Professional Women of 1909, Part 1

The 1909 business directory for Sioux Falls, South Dakota includes several women who took on professions in order to earn an income and use acquired skills.  Since women still tend to be underrepresented in written histories, I thought I’d see what I could find out about them in the historical record.  Censuses and city directories are from searching scanned documents on Ancestry.com; other sources are given or linked to the information.  Here are the first five…


Miss Martha A. Cooke
Miss Cooke is listed in the 1909 directory as a milliner.  Martha was born in 1841 / April 1842 in New Hampshire [1900 Census; Gravestone (photos in link below)].  Martha and her sister Sarah J. were both listed as milliners in the 1900 census.  They lived at 516 1st Ave. S. with their mother Roberta, who was a “boarding housekeeper,” as well as their sister Mary, her husband John H. (insurance agent), their children, a female boarder, and a female servant.  John H. and Mary’s children listed included architect John C. Chapman and teachers Hellen and Emily.  In the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, she was listed at the same house with her sister Mary’s family, but no occupation is given.  No occupation was given for the 1910 city directory either.  At age 68, she likely had retired.

Her business was Milliner and Fancy Goods located at 119 S. Main Ave. [Sioux Falls Abstract Co., Sioux Falls City and Minnehaha County Directory (Sioux Falls: Will A. Beach, 1906), 45].  Her sister Josie S. (maybe Sarah…) worked for her according to the 1889-1890 Directory [Published by Chas. Pettibone & Co., 1889-1890, pg. 46].  The earliest directory I find Martha in (that I have access to for the moment) is the directory from 1888, which makes her tenure at least twenty-one years.

From 1907 Sioux Falls City Directory, p389.

From 1907 Sioux Falls City Directory, p389.

According to photos on her profile on the Find-a-Grave website and on South Dakota Gravestones’ website, she passed away in 1930 and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  The current building at her business place at 119 S. Main was probably built in the 1950s-60s, and the site of her home at 516 S. 1st Ave. appears to be occupied by the 1959 Masonic Center.

In an 1881 history of southeastern Dakota Territory, nine women are listed as having been milliners in Sioux Falls and four still in practice (Miss Cooke is not listed at that point) [History of Southeastern Dakota: Its Settlement and Growth (Sioux City IA: Western Publishing Co., 1881), 95-96].  Another person in the list, W. Obert, is not given a “Miss” or “Mrs.” so I presumed it’s a man.  And yes, in the 1880 census Wendell Obert is listed with the occupation “fancy goods,” but his wife Emma is also listed as a milliner.


Nettie L. Current
Nettie was listed in the directory as a librarian at the Carnegie Free Public Library.  Nettie was born in 1875 in Kansas [1900 Census; “Nettie C. Manchester,” Find-a-Grave website].  In 1880, she lived with her mother Sarah, siblings, grandparents, and uncles in Colorado.  In the 1900 census, Nettie was listed living with her grandparents, Adam and Leventia Gebert, at 519 S. Dakota Ave.  Her occupation was given as “servant.” In 1880, her grandfather was listed as a “lumber dealer” and in 1900, as a “capitalist.”  In the city directories, she was listed as a student at a business college in 1903 and an assistant librarian at the new Carnegie Library in 1904.  In the 1910 census, her occupation as city librarian was listed.  In 1914, she served as president of the South Dakota Library Association [The American Library Annual 1913-1914 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1914), 236].

The Carnegie Free Public Library in Sioux Falls was built in 1903 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 as part of the Downtown Historic District.  The Center for Western Studies has a digitized photo of the library from c.1903-05, link here.

In 1915, Nettie married Lawrence D. Manchester, of the Manchester Biscuit Company [SD Division of Census and Vital Statistics, Record of Marriage, certificate number 49115].  Lawrence had lost his first wife, Harriet, in 1914 [“Lawrence Decator Manchester,” on Find-a-Grave].  After their marriage, they moved to 215 N. Summit Avenue and no occupation was listed for Nettie in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.  After her marriage, Nettie Manchester served on the Sioux Falls library board [South Dakota Library Bulletin (December 1918), 107, (December 1921), 61, and (December 1928), 15-17].  She also served as an officer of the Sioux Falls Art Society and the Mary Chilton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution [Florence N. Levy, American Art Annual, vol. 14 (Washington DC: The American Federation of Arts, 1917), 267; and Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 54 (October 1920), 604].

The Manchesters’ elaborate Colonial Revival home at 215 N. Summit Ave. is part of the Cathedral Historic District, and the Manchester Biscuit Co. building is also listed in the National Register.  Lawrence died in 1930 and Nettie died in December 1945, both were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery [“Nettie C. Manchester,” Find-a-Grave website].


