A Life in Letters

A Life in Letters

When my sister and I were cleaning out my great aunt’s house a few years ago, we found a black purse in the basement that belonged to our great great aunt Ruth T. Matthews, better known to our family as Aunt Whootie. The purse has a collection of cards, photos, handwritten notes, most of which were mailed to her in the early 1930s. 

Aunt Whootie was born Ruth Taylor on August 27, 1907 in King George County, Virginia. She moved her family from King George to Washington, DC in about 1922. As the oldest child, she quit school to support the family and eventually enrolled in night school to earn a diploma in beauty culture in 1933 from M.M. Washington Vocational High School. Aunt Whootie completed business classes at Howard University and eventually earned her bachelors and masters degrees from the National Institute of Cosmetology. In 1935, she opened her first beauty salon. Her second shop, opened in 1938, was a combination beauty salon managed by her sister and barbershop managed by her husband. In the early 1950s, she opened Ruth Theresa’s Beauty Salon on Georgia Avenue. While operating her salons she also bought, sold, and rented properties in DC. 

In short, Aunt Whootie was awesome and an amazing role model to all the women in our family, always instilling an ‘own your own’ and ‘save some for later’ mentality. 

A Life in Letters is a special series of cangoods vintage weekend. Each post will highlight one or two items from the purse, tracing identities of people and mapping landmarks mentioned, to take us decades back in time. The purse doesn’t seem to be organized in any special way but I’m starting front to back taking care as I pull things out to not damage anything. This should be fun.


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