Thursday, December 28, 2017

Otto Plath's First Wife Lydia, and Her Career
Otto Plath’s first wife, Lydia Clara Bartz (1889-1988) was “Mrs. Lydia Plath” all her long adult life. She is buried in her home town, Fall Creek, Wisconsin. She and Otto married in 1912 and the Plath family apparently maintained some contact with Lydia after she and Otto separated. Most of this material except where noted came from The bracketed material is mine.

I had wondered what became of Lydia. She never remarried. Here's what I've learned so far:

1913-14: The UC student register for Berkeley shows Lydia Clara Plath as an undergraduate (p. 113) and Otto Emil Plath (p. 48) as a graduate student. Both live at 2216 Bancroft Way.
1915: Lydia Clara Plath, "housewife," appears in the register for UC-Berkeley summer session.
1919: Lydia Bartz-Plath graduates from the Evangelical School of Nursing in Oak Lawn, IL. Frieda Plath-Hendricks was in the Class of 1918. [Was “Hendricks” a wartime Anglicization of her married name “Heinrichs”?]

Lydia's nursing school closed in 1988.
Highlights from the Eau Claire Leader, archived at

1928, April 21: Mrs. Lydia Plath is identified as “operating nurse, Luther Hospital [Eau Claire].”
1929, June 27, p. 4, “Mrs. Lydia Plath, who has been visiting at Chicago, returned home to spend the rest of her vacation with her mother, Mrs. Mathilde Bartz.”
1930, Sept. 8, p. 8, “Mrs. Lydia Plath has gone to Los Angeles, California, to visit her brother, Rupert Bartz, and her sister Alma.”
1932, Aug. 12, p. 2, “Miss Elsie Roettiger [R.N.] of Fountain City [WI] arrived here Wednesday at the Mathilde Bartz home where she will spend several days visiting with Mrs. Lydia Plath who is spending a month’s vacation from her duties at the Luther Hospital in Eau Claire.” [Had Lydia learned at this time that Otto Plath had divorced her and remarried?]
1932, Oct. 22, p. 3. “Mrs. Lydia Plath motored to Oshkosh Sunday where she will attend a nurses’ convention.”
1934, Sept. 25, p. 12, operating room supervisor; on the faculty of the new Luther Hospital School of Nursing.
1934, Nov. 24, p. 2, contributes to the Eau Claire Community Welfare Fund.
1936, May 14, p. 4, named one of the Directors of the Tenth District of the Wisconsin State Nurses Association.
1939, Sept. 15: "Mrs. Lydia Plath described her visit to New York, including her trip to the NBC studios, Radio City, and seeing King George and Queen Elizabeth, guarded by 4000 policemen, at the World's Fair."
1942, Feb. 26, p. 2, "Lydia Plath, R.N., supervisor, shows there was a monthly average of 271.3 cases while in 1935 the average was 179."
1950, Nov. 2, p. 5, "received recognition in a monthly bulletin, 'Ideas of the Month,' published by a hospital supply company," outlining an instrument-sterilization process used at Luther Hospital.
1951, Jan. 11, p. 5, Eau Claire Daily Telegram, the article “Luther Hospital Guild Purchases New Surgical Table for Operating Room” says “Mrs. Lydia Plath, supervisor of the surgical department at Luther Hospital, demonstrated the machine.”

Rupert Bartz (1890-1934) introduced Lydia to Otto. Lydia’s sisters were Alma, Caroline, Odelia, and Dora, and a half-sister, Pauline. Of all the girls, only Lydia married.

Small-town newspapers in those days reported on hunting parties, birthday parties, who checked into or out of the local hotel or the hospital, and even the card party thrown for Rupert Bartz when he left town in 1914 to work in real estate in North Dakota.

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