Mrs. Nassif Eskaf
Mrs. Eskaf was listed in the directory as a dressmaker.  Louise Nassif was born in 1872 in France.  Widowed, she immigrated from Marseille to Sioux Falls in 1907 with her daughter Gabrielle [1910 census; New York passenger list, June 27-July 6, 1907, Havre, S.S. La Provence, via Ancestry.com].  The passenger list does not list an occupation for Louise.  In 1908, she married her second husband, Theophile Eskaf, who was born in Syria [1910 census].  She is listed as a dressmaker in the 1910 and 1911 directories, working out of their home at 204 W. 7th (which would have been just north of the current downtown public library).  Despite the directories, she is not listed with an occupation in the 1910-1930 censuses.  Her husband engaged in business with dry goods, a confectionary, and eventually ran a pool hall/billiard parlor located on Main Ave. [1909, 1912, 1919 and 1928 city directories; 1930 census].  T.N. Eskaf died in 1952 and was buried at Hills of Rest Memorial Park [“Theophile Nassif Eskaf,” on Find-a-Grave website].  Louise is listed as a Sioux Falls resident in city directories at least through 1953.


Anna Gullekson
Anna was listed in the 1909 directory as the Director of the Ark of Refuge.  Anna was born in 1866  in Minnesota to Norwegian-immigrant parents [1920 census].  The Ark of Refuge for Homeless Girls, also referred to as a “home for fallen women,” was begun by sisters Anna and Elsie Gulleckson to serve women who had suffered from physical and mental abuse, abandonment, and teenage pregnancy, including that which resulted from violence like incest and rape.  The institution opened sometime between 1904 and 1907.

In the 1910 census, it lists Anna as manager of the Ark of Refuge at 407 N. Spring Ave., working with sisters Elsie and Sara.  Four other women in the household are listed as servants (either staff or residents, I would presume), and there were twelve babies being cared for at the institution [1910 census].  In the 1920 census, Anna lived with her sister Elsie at 407 N. Spring Ave. and their occupations were listed as nurses [as “Anna Gullekson”].  Later that year, the house at 407 N. Spring was purchased by the Lutheran Home Finding Society  and the Ark of Refuge moved to a new location [Donald Sneen, Prairie Faith, Pioneering People: A History of the Lutheran Church in South Dakota (American Lutheran Church, 1981), 140; Sioux Falls City Directory (1922), 136].  Anna died in February 1929 [Index to South Dakota Death Records, 1905-1955. Pierre, SD, USA: South Dakota Department of Health].


Miss Florence Hakes
Miss Hakes was listed in the 1909 directory as operating a restaurant. Florence was born  in New York in 1866 and attended school through the third year of high school [1900 census; 1940 census].  In the 1900 census, a Florence M. Hakes boarded at 519 S. Duluth Ave. in Sioux Falls with the Orr family; her occupation was listed as a dressmaker.  That record says she was born in 1866 in New York.  In 1906, she is in the city directory as operating a boarding house and restaurant downtown at 113 W. 10th [Sioux Falls City Directory (1906), 268, 307].  In January 1910, Florence Hakes married insurance agent, Walter A. Dutcher, and is not listed with an occupation in the 1910 census [South Dakota Marriage Index, 1905-1914, 1950-2013 and South Dakota Marriage Certificates, 1905-1949. Pierre, SD, USA: South Dakota Department of Health].  Widowed by 1927, she returned to New York after 1935 [Sioux Falls City Directory (1927), 116; 1930 census; 1940 census].


One thing I notice, just from these, is that there are many more working women in the networks of these women and in the censuses in general, including the servants.  This list will only be a surface-level snapshot.  It also makes me wonder about the frustrating “none” listed as occupation for married women and whether that is really indication of whether or not they worked.

More to come…

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4 thoughts on “Professional Women of 1909, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Best of the Blogs: Rural Women’s History | Rural Women's Studies

  2. Thanks for the write-up on my great-aunt, Florence Hakes Dutcher. According to family she had a lively personality and was talented in art and music. She died in June of 1940. In researching her online a dozen years ago I became aware of a resource for South Dakota women’s history that you and the readers here may find of interest. The State Archives of the South Dakota State Historical Society holds the Pioneer Daughters Collection of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of South Dakota Records which “is the result of a statewide GFWC effort to collect and preserve the stories of female pioneers in South Dakota” and “is the largest body of women’s histories in the State Archives” –http://history.sd.gov/archives/data/women/g.aspx (3rd item).

    I haven’t accessed the collection but I understand that it contains the diary of Winona Axtell Lyon (1863-1949), a once prominent Sioux Falls resident. According to a short biography of Mrs. Lyon by the GFWC, Florence was one of a number of Winona’s friends often mentioned in her diary. That biography was one of a many written about S.D. pioneer women and distributed to S.D. schools during the state’s centennial (see #12 at http://www4.geometry.net/detail/basic_s/south_dakota_schools_general.html). I found them online but unfortunately the site has long since been removed.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment. It is the best thing in the world to hear more about the real person, especially from a family member!
      I do encourage everyone to make full use of the South Dakota State Archives. I will have to make a point to go into that collection to add to this series of posts!

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