July 4th, 1866, Anita Eugenie McCormick was
born in Manchester, Vermont, to Cyrus Hall
McCormick and Nettie Fowler McCormick. Her
father was the inventor of the mechanical
reaper, which revolutionized the harvesting of
crops and helped modernize farming.
Anita had a comfortable upbringing with plenty
of opportunities for world travel and cultural
events. The affluent family suffered a setback
in 1871, when their company, McCormick Reaping
Machine Works, burned to the ground in the
Great Chicago Fire. Her father reported losses
of over $1,500,000, but did rebuild.
In 1883, she received her first marriage
proposal. Her reply: "In returning your
letter to you, I can but express my amazement
that you should have so written to me . . . I
consider it wholly inexcusable that you
should have made such an advance to me.
Permit me to say that your pardon can only
be granted on the ground that I shall never
again be interrupted by any repetition of
any such sentiment on your part toward me."
It was not the last marriage proposal she
would receive, nor the last she would
In the mid-1880s, a friendship developed
between Anita McCormick and Emmons Blaine,
a railroad administrator ten years her
While vacationing at their rural retreat
near Iron River, Wisconsin, in 1888, she
survived a deep wound to the neck after
her brother Harold lost control of his
axe while chopping firewood. Later that
year, Anita helped found and was elected
treasurer of the Friday Club. Whereas
the Fortnightly Club was for Chicago's
grande dames, the Friday Club was
a new women's club focused on the literary
and artistic improvement of the city's
At 12 p.m., September 26th, 1889, she married
Emmons Blaine, at the Presbyterian Church
in Richfield Springs, New York. Their reception
was held at the Clayton Lodge, followed by
a honeymoon at the Blaine family cottage
in Bar Harbor, Maine. In November, Emmons
received a promotion, necessitating a move
to Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1890, Emmons resigned from the West
Virginia Central Railroad to become
assistant general manager of the Baltimore
and Ohio Line. It was an opportunity
not only for advancement, but to relocate
to Chicago, where Anita was raised.
August 30th, 1890, she gave birth to a son,
Emmons Blaine, Jr. Less than two years
later, her husband began suffering from
an intestinal ailment. Later diagnosed as
colic, he dies of "ptomaine intoxication
with uremia as a fatal complication" on
June 18th, 1892, in Chicago, Illinois. His
death leaves Anita McCormick Blaine a
widow at twenty-six. The loss is devastating
for the young mother. Her weekends are spent
grieving at an old country house in Elmhurst,
west of Chicago, with summers spent in Bar
Harbor, Maine, or her retreat in the
As economic conditions worsened throughout
1893, workers were increasingly thrown out of
work and their homes. Mrs. Blaine had always
been quick to aid those in financial distress,
but the economic troubles she saw around her,
proved the perfect opportunity to expand her
philanthropy. The working-class children at
Hammond School in Chicago had little to look
forward to that dreary holiday season, until
Anita opened her pocketbook and bankrolled a
huge Christmas celebration for the students.
In addition to a grand party, she provided
candy and gifts for the kids and sacks of
groceries brimming with holiday meal provisions
for needy neighborhood families. The outpouring
of genuine appreciation she received from the
recipients of her generosity brought tears
to her eyes and provided renewed focus for
the still-grieving widow. Her life of
philanthropy was thus set in motion.
After Colonel Francis Wayland Parker piqued
her interest in innovative teaching methods,
she donated the funds in 1899 to establish
the Chicago Institute, Academic and Pedagogic.
Educational innovator, Col. Francis W. Parker,
described the progressive school as "a great
experiment in education . . . to prove that boys
and girls could learn in school without force."
The school later became part of the University
of Chicago and was known as the University of
Chicago School of Education. John Dewey took
over as its head for a brief time following
Col. Parker's death.
Two years later, her generous support allowed
the progressive Francis W. Parker School
to open in Chicago. Anita's own son attended
and later graduated from the experimental
In 1905, she was appointed to the Chicago
Board of Education. Anita relished the
opportunity to promote improvements to
education in area schools. The following
year, she began hearing troubling reports
about unruly children at the progressive
school she helped found. Anita decided to
take greater responsibility for the school
by stepping in as assistant principal at
the Francis W. Parker School. She discovered
that in their zeal to adopt innovative
teaching methods and shun "the old ways"
they'd failed to provide needed structure
the pupils required and promptly launched
a search for a new leader to head the
As a result of all the political
gamesmanship and backstabbing she
experienced while serving on the
Board of Education, she was relieved
when her term expired in June 1908.
