Over the next 30 days, The Birmingham Buff will feature 30 remarkable women who have made their mark on Birmingham’s history.
A Woman You Should Know #1
One of my favorite movies is “Auntie Mame” (which is based on the 1955 Patrick Dennis’ novel of the same name and Broadway production “Mame”). The film follows Auntie Mame as she dashes from one adventure to the next. She’s free-spirited and eccentric.
When I first learned about Birmingham’s Eleanor Massey Bridges, I was struck by how much she reminded me of Auntie Mame. Like Mame, Bridges blazed her own path. Born in Columbus, Ga. in 1899 to Richard (founder of Massey Business College) and Bessie Massey, Bridges grew up in the famed Massey residence on Red Mountain. (The Masseys had moved to Birmingham when Bridges was three months old.) Some interesting points in Bridges’ life:
- From an early age, Bridges declared she wanted to be an artist, over her father’s objections. She was able to train with the local artist Hannah Elliott.
- She roomed with Amelia Earhart at boarding school.
- She met her husband George Bridges in Birmingham at a debutante party. They were engaged within a week later.
- The couple were married in 1920 in her family’s home. Her disapproving parents remained upstairs. The Bridges honeymooned at a camp on the Warrior River.
- They studied at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts. Eleanor studied painting while George studied sculpture.
- The couple lived in France, Greece, and Spain before returning to Birmingham.
- During the Great Depression, she and her husband took in as many as 18 abandoned children over a decade.
- She taught in Vassar College’s art department and gave free art classes to students from Parker High School and the Homewood school system.
- Eleanor’s “Cyclorama of Birmingham History,” a free-standing collage she began when she was 80, was installed (unfinished) at Bell South, although it was commissioned for the lobby of the Brown-Marx building.
Eleanor died in 1987. (George died in 1976.) Read more about this fascinating woman here.