Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Helene Ruthling

Helene Ruthling


Honored September, 1985

Helene Ruthling

Helene Ruthling came to Santa Fe as a governess, and stayed to open a famous nursery school and a unique toy store. She settled in Tesuque, where the trees reminded her of her native Black Forest. Her life touched that of many legendary figures in local history, from Mabel Dodge Luhan, who employed her, to Will Shuster creator of Zozobra--the giant gloomy gus of a puppet burned at the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe--who enjoyed her boundless hospitality. Shuster was married (for the second time) in Helene's Tesuque house.

Born to Carl and Frieda Maurer in 1903 in Stuttgart, Germany, Helene was an only child. In 1913, to escape the Kaiser's Army, Carl, a cabinetmaker, emigrated to Buffalo, New York. "He did beautiful inlaid work," Helene recalled. Helene and her mother, Erieda, were expected to emigrate too, but the war in Europe erupted. Unable to join "Grandpa," Fried a and Helene went to Switzerland, where Helene completed training as a children's nurse.

Helene was seventeen and spoke little English when she and her mother arrived in Buffalo in 1920. Helene did tatting in a hat shop, "which she hated," according to her daughter, Theo, and was later employed as a governess by some of Buffalo's wealthiest families. In 1928, she came to Santa Fe from Buffalo with the John Evans family. In New Mexico, Helene was governess to the grandchildren of Taos personality Mabel Dodge Luhan.

Helene married Paul Ruthling in Santa Fe in 1931. Their daughter was christened Theodora Doodlet Tesuque by Will Shuster. Twin boys, Carleton and Fordyce, completed the family. The marriage did not last, and Helene found herself looking for a way to support her three children.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes