Annie Rensselaer Tinker (1884-1924) of East Setauket and NYC: Philanthropist, Suffragist, WWI Volunteer in Europe

Catherine Tinker

Abstract: This article examines the political and philanthropic career of Annie Rensselaer Tinker, a prominent advocate of female suffrage, who had Long Island ties. Apart from leisurely summers spent with her family in Setauket, Tinker became an active member of Harriot Stanton Blatch's Woman's Political Union. As a "Gilded suffragist" with equestrian experience, Tinker also organized a female cavalry in New York, a phalanx of society women astride horses, who led suffrage parades, drawing crowds and protecting marchers. The article also examines her later experiences in Europe during World War I, where she provided aid to the wounded and later was awarded a French medal of honor. In a little known epilogue to her adventurous life, Tinker donated her considerable fortune to found a charity, still in existence today, to assist aged women who worked for a living.

Keywords: Suffragist, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Inez Milholland, "Gilded suffragists," World War I, philanthropist, Suffolk County, Setauket

Annie Rensselaer Tinker, Philanthropist[1]

Fig. 1. Annie Tinker in suffragist hat around 1912, photo courtesy of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc., and their archives in the collection of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Annie Rensselaer Tinker was an independent thinker, an advocate for women, an equestrian, and a self-described “spinster.” At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, a newspaper chronicled how “Miss Annie Tinker, daughter of Henry C. Tinker, former president of the Liberty National Bank, of New York, sailed for the European war zone…to enlist in the Red Cross force.”[2] Her empathy for others and concern for their suffering was demonstrated throughout her life, until her untimely death in 1924, at the age of 39.

A bequest Annie R. Tinker made in her will in 1918 led to the creation of a charity to aid older “women who had worked for a living” when they no longer had adequate means of support.[3] It has continued for nearly one hundred years, as described on the website of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc.:

Since its founding in the 1920s, the Association has assisted hundreds of older women with direct financial assistance and support in finding the services they need. The Association’s primary function is to grant small monthly stipends to retired women with the goal of providing enough assistance to keep them living independently in their homes. The Association also works to sustain the emotional health and quality of life of aging women by providing meaningful opportunities
for social interaction and community involvement.[4]

The “Annie R. Tinker Memorial Home,” as it was first named, was incorporated in New Jersey in 1924, the year of Annie’s death, as a not-for-profit organization to receive the gift under Annie R. Tinker’s will and honor her wishes. In the 1930s, the Trustees of the Home noted in a small pamphlet that:

The number of impoverished ladies is great and is not covered by law through old age pensions and disability payments. The number of institutions working in the field is very small, their funds are limited, and all have large waiting lists.[5]

Annie Rensselaer Tinker’s goal of helping women who became in need of financial and social assistance as they grew older was a vision of great foresight long before Social Security was created. The need has continued for some older women over the 100 years since Annie Tinker wrote her own will making the bequest. Another booklet published by the organization decades after the first declared “These women have managed their lives with dignity, individuality, and independence of spirit. Allowing these women to maintain these qualities is the goal.”[6]

The “Home” was subsequently renamed the “Annie Rensselaer Tinker Memorial Fund” to reflect the fact that no actual physical “home” was opened to care for older women, and then renamed again as the “Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc.,” with an office in Manhattan. An average of ten women at a time over most of the decades of the group’s existence have been assisted with small but necessary monthly stipends and special recognition at birthdays and holidays. At one time there were as many as 75 beneficiaries; when the current reorganization of the Association began in 2017, there were 26 beneficiaries.[7]

Once a woman was accepted as a Tinker beneficiary, she remained with the organization for many years until her situation changed and she could no longer live independently. Some women were involved for twenty years or more, and new beneficiaries were rarely added to the roster. This created a sense of a “Tinker family,” fostered by social events and book club meetings with Trustees and beneficiaries who became friends over the years.[8]

Prudent investments by the Board of Trustees significantly grew the initial endowment of approximately $350,000 from Annie Tinker’s estate in the 1930s to over a million dollars in recent years, and added donations which enabled the Association to assist over one hundred women over nine decades. The Association has made donations to several similar charities in New York that provide direct assistance to older women, groups involved already with many of the individual Tinker beneficiaries that provide case management, social work or other services. The organization is planning ways to ensure continuity of the legacy of Annie R. Tinker.[9]

This article explores the life of Annie Rensselaer Tinker, seeking clues as to how a young society woman who was a founding member in 1903 of the Colony Club, the first exclusive women-only private club in New York City, came to be concerned with the lives of other, less fortunate women as they aged and could no longer work to support themselves.[10]

The article suggests that the freedom Annie enjoyed in summers on the North Shore of Long Island on her father’s estate, swimming, sailing and horseback riding, combined with her friends in the arts and her sizeable inheritance, enabled Annie’s choice of lifestyle, her activism for women’s rights, her concern for other women’s needs to remain independent, and her bravery and compassion in alleviating suffering near the battlegrounds of World War I.

Family Background and Upbringing

The story begins much farther back, in Annie’s childhood summers in Long Island with her family. Many of the city’s leading families who lived on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue also had country estates where they spent time, whether on the North Shore of Long Island, Westchester County, parts of New Jersey, or abroad. The Tinkers were no exception. Henry Champlin Tinker (1849-1914), Annie’s father, had grown up in New York and in Europe with his father, Capt. Edward Greenfield Tinker (1813-1890), who was from Connecticut.

Capt. Tinker, Annie’s paternal grandfather, was a descendant of John Tinker, an English settler in the Massachusetts Bay Colony who arrived before 1638, served as an agent for Governor Winthrop, and moved to New London, Connecticut, where he became a magistrate.[11] Capt. Tinker went to sea as a boy and became the owner of a line of packet ships on the New York-London route. He sold his shipping interests after the Civil War, returned to New York, and invested in Manhattan real estate, building the first apartment houses on Park Avenue at the corners of East 57th and East 56th Streets (the “North Kensington” at 449 Park Avenue and the “South Kensington,” respectively). His own townhouse was at 29 East 57th Street between Madison and Park Avenues in Manhattan.[12]

Annie’s maternal grandfather was Manhattan lawyer Joseph Larocque, whose daughter Louise was Annie’s mother. His grand townhouse was at 6 East 56th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Joseph Larocque, a graduate of Columbia University, was descended from French ancestors who settled in Savannah, Georgia, around the time of the American Revolution.[13] He was a prominent New York maritime lawyer who served as president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in 1896, presiding over the opening ceremonies of the House of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, now a historic landmark still in use.[14]

Annie’s father, Henry Champlin Tinker (called “H.C.”), was the president of Liberty National Bank and served on the boards of many corporations.[15] He bought land in Setauket on a point between Setauket Harbor and Port Jefferson Harbor in 1890 and built a large waterfront home there in 1895, where the family spent every summer for the next twenty years. This was the property that Annie inherited when her father died in 1914.[16]

Fig. 2. Map of Annie R. Tinker’s property, Setauket, from Atlas of a Part of Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, Vol. 1, published by E. Belcher Hyde, 1917, in the collection of the Three Villages Historical Society, Setauket, New York.

After their marriage in 1880, H.C. and Louise Larocque Tinker lived with Capt. Tinker in his townhouse. Shortly after their first child, Edward Larocque Tinker, was born in 1881, they moved to the North Kensington apartments on Park Avenue and 57th Street, built by Capt. Tinker, where Annie Rensselaer Tinker was born in 1884. In 1890, when he inherited a fortune from his father, H.C. built his own Manhattan townhouse at 48 East 57th Street, where the family lived for 25 years. This townhouse is still standing today, although the facade has been altered; it is being used as a commercial building by a jeweler.[17]

The addition of a summer cottage for the family in Long Island became significant in young Annie’s life. Summers were spent on her father’s estate in Long Island, where H.C. Tinker built an expansive summer “cottage” on a point of land between Setauket Harbor and Port Jefferson Harbor with a view across Long Island Sound to Connecticut.[18]

Fig. 3. H.C. Tinker “cottage,” Setauket, NY, built 1895, inherited by Annie R. Tinker 1914, photo postcard by Arthur S. Greene, in the collection of the Three Villages Historical Society, Setauket, New York.

Edward Larocque Tinker (1882-1968), Annie’s brother, who founded the successful Tinker National Bank in East Setauket, fondly recalled summers in Setauket with his sister in his memoirs, but did not name her. He wrote: “Here my sister and I learned to swim and sail boats. It was a wonderful place for youngsters.”[19]

One can imagine young Annie at the imposing “cottage” on the top of the bluff overlooking Long Island Sound, swimming, sailing, driving horse carriages and automobiles, and riding, jumping and training horses. Annie loved horses and dogs, roaming the acres of the summer home and sailing her father’s beloved yacht herself with his encouragement. Annie was probably most at home here, since she kept the cottage in East Setauket as her own residence after her father’s death even when she lived in Paris after WWI ended.

Annie may have been tutored at home by governesses, since the only record of her formal education is a year at the Brearley School, a serious private girls’ school in Manhattan, entering “Class II” from October 1896 to June 1897. The school’s records contain no further details about Annie’s life before or after this year.[20] But Annie’s athleticism and love of the water grew in the time spent in Setauket every year.

Photos from the turn of the 19th century show an adolescent Annie with her horse in a field, silhouetted against the waters surrounding the estate, dressed in a full-length dark skirt and long-sleeved high-necked blouse typical of the “Gibson Girls” style of the era, proper attire for a young woman of means.[21] However, young Annie soon cast off her corsets and adopted riding boots and breeches.[22]

Fig. 4. Annie Rensselaer Tinker and her horse, Tinker estate, Setauket, NY around 1900, photo courtesy of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc., and their archives in the collection of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fig. 5. Annie Rensselaer Tinker in riding boots and breeches, photo used with permission of John and Betty Evans from the Village of Port Jefferson Archives.

Some years later, a newspaper cried “Boots and Breeches for Suffrage Amazons,” depicting “Miss Tinker wearing her riding boots and costume, over which she has thrown a fur coat.”[23] In 1904, Annie’s father, H.C. Tinker, proudly launched his new yacht Palestine, built locally in Port Jefferson at the Bayles shipyard.[24]

Fig. 6. Yacht Palestine, built by Bayles Shipyard, Port Jefferson, NY, 1904, photo courtesy of Chris Ryon, Village of Port Jefferson Historian.

Photos by Long Island photographer Arthur S. Greene and newspaper accounts recorded the construction of the imposing new yacht and its launch on June 16, 1904, when 20-year-old Annie broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the prow of the ship as it was eased into the water. She learned to sail the yacht by herself, and also enjoyed sailing with the many guests her father invited on board.

