Mamah Borthwick Cheney | Photograph | Wisconsin Historical Society


Mamah Borthwick Cheney

Mamah Borthwick Cheney | Photograph | Wisconsin Historical Society
Mamah Borthwick Cheney, mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Mamah Borthwick Cheney, mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Image ID:3970
Creation Date:date unknown
Creator Name:Chicago Tribune
Collection Name:Frank Lloyd Wright and family photographs, circa 1890-1959
Original Format Type:photographic print, b&w
Original Format Number:PH 6045.5
Original Dimensions:8 x 10 inches
On 11/20/2007 from "The Wright Library" website: Martha "Mamah" Bouton Borthwick Cheney (June 19, 1869 - August 15, 1914). She was born in Boone, Iowa. She received a BA at the University of Michigan, and later worked as a librarian in Port Huron, Michigan. In 1899, she married Edwin Cheney, an electrical engineer from Oak Park, Illinois, USA. They had two children: John (1902) and Martha (1905). Edwin commissioned Wright to design them a home in 1903. In 1909, Mamah and Frank left their respective spouses and traveled to Europe, settling in Italy for about a year. Upon their return, they settled at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. On August 15, 1914, one of Wright's recently hired domestic workers murdered Mamah, both her children, three of Wright's associates, and a son of one of the associates. He set fire to one wing of Taliesin, and murdered the seven people with an ax as they tried to escape the fire. At the time, Wright was overseeing work on Midway Gardens in Chicago. Catherine Wright refused to give Wright a divorce until November 13, 1922. Note on Verso, dated 11/15/22 (two days after divorce was granted) "Old love of famous architect who is divorced. Photo is of Mamah Borthwick Cheney who fled with Frank Lloyd Wright to a `Love Hegira' in Japan, and who died in the flames of the 'Love Bungalow' of herself and Wright, at Spring Green, Wis. Note: Chicago Herald & Examiner of November 15th carried story of Frank Lloyd Wright divorce." Very few images exist. Meryle Secrest notes in a portrait caption "Frank Lloyd Wright A Biography" 1992, page 196, "The only known photograph of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, published in the Chicago Tribune at the time of her murder, in 1914."
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