Alzira Peirce

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Alzira Peirce
Born Alzira Handforth Boehm
(1908-01-31)January 31, 1908
New York City, New York
Died June 19, 2010(2010-06-19) (aged 102)
Brighton, Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Known for Painting Sculpture
Spouse(s) Waldo Peirce (divorced)
Charles Albaugh (divorced)

Alzira Handforth Peirce Albaugh (née Boehm; January 31, 1908 – June 19, 2010) was an American political activist, artist, World War II veteran and radio announcer.

Early life[edit]

She and her siblings moved to Circle, Montana to live as homesteaders after their father, August Abraham Boehm, died. Their mother, Hazel Hunter Handforth (born September 12, 1883, Huntsville, Missouri[1] - died circa 1957, Central Islip, New York)[2] was a suffragette, a homesteader, and later, a restaurateur in New York's Greenwich Village in the 1920s. Her father, August Abraham Boehm (born 1880, Vienna, Austria-Hungary – died 1916), was a pioneering Austrian-born[3] New York City real estate developer of Jewish descent. August Boehm had graduated from Columbia University in 1901[4] but was affected by the panic of 1907 in which his own father, Abraham Boehm (July 28, 1841, Höringhausen, Germany - July 3, 1912, Mount Vernon, New York), a pioneering German-born Jewish[3] New York City real estate developer, lost most of his fortune. Boehm & Coon (est. 1882) had commissioned one of New York's first skyscrapers, the 11-story Diamond Exchange Building (1893–94), as well as The Langham, a prestigious Manhattan apartment building. The elder Boehm partnered with Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in introducing gas engines to Europe.[5]

Growing up in McCone County, Montana, Alzira played the harmonica, drew, and rode horses. When she was 13 she returned to New York and sought employment through one of her paternal uncles, an architect. In New York she studied at the Art Students League and later traveled to Paris to study. She painted, sculpted, and drew many works of art. Her poetry was published in The New Yorker.[6][7]


She taught art to sailors on leave at the International Seamen's Union. One of her students was the cartoonist Gahan Wilson. Her art exhibitions were cited in "Who was Who in American Art" page 477 Biographies of American Artists Active from 1898-1947, by Sound View Press 1985.[citation needed]

She joined the Army during World War II, working for the Red Cross and doing publicity for the Army for nearly two years. She was captain of the American Red Cross Motor Corps and was the chief of motor corps training of the Rockland County Civilian Protection Group. She worked organizing units of the driving Corps, training them, and supervising their operations. (Stated by Geo W. Wallace Jr., Director of Civilian Protection, Rockland County; June 6, 1942.

She rose from officer to captain and conducted the training unit for O.C.D. Drivers training. She was assigned to a district of the park system which included a section of the Palisades Interstate Park Police, Fourth Precinct, Second District Rockland Lake, New York, June 7, 1942. In a November 10, 1942 letter signed by Doris J. Leeds, the 2nd WAAC (Women's Auxiliary Corps Training Center), Fort Des Moines, Iowa, Leeds wrote that Alzira Peirce was "the type of WAAC we'd like to have lot's [sic] more of. On her job with the Public Relations Department, and in the barracks, she won commendation of all. She is poised, dignified, at home anywhere. We hate to lose her. Alzira Peirce was also cited by the municipality of Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York on September 26, 1942 for her work with the motor corps.[8]

After leaving the Army, Waldo and Alzira Peirce divorced. Waldo was 24 years her senior; she had become Peirce's third wife in 1930; the couple had three children, Mellen Chamberlain "Bill" Peirce, Michael Peirce, and Anna Peirce. Anna predeceased her mother. Bill Peirce is married to British solicitor Gareth Peirce, by whom he has two sons.[citation needed] She married again to Chuck Albaugh having her fourth child, Kathleen Swoboda.[citation needed]

She was commissioned by the Treasury Section of Fine Art, a New Deal agency, to paint two murals. In 1938 she completed Ellsworth, Lumber Port in Ellsworth, Maine and in 1939 Shipwreck at Night in South Portland, Maine.[9] An avid artist, she created many sculptures, paintings, and drawings. She moved to New Mexico and worked as an organizer for the United Mine Workers union. She later married Chuck Albaugh, with whom she had a daughter, Kathleen (Mrs. Swoboda). They separated after four years.[10]


Alzira Peirce Albaugh died in 2010, aged 102, from sepsis in Brighton, Massachusetts. She was survived by her two sons, her younger daughter, and nine grandchildren. She was predeceased by her daughter, Anna.[11][12]



  1. ^ Hazel Hunter Handforth info,; accessed May 17, 2014.
  2. ^ Hazel Handforth death info,; accessed May 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 15 (1913-14), p. 269; accessed May 3, 2012.
  4. ^ "Columbia's Class of 1901", The New York Times, June 9, 1901; accessed May 3, 2012.
  5. ^ Obituary for Abraham Boehm, New York Times, July 4, 1912; accessed May 3, 2012.
  6. ^ "Silent Rivers", The New Yorker, March 2, 1940.
  7. ^ Excerpted from Peter H. Falk et al (eds), Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
  8. ^ Profile,; accessed August 12, 2015.
  9. ^ "Alzira Peirce". Living New Deal. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Peirce family genealogy site,; accessed May 17, 2014.
  11. ^ Profile with cause of death,; accessed October 29, 2014.
  12. ^ Obituary,; accessed October 29, 2014.