Biographical Sketch of Adeline Lobdell Atwater (Pynchon)


Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920


Biography of Adeline Lobdell Atwater (Pynchon), 1887-1975

By Carole Sargent, Georgetown University

Adeline Lobdell was born in 1887 in Chicago, IL, to Mr. and Mrs. Edwin L. Lobdell, a wealthy, well-connected couple. After receiving an education in local seminaries and studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Lobdell traveled extensively before marrying Henry Atwater in the early 1900s. The couple had two daughters, Barbara and Edith, and during World War I, they moved to Washington, DC, where Adeline joined the National Woman’s Party (NWP).

While involved with the NWP, Lobdell became increasingly passionate about the fight for women’s suffrage. On October 11, 1918, she participated in a special picketing of the Senate Office Building after the suffrage amendment failed to pass by just two votes and the Senate refused to bring it back for a vote after one “Nay” senator changed his vote. On that day, Lobdell and Betty Gram held the banner, while Lobdell’s two daughters held the tricolor suffrage banners.

After moving back to Chicago in 1919, Lobdell became the Illinois representative for the NWP’s National Advisory Council. Around the same time, she divorced Atwater, moving briefly to Reno for a “quickie divorce.” In 1921 Lobdell moved to New York City where she became the director of the New Gallery, which exhibited primarily contemporary art—a passion of Lobdell’s since her education at the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the next ten years, Lobdell managed various galleries and served as a highly recommended curator for individual artists, taking a break only to travel to Paris with Helena Rubinstein. During this period and through the rest of her life, Lobdell spent her free time writing and publishing both news articles and fictional books. All of her writing can be found in hardcopy in the Adeline Lobdell Atwater Papers at The Newberry Library in Chicago, including her full length book, The Marriage of Don Quixote (1931), and her incomplete memoir, The Autobiography of an Extravert: One Woman’s Story (undated). The memoir contains a detailed character sketch of NWP founder, Alice Paul, and depicts life in DC in the late 1910s.

In 1932 at the end of her summer vacation visiting her parents in Estes Park, CO, Lobdell married Harold C. Pynchon. Given her status as a well-known promoter of modern artists and a novelist, the Chicago Tribune covered the story, noting that it came as a surprise to all but a few of her closest friends. The couple then moved back to Chicago where Lobdell focused heavily on her writing, publishing short stories and news articles in Red Book Magazine, New York Herald Tribune Magazine, and The Midwest Review of Literature, and serving as president of the Society of Midland Authors. Throughout her marriage to Pynchon, she continued her activity and leadership in charitable organizations until her death in Chicago in 1975.


Primary Archives at the Newberry Library, Chicago, IL

-A collection of Adeline Atwater’s manuscript stories and articles, most of which are undated but appear to have been written between 1932 and 1956. Also, a 1941 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway brochure and a facsimile photograph of Atwater’s parents, the Lobdells

-Her diary from 1932 (extant in typescript) in the months prior to her marriage to Harold Pynchon, which details the life of a society woman in Chicago in the depression years

-An undated manuscript of her memoir, The Autobiography of an Extravert: One Woman’s Story (only in the archives in Chicago; see a discussion of the childhood and adolescence sections with quotes in Harvey J. Graff’s Conflicting Paths: Growing Up in America 258-63)

From Newberry Archives’ description: “the collection contains an undated typescript entitled Autobiography of an Extravert. This long work depicts pictures of life in turn-of-the-century Chicago; witnesses the Iroquois Theatre fire when Atwater was a girl; discusses her children’s education in the Montesorri Method in 1918; portrays life in Washington, D.C. in 1919, and Atwater’s work with the National Woman’s Party, including a character sketch of the founder of the NWP, Alice Paul; and details getting a divorce in Reno, Nevada, circa 1920; It also describes artists and their activities in New York City during the twenties; 1920’s travel with Helena Rubinstein to Paris; and the Hollywood scene of 1930. The autobiography ends with Atwater’s marriage to Harold Pynchon in 1932.”

Inez Haynes Gilmore, The Story of the Woman’s Party (New York: Kraus Imprints, 1971; originally published 1921), 384.

“Mrs. Adeline Lobdell Atwater Is Bride of Harold C. Pynchon,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 August, 1932, p. 9.

Photographs: - her author photo in 1932 after 2nd marriage

Library of Congress photo, 1918 Adeline L. Atwater (Mrs. Henry Atwater):

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