Originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 Gazette
by Meagan McChesney, PhD
This year’s successful Virtual Gala featured several of the unique hats housed in the Winnetka Historical Society’s offsite Costume Collection. While notable in their own right for their beautiful designs and detailing, collecting images of these hats led me to wonder about the people who wore them, and what their stories may reveal about Winnetka’s important history.
To find out more, I embarked on a research quest, searching the archives here at 411 Linden Street to trace the lives of some of Winnetka’s whimsical hats and the people who owned them. I was thrilled to find that so many of WHS’ hats do, indeed, have significant stories to tell.
I’ve highlighted here two that provided me (a newcomer to the Winnetka community) with glimpses into this wonderful and welcoming Village’s storied past.
As one of the oldest hats in the Costume Collection, this late-19th century brown velvet floral and beaded hat immediately grabbed my attention. Upon further investigation, I found that this uniquely ornamented hat was owned by Mabel Windes (1872-1959). While I’ve only been at WHS since March, by the time the Virtual Gala was held, I’d become quite well acquainted with Frank Windes –- prominent Village engineer, WHS co-founder, and, of course, Mabel’s husband. Mabel, however, remained a bit of a mystery. To find out more, I turned to the archives and specifically, the index of Winnetka Talk obituaries acquired from the Winnetka Public Library.
Like her husband, Mabel Windes was a prominent (and clearly fashionable!) member of the Winnetka community. During the 1890s, she taught at Columbia School, now known as Hubbard Woods. She was a charter member of WHS and a life member of the Winnetka Woman’s Club. Impressively, Mrs. Windes was also an early member of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), an organization committed to “helping women advance through education.” As a relatively early resident of the Village, perhaps Mrs. Windes helped lay the groundwork for so many Winnetkans’ involvement in social activism and, particularly, the on-going fight for women’s rights.
For those well-versed in Winnetka’s history, the owner of the large-brimmed black beaver fur hat likely needs little introduction. Lola Maverick Lloyd (1875-1944) was an influential activist and pacifist who dedicated much of her life (and wealth) to supporting women’s rights and advocating for peaceful solutions to international conflicts.
Born in Texas, Lola graduated from Smith College in 1897. Shortly after, she married William Bross Lloyd and moved to a large home in Winnetka, where her children (including her daughter Georgia, who donated this hat to WHS) recalled frequent discussions on the importance of world peace and promoting civil liberties for women.
After the outbreak of World War I, Lola’s activism intensified. She helped establish both the Woman’s Peace Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in 1915. She moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1926, where she co-founded the Campaign for World Government in 1937. In 1939, Lola returned to Winnetka, where she remained until her death in 1944.
Despite her considerable wealth, images of Lola demonstrate her largely modest and simple style. This hat, both expensive in its material yet simple and practical for the cold climates in which she lived, seems a quite fitting representative of the unique marriage of Lola’s lifestyle and worldviews. ■