Katherine Kennedy O'Conner and Carrie Wooster Tingley - Katherine brought theatre and culture to New Mexico, and Carrie brought health and hospitality to our Land of Enchantment. Both women were contemporaries of one another, and took a main-street cow town and helped to turn it into a growing metropolis, a jewel in the desert!
Both Carrie and Katherine came to Albuquerque on the train with their future husbands, and both had a respiratory illness called T.B. that required them to be in a dry climate with lots of sunshine. But few would leave behind the legacy of these two magnetic, hard-working visionaries.
The Carrie Tingley story encompasses all the humanitarian dedication that this lively red-head could bring to others who were ill and in need of a helping hand. She became the wife of Clyde Tingley and in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s she was the first lady of Albuquerque when her husband became the mayor of the city, and then when Clyde became the Governor of the state for two terms, she stood beside him as his feminine equal. Both of the Tingleys improved our state during the depression and W.W. II bringing us from a frontier mentality into the 20th century. Being friends with F.D.R. and Eleanor brought a great amount of New Deal money and a new vision into New Mexico. With the helping hand of the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) the dreams of the Tingleys became a reality with numerous building projects all around the state, new schools, state parks, federal buildings, even a new theatre for Albuquerque. People were finally given work during the depression and their integrity and purpose in life rose with the overwhelming support and help of the Tingleys. Specifically our lovely Carrie, having no children of her own, made the homeless and the ill her life-work helping to create the famous Carrie Tingley Hospital for children and supporting the St. Anthony School for Boys. Today the Tingley name is seen around town in many places, but sadly it has been forgotten. Because of the Albuquerque Tri-Centennial, once again a lively petite red-head who always wore a hat, gloves and a smile, can bring this marvelous progressive heritage and story back-to-life. Carrie Wooster Tingley will now be able to joyfully share her love of Albuquerque and New Mexico with you.
Katherine Kennedy O'Conner was a friend of Carrie Tingley and moved in the same circles, but her personality and vision were very different as she lived for the theatrical and artistic life of our state. This former Broadway actress, who had childhood dreams of becoming a stage legend, had her career cut short in the 1920s due to tuberculosis, and was immediately given the sage advice to "Go West before it is too late!" She took this advice and was followed to the "cow-town called Albuquerque... out in-the-sticks" with her fiancé James O'Conner, an Irishman also with training in the theatre. There was little for these two to explore in the area of fine arts when they arrived in 1927 except some ancient Spanish dramas which were performed in an amateur manner, mostly in Spanish, during the religious holidays in the smaller Mexican villages or our state.
But a dream entered Katherine's heart when she gave a lecture about her theatrical career at a local Congregational church. There she met Irene Fischer, a newspaper woman from the Tribune, who conjured up an idea about starting a Little Theater in Albuquerque. Irene asked Katherine if she would consent to direct as well as act in a production. "I would be delighted!" was Katherine's answer, and this began her three-decade career as the executive director and founder of the Albuquerque Little Theater. It has been in continuous production of plays, and even musicals since 1930... the longest, continuously running little theatre in the country! James O'Conner became Katherine's technical director and for 37 years their legacy to Albuquerque has become an artistic and educational triumph for both the audiences and the many, many artists and workers who have graced the W.P.A. created theater at 224 San Pasquale near Old Town Albuquerque. Katherine's story is partially documented in a marvelous little book she authored entitled: "Theater in Cow Country". This is a lady who continues to inspire drama and hold her audiences with her adventures in community theatre!