Home » Family History » Great-Great Aunt Winifred Margaret Atwell, aka Margaret Armstrong

Great-Great Aunt Winifred Margaret Atwell, aka Margaret Armstrong

Wedded bliss did not last long in the marriage of Arthur Vinton (formerly Arthur Holzel) and Margaret Armstrong (formerly Winifred Margaret Atwell). Later newspaper accounts alluded to Arthur not being very good with money (always a problem when there is a family to support). Perhaps this was Margaret’s incentive to continue to work in theater, for Arthur accused her of refusing “to give up theatricals and make a home for him” and stated that it was difficult for them to find work in the same town.

The Holzels separated in August 1922, with Margaret and Evelyn remaining in Long Island City, NY as Margaret continued acting in New York City. During the separation, Arthur wrote to Margaret that “The way to hold a man is to be his pal. Not to dance and raise hell, but to play the game with him.”

What was Arthur’s game? Margaret soon found out that he was living in Kansas City, Missouri with another woman, Mrs. Marie Pohl, née Marie Eugenia Welch, wife (or ex-wife; I haven’t found out yet) of August Pohl of San Diego, California. Margaret put her foot down during an August 1923 visit from Arthur, confronting him with her findings. Arthur seemed to waffle, asking for time to think things over and decide whether or not he wanted to reconcile or let Margaret pursue a divorce.

Margaret chose to file for divorce and did so in January 1924 (perhaps she gave him until the end of 1923 to make a decision, or perhaps she took the time to get her legal paperwork together). in the filing, she requested $125 per week for alimony toward child support for Evelyn. Meanwhile, Margaret continued her work on stage.

On January 9, 1925, the decree of divorce was granted. Margaret received $200 in legal fees and $40 per week for alimony. By the end of the decade, Arthur married Marie and got his wish for someone “making a home for him” in upstate New York, where he ran a side business of a cattle then a turkey farm. Apparently Arthur got to “play the game” with Marie, as he notoriously had numerous affairs and was often cruel to Marie.

As far as I know, Margaret never re-married. By 1930 she and Evelyn were living in Los Angeles, CA where Margaret launched a movie career as a character actress. Her film career can be found here. It seemed that the financial issues that Margaret experienced with Arthur were far behind her. She was able to provide Evelyn with a college education (Evelyn went to the University of California, Los Angeles) and trips abroad.

Margaret Armstrong in her role as Annie Oakley's mother.  Author's collection.

Margaret Armstrong in her role as Annie Oakley’s mother. Author’s collection.

Eventually Evelyn met and married Clinton A. White sometime before 1950 (I suspect during the late 1940’s). This marriage caused a permanent rift between Evelyn and her father, Arthur, for Clinton was African-American. (Indeed, in some states, such an inter-racial marriage was not even considered legal.) According to my grandmother, Arthur disowned Evelyn; online anecdotes seem to support this. Evelyn was not deterred; the couple raised a family, ran a family business, and spent the rest of their lives together.

Evelyn White in 1961.  Courtesy MyHeritage.com (Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards).

Evelyn White in 1961. Courtesy MyHeritage.com (Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards).

Sometime after Margaret’s movie career ended, it seems that she must have moved in with or close to Evelyn and her family, for she passed away in Alameda County, CA on December 15, 1961. I’m not sure where she is buried; with all the names she had taken on, it’s been difficult to find her final resting place.

Clinton White died on April 6, 1988 in Berkeley, Alameda County, CA, so Evelyn went to live closer to her family in Brookings, Curry County, OR. There she died on September 19, 2000.

Because of the very separate lives and physical distance between my great-grandfather and Margaret, I never personally knew that side of the family. It’s my hope that a curious cousin might see this and reach out!

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