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wright at the time

Frank Lloyd Wright To His Neighbors
To My Neighbors:

To you who have rallied so bravely and well to our assistance—to you who have been invariably kind to us all—I would say something to defend a brave and lovely woman from the pestilential touch of stories made by the press for the man in the street, even now, with the loyal fellows lying dead beside her, any one of whom would have given his life to defend her. I cannot bear to leave unsaid things that might brighten memory of her in the mind of anyone. But they must be left unsaid. I am thankful to all who showed her kindness or courtesy and that means many. No community anywhere could have received the trying circumstances of her life among you in a more high-minded way. I believe at no time has anything been shown her as she moved in your midst but courtesy and sympathy. This she won for herself by her innate dignity and gentleness of character but another—perhaps any other community—would have seen her through the eyes of the press that even now insists upon decorating her death with the fact, first and foremost, that she was once another man’s wife, “a wife who left her children.” That must not be forgotten in this man-made world. A wife still is “property.” And yet the well-known fact that another bears the name and title she once bore had no significance. The birds of prey were loosed upon her in death as well as in life, to fee that Moloch of the heart that maintains itself at the cost of “the man in the street,” by preaching to him in vulgar language the Gospel of Mediocrity. But this noble woman had a soul that belonged to her alone—that valued womanhood above wifehood or motherhood. A woman with a capacity for love and life made really by a higher ideal of truth, a finer courage, a higher more difficult ideal of the white flame of chastity than was “moral” or expedient and for which she was compelled to crucify all that society holds sacred and essential—in name!

And finally, out of the mass of lies which forms the article covering this catastrophe in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, is a lie the work of an assassin that in malice belongs with the mad black except that he struck tin the heat of madness and this assassin strikes the living and the dead in cool malice.

In our life together there has been no thought of secrecy except to protect others from the contaminating stories of newspaper scandal; no pretense of a condition that did not exist. We have lived frankly and sincerely as we believed and we have tried to help others to live their lives according to their ideals.

Neither of us expected to relinquish a potent influence in our children’s lives for good—nor have we. Our children have lacked the atmosphere of an ideal love between father and mother—nothing else that could further their development. How many children have more in the conventional home? Mamah’s children were with her when she died. They have been with her every summer. She felt that she did more for her children in holding high above them the womanhood of their mother than by sacrificing it to them. And in her life, the tragedy was that it became necessary to choose the one or the other.

The circumstances before and after we came here to live among you have all been falsified and vulgarized—it is no use now to try to set them straight—but there was none of the cheap deception the evading of consequences that mark writhings from the obligations of the matrimonial trap.

Nor did Mamah ever intend to devote her life to theories or doctrines. She loved Ellen Key as everyone does who know her. Only true love is free love—no other kind is or ever can be fee. The “freedom” in which we joined was infinitely more difficult than any conformity with customs could have been. Few will ever venture it. It is not lives lived on this plane that menace the well-being of society. No, they can only serve to ennoble it.

It has sometimes been a source of annoyance to Mamah that one or two friends to whom she occasionally wrote persisted in reading a meaning between her lines that convicted her of an endeavor to seem happy, when they thought she ought not to be. I suppose when we live safe in the “heart of the block” we yearn to feel that in another situation than our—in circumstances we fail to understand—there must be unhappiness, or in circumstances of which we disapprove—an “EXPIATION.” This is peculiarly “Christian.”

Mamah and I have had our struggles, our differences, our moments of jealous fear for our ideals of each other—they are not lacking in any close human relationships—but they served only to bind us more closely together. We were more than merely happy even when momentarily miserable. And she was true as only a woman who loves know the meaning of the word. Her soul has entered me and it shall not be lost.

You wives with your certificates for loving—pray that you may love as much and be loved as well as was Mamah Borthwick! You mothers and fathers with daughters—be satisfied if what life you have invested in them works itself out upon as high a plane as it has done in the life of this lovely woman. She was struck down by a tragedy that hangs by the slender thread of reason over the lives of all, a thread which may snap at any time in any home with consequences as disastrous.

And I would urge you upon young and old alike that “Nature knows neither Past nor Future—the Present is her Eternity.” Unless we realize that brave truth there will come a bitter time when the thought of how much more potent with love and action that precious “Present” might have been, will desolate our hearts.

She is dead. I have buried her in the little Chapel burying ground of my people—beside the little son of my sister, a beautiful boy of ten, who loved her and whom she loved much—and while the place where she live with me is a charred and blackened ruin, the little things of our daily life gone, I shall replace it all little by little as nearly as it may be done. I shall set it all up again for the spirit of the mortals that lived in it and loved it—will live in it still. My home will still be there.

Frank Lloyd Wright
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