Archive for the ‘Maude Armatage’ Tag

Influential Women in Minneapolis Park History

I just received a new post from the Minneapolis Parks Foundation blog by Janette Law about five important women in the history of Minneapolis parks. Janette wrote her tribute to celebrate Women’s History Month. I wanted to add to Janette’s tribute by adding the name of Alice Dietz to her list, as well as Inez Crimmins and Lorna Phillips. I have re-posted from my archives a profile of some of Ms. Dietz’s accomplishments as well as additional information on one of Janette’s notable women, Maude Armatage. Armatage was the first woman to serve as a park commissioner and still holds the record for the longest consecutive term of service as a commissioner at 30 years. (Francis Gross served a total of 33 years as a commissioner, but in four segments.) The piece on Armatage is especially important because it includes a photo of Armatage with Crimmins and Phillips, the second and third women to be Minneapolis park commissioners. I also re-posted a charming photo and info sent by reader Bea Dunlap on her memory of Alice Dietz and the playground pageants she wrote, choreographed and directed.

I would encourage someone, perhaps even young historians for History Day projects, to investigate further the contributions of park commissioners Crimmins and Phillips who served from the mid-1950s and Beverly Smerling who served as a commissioner from 1963-1969. In addition, little has been written, to my knowledge, of the first women to be elected President of the Park Board:  Naomi Loper was the first in 1980, succeeded by Patricia Hillmeyer in 1982 and Patricia Baker in 1985.

Many other women who served as recreation directors at parks have also had a profound influence on the people and neighborhoods they served. If you remember someone from your park, I’d be happy to publish your recollections here.

David C. Smith


Housecleaning, Maude Armatage, Emma Smith and Earth Day

Tomorrow will commemorate the 99th anniversary of an event some people in Minneapolis may overlook. On April 9, 1912 a Minneapolis cop, Patrolman Hollison, made what the Minneapolis Tribune called the “first arrest ever” in Minneapolis for scattering refuse — littering. As Patrolman Hollison stood at the corner of Lake and Nicollet he saw someone throw a newspaper out the window of a street car. Hollison boarded the street car and arrested August Davidson of 4724 Clinton Avenue, who pleaded guilty and was fined $1. The fine was suspended — but it was a start. I bet Mr.Davidson never again flung his newspaper out a street car window, even if he didn’t like the editorials. The story was reported under the headline “Newspaper Tosser Nabbed.”  Minneapolis Tribune, April 10, 1912.)

Of course one arrest and a one-eyebrow-raised headline didn’t alter behavior citywide. That took time, as illustrated by a series of events more than nine years later. At the meeting of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners on July 15, 1921, in the last item of business before adjournment, commissioners voted to create “a workable plan to ensure that picnic parties clean up the picnic grounds which they have used before leaving the parks.” The motion seemed almost a throw-away before everyone went home for the night, but it provided an opening for the board’s newest member to make herself heard.

When the board met again three days later, commissioner Maude Armatage asked if the Board would like to have the cooperation of the women’s organizations in an educational campaign for municipal housecleaning. The board immediately moved that Armatage “be allowed to obtain the assistance of the women in such work.”

Ten days later, July 28, 1921, Armatage inaugurated a campaign to reduce litter in Minneapolis parks. She pointed out that the city spent nearly $8,000 a year cleaning up park litter, mostly on Mondays after huge park attendance on Sundays, although at popular Loring Park the cleanup often extended into Tuesday. This event also dealt with litter, but much more with the perception of capabilities, roles and rights. It was another first, another start. It was the first action by a woman as a park commissioner. Continue reading

Minneapolis Park Hero: Maude Armatage

Dan Greenwood recently produced a report on KFAI radio about Maude Armatage, the first woman on the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners. Armatage, for whom a park and school in south Minneapolis are named, served on the park board from 1921 until 1951, the longest continuous service on the board in its history. (Francis Gross, nicknamed “Mr. Park Board,” served more years, but his service was divided into several terms.) I appreciated the opportunity to tell Dan and his listeners some of what I know about this extraordinary public servant. She is also the namesake of Cafe Maude, a popular cafe near the park and school on Penn Avenue South.

I hope to write more about Armatage and her role on the park board in the near future. Until then, read this very informative article by Caitlin Pine, which originally appeared in the Southwest Journal in 2003, I believe, and has since been reprinted.

David C. Smith

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