Hortense McQuarrie Odlum

July 1881 - Jan 1970

Hortense Odlum was Robert Walker's aunt. She was a younger sister of Robert's mother, Zella McQuarrie Walker. At least two times that we know of "Aunt Tenny" stepped into Robert's life to try to make things better for him.

Once when his parents were having great difficulty with him, Aunt Tenny offered to finance sending him from Utah to the San Diego Army and Navy Military Academy in Carlsbad, California. As a child, Hortense would describe herself as "difficult" and "strong-willed" and felt a connection with Robert, the youngest of the four Walker boys.

Later, when Robert's love of acting matched her own love of the art, Aunt Tenny offered to finance him to attend the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. The first year he was there, he stayed in her home.

She had a fascinating life as the wife of financier Floyd B.Odlum and serving as the first woman President of Bonwit Teller Department Store in New York City

Hortense and Floyd were divorced in 1935 and he later married Jackie Cochran who was to become an award-winning American aviatrix.

Hortense wrote a book (about her life experiences and in particular becoming president of Bonwit Teller) called "A Woman's Place" published in 1939. The article below titled, "Let's Talk Shop", gives a unique perspective on her ability to turn Bonwit Teller toward success in the 1930's.

 

"One of the greatest satisfactions one can ever have comes from the knowledge that he can do something superlatively well."--Hortense Odlum ( A Woman's Place )

 

"Living each day as a preparation for the next is an exciting way to live. Looking forward to something is much more fun than looking back at something—and much more constructive. If we can prepare ourselves so that we never have to think, 'Oh, if I had only known, if I had only been ready,' our lives can really be the great adventure we so passionately want them to be." --Hortense Odlum ( A Woman's Place )

 

Newsweek Magazine, October 20, 1934 - Mrs. Odlum: Bonwit Teller's Chief Began Work 2 Years Ago

 

"Let's Talk Shop" - Condensed from "The American Magazine" - January 1939 (as appearing in The Reader's Digest 1939) by Hortense McQuarrie Odlum, President Bonwit Teller, New York

 

Obituary: New York Times, January 13, 1970 - "Hortense Odlum of Bonwit Teller: Head of Store Here From 1934 - 1944 is Dead"

 

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