One day Annie sailed the yacht from Long Island to the New York Yacht Club with a group of her women friends, all carefully dressed for the occasion. Annie R. Tinker’s entry in the New York Social Register when she was living with her family lists her as belonging to the New York Yacht Club, her father’s club. Nevertheless, that day the women were soundly turned away, forbidden to disembark. Annie turned and sailed the massive yacht back home with her friends. The moment was recounted by one of her friends that day:

Very often Anne Tinker was at the helm. The first year, two other ladies were guests and one expressed outrage at the following incident. ‘Having received an invitation by the Eastern Yacht Club to the members of the N.Y.Y.C. and ‘their guests’ we of the inferior sex, considering ourselves for the moment in the light of guests, spent much time and energy in arraying ourselves in fancy plumage. …we row, fascinated, to the dock ahead! ‘No ladies are expected or even allowed!’ A policeman is on hand to encourage the fact. We gasp, then laugh (a sense of humor is a joy forever), then row ignominiously back to the Palestine with the comforting thought that many another has, or is about to, suffer our same humiliation.[25]

Another exploit early in Annie’s life in Long Island occurred while sailing with friends on their boat, the Marguerite, in Port Jefferson Harbor near her father’s estate. Hearing cries for help, Annie did not hesitate to try to save a drowning man, while her male sailing companions looked on:

Miss Tinker noticed Dazib swimming toward sea. She heard the cries of his companions and saw that the footman had disappeared. She sprang to the windward rail and dived overboard in full attire. A few study strokes brought her to the float. She dived at the point where Dazib was seen to sink, but failed to find any trace of the body.[26]

Neighbors, including Mr. Foos and Mr. Jacobson, later recovered the body. He was identified as Louis Jean Dazib, aged 25, a footman at the Tinker estate.

The Long Island community had another opportunity to appreciate Annie Tinker in action on May 17, 1913, when a forest fire near Crystal Brook Park Road in Mt. Sinai near Port Jefferson was subdued but broke out again later that day, threatening the home of John Davis. According to the local paper, he:

soon received help from an unexpected quarter. Miss Annie Tinker, who has on more than one occasion endeared herself to the people of this community, appeared with her automobile and a man servant armed with a shovel, and with the help of others at last stopped further progress of the fire.[27]

Annie’s freedom each summer in Long Island nurtured her courage and athletic abilities. Her early efforts to help others, even at great personal risk to herself, strengthened her sense of empathy and compassion as she matured.

Suffragist Annie R. Tinker

One area where Annie Rensselaer Tinker’s personal drive for independence and her larger concern with civic engagement came together was around her dedication to women’s rights. She first joined the cause of votes for women when she became a member of the Woman’s Political Union (“W.P.U.”), founded by Harriot Stanton Blatch, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter.[28] The W.P.U. and its predecessor, the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, mobilized women from many social and economic classes to organize for woman suffrage. Blatch is credited as the leader of the suffrage movement in New York State, achieving passage at long last of a bill by the Legislature in 1913 to hold a referendum on votes for women. Furthermore, one scholar claimed that the parade she planned for May 4, 1912:

marked a shift in society and the campaign for suffrage, being the first time in New York City that a suffrage parade marched uptown rather than downtown, emphasizing the inclusion of middle class and socialite women in addition to labor unions.[29]

Annie participated in many meetings, rallies, marches and theatrical benefits in support for a woman’s right to vote organized by the W.P.U. “’Lysistrata’ To Be Given for Woman’s Political Union,” headlined a newspaper story about a performance of Aristophanes’ play on February 17 and 18, 1913, at the Maxine Elliott Theatre in New York City to benefit the W.P.U.; “assisting in the entertainment will be…Annie R. Tinker.”[30]

An accomplished equestrian, Annie formed and trained a woman’s cavalry with her society friends and their horses in 1911. Among those who enlisted in the women’s cavalry, Annie told the Washington Post, were Miss Inez Milholland, Miss Marie Zimmerman, and other “well-known young suffragists.”[31]

Annie had invited her friend Inez Milholland to ride with her women’s cavalry. It seems Annie knew how to organize women and horses, picking the best for her team. Inez Milholland, educated at Vassar and a lawyer in New York, became a powerful and untiring voice for suffrage until her death in 1916 when she collapsed at a podium and died, becoming the “first martyr” of the suffrage movement in the U.S. Inez Milholland is the famous figure on posters of the suffrage marchers in Washington, D.C. in 1913, riding a white horse, wearing a flowing white gown and carrying a suffragist banner.[32]

A newspaper headlined the story “In Saddle for Votes, Society Women Volunteer, Miss Annie Tinker, Leader of Fair Cavalry” and described the march in New York City on May 4, 1912:

Miss Annie Tinker, the beautiful young suffragist who is arranging this extraordinary feature of the ‘votes-for-women’ march who herself will lead the 30,000 suffragists down Fifth Avenue, was one of the first women to ride astride in Central Park…‘To eliminate pompadours and other fancy hairdressing to which any might be inclined,’ said Miss Tinker today, ‘we shall wear a uniform style of hat, a three-cornered George Washington effect, with a cockade of suffrage colors, green white and purple.’[33]

The New York Times on April 9, 1912 described details of the “arrangements for the procession” to be held on May 4, 1912:

There will be the usual number of mounted police at the head, and following them a squadron of mounted suffragists. Miss Annie Tinker will be the Grand Marshal of the parade, though at the head of the procession will ride two fifteen-year-old girls. Then will come Miss Tinker and her forty mounted followers. Miss Tinker and many of the women will ride astride, the Marshal carrying a pennant which will be supported at her stirrup…The mounted squadron will wear black hats, three-cornered, with little-tri-colored cockades of purple, green, and white.[34]

On April 30, 1912, the Tribune described “Suffragette Hats, 39 Cents Trimmed, Women Turn Milliners to Provide Headgear for Marchers in Their Big Parade” citing a sign “going up in the windows of the Woman’s Political Union headquarters, 46 East Twenty-ninth Street” advertising the bonnets.[35] Marchers were asked to wear white gowns and white straw hats with beehive crowns.