In 1917, her son, Emmons Blaine, Jr.
married Eleanor Gooding. Eleanor was
welcomed into the family, and Anita in
particular, was thrilled that she finally
had "a daughter." The following year,
celebration over the announcement that
the newlyweds would soon be parents was
quickly blunted by news of Emmons' illness.
At 4 a.m. on October 9th, 1918, "Em"
Blaine died of influenza. Anita took
his pregnant wife back to Chicago, where
she prematurely gave birth to twins.
The baby boy was stillborn, but the
girl -- while small at four pounds -- was
By 1921, family and friends had become
increasingly concerned when she reported
hearing "voices" that were instructing
her do to certain things. (Her interest
in spiritualism, meditation, and psychic
phenomena had intensified following the
death of her son.) Though her "voices" and
mandatory meditation before making most
decisions certainly raised eyebrows, most
considered them nothing more than the
eccentricities of a rich philanthropist.
Her commitment to fostering a lasting
world peace was demonstrated when she
provided the funds necessary to establish
the World Citizens Association. It was
an attempt to found an American division
of the World Foundation, which was one
of many groups working to find the key
to world peace.
In the aftermath of World War II, she
offered increasing support to liberal
politicians, such as the 1948 Progressive
Party ticket of Henry A. Wallace and
Senator Glen H. Taylor. Mrs. Blaine gave
substantial funds to the campaign that
garnered considerable attention, but few
votes in the 1948 Presidential election.
In 1948, she pledged $1,000,000 to establish
a World Constituent Assembly to forge a
World Constitution. The organization, which
was known as the Foundation for World Government,
quickly burned through her donated funds, doing
little to advance the cause of world peace and
achieving few, if any of its lofty goals.
Her enthusiasm for journalism is renewed
in 1949, when a struggling liberal newspaper,
the Weekly National Guardian, reported
that it was on the verge of bankruptcy. She
lends $200,000 to the paper to ensure its
survival. This sparked her interest in
launching a liberal daily newspaper in
New York City. She furnished $300,000 to
establish the leftist Daily Compass.
The venture lost money at a phenomenal rate
and ceased publication within a few short
Anita McCormick Blaine continued her
passionate support of educational reform,
leftist politicians, and world peace,
until her declining health forced her
onto the sidelines. A hospital stay in
1949, for an intestinal operation,
marked her final foray from her Chicago
home at 101 E. Erie Street. Her mental
acuity faded, she lost the power of
coherent speech and failed to recognize
family members and longtime servants.
February 12th, 1954, she died at her
Organizations she championed and/or supported financially:
Augusta, Maine public library ($10,000 in 1893)
Presbyterian Church of Richfield Springs, N.Y.
(a magnificent pipe organ presented in 1896)
University of Chicago
Francis W. Parker School, Chicago, IL. (over $3,000,000
given over the course of her life)
The Audubon Society
North Shore Country Day School, Winnetka, Illinois
United Charities of Chicago
Henry Baird Favill Laboratory at St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, IL. ($68,000)
League to Enforce Peace ($5,000 in 1919)
League of Nations Non-Partisan Association
Illinois Committee for International Cooperation (in excess of $100,000 over the years)
World Citizens Association ($170,000 over the years)
Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
World War II Chinese war orphans ($100,000)
American Veterans Committee ($50,000)
Progressive Citizens of America
National Citizens Political Action Committee (NCPAC)
Wallace for President Committee
Progressive Party (over $750,000)
Foundation for World Government ($1,000,000)
NOTE: She gave away more than $10,000,000 in
her lifetime, and at her death, endowed the
New World Foundation to distribute her estate
valued at over $20,000,000. In addition to her
considerable donations to educational institutions
and charities, she often gave to individuals
in need, without being asked. She'd provide
housing and cash for orphans, food for the poor,
funds for families who'd lost their breadwinner
in mining disasters, and provided gifts for
American troops. Most of her donations were
given without fanfare or publicity, with many
She enjoyed fencing, tennis, was a pianist,
loved to waltz and doted on her granddaughter,
Residences of Anita McCormick:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's
possible the addresses have changed over the years.
This is not to suggest that Anita owned each and every
one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact
that she called them home at one point or another in
40 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Caroline Court Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Sheldon and Fulton Streets, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
675 Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
The Raymond, Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
101 East Erie St., Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.