Hower House gives nod to the 'Lady of the House'

by April Helms special products editor Published:

In 1871, the first cable car was patented by Andrew S. Hallidie. Congress established the civil service system. The Great Chicago Fire burned the city over three days, killing hundreds. William Macy Tweed, also known as Boss Tweed, was arrested. The Phila Athletics beat Chicago for the first National Association baseball pennant.

And John Henry Hower moved into the completed Hower House in Akron with his first wife, Susannah Youngker Hower.

Youngker Hower is one of the four ladies of Hower House that the staff and volunteers pay tribute to in their display this summer, in "Lady of the House: Life in the Mansion through the years." The other ladies of Hower House include Blanche E. Hower, the wife of Milton Otis Hower, the second son of John Henry Hower; Rebecca Ralston Hower, John Henry Hower's second wife; and Grace Hower Crawford, granddaughter of John Henry Hower and daughter of Milton Otis Hower.

"We wanted to look at the four ladies of the house," said director Linda Bussey. "We wanted to review how things had changed for each of the women, what their responsibilities were, the changes of women's roles. The display is of a very different character than what you've seen before."

While there is much known about Grace Hower Crawford and Blanche Hower, not as much was known before the exhibit on Susannah and Rebecca, the latter who lived less than a year at Hower House before she and John Henry moved to a smaller home nearby, Bussey said. Information on Susannah and her background has been especially hard to come by, she added.

The display highlights both the household duties of the Hower women and the civic activities they participated in. One room highlights their involvement in Trinity Lutheran Church, which John Henry and Susannah were among the founding members for. Another area is a nod to Grace Hower Crawford's theater involvement; she not only was one of the founders of Weathervane Playhouse in Akron but was active with the Akron Dumas Theatre in the early 1930s, a theater known for having an interracial cast at a time when segregation was common. A third area is a tribute to Blanche's involvement with schools. She ran for the Akron Board of Education at age 67 and won. She also was nominated -- and again won -- a seat with the Ohio State Representatives in 1935. The ballroom gives a glimpse at where the Hower women traveled -- and they travelled frequently, especially in the 1920s, Bussey said.

New Century

Susannah died in 1896. In 1901, John Henry Hower, at age 78, married Rebecca, who was 61. This move had John's two oldest sons, Harvey and Milton Otis, expressing concerns about the marriage. Indeed, Otis argued in a letter to his father that he was afraid that Rebecca was not in the marriage for John, but for what she could get, Bussey said. In an undated reply, John responded that the marriage was the right thing for him, and that "I may live many years yet to spend alone. Consequently, I am very discontented."

One reason for the unease expressed by the older brothers may have been that Rebecca had been married before, and was divorced, Bussey said. She had been married to William Ross in Massillon. However, the youngest brother Charles Harris Hower, in a letter found, expressed his satisfaction with the marriage and, from the letter, seemed to like his new stepmother. Charles was even a witness at their wedding, Bussey said.

Both John Henry and Milton Otis died in 1916, and in 1919, Grace Hower Crawford and her husband John Crawford moved into Hower House with Blanche.

Tour information

Tour hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 3:30 p.m., with the last tour beginning a half hour before closing. Group tours are by appointment; group rates are available.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 65 and older and $2 for students and children. Children 6 and under are free with an adult admission.

Hower House is at 60 Fir Hill in Akron, on The University of Akron campus. For details, call 330-972-6909 or visit www.howerhouse.org.

Upcoming events

On July 28, Hower House will have a Summer Fairy Garden Tea and Tour from 2 to 4 p.m. Cost is $30 for adults, and $18 for children ages 8 to 12. The event includes tea, light refreshments and a tour of the mansion. The reservation deadline is July 19.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

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