One of the many stories about “Miss Elizabeth” White, a significant benefactress in Santa Fe’s previous century, is that, approaching her death, the 93-year-old woman beckoned her longtime nurse and companion, Catherine Rayne, to her side.
As Rayne bent to hear the frail woman’s words, White passed on this advice for a happy life: “Never get married.”
Jean Schaumberg of the School for Advanced Research, whose administrative building is the former home of sisters Amelia Elizabeth and Martha White on Garcia Street, related that among many other tales about the sisters — neither of whom ever married.
The advice isn’t surprising since, with an ample inheritance and continued profitable investments, “Miss Elizabeth” was able to travel the world, throw lavish parties, get involved in projects and make donations to causes she believed in, develop kennels to breed Irish wolfhounds and Afghan hounds, and just generally do whatever the heck she felt like.
Visitors who spent time in the guest house, which once housed the estate manager, included Agatha Christie, Joy Adamson (author of “Born Free”), and the ubiquitous Mabel Dodge Lujan, according to materials prepared for a tour Sunday.
According to a book by Nancy Owen Lewis and Kay Leigh Hagan on the history of SAR, “Several hundred revelers blocked to their (the sisters’) 1935 Fiesta party to watch a performance by New York dancer Jacques Cartier, a pantomime by artist John Sloan, and a professional ‘flea act’ by artist Will Shuster, elegantly whiskered for the occasion. To wind up the evening, artist Randall Davey played the guitar and John Sloan led the singing…
“‘One trouble with Santa Fe,’ recalled Sloan… ‘was that there was too much social life. You could get caught up with too many late nights out.’”
And that was during the Depression.
You can read a lot more about their adventures in a story — these anecdotes didn’t even make the cut — in Journal North’s print edition (and online at journalnorth.com) on Friday.