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Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Remarkable Life of Flora Stanley

It’s fairly common knowledge that F.O. Stanley made significant contributions to Estes Park. However, little is known about Flora Stanley and the accomplished life she led. The purpose of Women’s History month is to highlight the contributions of women in history and contemporary society. In celebration of Women’s History month, we would like to highlight the many facets of this remarkable woman.

It’s fairly common knowledge that F.O. Stanley made significant contributions to Estes Park. However, little is known about Flora Stanley and the accomplished life she led. The purpose of Women’s History month is to highlight the contributions of women in history and contemporary society. In celebration of Women’s History month, we would like to highlight the many facets of this remarkable woman.

Flora Jane Record Tileston was born on April 23, 1847 in Hartland, Maine. While working as a school teacher in Mechanic Falls, Flora married a fellow teacher, Freelan Oscar Stanley, on April 18, 1876. As a wife, Flora was a constant companion, fellow adventure-seeker, and was actively involved in the treatment of her husband’s tuberculosis.

Flora and F.O. had many adventures together over the course of their marriage. For example, she accompanied F.O. on the first automobile trip up Mt. Washington, New England’s highest mountain. Her joy in this endeavor was recorded in her diary when she wrote, “The thing we had undertaken to do was done, and the triumph of the Locomobile was published to the world!”(44).

As a dedicated wife, Flora cared for F.O. while he was struggling with tuberculosis, following him to Colorado even though she struggled with the altitude(54). In fact, on June 29, 1903, Flora arrived in Estes Park a day before F.O. When Mr. Stanley arrived the following day in his steam car, Flora had already made preparations for their initial stay in what would become their new summer home! Her concern and vigilance over F.O.’s well-being was often documented in her diary entries where she frequently wrote about the progress of his disease, keeping notes on his weight and recovery.

Beyond her identity as a dedicated and adventurous spouse, Flora was also actively involved in many community organizations, a civic leader in her own right. According to the Stanley Museum in Kingfield, Maine, “Flora was an early supporter of schools and settlement houses for the betterment of low-income women, as well as universal suffrage. She also wrote poetry, travelogues, and worked on housekeeping and aesthetics, revealing both a broad knowledge and a sense of humor.”

Flora was a pioneer for civic involvement in all of her various communities. In Newton, Massachusetts, Flora was actively involved in the Katahdin Club, the Social Science Club, the West Newton Woman’s and Educational Clubs, and the Sarah Hull Chapter of the D.A.R.(189). Although only a summer resident, her commitment to civic duty was also evidenced through her community involvement in Estes Park. In 1912, she helped to organize and lead the Women’s Auxiliary of the Estes Park Protective and Improvement Association which would later become the Estes Park Women’s Club, still active in Estes Park today. The club promoted trail building, the fish hatchery, and Estes Park’s first library. Flora donated considerable time to the auxiliary’s first bazaar and vaudeville show where she dressed up as a gypsy and ran a fortune-telling booth to raise money for the club. In future years, Flora played a key leadership role as this group helped to campaign for the Rocky Mountain National Park(203).

When Flora wasn’t on mountain adventures or engaging in civic activities, she enjoyed an active social life. Flora hosted many gatherings at their Estes Park home, as well as at the Stanley Hotel. She loved spending time playing her beloved 7 ½ foot Steinway grand piano, which was a gift from F. O. in celebration of the hotel’s grand opening(199).

Flora was troubled with eye issues and grew increasingly blind in her later years. By the early 1930s, she reached a point of near-blindness. This very active and social woman continued to visit Estes Park but was now confined to a routine that limited her activities. In July 1939, Flora suffered a stroke at the Stanley Hotel. She died 10 days later at 1:25 a.m. on Monday July 25, 1939, in the bedroom of her Estes Park home(239). She was ultimately buried in the Stanley family plot in Kingfield beside her husband of 65 years.

Flora was a remarkable woman who led a full, rich, and active life of service to both her husband and her community. She did all of this at a time in our history when a woman’s identity was rarely separate from that of her husband. Please join us in celebrating the life and accomplishments of this remarkable woman!

References:

Pickering, J. (2000). Mr. Stanley of Estes Park. Kingfield, ME and Estes Park, CO: Stanley Museum, Inc.

Photos provided courtesy of Stanley Museum, Kingfield, Maine.

Estes Park, Colorado

by Flora Stanley (courtesy of Stanley Museum, Kingfield, Maine)
A bit of heavenly blue
Wing’d, has flutter’d through
The mist and haze
Of autumn days
To cheer my dreary view.
O, blue bird of the spring
Why do you not take wing?
Why linger here
When all is drear
And only sad winds sing?
O, bird of azure wing
Do sunny memories cling
Around the spot
That you care not
What other climes may bring?
You are unto the year
What hope is to us here,
The first to show
The last to go
With all that makes life dear.