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Letters to Inez Ossendorf

Identifier: MS-2

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes thirteen brief letters from Georgia O'Keeffe to Inez Ossendorf primarily relating to O'Keeffe's finances and their professional relationship.


  • Creation: 1959-1997, undated

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public for research purposes. One letter, RC.1998.2.6, has restricted access due to presence of personally identifiable information. See archivist for access.

Copy and Reproduction Restrictions

Copies of print materials may be made for research purposes only.

Biographical and Historical Note

Inez Ossendorf (1909-1991) was Georgia O'Keeffe's accountant. Inez Ossendorf arrived in Santa Fe in 1948, a job-offer in hand with a leading accounting firm, Linder, Bucks, and Stevenson. She had lived in Chicago since 1927, and determined to move to another locale providing she could land a new job before making the move.

In Chicago she had been working at a large public accounting firm, and began applying for similar work in other parts of the country. She accepted the job in Santa Fe, packed up her belongings and moved, sight unseen, to New Mexico. Her job was as Secretary to President Linder and today would be called Administrating Secretary to the dozen or so CPA staff members. Although she never became a CPA, she did handle certain accounts, especially for various members of the sizable artist colonies of Santa Fe and Taos. In the period following the sale of Linder, Burke, and Stevenson to a national accounting firm and the retirement of Mr. Linder, Mrs. Ossendorf left the firm, taking several accounts with her, and continued her accounting and tax preparation work from her home. This she did until her death in 1991 at age 82, including moves to Albuquerque and 'retirement' to Fort Smith, AR.

Georgia O'Keeffe was one of Mrs. Ossendorf's clients. The papers presented here are dated from 1959 through 1983, four years before O'Keeffe's death in 1987.

"Dear Mrs. Ossendorf", as Miss O'Keeffe usually started her letters, was born Inez Miller in 1909 in Tacoma, WA, where her parents had moved after their marriage in Minnesota the year before. Her father, Earl, worked as an electrician for the Seattle-Tacoma electric railroad. After seven years and two more children, Earl, Jr. and Florence, her mother, Mabel, could no longer accept the Isolation from her family back home. In 1915 the family moved back to the southern Minnesota community of East Chain, where Earl and Mabel had been born and later would die. Mabel's death came suddenly two years later of a blood clot following an appendectomy. Inez became a homemaker in her father's house beside the farm-machinery and auto-repair business he had started. She had help from her grandmother, Lydia Rowley, and her five aunts who lived on the farm two miles from the village. This continued until 1922 when her father built a new house and announced that her aunt, Lena Rowley, would become her new mother. At 14 all the responsibility she had acquired, was taken from her. After graduation in 1927 from East Chain Consolidated High School, she left, never again to return to Minnesota to live. She went to live with her aunt Hazel Rowley Frudden, in Harvey, IL, a Chicago suburb and attended Thornton Township Normal school. She later taught in a private girl's school before marrying Carl Ossendorf in 1929.

Carl's folks came from Germany, and Carl worked for a food distribution company all his working life. Inez worked through the depression years in several clerical jobs ending up in the public accounting industry. Postwar years brought divorce to her and social changes to the whole city. Inez grew dissatisfied and insecure, being a single woman on her own in the big city. She decided to move to another place provided she could get a job before she moved. It is not known how many applications she placed in what parts of the country, before she accepted a job in Santa Fe in a state she had never seen. She had followed the precedent of her brother Earl, who, two years earlier, had moved from Minnesota to a teaching position in Gallup, New Mexico. Her sister Florence Mayo, inherited all her estate. At the insistence of her half-brother Gardner Miller, to "not throw away anything O'Keeffe', Florence Mayo saved the documents presented here. After Inez Ossendorf's death in 1991, she was returned to Minnesota and lies in the family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in East Chain.

Biography provided by Inez Ossendorf's brother, Gardner Miller, November 1997.


0.209 Linear Feet (13 letters)


The collection includes thirteen brief letters from Georgia O’Keeffe to Inez Ossendorf primarily relating to O'Keeffe's finances and their professional relationship

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in 1998 by Florence Mayo.

Related Materials

Additional letters from Inez Ossendorf to Georgia O'Keeffe are located in the Alfred Stieglitz / Georgia O'Keeffe Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Ownership and Rights

The collection is the physical property of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. Contact the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Archivist for further copyright and publication information as it pertains to this collection.

Processing Information

Processing of the collection was completed by Elizabeth Ehrnst in 2010. Digitization was completed in 2010.

Finding Aid to the Letters to Inez Ossendorf, 1959-1997, undated
Elizabeth Ehrnst
September 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Repository

217 Johnson Street
Santa Fe NM 87501 US