Back to index of "this and that in my life" pages by Donald Sauter.

NOTE: You can always ENLARGE A PICTURE by clicking on it. The page is long, I know. Sorry. It was hard for me to get it this short. I trust you to skip around for the bits that may interest you. Thanks.


Jane Lehmann Sauter -
America's Most Beloved Woman

Below: Jane Lehmann, ca. 1947.
Jane Lehmann. (Click to enlarge.)
Above: Jane Lehmann, ca. 1947.

My mom, Jane Sauter, died on Christmas Eve, 2005, just about two weeks after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It came as a big surprise. She was 78 years old, and not only going strong, but picking up steam every year. Sort of like them baseballers starting to whack 60 and 70 homers when they turn sixty. Except Mom wasn't on steroids. I had figured she'd have no trouble surpassing her mother, who lived to be 93.

Jane's granddaughter Elizabeth wrote a very nice bio for the printed program at the funeral service:

Jane Lehmann entered the world on July 5, 1927 in Granite, Maryland. She was born at home and the doctor's bill amounted to $14. While she was attending Granite Elementary School, she made a profession of faith in Jesus.

She met Benton Sauter at Carlin's Roller Rink on February 18, 1945. Two years later to the date, she married Ben and they honeymooned in Niagara Falls. She and Ben enjoyed celebrating their anniversary each year at Chinese restaurants.

Jane worked as a card checker at Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

As the years passed and their family grew, there were still working horses on the family farm. One year when the children were young, the family did a Christmas card picture with one of the horses pulling them in a sleigh.

Sauter Christmas card, 1955.
Sauter Christmas card. (Click to enlarge.)
Susan, Diane and Sharon with Benton in sleigh.

Jane was a seamstress. When Susan, Diane, and Sharon were 7, 6, and 5 years of age respectively, Jane asked each of them to draw the most beautiful dress they could imagine. Then she made each a gown in the fabric of their choice that resulted in a bright shiny red dress, a shiny green dress with netting, and a pink dress with black-laced V-bodice and 3/4 length sleeves.

She picked out Ben's clean clothing that she had washed in her wringer washing machine and hung out to dry on the line. She always said it smelled cleaner and saved energy even if her hands were cracked from doing it. She set out two complete outfits for him to choose from each day after he had finished his heavy work.

Jane had several signature recipes including bean with barley soup and chicken potpie. Whatever fruit was in season became part of a dessert that would last for exactly one meal. In the spring, she served crushed strawberries over biscuit shortcake. Later in the year, apples became apple roly-poly and blueberries became blueberry roly-poly. Each year at Ed and Louise's Thanksgiving gathering, family could look forward to Jane's pecan cream-cheese pie, lemon meringue pie, and Rice-Crispy balls.

Grandmother Jane, as she was affectionately known, was delightfully thoughtful towards her grandchildren. She kept toys around the house for their visits and planned meals sure to tempt little mouths. She collected bags upon bags of stuffed animals each year to give to children at Harvester Presbyterian Church's annual fall festival.

Jane was a wonderful encouragement to those who lived in a nearby retirement home and nursing home. She would chat with people in the halls, picking up newspapers for recycling or just cleaning out the storage areas. When grandchildren and great grandchildren visited, she would take them with her to the retirement apartments. She would push them in a carriage or a homemade sleigh. The children would encourage the residents, and the residents would encourage the children.

She loved to work on her two-acre lawn. She pushed the lawnmower because it gave her good exercise. She loved it when people from the apartments would come and picnic on the lawn filled with little wild flowers and mosses. She played games with children, with peers, and with friends in the nursing home. Rummikub and dominoes were favorites. Always her games were played with kindness to her fellow players.

Jane knew how to make people feel special. When someone made an honest mistake, she was quick to forgive. She mailed many caring notes to relatives and friends.

Her burial is at Granite Presbyterian Church in a lot purchased by her father and mother who were founding members of that little stone church. Jane and Ben worshipped at Arlington Baptist Church for the past thirty years.

Jane Sauter touched many lives, a fact which was clearly evidenced by the streams of friends who came to visit during her stay at Northwest Hospital and at Chapel Hill Nursing Center. So many visitors came that folding chairs and even an outdoor lawn chair needed to be brought from home to accommodate her visitors. There were still people standing or sitting on her bed. Until her last day, she dressed herself and sat in her chair, because she said she wanted to be able to sleep at night. She will be dearly missed by many who look forward to seeing her again some day in heaven.

Jane was at peace in knowing that she would go to heaven when she passed from this earth. The Lord promises to give peace to those who trust in Him and He gave that peace to Jane.


Thanks, Elizabeth! I could never improve on that, but it does shake loose a few of my own memories. Before I get started, here's another picture. It's the one of my parents I think of first. It's cool. It's a stand-up, cut-out photo mounted on hardboard - a small, flat statue, so to speak. It was on display in this or that bedroom in the house all my life.