The Tribune story also outlined how the massive “procession” on May 4, 1912 would include in its ranks professional women, teachers, business women, industrial workers, waitresses, domestic workers, civil service workers, voters from suffrage states, suffrage pioneers, the College League, the Women’s Trades Union League, the Wage Earners’ League, socialists, some men, and many others, marching in rows by group. Special trains were organized to bring marchers from the South and the West, including from as far away as California. Each contingent was to meet and join the march up Fifth Avenue at specific corners along the parade route.[36]

Press coverage was certainly guaranteed on May 4, 1912. As many as 30,000 women supporting women’s right to vote in New York State planned to march up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square Park to Carnegie Hall in silent rows across the avenue, filling the street for hours until the last row of marchers arrived at the end. At the head of this dignified demand for equality and justice was to be Annie and her cavalry, made up of friends who often rode together in Central Park and most likely some friends from the Colony Club, all women riding astride their horses, not sidesaddle.

Annie had begun training the cavalry for the suffrage marches in late 1911.[37] Unfortunately, just before the day of the big march, she was hospitalized and had emergency surgery for appendicitis. A friend, Mrs. Charles Edward Knobloch, took the lead horse in Annie’s place:

Fate has been unkind to the suffragists in laying low their leader of cavalry, Miss Annie R. Tinker. She who was to be at the head of the fifty horsewomen guard of honor to the tramping thousands, is in the hospital for an appendicitis operation, which cannot be delayed.[38]

The press continued to report on Annie’s leadership role in the suffrage movement and her participation in other rallies and events organized by the W.P.U. in 1912 and 1913 in New York City. Annie made “good copy” and no doubt enjoyed the publicity for her bold ideas that helped to publicize the cause of votes for women. One account began:

Fancy Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch dashing upon the stage of Oscar Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre in a huge yellow automobile, with Miss Annie Tinker at the wheel, and a bodyguard of suffragettes waving votes-for-women flags!”[39]

World War I, Death of H.C. Tinker and Annie’s Inheritance from Her Father

Annie’s early life in New York was shaped by her position as one of the country’s “gilded suffragists” and her friendships with women artists, professionals and socialites who were living on their own and exercising personal freedom and independence.[40] But when World War I broke out in 1914, Annie R. Tinker “sailed for Europe with Lady Lalian Johnstone, sister of Gifford Pinchot…to enlist in the service of the Red Cross.”[41] Once again, Annie risked her personal safety, this time to volunteer three years before the United States joined the war, throwing herself into danger as a volunteer nurse for the British Red Cross in charge of a hospital in Ostend, Belgium.[42] When her father died unexpectedly during surgery, Annie returned briefly to New York. As soon as her father’s estate was settled, however, Annie sailed again for Europe in May, 1915 to resume her war relief efforts and stayed throughout the war.[43]

At his death, H. C. Tinker left his daughter Annie his grand cottage in East Setauket together with land and other property and ownership of half of the shares in the Tinker Realty Corporation. The other half of the shares in the Tinker Realty Corporation and other assets went to Annie’s brother, Edward Larocque Tinker, along with a house near the main cottage which H.C. built as a gift at the time of Edward’s first marriage. H.C. left his wife Louise an annuity, reduced upon her remarriage, and the use of the family townhouse in Manhattan.

Annie and Edward created a trust in May 1915 to hold their stock in the Tinker Realty Corporation they inherited from their father, who had inherited it from their grandfather, Capt. Edward Greenfield Tinker. At the same time, Annie executed a power of attorney in favor of her lawyer, William Woart Lancaster, a member of the law firm Shearman and Sterling in New York City. She continuously monitored the rental income from her properties and the value of the stocks and bonds in her portfolio, deciding what to sell or hold, by corresponding frequently with “Woart,” as she called her lawyer, and inviting him to Paris after WWI for a consultation.[44]

After the darkness of that first world war, Annie stayed in Europe. She rented a house in Paris in the early 1920s, where she enjoyed the cosmopolitan life of the city like many other American expatriates of the Jazz Age. It was here she entertained friends and played with her dogs, drove her automobile and rode horses in the Bois de Boulogne. Meanwhile, she retained the great cottage at Setauket, inherited from her father in 1914, as her legal domicile, although it was probably never converted to a year-round dwelling and no extant records indicate when she last lived there. A newspaper account of her presence in Long Island visiting friends in Southampton in 1920, when she went to a Labor Day party, clearly shows she returned to Long Island from Europe that summer.[45]

Today, the land Henry Champlin Tinker bought for his summer estate is part of the incorporated hamlet of Poquott and is referred to as “Tinker Point.” H.C.’s massive “cottage” at the end of the point with the magnificent view, which became Annie’s house, is now gone. Although she hoped her “cottage” might become a retreat for older women, the Setauket house eventually went to her brother and the charity she endowed found other means of serving her intended beneficiaries.

Three separate private houses no longer in the Tinker family were built on the original footprint of the 16-bedroom Tinker cottage. The house H.C. built for his son still stands, owned privately by another family who has occupied it by descent for seventy or more years.[46] The large house H.C.’s son built for his second wife on the other side of Tinker Point was torn down. Only the name “Tinker” remains on streets and maps in Poquott and in East Setauket, where the Tinker National Bank, with its interior murals of the harbor, still stands under another corporate bank’s name on Main Street today. And Annie’s brother is buried in the Caroline Churchyard in East Setauket.[47]

Annie’s Later Years

Annie Rensselaer Tinker challenges us with a clear-eyed, direct, adolescent gaze in her oil portrait painted in 1899 by Louise Lyons Heustis (1866-1951). Choosing the attire of a man’s exotic tunic, cap and sash rather than a debutante’s ruffles and lace, Annie looks at the world, ready and able to take it on.[48]

Fig. 7. Annie Rensselaer Tinker, oil portrait by Louise Lyons Heustis, 1899, in the collection of the New-York Historical Society, New York, New York.

