Looking back: Peggy Hawks

Remembering a devoted arts volunteer and “beauty with brains” 

Mrs. Stanley (Margaret) Hawks

Friends President from 1946-48

 Mrs. Stanley (Margaret) Hawks was best known to all her friends as Peggy. She was born in Florence, Italy in 1894. Her father, Dr. William W. Baldwin practiced medicine in Florence where Peggy was raised as the youngest of six children. Her death came in 1983. What a life she led in those 89 years!

Peggy married Stillwater native, Mr. Stanley Hawks and began a life of travel and providing goodwill gestures. Stanley was an ambassador to several countries as well as the U.S. Legation Secretary in Guatemala where Stanley and Peggy had the delightful opportunity to meet Charles Lindbergh. Eventually, the Hawks settled back in Minnesota with Stanley, in time, retiring as vice president of the Minneapolis Star & Tribune newspaper. Many tales have been told recollecting the grand Italianate house on Lake of the Isles Boulevard where they resided.

The Minneapolis Times columnist, Brenda Ueland wrote in 1946 of the “Franciscan monastery with iron gates and cloisters and walled gardens on different levels, a rectangular pool full of aquamarine water, and a little tiled pavilion.” Ueland knew the Hawks because, during WWII, the Hawks gave endless parties for Nisei soldiers (second-generation Japanese Americans who fought bravely during WWII, despite moral dilemmas they may have faced) as she took scores of these men under her wings. Peggy also had a special place in her heart for exiled people from Poland, as well as others fleeing Yugoslavia and Germany. Her house was open to so many in need of her open arms. In Peggy’s drawing-room there hung photographs of Chief Justice Hughes and Elihu Root. Root was the former Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt and also the Secretary of War under Roosevelt and President William McKinley. Apparently, Stanley as a young man, was the private secretary to both these gentlemen.

Peggy’s brother, the head of the Herbert Hoover American humanitarian mission in Poland, had offered Peggy the task of food distribution. It was in Poland that Peggy began to see the tragedies associated within this country. She witnessed open boxcars crowded with people dying as the result of Russians sending captured Polish citizens homes. Frustrated that she could not speak the language of these suffering people, Peggy decided to learn the Polish language.

Upon returning to the United States, Peggy met Hugh Gibson, the first U.S. Minister to the new Second Polish Republic. Gibson heard of Peggy’s recent engagement to Stanley and arranged for Stanley to go to Poland for the State Department. There began years in government service for the Hawks. Peggy credits her years in the diplomatic service for teaching her the art of hospitality. She stated she was taught to lift her head, perfect her clothing, her kindness, alertness, and above all learn the importance of responsibility towards others.

Once settled in Minneapolis, Peggy became involved with the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Friends of the Institute, taking on the job of Friends President from 1946 to 1948. The one event, in particular, she was quite proud of was the Hamlet event at the Lyceum Theater located in downtown Minneapolis held in February of 1948. The Friends were sponsoring the opening night benefit that featured the esteemed Maurice Evans playing Hamlet. Working with event chair, Mrs. Leo (Rosalynd) Pflaum, the benefit raised money to fund color reproductions of some of the most important paintings in the museum’s collection. This was a popular program the museum was quite excited about allowing visitors to purchase these pieces at affordable prices to hang in their homes. Opening night was quite the extravaganza! Peggy arrived wearing a black velvet and gold gown, Rosalynd wore her black gown and mink coat. Minnesota governor Luther Youngdahl arrived with his wife donning a red crepe gown. Minneapolis mayor, Hubert Humphrey and his wife Muriel were also in attendance.  As this event also marked the 25th anniversary of Friends, many loyal and long-standing Friends members attended, such as the Friends first president, Mrs. Carolyn Christian. Again, Minneapolis Times columnist Ueland acknowledged Peggy mentioning the splendid after-party at the Hawks residence. The Hamlet cast was invited to the Franciscan monastery like home with the “snow filling the cloisters and swimming pool, and a worse-than- Danish wind whistling off Lake of the Isles.”

Peggy’s relationship with Rosalynd continued to 1949, with the beginning of WAMSO, the Minnesota Orchestra’s volunteer organization (currently called FOMO.) Rosalynd served as the founding president, as she was unable to convince Peggy to take on the job. Rosalynd and Peggy stated it took two years to convince some of the men on the orchestra’s board that a women’s organization could raise money and be a beneficial partner to the orchestra.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art still occupied a large part of Peggy’s heart. With the passing of her husband, Stanley in 1971, the Stanley Memorial Fund was established. Approximately 86 works of art have been gifted to the museum as a result of this fund as well as gifts from Peggy herself. From Mayan fabrics to a Japanese sword with a snake engraved on it, to a wonderful collection of James Van Der Zee photos, many different cultures and art forms have been enjoyed by so many visitors.

Barbara Flanagan, legendary columnist for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune called Peggy in 1973, “…a beauty with brains plus.” Be reminded of Peggy’s contributions to the city and to the museum as her name and her husband’s name are proudly noted on so many favorite pieces seen in the museum’s collection.

Centennial History Publication Committee
Pamela Friedland
Linda Goldenberg
Mary Merrick
Suzanne Payne
Connie Sommers