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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ambrose sisters made their name in New York

By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

This is one in a series of vignettes celebrating Kansas history. The series’ name comes from the state motto, Ad astra per aspera: To the stars through difficulties.

“But I believe – and my own experience bears this out – that brains and money have a market value.”

– Adelaide Ambrose

They were two sisters who took New York City by storm.

One was a publisher; the other a dancer.

And during the 1920s and 1930s, there wasn’t much Adelaide and Eleanora Ambrose didn’t see or do.

Their maiden name was Puckett. Wichitans may remember their nephew, Robert Puckett, the former director of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum who retired in 2007. Puckett donated a collection of their photographs and family history to the Kansas State Historical Society’s library.

The sisters were characters who both changed their last name to Ambrose.

Addie Minta became Adelaide. She was born in 1887 in Sedgwick and moved to Kansas City around 1908. By 1927, she had established a printing firm on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Mary Elenor changed her name to Eleanora. She was born in Newton in 1901 and, by the early 1920s, had followed her sister to New York.

She originally wanted to be an actress but discovered early in life that she could make money on Wall Street. She invested in the stock market and, with her profits, bought real estate. She bought both large apartment houses in New York and rental properties in Kansas. And then she bought her publishing company.

Eleanora became a principal dancer on Broadway. She became the dance partner to and fell in love with Maurice Mouvet, an international dance star. They married in Paris. Their marriage lasted only a year before he died of tuberculosis. She later married Sam Katz, president of Publix theaters and a multimillionaire. Their marriage ended in divorce. She married a third time and that too, ended in divorce.

In 1961, Adelaide returned to Newton. She died in 1967.

Eleanora also returned to Newton in 1971. She died in 1988.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com

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