Rated of 5
by Judy Krueger
Woman Behaves Badly
From 1907 to 1914, Frank Lloyd Wright carried on a love affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney. They were both married to others when the affair began and it caused a great scandal in Chicago as well as around the country. Having always been an admirer of Wright as an architect, I now know plenty about him as a person. He comes across as a hard man to be in love with. But for Mamah Cheney, a highly educated and extremely intelligent woman, he brought excitement, passion and a full life. She had married at the age of 29 to a man she did not love. Her husband was not a bad man, but motherhood and middle-class life turned out to be stifling for Mamah.
Nancy Horan did a fine job of telling this story. I was annoyed, as I always am, by dialogue that sounded modern. (I am pretty sure that people did not talk that way in the early 1900s.) But I was drawn into the story. In today's world, not many would be shocked by such an affair. Mamah would not have had the added battle of fighting the mores of the time, which also caused her children additional suffering. While in Europe with Frank, Mamah met Ellen Key, a famous Swedish feminist of the times and became her translator. Again this turned out to be a blessing and a curse. It was a very hard time to be a woman but despite all the grief and tragedy, it must have been thrilling as well.
I read a quote the other day that went something like, "Well behaved women do not make history." Mamah Borthwick Cheney was a very badly behaved woman of her day but contributed to changing history for women. I am glad her story has been told.