Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nettie Hall Austin

In 1915, Nettie Hall Austin gave W. C. Hodges a small volume of Mark Twain quotes.  She signed her name, making note of the fact that she lived in Hannibal, Mo., "Mark Twain's home".

Who was Nettie Hall Austin?  In September of 1922, The Missouri Herald of Hayti, Missouri, announced, "Near East Relief Confers Distinguished Honor Medal Upon Mrs. Nettie Hall Austin, Presentation is Made by Admiral Robert E. Coontz On Behalf of National Organization--Impressive Ceremonies Held in Connection with Opening Session of American Legion State Convention in Hannibal."  To sum it up, Southern Russia, due to war and famine, was experiencing a wheat shortage. Mrs. Austin organized an effort to send food to over 110,000 starving orphans.  The photograph of Mrs. Austin is very grainy but does show a very attractive, fashionably dressed young woman.  The article continues:
Mrs. Austin is one of the best known women in Missouri.  She was born and reared in Hannibal, and for the past fifteen years has spent her time in her native town, St. Louis and Jefferson City.  Mrs. Austin was prominently connected with politics of the State, being the associate of the late Hon. John A. Knot, editor and owner of the Hannibal Journal.  She served in several capacities at a number of sessions of the legislature and was secretary in a number of political campaigns.  Among which she was secretary to Joseph Shannon, James A. Houchin and former governor Joseph W. Folk. During the war, Mrs. Austin was in charge of the stenographic force of the food administration.  Resigning that position to go with the publicity department of the United States Navy, which position she resigned three years ago to go overseas with the Near East Relief.  
During her leave of absence, Mrs. Austin is telling the story of the Near East, illustrating her talk with slides made from pictures she took with her Kodak.  
Mrs. Austin expects to return overseas the latter part of October or the first of November.  During her stay in her native state, she will assist the Near East Relief in telling the people of Missouri the story first hand.  Mrs. Austin is pointing out the necessity of food supplies and clothing for the Near East Relief work, prior to the first of December, as it is impossible to get supplies in after December, as the snows close all traffic and it remains closed until the first of March.  The Near East Relief has 110,000 children under its care who are wholly dependant upon America for food, clothing and shelter.  
... Mrs. Austin will visit every county in Eastern Missouri district before she returns overseas.
The Daily Missourian reported, on May 17, 1917, that she was the only woman political reporter in Missouri.  She must have been a force of nature, and a real character.  The last reference I can find of her is as a 37-year-old married woman boarding (apparently without her husband) the Presidente Wilson in Patras, Greece, 1923.   To quote Nettie Hall Austin:
  • Old people and children are natural and frank.  The rest of are what the other fellow wants us to be.
  • Genius is only a little talent, tacked on to a mighty lot of work.
  • A professional never exploits his talent.  Only the amateur wants to perform on any and all occasions. 
  • The wife who lives with a husband for whom she has no love or respect, simply for the sake of having spending money, a home, and a good time, is a legalized prostitute.

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