About Margretta Dietrich
Margretta Dietrich was an American sufragette and activist.
Born Margretta Stewart Shaw on November 23 or 26, 1881 in Philadelphia to Dr. William Shaw and Delia Allman Stewart. Her parents sent her and her sister Dorothy Newkirk Stewart to private school in Philadelphia. Margretta achieved her A.B. Degree from Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. She Married Charles Henry Dietrich former Governor of Nebraska in 1909. They resided in Hastings Nebraska directly after their marriage. Margretta Stewart Dietrich was elected President of the Nebraska Woman's Suffrage Association in 1919 and became Chairman of the Nebraska State League of Women Voters in 1920. She reported in the November 1920 Alumnae Quarterly that she "was one of the Suffrage Emergency Corps to visit Connecticut in May," alluding to the unsuccessful campaign to get the state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Dietrich served as President of Nebraska Women's Suffrage Association from 1918 - 1920. She was also President and regional Director of Nebraska and National League of Women Voters 1920 - 1929. She was involved with elderly rights and became the founder and president of the Sunnyside Home for the Aged in Hastings Nebraska 1914 - 1929. Chairperson of the Nebraska State Library Commission 1924 and was Delegate to Republican National Convention from Nebraska, 1928.
Margretta Dietrich first visited Santa Fe in 1921. She wrote about her first encounters with "Indians" in 1921 in New Mexico. She made the choice to move there.
Restoration and Preservation
Dietrich moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1927 with her sister, Dorothy Stewart, an artist, and bought the Juan Jose Prada House on Canyon Road. She soon purchased the Johnson Property next door, to which she gave the name El Zaguán. Later she purchased the Borrego house, further east on the same road. All three properties were purchased to save them from redevelopment and restored under the direction of her friend Katherine Chapman, who championed traditional New Mexico builders and their methods. Dietrich and her sister Dorothy Newkirk Stewart continued to do restoration and repairs on El Zaguán where they set up apartments for artists. An artist residency is still run today by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.
Advocacy and Indigenous Rights
Dietrich continued her advocacy work in New Mexico for the Pueblos and Navajo people by lobbying against development of dams and exploration in villages. Eventually she was President of the New Mexico Association of Indians Affairs from 1932 until 1953 and assisted in the inception of what is know today as Santa Fe's Indian Market.
Margretta was known for providing weavers with wool and artists with supplies. She also raised funds for local villages around Christmas and throughout the year advocated on behalf of villages to the government.
One of her letters sent March 12, 1943 entitled:"An Open Letter to Hon. John Collier, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs Re: H.R. 323 . A bill to authorize the exploration of proposed dam site located on Indian Lands within the State of New Mexico, introduced Jan. 6 1943, by Mr. Anderson of New Mexico" states:
"You also know that if these dams are constructed they will destroy several ancient Indian villages and flood their fertile lands which the ancestors of these present Indians were cultivating and irrigating even before the Spaniards came into this region in 1540." As well " We believe it is your duty to inform the Congress that even to drill on Pueblo land may be desecration to their sacred areas and could destroy an important part of the only indigenous culture in the United States."
Dietrich published three books before her death on January 13, 1961.
Nebraska Recollections, self-published Vegara Printing Company, 1957
The Dorothy Newkirk Stewart Memorial Collection, Museum of New Mexico Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1957
New Mexico Recollections Part I, self- published Vegara Printing Company, 1959
New Mexico Recollections Part II, Vegara Printing Company, Santa Fe NM, 1961, Editor Sylvia Loomis
In her printed eulogy the following was written about her life: "Since coming to Santa Fe she (Margretta) has been particularly interested in the problems of Indians in the Southwest, and served as president of the New Mexico Association of Indians Affairs from 1932–1953, and has been its Honorary President since that time. She served as a trustee of the School of American Research now School for Advanced Research and the Laboratory of Anthropology since 1947; a charter member and executive committee of the Indian Arts Fund and Board member since it's [sic] conception; and has been active in numerous civic and cultural organizations in Santa Fe throughout her residence here. Her collection of Indian paintings, one of the finest in the world, has been shown in many art galleries in this country and abroad, and reproductions from it have appeared in several national magazines.
She is survived by two sisters, Mrs. George W. Barr, Bryan Mawr, Penn. and Mrs. H. Bertram Lewis, Litchfield, Conn. by a niece, Miss Ethel S. Barr, Bryan Mawr, Penn. and a nephew, Mr. George Bishop Barr, North Andover, Mass.(Excerpt from printed Eulogy).
She was also a sister of Miss Dorothy Newkirk Stewart, a well-known Santa Fe painter, muralist and printmaker who died in Mexico in 1955."