[photo of painting of Annie]

According to research by Margaret Hofer, Director of the New-York Historical Society, the “striking redness of Tinker’s face” might indicate that the young woman suffered from “dermatomyositis, a debilitating inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness,” noting that “after Tinker’s death a friend remarked about ‘the weary burden of her body struggling with the great ideas of her soul.’”[49]

Interestingly, an oil portrait dated 1853 of Annie R. Tinker’s paternal grandfather, Capt. Edward Greenfield Tinker, by John Thomas Peele (1822-1897), in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, shows Capt. Tinker’s extremely red cheeks.[50]

Fig. 8. Capt. Edward Greenfield Tinker, oil portrait by John Thomas Peele, London, c. 1865, in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, New York, New York.

At least in his case, he spent his youth as a sailor and middle age at sea as captain of his own packet ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, which could have had an effect on his complexion. Neither would Annie’s long summers outdoors–in and out of the water and on horseback–have preserved a porcelain complexion.

In Naples, Italy, at the end of World War I, Annie was involved in war relief work and met other Americans like Kate Darling Nelson, who became her great friend. Annie chose Kate as her sole heir when she wrote out her own will by hand on June 27, 1918, giving Kate “sole benefit and use during her lifetime” of Annie’s entire property, real and otherwise, with the principal thereafter to be donated to charity to benefit “women who worked for a living.” To accompany her will, Annie wrote a cover letter to a London banker on the letterhead of the “Bertolini Palace” hotel in Naples, sending the bank her original will for “safekeeping.”[51] In 1921, Kate married Luigi Bertolini, who owned the Bertolini Palace in Naples and other luxury hotels in San Remo and Paris. Meanwhile, Annie moved to Paris, renting a house near the Bois du Bologne.

Kate continued to visit and write chatty letters to Annie in Paris and to Annie’s lawyer in New York, Woart, commenting on Annie’s life in the early 1920s in Paris which Kate judged too full of late nights on the town with women friends, parties, liquor and cigarettes.[52] By the time Annie was in her late thirties, her health had begun to falter. At a party at her Paris home in the winter of 1924, friends expressed concern that Annie had a serious infection and sore throat which suggested inflamed tonsils. The next day, she left Paris for London, accompanied by one of her last party guests, who helped her get medical attention at a London clinic. Sadly for Annie, help came too late; her infection must have spread. At a time when antibiotics had not yet been discovered, even a common illness could prove deadly. A few days later she underwent surgery for tonsillitis at a London hospital, which she did not survive.

Annie Rensselaer Tinker died on February 21, 1924, some eight months before her 40th birthday. Reporting the news, the Port Jefferson Echo noted that “Miss Tinker…for some time had made her home at East Setauket, and was well known in Port Jefferson.”[53] Annie’s body was brought home from Southampton, England to New York on the Patria, a luxury liner on which she had sailed as a passenger. After a funeral at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City on March 10, 1924, Annie R. Tinker was buried next to her father, Henry Champlin Tinker, in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.

Visitors to Green-Wood Cemetery will find the elegant understated Tinker obelisk near the Petunia Path at Cypress and Grape, with a simple marker for her father “H.C.” and one for “Annie R.” On the side of the Tinker obelisk is inscribed the following:

Annie R. Tinker, October 28, 1884 – February 21, 1924, “Rarely such courage in a man and never in a woman.”[54]

No doubt chosen by Annie’s brother Edward Larocque Tinker, one wonders what Annie would have thought about this epitaph. She would have been pleased, however, to be buried near her father, whom she admired and appreciated for his encouragement of her life and actions. A few years before her death, Annie Rensselaer Tinker was awarded a medal by the French government in 1921 for her relief work in proximity to the enemy for an extended time in World War I.[55] Annie’s youthful boast that women could serve in wartime as bravely as men had been justified.

Epilogue: Litigation in Suffolk Count Surrogates Court, Riverhead

Annie Rensselaer Tinker identified Setauket as her legal domicile, so when she died her will was offered for probate in Riverhead, New York, in the Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court on October 14, 1924..[56] The will provided for the entire $2 million to go to Kate Darling Nelson Bertolini, who was recognized by the probate judge in Riverhead, New York, as her “intimate friend” in Paris. Surrogate Judge Robert S. Pelletreau appointed Annie’s brother Edward Larocque Tinker (who was a lawyer as well as a banker) and Annie’s long-time lawyer in New York, William Woart Lancaster, as co-administrators of the estate.[57]

Louise was represented in Surrogates Court by Joseph Larocque, Jr., her brother, who was a lawyer like their father Joseph Larocque, Sr., Annie’s maternal grandfather. All parties appearing in court were represented by counsel, both by Manhattan lawyers and law firms and by local counsel from Suffolk County. A significant portion of the documents in the court file consist of requests for payment of attorneys’ fees with supporting documentation accumulated through ten years of litigation that ensued, with appeals of various procedural and substantive orders made on different grounds by different parties at different times.[58]

