Gwladys Bowen, My Hero

Gwladys Bowen, My Hero

It was through her father that his only child, Gwladys Bowen, had access to the extensive collection of Bowen letters written by her grandparents, Katie and Isaac Bowen. For her own records, Gwladys typed most of the letters over a period of many years, and she shared her typed copies of Bowen letters written at Fort Union between 1851-1853 with James Arrott, an early partisan of Fort Union becoming a national monument. These letters were copied and annotated for use at the Fort Union National Monument for its interpretive programs, and are still in use. The letters were entitled “My Dear Mother” by the National Park Service staff. Katie and Isaac Bowen are also featured in a video shown in the Visitor’s Center at Fort Union.

Gwladys Bowen (1893-1991) was the daughter of the first child born at Fort Union, New Mexico Territory, in 1852. Her father was William (Willie) Holman Cary (1852-1932) and his parents were Catherine “Katie” Cary Bowen (1825-1858) and Captain Isaac Bowen (1821-1858). Per Wikipedia, the name Gwladys is of Welsh origin and bears the meaning of royalty. It’s an unusual spelling, but even so, researching the life of Gwladys Bowen has not revealed a wealth of details. Here’s what we do know:

Gwladys Bowen, New Society Editor 1924

The Oregon Exchange Vol.7-8 December 1924
Miss Gwladys Bowen, of Portland, is the new society editor for the Morning Oregonian, succeeding Mrs. Nancy Zan Scott, retired. Miss Bowen, who is a graduate of the University of Oregon, is the daughter of Col. W.H.C. Bowen, U.S. Army, retired, formerly commandant of the R.O.T.C. unit at the university.

William Holman Cary Bowen Obituary 1932

Obituary: 3-12-1932: The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 12, column 1:
“Early-Day Army Indian Fighter Dies on Coast”
SAN FRANCISCO, March 11 (AP)–Colonel William H. C. Bowen, 79, retired army officer and one-time Indian fighter in Montana and the Dakotas under General Nelson A. Miles, died here last night. Formerly a resident of Buffalo, N. Y., Colonel Bowen was in command of the Fifth Infantry at the Presidio here in 1914. In 1918, at the University of Oregon, he organized units of the students’ training corps and the reserve officers’ training corps. A daughter, Miss Gwladys Bowen of Portland, Ore., survives. 

Gwladys Bowen, Postal Museum Blog 1938

“It is these discrepancies that are turning my hair grey,” wrote Gwladys Bowen, a reporter for The Oregonian on February 25, 1938, in one of three detailed letters to the Post Office Department. Having gathered every fact she could for an authoritative article on the Inverted Jenny, she sought clarification on a number of issues. “Authorities in the stamp collecting world are divided in their opinions as to whether the stamp was issued in sheets of 400, or in sheets of just 100 subjects each,” she wrote to the Office of the Third Assistant Postmaster General. This and her other questions about numbers, guide arrows, and margins prompted a meticulous reply from the Post Office, explaining how sheets of correct stamps then on display were printed and trimmed in way that showed two straight edges, ending with, “many collectors have inferred that the stamps were printed from 400 subject plates, which is not true.” 

[On a side note unrelated to the Jenny, Gwladys Bowen had her own interesting history. Born in Connecticut in 1893, she was the daughter of a cavalry officer who had served under Nelson Miles, the man charged in 1876 with rounding up Lakota braves after the Battle of Little Big Horn. He’d witnessed Sitting Bull’s surrender and participated in the Nez Perce campaign that captured Chief Joseph, known for his tragic surrender, “I will fight no more, forever.” Gwladys attended the University of Oregon where her father was preparing students to fight in World War I. She went to work in Portland as a news reporter and lived to the age of 98.] Gwladys Bowen, Hospital Ships of WWII 1952

The USS Haven provided medical and surgical care and consultative services in the cases of many Republic of Korea war casualties. At the end of its tour, the Haven sailed for the United States on September 16, 1952. Seeing an opportunity for some really good PR, the Haven stopped at Pearl Harbor and embarked 15 women, special guests of the Secretary of the Navy. The overall purpose was to give the guests a chance to see firsthand the navy’s operating forces in action. The VIPs sailed with the ship from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco and some even remained until the ship arrived at Long Beach for its yard overhaul. Gwladys Bowen, editor, women’s page, Portland Oregonian, was a guest.


1991 Gwladys Bowen died at 98 in Washington, D.C. She was the KGW host of “Cocktail Hour” Portland society scene in the 1940’s.

Gwladys Bowen Obituary 1991

Gwladys Bowen, 98, retired society editor of the Portland Oregonian newpaper, died of respiratory failure July 26 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. She lived at Knollwood in Northwest Washington. Miss Bowen joined the Portland Oregonian in 1924 and was a reporter and editor there for 35 years. After her retirement, she worked for several years for the Episcopal bishop of Oregon. Miss Bowen was born in New Haven, Conn. She attended the University of Oregon, where she belonged to Alpha Phi sorority. She lived in Bennington, Vt., for 12 years before moving here in 1973. She was a member of the Garden Club of America and the Society of the Daughters of the U.S. Army. There are no immediate survivors. 6/30/1893 to 7/26/1991

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Gwladys Bowen with kitten