Below: Benton and Jane Sauter, ca. 1947.
Benton and Jane Sauter. (Click to enlarge.)
Above: Benton and Jane Sauter, ca. 1947.

Elizabeth mentioned Mom's work on our 2-acre lawn. My sister Sharon used to babysit for a family with an ongoing conflict. The mother turned to Sharon in the hope of resolving it:

"Who mows the lawn in your family, Sharon? The boys, or your father?"

"Well, um, to be honest, Mom does."

"Uh. I'm sorry I asked."

The wringer washer was not just an allusion to the distant past - Mom used it to the very end. Her wash came out spanking fresh - as opposed to mine, which comes out with the same smudges it went in with, but with about 5 more years' wear and tear on it.

About Mom's cooking: she was unbeatable at the meat-and-potatoes style American meal. In addition to some form of potatoes at every meal, there were always at least two other vegetables, maybe four or more. Our plates were colorful. Mom whipped up a light, white sauce for most vegetables. I found out later in life this is actually a very French thing. Her cole slaw was the best in the world, maybe tied with her sister Ruth's.

Yeah, I know, the reference to the former, once-a-year Chinese restaurant tradition is kind of funny in light of the once-or-more-per-week visits to the China Buffet in recent years. Benton likes steamed crabs!

Another "favor" Mom would do for the people in the retirement apartments was pick out the grass and weeds that poked through the landscaping stones. I put "favor" in quotes because that's not how Mom would view it - there were weeds, they looked sloppy, they got pulled. She'd be the last person on earth to even think, "That's not my job!" - the mantra that underlies the behavior of the other 8 billion minus one of us.

When I was growing up, there was sort of a running joke about how tough the previous generation had it, often given in terms of how many miles the old-timers had to walk to school. In Mom's case it was true - she walked more than two miles, each way, to Granite Elementary School every day. She was good at algebra.

For some years my father raised hogs up on the farm. How does getting up to help tend hogs sound to you? At 5 a.m.? In single-digit temperatures? Sound much like the typical latter-20th-century woman?

Ok, so Mom was Aunt Bee of Mayberry to the 7th power. Does that make her "America's Most Beloved Woman"? I could simply argue that no one else has a claim on it - believe it or not, the term didn't even appear on the web prior to this page. But there's more, you'll see.


Prior to Mom's funeral, I found myself in a clothes store looking for a shirt. Here and there were dress shirts that had been opened and returned and just bunched back together so shoddily nobody would touch them. It brought to mind Mom's years working as a saleslady at clothing stores, and also the times she took me shopping (when I was little!) and saw such things. It annoyed her slightly because she could fold, pin and rewrap a piece of clothes so that you would never know it was opened - something that apparently none of Kohl's thousands of employees can do today.

As a saleslady, Mom would alter a piece of clothing for a customer to make a sale. If you're paying attention, your jaw should have just dropped. One customer wanted a winter coat for her daughter, who wasn't with her. The mother was certain of the exact alteration required, and the coat was pinned up with the child in absentia. Mom did the work, and when the mother walked in the next time with her daughter, Mom could see in an instant the coat was way too small. So Mom was obligated to buy it - that was the deal with the boss. This caused no little budgetary trouble for a family of eight in the 1950s. But... there's a fairy tale ending. The little red coat fit my little sister Debbie perfectly - the first new, non-hand-me-down coat she ever had.

My brother Steven reminded me of the time when Mom was working at Lerner Shops women's clothing store, and a man came in and saw something he really wanted for his wife. But he didn't have enough money. He asked Mom if she would lend him $5, which she did. Now, can you imagine Aunt Bee, or anyone else, doing that, now or ever? We all told Mom how crazy she was; she'd never see that man again. He returned the next day and repaid Mom.

By now you should have the picture that this is not all empty eulogizing, that Mom was a human being like nothing that's ever come down the pike. Still, does that justify the title? Hang on.


Time for another picture. Here's what Mom turned loose on the world. We all turned out just as good as this picture promised, yessiree! Well, except maybe for our teen years in the 1960s. I claim there is no Medal of Honor high enough to reward Mom for simply surviving what we put her through - never mind remaining a totally loving, caring, devoted mother. Disclaimer: There is not universal agreement on this point among my sisters. But keep in mind they wouldn't agree with me if I said, "The sky is blue . . . well, sort of bluish . . . kind of . . . maybe? . . . (sometimes?)"

Back row: Diane, Susan.
Sauter kids. (Click to enlarge.)
Front row: Debbie, Donald, Steven, Sharon. 1958?

Elizabeth described how children were treated like little Queens and Kings for a Day at Mom's house. Mom was the world's greatest champion of kids' rights to be kids. When she saw a child being corrected for something that "didn't amount to a row of pins", it could upset her to tears.

