The Info List - Mamah Borthwick

Martha "Mamah" Borthwick (June 19, 1869 – August 15, 1914) was a translator primarily noted for her relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright, which ended when she was murdered.[1] She and Wright were instrumental in bringing the ideas and writings of Swedish feminist Ellen Key
Ellen Key
to American audiences. Wright built his famous settlement called Taliesin in Wisconsin
for her, in part, to shield her from aggressive reporters and the negative public sentiment surrounding their non-married status. Both had left their spouses and children in order to live together and were the subject of relentless public censure.


1 Biography

1.1 Death

2 In popular culture 3 Notes 4 External links

Biography[edit] Borthwick earned her BA at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
in 1892.[2] She later worked as a librarian in Port Huron, Michigan. In 1899, Borthwick married Edwin Cheney, an electrical engineer from Oak Park, Illinois, United States. They had two children: John (1902) and Martha (1905).[3] Mamah met Wright's wife, Catherine, through a social club. Soon after, Edwin commissioned Wright to design them a home, now known as the Edwin H. Cheney House. Mamah's sister, Elizabeth Bouton Borthwick, lived in an apartment on the lower level of the house. In 1909, Mamah and Wright left their spouses and separately traveled to Europe to rejoin.[4] Most of their friends and acquaintances considered their open closeness to be scandalous, especially since Catherine had refused to agree to a divorce. The Chicago newspapers criticized Wright, implying that he would soon be arrested for immorality, despite statements from the local sheriff that he could not prove that the couple was doing anything wrong. After the couple moved to Taliesin, the editor of the Spring Green, Wisconsin, newspaper condemned Wright for bringing scandal to the village. The press, which reported the European trip as a "spiritual hegira", called Mamah and Wright "soul mates" and also referred to Taliesin as the "love castle" or "love bungalow".[5][6] The scandal affected Wright's career for several years; he did not receive his next major commission, the Imperial Hotel, until 1916. In 1911, Borthwick began translating the works of the Swedish feminist thinker and writer Ellen Key, whom she admired and had visited while in Europe. Death[edit] On August 15, 1914, while Wright was working in Chicago, Julian Carlton, a male servant from Barbados
who was apparently mentally unstable and was hired several months earlier, set fire to the living quarters of Taliesin and murdered seven people with an axe as they fled the burning structure.[7][5] The dead included Mamah; her two children, John and Martha; David Lindblom, a gardener; a draftsman named Emil Brodelle; Thomas Bunker, a workman; and Ernest Weston, the son of Wright's carpenter William Weston, who himself was injured but survived.[5][8] Thomas Fritz also survived the mayhem, and Weston helped to put out the fire that almost completely consumed the residential wing of the house.[9] In hiding, Carlton swallowed muriatic acid immediately following the attack in an attempt to kill himself.[7] When found, he was nearly lynched on the spot, but was taken to the Dodgeville jail.[7] Carlton died from starvation seven weeks after the attack, despite medical attention.[7] At the time, Wright was overseeing work on Midway Gardens
Midway Gardens
in Chicago.[10] In popular culture[edit] A detailed nonfiction account of the tragedy at Taliesin is provided in Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
and the Taliesin Murders by William R. Drennan.[11] Mamah's time with Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
is the basis of Loving Frank, a novel by Nancy Horan.[12] Mamah is also a subject of T.C. Boyle's 2009 twelfth novel, The Women.[13] An opera, Shining Brow, covers the story of the Cheneys and the Wrights, from when they meet in Wright's office, through the aftermath of Mamah's death. Music was composed by American composer Daron Hagen with a libretto by Paul Muldoon. The death of Mamah Borthwick
Mamah Borthwick
is described in the book The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons in a back-story of the persona of Frank Lloyd Wright. The story of her death was recounted by Lorelai Gilmore
Lorelai Gilmore
in an episode of Gilmore Girls, "Let The Games Begin". There is a song titled " Mamah Borthwick
Mamah Borthwick
(A Sketch)" on the 2016 album "Ruminations" by Conor Oberst. Notes[edit]

^ "The Terrible Crime at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin". 2017-12-05. Retrieved 2017-12-08.  ^ Calendar of the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
for 1892-93. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. 1893. p. 189.  ^ "Frank Lloyd Wright". www.steinerag.com. Retrieved 2017-12-08.  ^ "The queer view of marital life". Fort Wayne Sentinel. 26 February 1912. p. 12. Retrieved 12 December 2016 – via newspaperarchive.com.  ^ a b c "Six are slain in love castle". Racine Journal News. 17 August 1914. p. 10. Retrieved 12 December 2016 – via newspaperarchive.com.  ^ "Soulmate stunt loses its zest". Kokomo Daily Tribune. 3 August 1910. p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2016 – via newspaperarchive.com.  ^ a b c d BBC News
BBC News
article: "Mystery of the murders at Taliesin". ^ "Carleton is held on murder charges". Racine Journal News. 28 August 1914. p. 4. Retrieved 12 December 2016 – via newspaperarchive.com.  ^ "Mystery of the murders at Taliesin". 2001. Retrieved 2017-12-08.  ^ "The Massacre at Frank Lloyd Wright's "Love Cottage"". HISTORY.com. Retrieved 2017-12-08.  ^ William R. Drennan (18 January 2007). Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
and the Taliesin Murders. Terrace Books. ISBN 978-0-299-22210-9.  ^ "Novel Sheds Light on Frank Lloyd Wright's Mistress". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-12-08.  ^ "T.C. Boyle's 'Women' Recasts Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
Bio". NPR.org. 3 March 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 

