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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published August 14 2011

Halgrimson: Fargo’s Boleyn girl wrote stories of pioneer women

When I first went to work as The Forum’s librarian in 1972, I came across a clipping with a photo of a woman I thought looked familiar. And she was, in a way. It was an article about my great-grandmother.

In the article, Christina Austed Krantz told of her family’s 1881 trek across the prairie in a wagon pulled by oxen.

My grandfather, who was 6 weeks old, was wrapped in a buffalo robe while they were on the way to their homestead near where Enderlin now stands.

The story, one of a series of Sunday features that ran in The Forum from April 1931 through October 1934, was called “Quarter Sections and Wide Horizons.” They were written by Angela Boleyn about pioneer women in North Dakota.

In 1978, the North Dakota State Library published the series in book form, and it is a real treasure.

Boleyn was born Angela Green in Brainerd, Minn., in 1886. She grew up on a homestead near there with her parents and five siblings. Her father was one of the first engineers for the Northern Pacific railroad.

After high school, Angela attended nurses’ training at Northern Plains Beneficial Association Hospital, graduating in 1907. She then took nursing positions in Spokane, Wash.

She married Paul T. Boleyn in 1911 in Crow Wing County and their son, Paul T. Boleyn Jr., was born there in 1914. Paul Boleyn was also an engineer for the Northern Pacific beginning in 1889. His obituary in February 1934 says he was a devoted student of drama.

When the family moved to Fargo, Angela Boleyn served as chairman of a committee that presented the North Dakota Legislature with a bill to register graduate nurses and raise the standard of hospital training schools in the state. It passed.

During World War I, Boleyn did Red Cross nurse recruiting for the Army and the Red Cross and was in charge of the ROTC hospital at North Dakota Agricultural College, now North Dakota State University.

Angela Boleyn was active in community affairs. She was publicity chairwoman for the North Dakota Federation of Women’s Clubs for four years and also served two terms as president of the Fargo Fine Arts Club in the early 1930s. During her tenure at the Fine Arts Club, the group was presented with a gavel made from Badlands cedar by the manual training department of the Ellendale Normal and Industrial school.

In 1933, Boleyn was named chairwoman of the National Women’s Committee of the Mobilization for Human Needs by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The organization of women’s crusades was to rouse public opinion for the support of social work. Its purpose was to assist women in overcoming the effects of the Depression.

In 1938, Boleyn was appointed North Dakota chairwoman for the third annual national exhibition of American art by Gov. William Langer. The show was held in New York that summer. Oil paintings and sculptures by North Dakotans were featured in the exhibit.

In 1946, Boleyn was elected state president of the Fargo branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Founded in 1897, the NLAPW was an organization of professional women working in the fields of art, literature and music.

She later left Fargo and lived with her son and daughter-in-law, first in Leavenworth, Kan., and then in Paris and finally in McLean, Va. Her son, at the time of her death in 1962, was a lieutenant colonel In the Navy.

The next column will be about Angela Boleyn’s Forum series on World War I nurses from Fargo, “Blue Capes – Scarlet Linings.” Boleyn also wrote a series on the Standing Rock Reservation but, unfortunately, those documents have disappeared.

Sources: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies at NDSU

Readers can contact Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com