TO:                  Ed Papenfuse
                        Emily Oland Squires
                        Mimi Calver

FROM:            Karen Dunaway

DATE:             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:

The social and political activities of the O’Conors as a couple included: Photocopies of the above-referenced articles and additional articles can be found in Mrs. O’Conor’s file, 2/11/11/41.