Storer, Maria Longworth Nichols

 

Born March 20, 1849, to a wealthy founding family of Cincinnati, Ohio, Maria Longworth became an accomplished artist. At the age of 19, Maria married art aficionado Colonel George Ward Nichols. While raising their two children, Joseph and Margaret, Maria Nichols launched Cincinnati’s famous May Music festival, established and ran the celebrated Rookwood Pottery Studio, and took up china painting. Founding a festival and a business were unusual endeavors for women of her era. The international prizes she won for her painting—including a gold cup at the prestigious Paris Exposition—demonstrated her talent and creativity.

In 1885, tuberculosis killed Colonel Nichols. Within a year Maria married fellow Cincinnatian congressman Bellamy Storer. Bellamy was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt's, as demonstrated by his being Archie Roosevelt’s godfather.

After hearing Archbishop John Ireland speak in 1892 about Pope Leo XIII’s views on labor relations, Maria Storer, an Episcopalian, converted to Catholicism in June that same year. She was particularly interested in the Pope’s ideas about ethical and just working conditions because of her connection to Rookwood Studios. Maria’s daughter and husband similarly converted. Bellamy suffered an anti-Catholic backlash that cost him his seat in the U.S. Congress. President William McKinley appointed him Minister to Belgium and then, in 1899, Minister to Spain.

At that time, Maria became embroiled in what became known as the “Dear Maria Controversy.” Maria sought support from friends and among her husband’s colleagues in order to convince the Pope to elevate Archbishop Ireland to cardinal. Among those she lobbied was Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1902 had appointed Bellamy Ambassador to Austria-Hungary.

In 1899 Roosevelt had endorsed Maria’s idea, but as president he felt he should not take a public stance. He cautioned Maria not to use his name, but she persisted. Complicating the issue was the fact that Maria Storer was the aunt of Nicholas Longworth, who had married First Daughter Alice Roosevelt. Ultimately, Theodore Roosevelt removed Bellamy from his ambassadorial post because Maria would not desist. The friendship between the Roosevelts and the Storers ended as a result of the controversy. The Storers relocated to France where Maria died on April 11, 1932, age 83.