Dragon Lady: The Life of Sigrid Schultz

On New Year’s Day in 1935, Sigrid Schultz witnessed raucous celebrations in Germany’s Black Forest. Shooting rifles into the air, the members of the fast-rising National Socialist party celebrated their leader’s rising hegemony over the German political landscape. Their leader was Adolf Hitler and they were Nazis. Schultz recorded all she saw and sent it via telegram to her editor at The Chicago Tribune: “…year two of Hitler’s Fuehrer Germany finds Germany comparable to a mass of cooling lava after a volcano eruption with some people getting burned and nobody certain where the lava will finally settle…” An American, Schultz had been the Chicago Tribune’s Central Europe Bureau chief for nearly ten years by that time—the first woman to hold the post in a major news organization. Her reputation for fair and fact-based reporting had gained her the trust of Hermann Göring, the man who would be Hitler’s second in command. From this position of trust, the journalist was able to report—and forewarn—of the Third Reich’s insatiable hunger for power and unquenchable thirst for violence.  It was nothing short of remarkable that an American woman was allowed entre into the inner sanctum of the Nazi party. Sigrid Schultz had been born in Chicago and emigrated to Paris with her family at eight years old because her father, a Norwegian immigrant and an artist, had secured several commissions there. Her parents separated within a year and Shultz later wrote in an affidavit explaining her foreign residence that she only saw her father three more times.  Demonstrating a natural aptitude for language, Shultz spoke English, French and German, her mother’s native language. She secured positions as a language teacher in Berlin during the First World War when, according to some sources, her mother fell ill and they could not return to America. …

The Forgotten of Main Street

“We the undersigned residents of 22 ½ Main street, respectfully petition the town government to help us secure decent, low-rent housing for ourselves and our families.” As reported by the Westport Town Crier on December 22nd 1949, these words formed a petition from the residents of the building which housed 70 people including four WWII veterans which was presented to the Westport Board of Selectmen. In honor of Black History Month, we will look into the plight of the residents of 22 ½ Main Street. These residents made up the lion’s share of Westport’s African-American population, many of whom had been in the community since the 18th century when their ancestors were enslaved. The building at 22 ½ Main Street was the epicenter of a neighborhood that existed in alleyways between Elm Street and Main street with “1/2” numbers for their street addresses. The residents of 22 ½ Main Street represented citizens originally from the South who had come north to communities like Westport to seek work in what later became known as the Great Migration. It was a community that fought to survive in the heart of Westport, despite those who sought to exile them. The Town Crier reported that 70 people were living at 22 ½ Main Street, and just a few months earlier in March, a doctor who had been sent to the housing complex reported that he found 24 people living in 25 rooms. Dr. C. W. Gillette had been assigned to ascertain whether the complex were the source of a public health menace by First Selectman Albert T. Scully. It seems that “concerned citizens” of the town were worried about overcrowding and unsightly conditions in the courtyard off Main Street. The town prosecutor’s office initiated complaints via a declaration of violations which stated that “a …