving them back and
forth between Baltimore and Annapolis. Mrs. O’Conor described herself as
"having a great deal of ‘nervous energy,’" and was reported to have been
"enjoying life in Government House" (2/17/39).
6) Governor O’Conor used Government House for political purposes by
forming a "breakfast cabinet" in which he invited Assemblymen in groups
of six to Government House every morning for breakfast during the entire
length of the 1939-1940 session (3/8/39). The newspaper does not report
whether this was an activity that continued throughout his entire eight-year
tenure as governor.
7) Governor and Mrs. O’Conor were active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church
in Annapolis where the family had a pew reserved in the front row and their
youngest son Bobbie took first communion (1/16/39, 5/8/44).
II. Summary of the contents of articles (dates of specific articles
are in parentheses)
Mrs. O’Conor’s social and political activities included:
Holding at least two series of receptions called "At Homes" at Government
House once a week on Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Other
political wives such as wives of U.S. Senators and Congressmen from Maryland,
"received" guests along with Mrs. O’Conor. The receptions were open to
the public and no invitation was necessary to attend (1/30/39, 2/2/39,
The social and political activities of the O’Conors as a couple included:
Attending Democratic Women’s Club luncheons in Baltimore (3/1/39, 11/28/40,
11/8/41, 1/10/44), receiving members of the Harford County Women’s Democratic
Club at Government House (3/8/39), and attending several large teas held
by the Women’s Democratic Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County "in
honor of" Mrs. O’Conor (2/8/39, 2/10/39), and hosting the Women’s Democratic
Club of Baltimore for tea at Government House (10/24/40).
Hosting members of the Maryland Colonial Society (5/9/39, 5/11/39), the
Baltimore Music Club (5/13/39, 5/15/39), the Baltimore Shrine convention
(6/28/39), delegates to the Fleet Reserve convention and their wives (8/24/39),
the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (10/2/39, 10/10/39, 10/9/41,
10/13/41), the Garden Club of America (4/26/40), the Women’s Democratic
Club of Baltimore (10/24/40), wives of the Maryland senators (2/26/41),
the Torch Club (5/3/41), the Eastern Shore Society (3/12/42, 3/18/42),
the ladies of the legislature (2/14/45, 2/16/45), and the Maryland Congress
of Parents and Teachers (11/16/45) for tea at Government House.
Holding a luncheon for the Woman’s Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County
Occasionally attending social events in Washington D.C. such as having
tea and luncheons with wives of Congressmen and cabinet members from the
Roosevelt administration (2/7/39).
In February, 1939, Mrs. O’Conor cooperated with other prominent women of
Maryland to promote the North American Sports, Garden and Outdoor Life
Show in Baltimore. She took all of her children to see the show, praising
the entertaining and educational aspects of it (2/6/39).
Presiding at one of the sessions at the first Federal-State meeting on
law enforcement in connection with defense, August, 1940—possibly filling
in for her husband (November 14, 1940).
Sponsoring the launching of two merchant ships at Bethlehem Shipbuilding
Company (11/29/41, 12/5/41).
Serving as one of the hostesses for the President’s Ball in Annapolis to
fund research on "infantile paralysis" (polio) (1/22/43, 1/29/43).
Serving as an honorary member of the Loyola Mother’s Club in Baltimore
(her son’s school). (3/27/39, 3/19/40, 3/25/40).
Serving as an honorary member of the Woman’s Club of Annapolis and Anne
Arundel County (5/22/43).
Entertaining friends from Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington at Government
House (2/16/39, 3/30/39, 4/3/39, 4/8/39, 4/22/39, 11/7/41, 1/12/43).
Entertaining the judges of the Court of Appeals at dinner at Government
House (1/20/40, 1/27/40, 2/2/40, 2/9/40).
Holding public receptions at Government House (see above; 12/31/40)
Showing Government House to out-of-state visitors (4/26/39, 3/20/40, 4/16/40)
Hosting foreign dignitaries:
The Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark (5/1/39, 5/8/39). The Crown
Prince notified Governor O’Conor through the Danish Consul in New York
that he wanted to see the Naval Academy "in its normal operation." He visited
the O’Conors in Government House as a sidelight to this (5/1/39, 5/8/39).
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (10/15/41, 10/16/41). The Duke and
Duchess of Windsor visited Maryland in order to tour the Naval Academy
and to visit the Baltimore-born Duchess’ relatives and friends in Baltimore.
The O’Conors hosted a luncheon for the Duke and Duchess at Government House
Sir Anthony Eden, Lord and Lady Halifax (3/26/43). The British
Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden, addressed the Maryland House of Delegates
and was a guest of Governor and Mrs. O'Conor at dinner in Government House.
British Ambassador to the U.S., Viscount Halifax and Lady Halifax attended
these events as well.
Photocopies of the above-referenced articles and additional articles
can be found in Mrs. O’Conor’s file, 2/11/11/41.
Attending the latest plays in New York with a group of friends (2/17/39).
Holding formal receptions for members of the General Assembly and their
friends at Government House, attended by more than 1,000 people at a time
[funded by the State?] (2/20/39, 2/28/39, 3/3/39, 3/6/41, 3/18/41, 3/20/41,
3/21/41, 3/16/43, 3/15/45, 3/16/45).
Holding an annual dinner for the Attorney-General at Government House (12/17/40).
Attending dinners given by Naval Academy officials and Maryland Senators
Hosting Naval Academy officials for dinner at Government House (3/5/41,
Attending the annual Assembly Balls given by the Legislature (3/8/39, 3/10/393/6/41,
Attending plays and operas in Baltimore (3/11/39, 3/14/39, 3/11/41, 4/3/45).
"Receiving" at a Naval Academy hop (4/4/39).
Sponsoring a "Card Party" at Government House for the Four Rivers Garden
Club to help them raise money to "beautify Emergency Hospital park" (4/19/39,
Sponsoring a Severn River Garden Club Party at Government House as a fund-raiser
for the beautification of the new Ritchie Highway (10/6/39, 10/11/39).
Acting as patrons for an antique art show in Baltimore (4/29/39).
Vacationing in Frederick, Maryland (5/19/39), California (6/27/39, 7/1/39,
7/14/39), Florida (2/12/40, 2/13/40, 2/17/40, 3/4/40, 1/21/41, 12/1/42,
12/8/42), North Carolina (4/9/41), Ocean City (7/24/41, 8/9/41, 8/16/41,
7/31/43, 8/2/44, 8/26/44, 7/20/45, 8/2/45), and Virginia (3/22/44, 4/23/45).
Attending a garden party given at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.
by King George and Queen Elizabeth of England (6/18/39).
Attending the Shrine Pageant in Baltimore and the Shrine luncheon in Annapolis
Commissioning a special train to take one thousand Marylanders and the
Naval Academy Band to the New York World’s Fair for "Maryland Day" ceremonies
in July, 1939 (7/24/39).
Attending the St. Michael’s regatta (8/4/39).
Attending the Cumberland Fair and Races and holding a Governor’s Ball there
Attending the American Legion conventions in Baltimore and Cumberland (8/23/39,
Attending football games such as at Western Maryland College, the Army-Navy
game in Philadelphia, Notre Dame-Army game in New York, Navy-Notre Dame
in Baltimore, and Navy-Notre Dame in Baltimore (fall 1939, 1940, 1941,
Holding annual New Year’s Day Receptions at Government House open to all
Marylanders (12/27/39, 2/2/40, 12/27/41, 1/2/42).
Opening the new Ritchie Highway to the public, with Mrs. O’Conor cutting
the ribbon (4/27/40).
Attending annual Governor’s conferences (5/22/40, 5/28/40, 5/29/44, 6/25/45,7/9/45).
Entertaining judges and famous movie actors on the State yacht, the DuPont
(6/25/40, 7/10/40, 8/3/40, 8/13/40) as well as spending private weekends
on board the yacht (7/18/40, 9/21/40, 10/18/40, 7/30/41).
Attending a U.S. Army rally in Salisbury to obtain volunteers (9/23/40).
Attending the opening of the Laurel race track for the 1940 season (10/1/40).
Presiding over the opening of the Morgantown bridge across the Potomac,
with Mrs. O’Conor cutting the ribbon (12/11/40, 12/14/40).
Continuing the tradition of hosting a combined choir from area churches
to sing Christmas carols at Government House (12/24/40, 12/22/41).
Heading the Maryland delegation in the Roosevelt inaugural festivities
in Washington, D.C. (1/17/41, 1/17/40, 1/18/41).
Hosting Senators and Congressmen at Pimlico for the Preakness (5/10/41,
Hosting large dances for their daughter Patricia and son Eugene at Government
House for about 200 guests (12/30/41).
Serving as patrons for the Jamboree of 1945, sponsored by Tau Omicron Phi,
service sorority, for the benefit of the National War Fund (1/8/45).
Serving as patrons for a three-day art exhibit held by the Junior Woman’s
Club of Annapolis for the benefit of war relief (3/31/45).
Holding a reception at Government House for servicemen stationed at Fort