Here’s a snippet possibly of interest to some on a dull Monday morning, re: the mystery of ‘whatever happened to Winifred V. Jackson?’ after she collaborated with H.P. Lovecraft.
First, some background. The last known contact between Lovecraft and Jackson was July 1921, and Lovecraft’s wife Sonia apparently stated that she stole Lovecraft away from Jackson, re: marriage. A small-ad I found earlier suggests that Jackson was likely working for a New York advertising agency in 1920 and was then seeking an assistant. This seems to place her in New York City by that time. She was said to be living in Boston circa 1926 (see the booklet Ancestors and Descendants of Joshua Williams, 1927). Based on these slim filaments of evidence my feeling is that she was into New York City perhaps four years before Lovecraft, finding a living there in advertising. But that she probably did not ‘stick’ and returned to Boston. If she tried again in 1924, as Lovecraft did, is unknown. Even if she got back in, then she was likely out of the big city at about the same time as Lovecraft departed it.
But now a new discovery of data. In Spring 1935 and Spring 1936, two directory listings for a ham radio operator and their call-sign…
W5DAV — Portable, Winifred V. Jackson, 527 29th Av., Meridian, Miss.
Meridian was then a medium-sized city in Mississippi, 100 miles north of New Orleans. The American term is “city”, but it was not as big and grand as that makes it sound. The British would call it a large town. Number 527 has been swept away by a long ugly road flyover, and the fields opposite have vanished under now-shabby late-1950s industrial units. But 615 29th Av. remains near to the foot of the flyover on the same side of the Avenue, and the trim house (right) gives a flavour of what was lost. The setting might have reminded Winifred of her childhood place, which had been the sleepy and rural Great Pond, Maine.
Now the obvious objection is that Lovecraft’s Winifred was a Boston lady who died in “Mass.” in 1959. My research question is then: could the radio listing be a typo for “Meridian, Mass”? There is no such place in Mass., other than “Meridian St., East Boston”, and this Boston address has no possible “527 29th Av.” connected with it. The listing stands then, and appears unchanged for two years in the Mississippi section of the magazine. If this “Miss.” was Lovecraft’s Winifred, she presumably had an amateur radio station for access to more stimulating conversations than the edge of a Mississippi town could provide after sundown.
It certainly looks like this could be the same Winifred V. Jackson, still involved in amateur affairs but now of the amateur radio sort. It might be that — with her obvious talents — she was connected in some way with the town’s Meridian Star (1914-) newspaper. But that’s just a guess and we will likely never know, because The Library of Congress is missing the 1929-1936 run of that title.
But what was she doing in Mississippi, if she is indeed Lovecraft’s Winifred? Well, consider that in 1935 she was aged about 59 or 60. In the depths of the Great Depression the Social Security Act of 1935 had just set the U.S. retirement age to 65 years for citizens in private employment. She thus had a gap of some five years to fill, and perhaps even more if she had been in the habit of fudging her age downward (as was common in those days, e.g. Lovecraft’s friend Mrs Miniter). She might therefore have been a paid companion/secretary to some elderly amateur journalist, for a few years, and done some occasional work for the town’s newspaper. But my best guess is that 527 29th Av. was only an over-wintering address, a place for her and her elderly mother to avoid the brutal Boston winters. Meanwhile the Boston home could have been let out for cash, which would have been very welcome in the depths of the Great Depression.
There is oblique confirmation of this theory, from the 1930 U.S. Census. There is no Winifred + Jackson in Mississippi at that date, on two 1930 census search-engines (admittedly limited ones, as the full Census access appears to be paywalled). Thus I do not appear to have lighted on a young namesake who had grown up in Mississippi and happened to develop an interest in radio.
Some printing and typographic skills were involved in such hobbies, which again gives slight supporting evidence. For instance, here is a typical 1935 example of the sort that amateur radio hams would exchange by mail after long-distance conversations over the airwaves. Such cards would be hand-stamped on heavy blank postcards with rubber-stamps and coloured ink-pads, and with the call-sign prominent.
The case is tantalizing but unproven. Yet if I am correct then it would be amusing to imagine that Lovecraft’s own dial-twiddling on the short-wave radio at that date might, accidently via a blip in the cosmic ionosphere, have once again brought Jackson’s voice to his ears.