|Dwight Heard was working at a department store in Chicago when he met
and married the boss's daughter, Maie Bartlett, in 1893. Maie was born
June 11, 1868, in Chicago and studied at an elite finishing school
prior to her marriage. When Dwight was diagnosed with a respiratory
disease, the young couple moved to Phoenix in 1895. Dwight became an
important landowner, raising cotton, alfalfa, citrus and cattle, and
he also worked as a real estate developer and bought the Arizona
Republican newspaper in 1912 (renamed the Arizona Republic in 1930).
The Heards built a large Spanish Colonial Revival-style home on Monte
Vista Road just off Central Avenue in the northern part of Phoenix,
and named it Casa Blanca. Active in Republican politics, Maie and
Dwight entertained Herbert Hoover and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as
prominent local politicians, in their home, which became a showcase
for their collection of American Indian art.
Maie was involved in the development of early Phoenix. Her love of
books led her to jump on her horse and deliver library books to far-off ranch children and to work with fellow members of the Phoenix Women's Club to build the city's first library, the Carnegie, in 1908. Her interests extended to theater, and the first stage of Phoenix Little Theater was located in her coach house.
She donated land that would become the site for the Phoenix Civic
Center, and a gymnasium for the YWCA in downtown Phoenix. She was
engaged with St. Luke's Board of Visitors, which raised funds for St.
Luke's Home and, later, St. Luke's Hospital, and a founder of the
Welfare League, forerunner to the United Fund. In 1912 Maie became
active in the campaign for voting rights for Arizona women. She served
as treasurer of the Phoenix Civic League, a volunteer organization
that circulated suffrage petitions in July of 1912 to get a suffrage
amendment on the ballot in November. Their efforts succeeded and
Arizona women won the right to vote.
But collecting Indian artifacts became the center of Maie's life. Most
of her original collection came from a Hohokam ruin, La Ciudad, that
the couple purchased in 1926. Whenever Maie Heard purchased another
Indian artifact, her Phoenix home almost groaned under the weight of
the vast assemblage of Indian pottery, paintings, rugs and relics that
filled every corner of Casa Blanca. Then Maie's daughter-in-law,
Winifred, said to Maie, "You know, you might start a museum, you've
got so much." So the couple built a larger space adjacent to their
home. The museum opened in June of 1929.
Several months later Dwight Heard died of heart attack. Maie worked as
the curator and director of the museum for twenty years. She often
took visitors on tours during the day, then swept the floors at night.
She scrutinized every item purchased, greeted guests as if they were
visiting her home, and invited everyone to browse the maze of
intricately crafted vessels, baskets of every shape and size, and
displays of American Indian costumes. She knew the origin and
craftsmanship of every piece of jewelry and each kachina. Her mission,
according to a plaque displayed at the museum, was "to preserve the
cultural heritage of those who have so enriched our lives."
Maie's humanitarian efforts earned her recognition as Arizona's Women
of the Year in 1948 by Beta Sigma Phi, a businesswomen's sorority.
Since her death on March 14, 1951, the museum has grown to more than
eight times its original size, 30,000 square feet in all, and a satellite
operation has been established in Scottsdale. Visit the Heard Museum at 2301 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix.
Maie Bartlett Heard - Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tucson (14351)
Heard Museum, 1930s - Courtesy of the Heard Museum, Phoenix Arizona