A challenge to Annie’s will by her mother, Mrs. Louise Arnold, the former Mrs. Louise Larocque Tinker, was brought in Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court against Kate Bertolini. The family no doubt expected to receive all of Annie’s assets, but Annie had not named either her mother or her brother as beneficiaries in her will. The legal basis for Louise’s challenge was that Annie’s will was a handwritten or “holographic” will without any witnesses’ signatures, contrary to New York law. Kate argued that New York law as amended permitted the court to apply Italian law, and Italian law did not require witnesses, meaning that Annie’s will was legally executed in June, 1918, in Naples, Italy.[59]

Annie’s mother, who had inherited great wealth from her own father, Joseph Larocque, sought to enforce a settlement which would give her half of Annie’s money, which she planned to share with her son Edward. That would leave half of Annie’s estate for Kate from which she would have to pay expenses and endow a charity for women. This so-called “Paris Agreement” had been proposed by Louise when she came to Europe to claim her daughter’s body and personal possessions. At the time, immediately after Annie’s death, Kate had agreed; she later challenged the validity of the agreement, however, claiming she had been coerced by Annie’s family into giving up half of her inheritance.

The court upheld the validity of the Paris Agreement and authorized half of the estate to go to Annie’s mother and brother. The inventory of the liabilities of the estate included a bill from E.H. Rogers of Setauket for $54.47 for “oats, etc.” for the Tinker estate; a claim for wages due John Mackie of Setauket that was settled for $2,000; and final expenses for the London hospital and the transport, funeral and burial of Annie’s body in New York, all of which were paid by the estate along with multiple attorneys’ fees. The $2 million estate valued in 1924 increased to $2,191,706.63 by August 31, 1926, according to court records, which would be equivalent to approximately $30 million in 2017 dollars.[60] The estate assets included Annie’s stock in the Tinker Realty Corporation and other investments, her extensive wine cellar in her house in Paris, fine jewelry, furs and a Pierce-Arrow automobile.[61]

From the agreement with his mother, Edward acquired one-fourth of Annie’s estate, including the cottage and all the land on Tinker Point in Setauket and her shares in Tinker Realty Corporation. Kate Bertolini contested the valuation of the shares, which increased in value significantly during the course of the decade-long litigation, but at the end Kate received only some $350,000 after payment of all expenses from her half share. Kate gave an equal amount (a third of her 1/2 share) to the Annie R. Tinker Memorial Home, a charity for “older women who had worked for a living,” as Annie had wanted.

Who Was Annie Rensselaer Tinker?

Annie Rensselaer Tinker was a fearless advocate for women’s equality, the right to vote, the right to be recognized for wartime bravery, and the right to choose her lifestyle. With the means to live independently, she left her fortune to her woman friend and to “women who worked for a living,” a legacy that has lasted for nearly one hundred years. She is remembered today for her “dream,” her kindness, her fearlessness, and her determination that other women should be able to live independently too. The true legacy of Annie R. Tinker is the story of the nearly one hundred fascinating beneficiaries who have received assistance and recognition from the charity she envisioned when she wrote her will in 1918.

One of Annie’s formative experiences was the physical freedom of life in Long Island on her father’s estate growing up. Another was her participation in the suffrage movement, leading to voting rights for women in New York State in 1917, three years before the U.S. Constitutional amendment of 1920 securing women’s right to vote nationwide. Her friendships with activist, artistic and socialite women and her wartime experiences also played a part in forming her life choices and her desire to aid others. Annie’s legacy is also preserved in the archives of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc. at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University, and in the large oil portrait of Annie Rensselaer Tinker now in the collection of the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan. Annie R. Tinker set out to do something for other women. Her gift continues to aid older women even today, and her story inspires new generations.


Notes

[1]Dr. Catherine Tinker. J.D., J.S.D., is a lawyer, professor and writer. The author is not related to the subject of this article. The views expressed are entirely the author’s own. Dr. Tinker is serving as the President and CEO and member of the Board of Trustees of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc. in 2017 during the reorganization of the nearly 100 year old not-for-profit corporation.

[2]The Washington Post (1877-1922); Sep 4, 1914; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. 7.

[3]Annie Rensselaer Tinker was born October 28, 1884 in New York City and died on February 21, 1924 in London of complications of tonsillitis. She is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, in the Tinker family plot.

[4]Annie Tinker’s intended beneficiaries might have been women who had had means but had to work for a living, or single women in service in the houses and estates of families like hers, women who may have “lived in” and lacked family support in old age. Annie Tinker’s large house in East Setauket was intended by her friends to be a place for older working women to live out their lives, but it was too expensive to operate a physical “home” so the organization began making small stipendiary gifts to individual women in need during the Great Depression.

[5]Website of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc. at www.tinkerfund.org, last accessed on November 20, 2017.

[6]Figures from research in the archives of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc. at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, Harvard University, accessed on August 1, 2016, and the records of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc., New York, New York.

[7]Information from the author.

[8]The Colony Club was founded by women in 1903, and Florence Harriman was the first president. A blog, “Colony Club The History Box,” lists the original members, including Annie R. Tinker and her mother, Louise Larocque Tinker, along with Morgans, Whitneys, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and other social and political elites of the era, available at http://thehistorybox.com/ny_city/nycity_colony_member_article000128.htm, last accessed November 22, 2017. See also Anne F. Cox, The History of the Colony Club, 1903-1984, New York, The Colony Club, 1984.

