Laura May Winston

Name: Laura May Winston (Flanagan)
Birth Date: May 15, 1884
Birth Place: Chicago Illinois
Death Date: August 23, 1947
Death Location: Evanston (Wesley Memorial Hospital) Illinois
Burial Place: Memorial Park Cemetery


“Mimi,” as she was known to her family, was an intelligent and accomplished woman who was ahead of her time in many respects. Upon her engagement to James Horner Winston in 1908, she was described by a Chicago newspaper as “one of the most popular girls in north shore society circles.” She had met Horner on a trans-Atlantic voyage. He was heading to Oxford for his second year as a member of the first class of Rhodes Scholars from the United States; she was headed back to Paris to continue her studies at the Sorbonne. Their time abroad proved to be important for each of them in shaping their world views. Mimi had a knack for surrounding herself with some of the most interesting and influential people of the day, not just in Chicago, but also while riding horseback among the saguaros in Arizona and vacationing at the Homestead in Virginia. In 1916, she was invited to visit Edith Wilson at the White House. In 1922, she was photographed at a political rally for a female candidate, possibly Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck, the first woman from Illinois elected to the U.S. House. In the 1920s and 1930s, she was very active in the Alliance Français, and raised money to aid the Alsace region and other areas that had been hardest hit by the Great War. Around 1930, she became close friends with Isabella Greenway, who owned the Arizona Inn in Tucson. (Greenway was a bridesmaid for FDR and Eleanor and later was the first woman from Arizona to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.) Mimi and Eleanor exchanged a few letters in conjunction with the 1933 World’s Fair but the extent of their relationship is not known. In Arizona, Mimi also became close friends with General John J. Pershing and his sister May (this was after Pershing had lost his wife and three daughters in the Presidio house fire).* In 1939, Horner and Mimi hosted a luncheon and two dinners for Lord Lothian, who had been sent by Neville Chamberlain to gauge sentiment in the U.S. for involvement in the brewing war in Europe—and who would shortly after this be named British ambassador to the United States. The invited guests included many of Chicago’s movers and shakers—among them Charles Dawes (vice president under Calvin Coolidge), Sewall Avery (president of the United States Gypsum Company), Walter Dill Scott (president of Northwestern University), and other leaders in finance, business, media and academia. Horner knew Lord Lothian as a result of his Rhodes ties (for example, Lord Lothian—then known as Philip Kerr—served as secretary to the Rhodes Trust from 1925 to 1939). Neither Mimi nor Horner shared the isolationist views held by General Dawes and many of their other dinner guests. An informal record of these meals is preserved in the form of a letter from Horner to his father, in which Horner reports on the sentiments expressed. Mimi’s work on behalf of war relief to France and Britain resulted in her receiving these honors: 1934: Legion of Honor from France (Chevalier rank) 1946: Ribbon of the King’s Medal from Great Britain In addition to being a civic leader and activist, Mimi played accordion and rode horseback. She was an avid bridge player and a savvy investor. *Gen. Charles Dawes and General Pershing were chums and rode horses together in Arizona.

Father: Albert Flanagan
Mother: Sara McMahon
Children: Four: Robert, Sara (DeYoung), Albert, Laura (Wilcox)
Education: Sacred Heart (Chicago); boarding schools in Germany and France; Univ. of Paris (Sorbonne) for 4 years studying literature and languages
Years in Evanston: 26 (1921-1947)

Sources: Interviews with numerous family members Alliance Français archives Chicago newspaper archives New York Times archives Washington Post archives UNC Library – Robert W. Winston archives Chicago History Museum Library of Congress (Pershing personal letters) Rhodes Trust archives FDR Library White House Historical Association Arizona Inn Homestead Resort Kristie Miller, author of Isabella Greenway biography Legion of Honor museum, Paris, France National Library of Ireland

Associated Organizations: