WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT IN MARYLAND HISTORY

Click on Small Picture to Enlarge- Shirley in the Parlor at Belair Mansion-June 2002

SHIRLEY BALTZ

1922-   PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY

 

My motivation has been my love of history, for as long as I can remember.  It helps me to place myself in time and to understand how we've reached this point.  I think it's sad that so few people know the rich heritage of this Country.  Personally, they remind me of someone at sea in a dinghy with no oars.

Shirley Baltz

 

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT IN MARYLAND HISTORY

CAROLYN B. STEGMAN

EDITED: BY SUZANNE NIDA SEIBERT

Bowie historian Shirley Baltz is so assiduous in her research of yesteryear that she claims if she stepped into a day in the life of Annapolis two hundred years ago, she would be able to be on a first-name basis with just about everyone in town (Wells).  Her precise and tedious search for such facts has taken her well beyond notable past events.  She has uncovered details of seemingly minor happenings.  For instance, most people are unaware that Annapolis patriots, desperadoes to some, had their own tea party at the city dock a little less than a year after the one in Boston, or that a tavern near the dock "kept good entertainment for travellers in a private way" (Coakley).   In discovering and sharing such anecdotes, Baltz has uncovered a rich history and offered a clearer picture of the life and times of Maryland's people.

In her book, The Quays of the City, Baltz reveals the price of an Annapolis meal in 1774, and she relays an account of a man condemned to the gallows uttering his last words.  She helps readers visualize "the shopkeepers, the artisans, and tavern keepers" (Coakley).  Some might dismiss such details as trivial, but others recognize the sense of day-t0-day life often missing from the famous events chronicled in current textbooks.

Shirley Baltz lives in the past and loves it.  Her mission began when her family moved to Bowie, Maryland where she looked out of her window to see a portion of the Belair Mansion.  She gazed upon this magnificent eighteenth-century decaying structure, which happened to be right in the middle of her twentieth-century development, intrigued by the man personal stories that had unfolded behind its doors over the course of two hundred years. She was compelled to learn more.  Before long, in 1980, she had organized the "Friends of the Belair Estate".  Baltz stated, "We sent out a letter informing people that we were fundraising (Lowe).  We invited everybody we could think of.  We just had a phenomenal turnout."  Later, she wrote a book entitled "A Chronicle of Belair", which highlights the history of the estate and the families of those who have either owned or inhabited it.  Baltz turned a building into a landmark (Lowe)

Yet Baltz's work is not easy.  Baltz knows how it feels to have grant requests turned down, and to worry about how to get funding before something of historical value is lost forever.  She knows all too well that "the process  of preservation is slow" (Baltz).   Her book about the mansion was popular and lucrative, but after her time-consuming, laborious effort, she never accepted a dime of the profits.  Instead, all proceeds went to the preservation, which in many ways had become her life's focus.

Baltz is a woman whose dedication brings alive again the structures and people of the past.  In many ways, she represents a unique personality necessary for the nation's communities-someone committed, someone who works for the pure love of preservation, someone who work will not necessarily be widely commemorated but whose accomplishments are vital and beneficial beyond her self-satisfaction.  Baltz gave Maryland a glimpse into the history of the rich landed gentry of Belair and the common people of Annapolis.  She dug up vital information in dusty archives and unearthed it in excavations.  Shirley Baltz has uncovered many pieces to a complex but exciting puzzle, a puzzle that is Maryland history.

Article presented here with the permission of Mrs. Shirley Baltz

Ogle Family of Maryland and Allied Families(c) -  Photo from my personal collectionę  E-MAIL almglm@comcast.net