[9]Harriot Stanton Blatch’s papers are in the Library of Congress. Generally on women’s history, see Linda Kerber, Jane Sherron De Hart, and Cornelia H. Dayton, Women’s America, Refocusing the Past, 7th ed. (New York, Oxford University Press, 2011). On the suffrage movement, see, e.g., Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., in collaboration with the National Women’s History Project, “Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement” (Santa Cruz, California, American Graphic Press, 2005), pp. 158-161. Photos of the May 4, 2012 march in New York City include one of the women’s cavalry, some 50 women on horseback at the head of the parade. The author notes that this parade in 1912 marked a shift in society and the campaign for suffrage, being the first time in New York City that a suffrage parade marched uptown rather than downtown, emphasizing the inclusion of middle class and socialite women in addition to labor unions.

[10]Ibid., pp. 206-207 on Blatch’s leadership of the suffrage movement in New York, the successful bill in January, 1913, approving a referendum on woman suffrage in New York State and p. 274 on the relationship of the W.P.U. to the National American Woman Suffrage Association led by Carrie Catt. See also the biography of Harriot Stanton Blatch by Ellen Carol DuBois, Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage (New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 1997). The relationship of the W.P.U. to Alice Paul’s National Woman’s Party and Alva Belmont’s Political Equality Association also bear examination. See also generally https://www.loc.gov/collections/static/women-of-protest/images/history.pdf, last accessed November 19, 2017.

[11]Annie R. Tinker participated in other W.P.U. meetings, performances and rallies in 1912 and 1913. Headlined “’Lysistrata’ To Be Given for Woman’s Political Union,” a newspaper story described a performance of Aristophanes’ play on February 17 and 18, 1913, at the Maxine Elliott Theatre to benefit the W.P.U.; “assisting in the entertainment will be…Annie R. Tinker”. New York Tribune (1911-1922); Feb 13, 1913; ProQuest pg. 7.

[12]Headline in the Washington Post, Sun, Feb 11, 1912, page 8: “In Saddle for Votes, 50 Suffragettes to Ride Like Men in Big Parade. Society Women Volunteer. Miss Annie Tinker, Leader of Fair Cavalry…Mrs. Belmont to Walk.”

[13]Ibid.

[14]New York Times, April 9, 1912.

[15]New–York Tribune (1911 – 1922); Apr 30, 1912; ProQuest pg. 3.

[16]“Mrs. Charles Edward Knobloch, who led the cavalry in the May 4 parade, when Miss Tinker, who was to have led it, got appendicitis and couldn’t go” New-York Tribune (1911-1922); Aug. 16, 1912; Pro Quest pg. 9.

[17]Durland’s Riding Academy near Columbus Circle and Central Park West was a place for various equestrian events and social gatherings for society, and was chosen by Annie R. Tinker as the place for training her woman’s cavalry, beginning in 1911, to be ready for the May 4, 1912 parade in New York City. New-York Tribune (1911-1922); Dec. 20, 1911; ProQuest pg. 9. See also http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-1901-durlands-riding-academy-7-west.html, last accessed on November 22, 2017.

[18]Inez Milholland was a powerful voice for suffrage as an untiring speaker across the country for woman suffrage until her death in 1916 during a speech in Los Angeles. She has been called the first martyr of the woman suffrage movement, and is the subject of a video Inez Milholland: Forward into Light by Martha Wheelock. See, e.g., www.inezmilholland.org and http://inezmilhollandcentennial.com/index.html

[19]“Stage for Mrs. Blatch, May Occupy Auto in Suffrage Act at Hammerstein’s.” New York Tribune (1911-1922); Aug 16, 1912; ProQuest pg. 9. See also “Boots and Breeches for Suffrage Amazons,” Pittsburg Gazette, Feb. 11, 1912; Los Angeles Evening Herald, February 26, 1912; “To Lead Equestrian Suffragettes,” The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), Sun, Feb 25, 1912, page 3, with a photo captioned “Miss Annie Tinker” describes “Miss Tinker wearing her riding boots and costume, over which she has thrown a fur coat.” https:www.newspapers.com, last accessed on April 25, 2016.

[20]Ibid.

[21]NY real estate information about Capt. Tinker based upon information in his grandson’s memoir, Edward Larocque Tinker, New Yorker Unlimited, The Memoirs of Edward Larocque Tinker (University of Texas at Austin and The Encino Press, 1970).

[22]H.C. served on corporate boards for insurance companies, banks and a celluloid company.

[23]H.C. Tinker bought land in Setauket from the Strong family, according to title records provided courtesy of Karen Martin, archivist, Three Villages Historical Society (“TVHS”), Emma Clark Library, Setauket, NY, August 8, 2016. Photo of H.C.’s “cottage” by Arthur S. Greene courtesy of TVHS.

[24]Visit by author to exterior of 48 East 57th Street, September, 2017.

[25]Photo by Arthur Greene of H.C. Tinker’s cottage and map of Tinker Point, Poquott, (formerly East Setauket) after H.C. Tinker’s death in 1914 showing land owned by Annie R. Tinker, land owned by Edward L. Tinker, and land owned by the Tinker Realty Corporation, used with permission of the Three Villages Historical Society, Karen Martin, Archivist, Sept. 8, 2016.

[26]Edward Larocque Tinker, New Yorker Unlimited, The Memoirs of Edward Larocque Tinker (University of Texas at Austin and The Encino Press, 1970), p. 30.

[27]Archives of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (“Schlesinger Library”), donated by the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc., accessed on August 2, 2016, and last accessed on May 22, 2017. See Annie Tinker Association for Women. Records of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, 1903-2013 (inclusive), 1990-2000 (bulk): A Finding Aid (MC 784), available at http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/deepLink?_collection=oasis&uniqueId=sch01466 last accessed November 20, 2017.

[28]Interview and email with Registrar, Brearley School, New York City, August, 2016.

[29]Ibid., note 27, supra: photo of Annie with her horse at Setauket found at Schlesinger Library.

