State Historic Site
AFTER GRADUATING FROM Goucher College, Rosa-Maye Kendrick lived with her parents in Washington, D. C. There, she led quite a busy life. She dated many young men, most of them military officers from the Army or Navy. It was a flyboy from the Army Air Corps, however, who ultimately won her heart.
THE WAITING GAME
Hubert Harmon - known as "Doodle" to his friends - was the son of a prominent military family from Pennsylvania. A member of the Army Air Corps, he worked in the War Department and as a White House aide to President Calvin Coolidge. Following their 1922 meeting at the wedding of mutual friends, Hubert had pursued Rosa-Maye with the same relentlessness with which he pursued his military career. According to her diaries, he asked her to marry him on a fairly regular basis. Each time, her answer was either "No," "Not yet," or "Give me more time." Undaunted, Hubert just kept asking. On January 17, 1927, the situation came to a head. As Rosa-Maye wrote in her journal:
I went for a little walk with Doodle in the late winter dusk - to the gates of the Zoo Park and back. He suddenly floored me by asking if I would go the Philippines with him, explaining that he was second on the foreign service list due to the increase in personnel there. As usual I asked for time to think but my heart was heavy and the world looked dark and empty.
Rosa-Maye pondered the situation for several days. Then, the following Sunday, Hubert took her riding, and made a startling announcement:
He confessed that the Philippine story was a hoax ... then quite simply [said], "No Baby! Truth is the General called me up to the office and asked me how I would like to take Major Tinker's job as Assistant Military Attaché in London." Then Doodle wondered why I cried for sheer relief and joy. ... A period of uncertainty [followed], during which I anticipated the anguish of parting and flirted with the delightful possibility of sharing with D. this interesting adventure of London.
It was sink-or-swim time for the relationship. Either Rosa-Maye said yes and moved to London with him, or Hubert would relinquish all claim to her and sail east alone. She decided not to give him up:
I approached Daddy and put the question bluntly: "Should I marry Doodle and go to London?" He was floored, and for a little could voice only his surprise and pain - but when D. had come he came into the Library in that determined way in which he has met life's crises - and facing Doodle squarely made his renunciation of "Little Sis," albeit with his voice husky with tenderness and with tears in his eyes.
As soon as Rosa-Maye announced her engagement to her friends (at a luncheon for forty-six ladies at the Chevy Chase Club), the newspapers jumped on the story:
Miss Kendrick and Major Harmon have been friends for years and for the past three years the major has been a summer guest of the Kendricks, but rumors of an engagement had been denied. Announcement of his appointment to an important station in London precipitated the announcement of the engagement. A typical Western girl, Miss Kendrick is an accomplished horsewoman and spends much time on the bridle paths of the Washington parks. She has been a leader in Washington social circles where the Kendricks have made their home for several years. … Miss Kendrick is rather tall, slender, and a beautiful brunette.
WHERE DOES THE FIRST LADY SIT?
Because of his position at the White House and John Kendrick’s position in the Senate, Hubert and Rosa-Maye’s society wedding, put together in just a month, had some very important people on the guest list: The President and Mrs. Coolidge, the Vice President and Mrs. Dawes, members of the cabinet, diplomatic corps, and the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as members of official and resident society.
In order to comply with etiquette, Rosa-Maye contacted the White House Protocol Officer about how to handle the presence of Mrs. Coolidge. The response arrived three days before the event:
It has been customary in the past for Mrs. Coolidge and the aide to sit in the front pew. They would leave the church after the bridal procession has passed, allowing a suitable interval for it to get into motors, etc., but preceding the family. If the Vice President and Mrs. Dawes are both going, it would be usual to give them the next pew. If Mrs. Dawes goes alone, I think she would hardly expect to sit entirely by herself.
MOVING TO LONDON
In addition to seating arrangements, Rosa-Maye also had to pack for her move to London, endure endless gown fittings, attend a bevy of parties, prepare for photographs, and decorate her parents' apartment for the reception. By the time of the wedding, she needed a nap:
Saturday, February 19th began with rain, which turned to sleet which turned to snow. I was far too busy til late afternoon with my trunks, to notice or care greatly. At three the confusion of decorating cleared a little and I lay down for a few minutes. I was dressed in my lovely dress and waiting for my photographer at 6:00. First he photographed me without train or veil; later in the full regalia, not forgetting my bouquet of orchids and white lilacs with its lovely streamers of white satin ribbon and lilies of the valley. The girls, looking like orchids themselves in their crispy satin dresses be-ruffled and a-sheen, were prompt, so that we had a few minutes to visit with Daddy before going to the Church.
Four days after the wedding, the Harmons set sail for England on the SS Republic. According to the ship's log, the newlyweds endured overcast skies, fog, rain, snow, high winds, and rough seas during the nine-day trip. In her first letter home, however, Rosa-Maye described the journey quite differently:
Our trip over was all one could hope ... for three days a light fog lay on the ocean, smoothing it almost to glassiness, but after passing out of the fog area it has been delightful, cool, but never, cold, the sea a clear deep blue, curling white on the crest of the brisk but diminutive waves.
Once in London, Rosa-Maye’s life was a whirl of social activities, from “at homes” and teas to operas, garden parties, and a presentation to the King and Queen of England. Even so, she found a little time to be homesick: "I thought I heard [a meadowlark] the other day and a wave of longing for home engulfed me. I couldn’t get rid of it or the imagined smell of sage. … England isn’t Wyoming!"
Kendrick-Harmon wedding invitation, 1927 (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2009 - December 2009
Kooi-Reynolds wedding, circa 1926 (Moeller-Edwards Collection, TESHS)