>In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to tell you about someone without whom our museum might never have existed: Loretta Howard, a woman so remarkable that some at the museum still call her the “Steel Magnolia of Jeffersonville”.
Loretta Maude Wooden (ca. 1905)
Loretta Maude Wooden was born in 1885 in Kent, Indiana. On June 23rd, 1908, at the age of 23, she married James E. Howard, the younger son of Edmonds and Laura Howard. With the death of Edmonds in 1919, James (we call him Captain Jim) took over the family’s shipbuilding business with his older brother Clyde, and in 1923 he became the company’s sole owner, with Loretta as vice president. To quote river legend Capt. Alan L. Bates, in Loretta “Jim had found a personal and business helpmate of the finest quality”.
In her role as vice president, Loretta acted as the company’s business manager, handling financial and administrative matters while her husband ran the shipyard. Since steamboat building was not as wildly profitable as it had once been, Loretta also raised chickens and sold produce from her garden to help support the family. In 1941, the Howards sold the shipyard to the federal government and retired to their mansion.
Loretta Howard tending to her chickens. Her son Ed. J. Howard is in her arms (ca. 1910)
Loretta Howard with her husband, Capt. Jim Howard
Loretta Howard on the porch of the Howard Steamboat Museum (ca. mid-1960’s)
Bates, Alan L. “Loretta Howard”, in The Waterways Journal. June 25, 2007.
Howard, Loretta. Transcript of Personal Correspondence. Unknown date. (Found in papers of Ed. J. Howard Estate).
Howard, Loretta. “Transcription of Loretta Howard” (Taped Interview). June 5, 1977.
“Mrs. Howard, grand lady of river lore, dies at 93”. The Courier Journal (Staff and Special Dispatches). September 18, 1978.
Sutton, Carol. “Captain’s Widow To Turn Mansion Into Museum of Steamboating Era”. The Courier Journal. February 17, 1957.