Biographical / Historical
Aimee Ernesta Drinker Barlow, born in Philadelphia, Pa., on January 17, 1892, was the daughter of Henry Sturgis Drinker and of Aimee Ernesta Beaux who was sister to American portrait artist Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942). Barlow was also the sister of the poet and writer Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973). Barlow's first marriage in 1916 was to William C. Bullitt (1891-1967), who was the first U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and co-authored a book with Sigmund Freud. In 1923, Barlow divorced Bullitt and in 1928 married composer Samuel L. M. Barlow II.
Barlow was a writer, artist and traveler. She kept extensive diaries of her travels in Europe (including Yugoslavia); South America; Tunisia; and Asia (including Cambodia, India, and Pakistan). Of note are diaries written during travel with Bullitt in Germany and Austria in the midst of World War I in 1916. These provide rare first-hand accounts of war-time Germany and were eventually published as "An Uncensored Diary from the Central Empire," (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1917). The collection includes a manuscript memoir by Barlow about her childhood and years with Bullitt, which includes a reminiscence of a dinner with Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
During World War II, Barlow delivered weekly patriotic broadcasts on NBC Radio as "Commando Mary." The programs were aimed at encouraging women to sign up for war work while attempting to assure husbands that their independent wives would still be available to keep house after the war. This collection includes an almost complete run of unpublished mimeographed scripts of the programs from 1942 to 1945.
A well-known New York society hostess, Barlow attracted many admirers including the artist Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), whose autograph signed letters to her are included in the collection.
Barlow died in November 1981. Her last residence was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
See also chapter 8 entitled, "Ernesta" in "Family Portrait" by Catherine Drinker Bowen (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1970). This book is available in the SCRC Rare Book Collections, 99A720.