The Pink Lady

Cora Older

Today is the anniversary of the death of the novelist and horticulturist known as the Pink Lady Cora Older, who died on this day in 1968. 
Before Apple became associated with Cupertino, there was Cora Older and her husband, newspaper editor, Fremont. They were part of San Francisco's high society, entertaining guests like the poet Carl Sandburg and Lincoln Steffens, the muckraking journalist. Cora grew hundreds of pink roses in her garden, which is how she became known as "The Pink Lady."
During World War II, in August of 1942, the journalist Elsie Robinson wrote about Cora Older and the challenge faced by women dealing with the harvest alone in her column called "Listen World." I thought you would enjoy learning a little bit about Cora through this great story.
"Keeping the home fires burning is a cinch compared with keeping the home crops plucked these days, as those of us who have ranches and farms can testify.
Where, oh where, are the hordes of jobless lads who used to come ambling around when the peach was on the bough and the berry on the thorn?
I can tell you exactly where they are - Uncle Sam has gobbled them up, to the last calloused palm and freckle.
So what do we do for "hired hands?"
Mrs. Fremont Older knows the answer. Cora Older, the widow of America's great and beloved newspaper publisher and plenty of a writer herself, is lean, lithe, and possesses enough spunk to run a dozen unions.
Take this summer, for instance; maybe you've been getting your suntan at the nearest beach. Not so, Cora.
During sizzling July and August weeks, she has been climbing the hundreds of apricot and prunes trees that spread across her big ranch at Cupertino, picking the fruit herself with the occasional and temperamental aid of a 64-year-old handyman.
And if you don't think picking 'cots on a July afternoon is some job, you have a lot to learn, stranger.
To Cora, however, there was no alternative. There was the fruit, such a harvest, as the west has not seen in many a year. Golden floods of apricots, purple piles of prunes - but nary a man to pick them in or deliver them to the dryer.
So what?
So if a man could climb a tree, she could. And did.
Let the typewriter rest for a while, let the roses go ungathered - Cora Older was going to tackle her Victory harvest.
It's an epic that battle with heat and weariness, human cussedness, and old Mother Nature. I hope she puts it into a book.

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Pink Rose

Leave a Comment