By Charles Sedgwick Aiken
|Jane Lathrop Stanford|
Ten millions of dollars in stocks, bonds and real estate were given away within the past few months by a woman who, a little over forty years ago, was doing her own housework and taking boarders, in order to help herself and husband to prosperity. Here is a lesson of success gained by woman as a helpmate, if ever there was such a lesson taught. Industry and economy, enterprise and opportunity built the colossal fortune of Leland Stanford. But the homely virtues of her New England ancestry were the capital that his wife supplied him. Men know of him and his work in winning the West by railroad building, of his career as Governor of California during the Civil War, of his life in the United States Senate; but of the woman who helped and guided him, who since his death has shown her individuality in carrying out vast bequests, little has been told. And little would be told, if Mrs. Stanford had her way, for a modest shrinking from publicity is one of her marked characteristics.
It is interesting to note at the outset that the fact that Mrs. Stanford possesses decided individuality came as a rude shock to certain friends of her husband shortly after his death in 1893. Her life had been so sunk in his, and his was so strong a mentality, that none but most intimate friends realized that she possessed a woman's will in well-developed form. But his death left her to fulfill the work of maintaining and carrying forward the great university at Palo Alto, and soon there came unavoidable conflicts with certain of the trustees who had been friends of her late husband. One was his nephew. Others had shown fraternal feelings toward enemies of the Stanford interests in the Southern Pacific Company. Their resignations were asked for promptly, and as promptly accepted by their associates who were duly instructed by Mrs. Stanford as to the action she desired. People who had thought to hypnotize this woman, whose previous life had been apparently one of extreme self-abnegation, rolled eyebrows upward in shocked surprise. And then she went further. She let this beheading be widely known as a sort of horrible example to others, and figuratively displayed her trophies by this explanation, in an open letter to the trustees: