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Peggy Baird Johns Cowley Conklin - Catholic Worker odds & ends
August 16th, 2009
08:11 am


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Peggy Baird Johns Cowley Conklin
"It is wonderful how young and old turn to Peggy (Baird), who is always calm, equable, un-judging. 'She has something,' Kay says, speaking of the way men are attracted to her. Her continued enjoyment of life, for instance, as epitomized by the bottle of wine by her bedside. Her enjoyment in books and flowers, and nature. She is a Collete. But she prays too. I love to hear her join in. 'Pour forth we beseech The O Lord. Thy grace into our hearts.'"---from The Diaries of Dorothy Day, 2008, Marquette Univ.

"...what was Peggy herself, the last---and in some ways the most improbable---player to enter Hart Crane's life?...Regarding her age, at least, she was more than she claimed, generally she registered 1890 as her year of birth...the small print of life was never Peggy's specialism, a born bohemian, insouciant, inventive, easygoing and vain, she lived in the moment and took people as they came. Nobody expected her to earn her living and she seldom indicated a contrary ambition...Once settled in Greenwich Village she established herself as drinking companion to its editors, artists, poets and journalists."---from Hart Crane, a life, by Clive Fisher.

Peggy Baird had persuaded Dorothy to accompany her on a demonstration at the White House for women's suffrage in 1917. They were arrested, sentenced to 30 days and went on a hunger strike. They were separated, briefly and in an effort to rejoin Peggy, Dorothy was man-handled by guards. Sometime later Peggy married literary critic, Malcolm Cowley. During their separation and eventual divorce Cowley fell in love with Dorothy's sister Della. During this time Peggy became emotionally involved with the poet Hart Crane and they lived together in Mexico. Whether their involvement became sexual is still in dispute since Crane was homosexual and never gave up his pursuit of men during this time. While they were on a boat returning to New York in 1932 Crane jumped overboard off Cuba. His body was never recovered. Later, Peggy married a seaman, Howard Conklin. I met them in 1955 at the Peter Maurin farm on Staten Island N.Y. where they were Dorothy's guests. Howard died at Bellevue Hospital during this time. Peggy died at the CW farm in Tivoli, NY in the 70s. By that time she had become a Catholic. RS

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:August 17th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
In the early 1960s, Peggy and Howard were living in a sunny apartment on Ludlow Street, surrounded by plants, cats, and liquor bottles. It was when Howard died, around 1965, that Peggy went to live at the CW farm in Tivoli. She was born Margarite Frances Baird in 1890 (or so she said) and died at Tivoli, on the way to the hospital, on September 23, 1970.
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Date:August 17th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember getting a phone call at Peter Maurin Farm in the mid 50s from the hospital for Peggy telling her that Howard had died. Perhaps my memory is faulty.RS
Date:September 27th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
I was a little off on the date. Howard died in August or September of 1963, according to Dorothy's September 1963 column.
Date:August 17th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
Also, she had another marriage, to an Orrick Johnns or Johns, before she met Dorothy.
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