Helen Muir (reporter)

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Helen Muir (1911-2006) was an American reporter and author. Her full name was Helen Teresa Eucharia Flaherty Lennehan Muir.[1] She was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1984.[2]

Family background[edit]

Muir was born February 9, 1911 at 110 Downing Street, in Yonkers, NY. [3] She was named after her mother, Helen Teresa Flaherty. Her maternal great-grandfather, Geoffrey O'Flaherty of Waterford, and great-grandmother Katherine Fitzgerald of County Clare, had left Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine. The family stopped using the "O" and was later known as "Flaherty."[4] Her father, Emmet Aloysius Lennehan, was the child of Margaret "Maggie" McGann and Timothy Lennehan, who taught philosophy in Dublin, before coming to the United States. [5] Her paternal great-grandfather, Phillip McGann, fought for the Union in the Irish Brigade in the Battle of Gettysburg and was shot down defending a stone wall and waving an American flag. [6]

Emmet began playing piano in a saloon at 14 years old, with shots of whiskey as payment. He walked with a limp, because he was injured as a child sliding down a banister of his family's home, and used a cane. [7] He and Muir's mother, known as "Nellie" met very young, and eloped when they were eighteen and nineteen years old in Lake Champlain. When they returned, they were married again in a Catholic ceremony at St. Peter's Church, at their families' insistence. [8] Emmet studied accounting by mail with Pace Correspondence School. He took a job as a bookkeeper with Spreckel's Sugar Company, and worked his way up, eventually becoming the head of the fixed capital department at United Electric Company, which became Consolidated Edison. [9] Muir had two sisters, the older Katherine, "Kay," and a younger sister Marjorie. [10]

She credited her grandfather, John Henry Augustine Flaherty with teaching her how to read at a very young age.[11] He was also a writer for the New York World.[12] Katherine's husband, Robert Roth, was a writer as well, and served as managing editor of the Mt. Vernon paper, before becoming the Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin.[13]

Professional history[edit]

Muir finished high school in the "fatal summer of 1929."[14] She had earned a scholarship to Simmons College to study drama, and had been voted "most entertaining girl" in her graduating class at Yonkers High School. [15] She took a summer job at the Yonkers Herald, "earning $65 dollars a month."[16] At the end of the summer, she told her mother that she was not sure about college. She continued working as a journalist, and never obtained a college degree.

The Yonkers Herald became the Herald Statesman, and Muir became Society Editor. She moved from the Herald Statesman to the New York Post, and then to the New York Journal. She was writing a column about Westchester County, when Carl Byoir asked her to help with the Westchester Biltmore Country Club Fashion Show and Ball at the Waldorf Astoria. [17] Muir was able to convince the New York World Telegram to publish a full-page of photographs, which caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, a member of the committee hosting the event. At the Biltmore Ball, Carl Byoir offered Muir a job publicizing the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. [18]

In December, 1934, Muir left New York City on the Havana Special. She was 23 years old. Her friends at the New York Journal threw her such a farewell party, she nearly missed the 10 PM departure. It took two days to reach Miami by train, and when she arrived, she was whisked off to the Biltmore Hotel for breakfast with Carl Byoir's people. [19] She was told that she would be interviewing Eddie Rickenbacker the same evening at the Roney Plaza Hotel. Overnight, she was interviewing people like Doris Duke, Yvonne Printemps, Pierre Fresnay, Nathaniel Gubbins, Clare Booth Luce, Errol Flynn, and other notable public figures. She intended to stay one season, but an offer from the city editor of the Miami News, Frank Malone, to run the rewrite desk gave her pause. [20]

She wrote about Florida as a columnist for the Universal Service syndicate from 1935 to 1938 and for the Miami News and the Miami Herald until 1965. She served as women's editor for the Miami Herald, drama critic for the Miami News, and wrote freelance articles and books.[2] Her closest friends included poet Robert Frost, author Philip Wylie, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Novelist Hervey Allen called Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Muir, "the Stewart Avenue Gang" because they were neighbors and friends for many years. [21] On April 25, 1951, an article she wrote regarding the Parrot Jungle appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. [22]

Library service[edit]

Muir chaired the State Library Advisory Council and helped lead the organization of the Miami-Dade Public Library System.[2] Her papers are collected at the University of Miami.[23]


Helen was married to William "Bill" Whalley Muir in January, 1936 in a civil ceremony at Miami City Hall. He was from Portland, Oregon, and his father had been a State Attorney and his maternal grandfather had been a judge. He attended Stanford University, and Columbia Law School. He was recruited away from law school to serve as attorney for the Miami Beach Development Company by Carl G. Fischer, and did not finish his law degree. They had three children, Mary, Melissa, and William.[1] She died on February 14, 2006.


  1. ^ a b Muir, Helen (2004). Baby Grace Sees the Cow: A Memoir. Miami: The Prologue Society. 
  2. ^ a b c "Helen Muir, 1911-". Florida Commission on the Status of Women Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  3. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 9
  4. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 5
  5. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 9
  6. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 9
  7. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 11
  8. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 11
  9. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 11
  10. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 19
  11. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow. p. 1
  12. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 21
  13. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 23
  14. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 22
  15. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 22
  16. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 22
  17. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 24
  18. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 25
  19. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 26
  20. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 28
  21. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, cover summary
  22. ^ Muir, Helen. Baby Grace Sees the Cow, p. 7
  23. ^ "Helen Muir Papers". Special Collections, University of Miami Libraries. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 


  • Miami, USA
  • Biltmore, Beacon for Miami
  • Frost in Florida (1995), a memoir of her friendship with Robert Frost from 1935 - 1963
  • Baby Grace Sees the Cow: A Memoir (2004)

External links[edit]