|The Pumpelly family 1914 Left to right Nursemaid, little Amelie, Mrs Pumpelly,|
Raphael Pumpelly II; Ralph Pumpelly III nursemaid and Ripley.
oldest child of Raphael Welles Pumpelly and Amelie Sybil Huntington Ripley, she led a charmed young life until the separation and divorce trial of her parents in 1925.
UPDATE: My thanks to Amelie and John Henry Bates' daughter, Grace Ann, for clarifications to this article.
Raphael and his wife were incredible extravagant and they managed to get themselves into a lot of
|John's brother Ad's Worker's Theatre|
"sect" out of her personal money, helping lead to their financial straights (she was Christian Scientist). Raphael and his sister Margaret were members of the Baha'i faith.
Raphael ended up with custody of his three children after a strong case was made that Mrs. Pumpelly had neither the knowledge or wherewithal to manage them. Raphael had been struck penniless after the divorce trial and led the children to their next stop. In 1925, he moved "into a cave he and Page (his former business partner) constructed 20 years earlier on Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. They survived by gathering fruits and nuts and trapping small game." Raphael went in got a job within a year and rebuilt his family's fortunes as a stockbroker.
Amelie Pumpelly's involvement in the Baha'i faith led to her meeting of John Henry Bates. Bates, an African-American, was the son of Addison Bates, a porter, and Grace Brown. John's father died when the seven children were still young, sometime after 1910. His father's people had been slaves in Dinwiddie, Virginia. John's brother, Addison, Jr. "Ad" was a noted carpenter of beautiful furniture, dancer, choreographer, artist, CPUSA-led union activist, and key player in the Harlem Renaissance. He also owned his own gallery in Harlem.
|John Bates photo by Gordon Parks, Life Magazine, Aug 25, 1952|
I would guess when the two married, it shocked society, but not those who followed the Baha'i faith's belief in the "oneness of the human race." They were married in Manhattan on August 1, 1935.
Grace Ann Bates said, "...mother did graphic designs for posters for the labor union. She was an artist-painter. It was at the end of the Harlem Renaissance that they met so many African American artist and writers were their friends."
They counted among their friends the likes of author Ralph Ellison. On one of the early visits of many to the family farm in Waitsville, Vermont, Ellison was inspired for the first time with the thought, "I am an invisible man." He began writing the first draft of his book during that visit. Regardless of their political affiliation, they continued practicing their faith, first in Haiti, where they attempted to build fellowship and then, in the late 1940s, to Mexico City, Mexico. According to the Baha'i newsletters I went through, it seems the pair worked well together on their mission and in life. And such a different existence from family empire-building great grandfather WY Ripley's life. I wonder what he would have thought of it all.
In 1951, while living in Mexico City, Amelie died of a coronary thrombosis at the age of 41. She was buried in Panteon Jardin de Mexico Cemetery. Along with John, four daughters survived her.
John returned to Harlem after Amelie's death. He continued his friendship with Ralph Ellison, who at last had published his classic piece of literature, Invisible Man, and won a US National Book Award for Fiction. In the August 25, 1952 issue of Life Magazine, John Bates was the model for the Gordon Parks photo essay on the Invisible Man (pp 9-11). I believe John died in 1975 in New York.
|Death of American Abroad|
Amelie Welles Pumpelly Bates
03 Nov 1951
Mexico City, Mexico