Zera Maud Boardman (always known as Maud) was born in 1872 in Ohio. The Boardman family lived in the small town of Plymouth in northern Ohio (US Census). In 1896, Maud married Harry Sutton Edsell…and from then on life was very different than her childhood in a small midwestern town.
Harry Sutton Edsell was a true entrepreneur. During the course of his lifetime he held many different jobs, traveled the world, and had his share of adventure and controversy.
In 1900, Maud and Harry boarded in the Portland, Oregon home of the Townsends (who were butter manufacturers). Harry listed his occupation as journalist (US Census). He was the City Editor of the Portland Telegram (Sacramento Bee).
In 1903, Harry became an Immigration Inspector in Port Townsend, Washington (Sacramento Bee). In 1904, the couple was transferred to Sumas, Washington and Harry, now fluent in Chinese, was an inspector specializing in illegal Chinese immigration. The newspapers are filled with fairly lurid tales of Harry’s cases.
Maud and Harry’s first child, Neah Lucy, was born in 1904. Neah tragically became ill and died during a visit to her grandparents in Ohio in 1908.
In 1910, Harry was appointed the Commissioner of Immigration in San Francisco. He was stationed at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. The family lived on the island for part of this time, and later also had a home in San Francisco. Another daughter, Reah Lucy (future member of St. Mark’s), was born on Angel Island in December of 1910.
In 1915, Harry was informed he was being transferred to the St. Louis immigration office and he quit his job. The family stayed in San Francisco and Harry pursued many different occupations! The entire family traveled to China in 1916. Harry had been hired as a special representative of the China Mail Steamship Company. By 1918, Harry had formed an insurance company called Edsell & Dye. In the 1920 Census, he said he was an attorney. In the 1930 census, his occupation was accountant working at a bank. By 1931, he was working for Duisenberg-Wichman Co. as a stock broker. In the 1933 SF Directory, he was a salesman. By 1938, the family had moved to Valdez Street in San Francisco, and In the 1940 census their occupation was “Almond Farmers.” Harry retired in the mid-1940’s and passed away in 1948 (City Directories and US Census).
While Harry pursued his various careers, Maud raised Reah and was very involved in many very social Episcopal church and Diocesan activities in San Francisco. The newspapers provide lots of brief glimpses of Maud’s activities. In 1923, she was a patroness for a Mah-Jongg/bridge party and tea held at the Fairmont Hotel to benefit the Auxiliary to the Bishop’s Executive Board (San Francisco Examiner). ln 1927, she co-chaired the annual card party given by the Children’s Aid Committee of the House of Churchwomen of the Episcopal Church (San Francisco Examiner). Also in 1927, she attended the benefit party for the “Protestant Episcopal Old Ladies’ Home” in San Francisco (San Francisco Examiner). In 1932, she was named a hostess for a bridge party held at the Century Club to benefit the Children’s Aid Committee of the House of Episcopal Churchwomen (San Francisco Examiner). A brief newspaper clipping from 1932 gives us a quick picture of Maud in action:
“Piling the tonneau of her touring car high with old clothes, shoes and other paraphernalia, Mrs. Harry Edsell started to drive to a charity rummage sale yesterday. In Golden Gate Park, opposite Kezar stadium, a shoe tumbled from the pile of clothing behind her and struck Mrs. Edsell on the head. Startled, she lost control of the automobile, which ran over a 20-foot embankment, struck a tree, and overturned. She was uninjured (San Francisco Examiner).
But of all her charitable activities, Maud was most passionate about The Girls’ Friendly Society (Judith Garcia Interview). This organization (which actually still exists) is an Episcopal group for girls and women whose emphasis at that time (and now) was to encourage girls to be active in their communities “to transform unjust structures of society, particularly for women and children.” (Girls Friendly Society) Maud’s granddaughter remembered that her grandmother very involved in the Girls’ Friendly Society and its leadership in San Francisco for years. The GFS maintained a “lodge” in San Francisco for working girls and raised funds for a variety of causes.
Harry and Maud’s daughter, Reah Lucy, was raised in San Francisco. She attended the Hamlin School and then University of California at Berkeley. She was also very active in the church and charitable causes. In March, 1931, Reah and her fiancé, Edward Garcia, chartered a small plane and eloped to Reno where they were married by the Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Maude had been planning the couple’s June, 1931 wedding and, according to her granddaughter, only found out about the elopement when it was announced in the newspapers (Judith Garcia Interview)!
Around 1940, Reah and Edward Garcia moved to Palo Alto, and eventually became members of St. Mark’s. After Harry’s death in 1948, Maude moved in with the Garcia family on Harker Street and spent her final years in Palo Alto – and so ended up at St. Mark’s also! She died in 1956, just as the new church was being built. Her family gave the Hymn Boards in memory of Maud. Her obituary wrote that:
“Mrs. Edsell was active in All Saints’ San Francisco in her earlier days. She was president of the Girls Friendly Society, chairman of the Children’s Aid Committee of the House of Churchwomen, and was active in helping the Chinese and Japanese Missions, Canon Kip, St. Cyprian’s and St. Margaret’s House.” (Pacific Churchman)