External links[edit]

Works by Mamah Borthwick
Mamah Borthwick
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Mamah Borthwick
Mamah Borthwick
at Internet Archive

v t e

Frank Lloyd Wright

Private houses

Adams, M. Adams, W. and J. Adelman Affleck Allen–Lambe Alsop Arnold Bach Bachman–Wilson Baird Baker Balch Baldwin Barton Beachy Becker Blair Bogk Boulter Boynton Bradley Brandes Broad Margin Buehler Bulbulian Charnley Cheney Christie Cooke Coonley Copeland Crimson Beech Dana–Thomas Davidson Davis DeRhodes Dobkins Ennis Fabyan Fallingwater Fawcett Forest Foster Fountainhead Freeman Friedman Furbeck Gale, L. Gale, T. Gale, W. Gilmore Gillin Glasner Goetsch–Winckler Gordon Grant Graycliff Gridley Hanna–Honeycomb Hardy Haynes Heath Heller Henderson Heurtley Hickox Hills Hoffman Hollyhock Jacobs I Jacobs II Johnson Jones Kalil Kentuck Knob Keys Kraus Lamberson Lamp Laurent Levin Lewis Lewis, L. Manson Marden Martin May McBean McCarthy Millard Miller Millard, G. Moore Mosher Mossberg Neils Palmer Pappas Parker Pauson Penfield Peterson Cottage Pope–Leighey Rayward Rebhuhn Reisley Richardson Roberts Robie Roloson Rosenbaum Rudin Samara Sander Schaberg Schwartz Serlin Shavin Smith, G. W. Smith, M. Smith, R. Sondem Spencer Staley Stockman Storer Stromquist Sturges Sullivan Sunday Sutton Sweeton Thaxton Thomas Tomek Tonkens Tracy Trier Turkel Wall Walser Walter Westcott Westhope Weltzheimer Willey Williams Willits Wingspread Winslow Woolley Wright, D. and G. Wright, D. and J. Wright, R. Wynant Yamamura Young Zeigler Zimmerman

Housing systems

American System-Built Homes Erdman Prefab Houses Fireproof House for $5000 Galesburg Country Homes Ravine Bluffs Development Suntop Homes Usonia Homes


Anderton Court Shops Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Arizona Biltmore Hotel Auldbrass Plantation Coonley School Playhouse Banff National Park Pavilion Beth Sholom Synagogue Child of the Sun Community Christian Church Como Orchard Summer Colony E-Z Polish Factory Eddie's House Fasbender Medical Clinic German Warehouse Guggenheim Museum Hoffman Auto Showroom Horse Show Fountain Humphreys Theater Imperial Hotel Jiyu Gakuen Girls' School Johnson Wax Headquarters Kundert Medical Clinic Larkin Administration Building Lawrence Memorial Library Lindholm Service Station Marin County Civic Center Midway Gardens Roberts Stable Rookery Building Park Inn Hotel Pettit Chapel Pilgrim Congregational Church Price Tower Frank L. Smith Bank Teater Studio Unitarian Society Meeting House Unity Chapel Unity Temple Morris Gift Shop Waller Apartments


Blue Sky Mausoleum Gammage Memorial Auditorium King Kamehameha Golf Course Clubhouse Massaro House Monona Terrace
Monona Terrace
Community and Convention Center Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center


Broadacre City Crystal Heights Gordon Strong Automobile Objective The Illinois Plan for Greater Baghdad Point Park Civic Center

Personal homes

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
Home and Studio Taliesin Taliesin West


Works Taliesin Associated Architects Wasmuth Portfolio Wright Building Conservancy Wright–Prairie School of Architecture Historic District


Olgivanna Lloyd Wright
Olgivanna Lloyd Wright
(3rd wife) Jenkin Lloyd Jones
Jenkin Lloyd Jones
(uncle) Lloyd Wright
Lloyd Wright
(son) John Lloyd Wright
Lloyd Wright
(son) Maginel Wright Enright
Maginel Wright Enright
(sister) Eric Lloyd Wright
Lloyd Wright
(grandson) Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter
(granddaughter) Richard Bock
Richard Bock
(associate) Walter Burley Griffin
Walter Burley Griffin
(associate) Marion Griffin (associate) Jaroslav Josef Polívka
Jaroslav Josef Polívka
(associate) Mamah Borthwick
Mamah Borthwick
(client and lover)

Popular culture

The Last Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
and the Park Inn Hotel Shining Brow Loving Frank "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" Work Song: Three Views of Frank Lloyd Wright The Women The Wright 3

Commons Wikinews Wikiquote

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 9193935 LCCN: n2001060987 ISNI: 0000 0000 5886 3256 GND: 137811799 BIB