The April 20, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine (pp.56-67) contains an article with a Grand Rapids connection, titled Roughing It. It tells the tale of a year in the lives of two young women from Auburn, NY, who after finishing their schooling at Smith College and needing some excitment, they took jobs as school teachers in Elkhead, Colorado. It is a wonderfully adventurous article, with great pictures, about their year in the wild west, the hardship, the humor, the people they met. The Grand Rapids connection? One of the women, Dorothy Woodruff, marries Lemuel Hillman, also from New York, and settles in Grand Rapids. They had four children while living at 330 Fulton East – the house still stands at the corner of Prospect and Fulton.
One evening in February, 1930, while walking down Fulton Street to the “edge of the city” for dinner with friends, they are stuck by a car and Lemuel is killed. They are both 43 years old at the time and the 1930 Census show Dorothy left with the four children ranging in age from 11 to 3 years old.
So Dorothy’s life in Grand Rapids didn’t lack adventure. In 1933 she is appointed executive secretary for the local chapter of the American Red Cross and in a 1944
article in the Grand Rapids Herald, she is off to Alexandria, Virginia to work at the Red Cross headquarters until the end of the war. Her daughter, also pictured in the article, more or less follows in her mother’s footsteps, attending Smith College, teaching in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and in 1944 is heading overseas with the Red Cross.
This issue can be read in Main library and several Lakeland libraries in West Michigan. Newspaper accounts of the marriage, Lemuel’s death, the 1944 article about Dorothy and daughter Caroline can be viewed and read in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections floor of the Main library.