[30]Photo by Arthur S. Greene, Port Jefferson, of H.C. Tinker’s yacht the Palestine courtesy of the Three Villages Historical Society, Karen Martin, archivist, August 8, 2016, from NYS Historic Newspapers at https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn88075686/1904-06-25/ed-1/seq-1/.

[31]Photo of the launch of the Palestine in Port Jefferson by Arthur S. Greene, courtesy of Port Jefferson Historical Society, Chris Ryon, Poquott Historian, September 16, 2016.

[32]Frank and Frances Child, The Search for the Schooner Palestine Port Jefferson, NY: Danfords Inn, Marina, Executive Conference Center for the Port Jefferson Historical Society, 1989), p. 2 (photo) and pp. 30-31.

[33]“Miss Tinker of New York Dives from Boat in Effort to Save Dazib, But Fails,” Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922); July 10, 1911; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Boston Globe pg.2.

[34]The Port Jefferson Echo, May 17, 1913, page 4, image 4, available at http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn88075686/1913-05-17/ed-1/seq-4/, courtesy of Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town Historian, Brookhaven, New York.

[35]Annie Tinker returned to Europe in May, 1915, sailing with Mrs. Warren McConihe and Miss Agnes Irwine on the Patria to Marseilles “to engage in nursing the wounded in France.” The news story notes: “Miss Tinker, who went abroad early in the autumn, was thehead of thehospital at Ostend when the Germans took it.”…She was also engaged in hospital work with Lady Paget in England for a time, and it is possible she may start another hospital in France, and that Miss Irwine and Mrs. McConihe may assist her.” The New York Times, May 8, 1915.

[36]Alice Throckmorton McLean, Edward’s first wife, moved to St. James, NY when the couple divorced. She was active in war relief during World War II and became a philanthropist. Additional information about her life in Long Island and Baltimore, Maryland is available from Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town Historian, Brookhaven, New York.

[37]Louise Larocque newspaper account of her remarriage, move to California.

[38]Id., note 27, supra: Correspondence between William Woart Lancaster and Annie Rensselaer Tinker found at Schelsinger Library.

[39]The New York Herald, Sept. 7, 1920, Pg. 11, Ill. “Mrs. H.L. Pratt Fives a dance at Southampton, Entertains at Small Labor Day Party for her Daughter, Miss Florence Pratt….Miss Annie Tinker, who passed more than five years in Europe in war work, is visiting Mr. and Mrs. George T. Maxwell.”

[40]Visit to site and interview with Chris Ryon, Poquott Historian, September 8, 2016.

[41]Ibid. When he died in 1968, Edward Larocque Tinker chose to be buried in the Caroline Churchyard in East Setauket. As part of the popular annual “Spirits Tour” in October, 2017, Three Villages Historical Society President and Trustee Frank Turano created a return visit by Annie R. Tinker’s “spirit” to her brother’s grave in the Caroline Churchyard, where the actor portraying Annie R. recounted some of her colorful life stories. See www.tvhs.org and photo of Stephanie Carsten as Annie R. Tinker, with TVHS President Frank Turano and Dr. Catherine Tinker, photo credit Cynthia Nadelman.

[42]Interview with Margaret Hofer, Director, New-York Historical Society, and wall label for oil portrait of Annie Rensselaer Tinker by Louise Lyons Heustis and first exhibited May-June 2016, New-York Historical Society in the main lobby area of the museum. Photo of painting with permission from the N-Y Historical Society. It was exhibited again at the official opening of the Center for Women’s History on the fourth floor of the museum from April-August 2017.Annie R. Tinker’s portrait is part of the permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society, donated in 2016 by the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc.

[43]Ibid.

[44]Oil portrait of Capt. Edward Greenfield Tinker by John Thomas Peele (1822-1897), who painted in London from 1851 on, photo of painting published with the permission of the Museum of the City of New York. After making his fortune at sea as owner of a fleet of packet ships, Capt. Tinker made another fortune in Park Avenue real estate in New York City. He aided charities for seamen and left his estate to his son, H.C. His grandchildren, Annie R. and Edward L., both left money to charity, Annie’s to aid older women when they could no longer work for a living, and Edward L.’s to encourage student exchanges and research about Latin America, where he frequently travelled and lectured. Both continue today. See www.tinkerfund.org and www.tinker.org.

[45]Id., note 27, supra: letters found in archives of the Annie Tinker Association for Women, Inc. at the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, last accessed August 2, 2016.

[46]The Port Jefferson Echo (Echo P.., Long Island, Port Jefferson N.Y.) 1892-1931), March 01, 1924, Page 1, Image 1, at http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn88075686/1924-03-01/ed-1/seq-1/, courtesy of Three Villages Historic Society, Karin Martin, Archivist, Emma Clark Library, East Setauket, NY, August 8, 2016. “Miss Tinker … for some time had made her home at East Setauket, and was well known in Port Jefferson.”Photos by Catherine Tinker, August, 2017.

[47]Photos by Catherine Tinker, August, 2017.

[48]Johanna Neuman, Gilded Suffragists, The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote (New York, NYU Press, 2017). A database compiled by Johanna Neuman to accompany the publication of the book contains a reference to Annie Rensselaer Tinker.

[49]newspaper clipping about Annie’s medal (need cite).

[50]Records of the NY Surrogates Court, Riverhead, NY, accessed on August 19, 2017.

[51]Ibid.

[52]Id.,note 27, supra: letter in Schlesinger Library and in Surrogates Court files, Riverhead, NY, accessed on August 2, 2016 and September 8, 2016, respectively.