Edwine Behre was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1884. She made her concert debut in 1898, and continued to study, teach and love the piano throughout her entire life. She studied for four years in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky, considered by many to have been the world's greatest piano pedagogue.
In 1915, Edwine moved to New York City. She taught piano in New York for over sixty years, paying particular attention to the application of physical relaxation in technique to avoid pain in fingers, wrists and arms. She also lectured on music and played recitals well into her old age. As a teenager, she made a "passionate decision" never to marry and risk having a husband interfere with her music.
Edwine was independent and unorthodox. Her parents were active in the cultural life of Atlanta, and were also ardent pacifists. Edwine followed in their footsteps. She was actively involved in anti-war efforts during the two world wars, in the labor movement, and in the nuclear disarmament movement in the 1950s. Her
friends were artists, writers, musicians, dancers, politicians, anarchists, and feminists - passionate, active, and interesting people of all kinds.
Alice Mary Kimball was born in Woodbury, Vermont, in 1886. She knew at an early age that she wanted to be a writer, and published her first piece in the local paper, the Hardwick Gazette, at the age of ten.
When she finished her formal education at Johnson Normal School (Johnson, Vermont) in 1905, she began a career as a teacher. After several years of teaching, however, she yearned for something more exciting. In 1910, she began working as a reporter at the Hardwick Gazette. A dramatic murder case launched her journalistic career, and she began a series of moves around the country. In 1914, she landed at the Kansas City Star, where she met and married Harry Godfrey. A few years later, they moved to New York City.
In 1929, she published a book of poetry, The Devil is a Woman, to national acclaim. She was horrified by the shocking growth of the Ku Klux Klan, and felt compelled to skewer their biases through her poetry. As a freelance writer, she wrote for The Saturday Evening Post, The Reader's Digest, and a host of other national magazines.
Alice Mary was dedicated to civil rights and workers' rights. Her career in journalism was marked by her ability to write vivid and dramatic stories about current events of the day. She was instrumental in organizing a streetcar workers' strike in Kansas City in 1917. Alice Mary was a prolific writer about women's activities around the country. She also wrote in support of peace and civil rights both home and abroad.
Harry Godfrey was born in Chicago in 1883. A talented photographer and writer, he was a leading reporter at the Kansas City Star. One of his reporter trainees was the young writer Ernest Hemingway.
He had been married and fathered three children, but by the time he met Alice Mary Kimball, a new reporter at the newspaper in 1914, he was divorced. He asked her to marry him by placing a wedding announcement in the paper! She agreed to marry him "to avoid embarrassment." Since they stayed married until his death in 1957, one can presume she didn't object to his creative proposal.
Harry and Alice Mary moved to New York City in 1918, where Harry worked for the War Labor Board, opened a photography studio, and continued his freelance writing. Photography was his true love, and he was an early enthusiast for home movie technology. His photographs chronicled the lives of the founders in great detail.
The Three of Them
Alice Mary Kimball met Edwine Behre in a Greenwich Village cafè in 1918. Thus a friendship was born that would last for sixty years. They were kindred spirits, and they instantly recognized this.
Alice Mary and Harry moved into Edwine's lodgings, and in 1922, the three of them moved together to a house in Greenwich Village. This house, with a studio for Edwine, a book-room for Alice Mary, and room for Harry's photography equipment, would become a magnet for local artists, musicians and intelligentsia.
The three of them worked and played together. Their lives were filled with culture and activism, from music and writing and photography, to political protest and social activism. They vacationed together in North Carolina, the Adirondacks, and Vermont, all lovingly documented by Harry's camera.
In 1948, still together as a devoted trio, they moved to 162 West 54th Street. Edwine continued to run her studio, working with a loose collaborative of teachers known as "The Modern Piano School," while Harry and Alice Mary continued to write. The long association between this vibrant, creative, intellectual and talented threesome proved productive and fruitful, and they were about to take the next big step. It would lead them up a dusty dirt road to Adamant, Vermont.
Next: Founding the School