|above: Lillian in a|
1921 flagpole sitting
A couple of years later Lillian was interviewed for a widely-circulated article entitled Is Today's Girl Becoming a Savage? in which she defended flappers as vanguards of a new era of freedom and opportunity for women. After that, though, she simply vanished from the record. It was only recently that I found an article on microfiche that gave her mother's name, which led to a census form and some other records, though still nothing from after 1924.
Recently, I ran across what may have been her father's World War 2 draft card - a guy with her father's name (Meyer Lieberman) and statistics (place and date of birth, anyway), matching up to his. There were a lot of people named Meyer Lieberman, so you have to be careful.
His closest contact info was one Mrs. Lillian Gerard. In the 1930 census, Lillian and Franklin Gerard were in L.A. with Lillan's mother, who was listed as Natalie Bensonson. Bensonson, I knew from other records, was Lillian Collier's mother's maiden name. Her name was Nellie, not Natalie, but mistakes like that are common in the census, and since Meyer and Nellie were divorced by 1930, it's possible she had gone back to her maiden name.
On the 1940 census, Lillian Gerard was going by "Lilli" and had a baby son named Frank Gerard Jr. The form said she was self-employed as a writer.
The mother's maiden name was a strong clue, and I'd suspected that she ended up in Los Angeles (there was a news item saying a woman named Lillian Collier was going to be in a Chaplin film). Looking for info on a writer named Lillian Gerard broke the case wide open, and I was able to put the pieces together. Lillian Collier became Lillian Gerard at some point in the 1920s, and Lillian Rosenfeld some time later after marrying a Chicago real estate developer.
|Lillian as Lillian Gerard / Nellise Child|
at work in the early 1940s
When her first "serious" novel came out in the early 40s, she was writing the book while living as a housewife - her husband didn't want her to work, according to a news article. This arrangement didn't work out so well for her, and eventually she divorced Frank and ended up back in New York. Thereafter, her son (writing in the afterward of a new ebook of Weep for the Virgins) remembers that she took him to just about every Broadway show between 1948 and 1962! He remembers running lines from her works in progress with people like Irene Castle.
Articles about her from the 1940s onward mention her having worked in a cannery in Los Angeles, as well as in soda fountain, and she spoke to one reporter about her days a a "girl reporter" in Chicago (I've only ever found one of her articles from those days), but none mention her time in the Chicago bohemia scene. Her brief autobiography on the back of her first novel mentions her work for two Chicago papers, as well a stint with Sells-Floto's Circus, which backs up the occasional early 1920s mentions of her as a circus performer, and firmly establishes that this woman is the same woman who took Chicago by storm in 1922.
Eventually marrying real estate developer Abner Rosenfeld, she found her way back to Chicago later in life, and seems to have formally changed her name to Nellise at one point. She was living near Loyola when she passed away in 1981 at the age of 79. Her obituary gives her name was "Nellise Rosenfeld," and she was interred at Shalome Memorial Park. She was still a member of the Dramatists' Guild, as well as the American Jewish Congress, and a couple of Zionist organizations.
She achieved enough note to have a French wikipedia entry that doesn't mention "Collie" or "Collier" as a last name (she was only married to Herbert Collie for a very short time when she was just a teenager, from what I can tell). She seems to have spoken very little about her time in Chicago; her son didn't even know about it when I tracked him down!
So, I'm secure in saying that we've found out what happened to Lillian Collier, but this is just the beginning. I may be working with her son now to get more of her works back into print...