© Maureen O'Leary

Who Was HHW

Who was Harriet Hale Woolley ?

Important Dates

  • June 7th, 1872 : Born in Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Parents : George Washington Hale (1829-1900) & Ellen Isabelle Badger (1837-1930)
  • April 4th, 1929 : Died in Monte Carlo
  • Scholarship created in 1933

Harriet Hale Woolley, whose Paris divorce from Clarence Mott Woolley made headlines in 1912, settled in Europe and supported the arts and music. One of the primary donors to the construction of the FEU, she shared with the Gages her wish to contribute to “international reconciliation” (The New York Times, 1931).

She herself was a musician and lived near Florence at the end of her life, while still spending the summer months in Le Touquet, France. She planned for the scholarships to reward students in arts and music, but also in psychiatry. Indeed, she credits this discipline with saving her life, which was still a young practice that France was pioneering at the time.

Her Last Will and Testament specified the composition of the first juries, which originally included Albert Spalding, an American violinist. Four of the ten scholarships were originally given to musicians. Four other scholarships were to be reserved for psychiatry students, granted by Swiss and French doctors Charles de Montet and Elie Joakimopoulos. The last two grants were for visual artists.

The ambitious spirit of this gift marvelously counters the piques of her mother-in-law who, as published in The Chicago Tribune in 1913, said of Harriet Hale Woolley, “She’s an extravagant, wasteful woman, and my boy has been indulgent.” Today, this extravagance is remembered through her generous gesture, and year after year, the Franco-American friendship so dear to early 20th century America lives on to nurture artists from all backgrounds.

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