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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Mrs. Joseph J. Ayres

Helen Mar Allen was born, reared and educated in Keokuk.  She is the younger of two children, her brother, Herbert Wells Allen, being a resident of Kansas City.  Her parents, Charles Lee Allen and Adelia Talbot Allen, came to Keokuk in 1860 and were prominent in the social and civic life of the city.  Their hospitality was unbounded and their home was the scene of many social gatherings.  Charles Lee Allen was descended from the same Lee family of Virginia, from which Robert E. Lee came.  He was born in New York state and died in Keokuk in 1882.  He was one of a committee which planned Oakland Cemetery, and served several years on the city council.  Her mother Adelia Talbot, was a native of Western New York, where her parents had come as pioneers, while the way was yet unbroken.  Their home was a log cabin at Pompey, N. Y., where the Talbot homestead still stands.  Mrs. Allen was one of five women who made the silk flag which was carried through the Civil War by Co. A, 2nd Iowa Reg.  The flag is now in the historical department of Iowa.  Mrs. Allen died in 1893.  In 1896 Helen Allen was married to Joseph James Ayres, youngest son of T. R. J. and Sarah Ann Smith Ayres, who were natives of Kentucky.  T. R. J. Ayres, fifty-three years ago, founded the wholesale and retail jewelry house of T. R. J. Ayres & Sons, of which Joseph J. Ayres is now president.  Mrs. T. R. J. Ayres, a woman of great culture, was the daughter of Prof. Smith, a linguist, who spoke seven languages with fluency.  Their home for many years in Keokuk was "The Pavillion."  It was built by a religious sect, known as "The Millerites," who believed they would be translated to heaven.  On more than one occasion they dressed themselves in flowing robes and ascending to the top of that building, prayed earnestly and waited for translation.  Their prayers being unanswered, they would descend and take up their daily tasks.  Many of their peculiar beliefs are a part of Keokuk's traditions.  Mrs. J. J. Ayres is a charter member of the Civic League and is its president;  it is an organization of two hundred members, with representatives from every ward in the city.  She is one of the vice-presidents of the Benevolent Union, which maintains a home for old women and children.  She is a member of the advisory board of the People's Institute, which does social settlement work among the colored people of the city.  She is a member of the board of directors of the Visiting Nurse Association and chairman of its finance committee.  She is a member of the Y. W. C. A., the Keokuk Country Club, and a number of social clubs.  She was a charter member of the Keokuk Woman's Club, and chairman of one of its departments.  Mr. and Mrs. Ayres are both members of St. John's Episcopal church, the former being a vestryman.  Mrs. Ayres is a member of St. John's Guild, and of the Woman's Auxiliary, having held offices in both organizations.



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