THE SILENT PARTNER: MARY MEHAGAN HILL AND THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY

Christiane Diehl Taylor

Abstract


At a time when large corporations were just becoming commonplace and the term “corporate wife” was more than a half-century from entering the vernacular, Mary Mehagan Hill, spouse of Great Northern Railway founding partner and president James J. Hill, exemplified what many in modern American business would come to view as the good corporate wife. Her diaries and private correspondence between 1884 and 1920 reveal that she ably performed the business functions company executives expected corporate spouses to perform: the evaluative, the motivational, and the diplomatic. Although her public face never betrayed that she undertook these tasks reluctantly, she fulfilled her corporate duties so well that her obituary called Mary her husband’s “silent partner.”

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