She was so enthusiastic about anything a child did well. Here's an example from a note Mom sent to me in January 2005. It also documents the funny paradox of the merriment she brought to our holiday seasons and her own definite preference for the normal day-to-day routine. The cast of characters is: grandson Bryan and his wife Melaney, and their kids Emily and Luke.

Bryan, Melaney, Emily & Luke came for a visit. We had a Christmas party and played [Mexican train] dominoes. Without any of us, Bryan, Melaney, Benton or me, trying to let them win, Emily and Luke were the two winners. Luke is extra fast and good at knowing what to play. Now things are getting back to normal.

See Appendix 1 for a few children-related letters selected from Mom's archives.

I remember back to when I was a preschooler and all the older sisters and brother were at school. There was nothing I looked forward to so much as a trip to the grocery store with Mom. I think every morning I would ask, "Are you going to the store today?" Of course, lots of times she would have to say no, she didn't need to go shopping that day. No doubt, my disappointment was pretty visible. Then, later in the morning or early afternoon, she would "realize" there were a few things she did need to pick up at the store. Yeah, right.

Among the handful (haha) of things I wish I could blot out of my life was being such a picky eater when I was little. Besides always adding items to the menu just because of me, Mom would make up a separate batch of everything for my sake, such as a separate cup of shrimp salad without the celery. The bread of my sandwiches got butter, when everybody else got margarine.

But don't misunderstand; Mom took care of everybody, regardless of age. I remember a summer afternoon when I was home from college. As always, Mom whipped up lunch for my father and me. Then I went out to the end of the lane where my father's sister Hilda ran her produce stand. She asked about lunch. I told her we had soft crabs. "Soft crabs for lunch!!!" she exclaimed, "I hope you appreciate your mother!"

When Mom was in the nursing home in December 2005 her sister Cleo wrote this in a note:

As I think back on all the years we have been sisters I never remember any unkind word you have ever said to me.

How many sisters can say that, or have it said of them?

For a time, Mom volunteered her services working with patients at Springfield State Hospital. See Appendix 2 for some appreciative comments from the coordinator and patients.

But you're still wondering about the "America's Most Beloved Woman" title. We're getting there.


Audio interlude: This was the last message Mom left on my answering machine, May 2005. Click on the text to hear it.

"Donald, this is Mom. I forgot to call you on the 17th so I wish you a belated birthday now, and . . . Well, I'll just talk to you later. Bye."

Mom was plenty funny, but I'm afraid it's beyond my writing abilities to describe her sense of humor. There was nothing of the goofball, stand-up comic in it. (Take a bow, Pop!) Her presence very definitely cheered up any gathering.

Mom always objected to "a laugh at someone else's expense." But everything has a limit, I guess. There was the time I came running up to the back door jumping and flapping and yapping like a lunatic, "They're blowing up the barrack! They're blowing up the barrack!" The barrack was the farm building for storing hay and farm machinery. It sat up on the horizon. Well, it didn't take long to figure out that it was a fireworks display from Security Square Mall, over the horizon and directly on a line with the barrack. Mom couldn't recount that incident without almost choking.

And when I was a pre-schooler I busted a plastic bowling ball on the steps. Figuring I was done for, I bawled out my defense, "It said it was breakable!" Get it? The box claimed the set was "unbreakable", and I got three out of four syllables of a really big word for a four-year-old. Mom laughed telling that one!

Geez, what a mean mother. Now I'm getting all upset . . .

Ok, here's one of Mom's classics. It was a running joke with me and my brother Steven when we were kids. Mom called doing something the dumbest way you could imagine "the old-fashioned way." So, for example, the "old-fashioned way" of drying your feet after a bath was to lift one foot on the edge of the tub and dry it, put it back down in the bath water, lift the other foot and dry it, put it back down, lift and dry the first one, etc., etc. See, it goes on forever! That's the "old-fashioned way"!

When my sisters were in their teen years, they were always on the go, running hither and yon every evening - you'd have to ask them what was so important about always being somewhere else. This was back in the dark ages, when there were less cars in a family than people, and thus gave rise to a new and different puzzle every evening: who drives which vehicle and drops off and picks up whom when and where in the most efficient way possible? In math this is known as the "transportation problem" and it's famous for its difficulty. After a few preliminary stabs by the girls, Mom would say, "Oh, I've got it..." and proceed to rattle off the solution I doubt an IBM programmer could have come up with in those days.

Mom read every newspaper article about space exploration and cosmology with keen interest. She would clip and mail these and other items of interest on to me, and I fancy myself one of the last surviving humans who received "real" mail regularly. Here's an excerpt from a post-it note stuck on the last batch of goodies:

I sure agree with you that that one kind of water was terrible tasting.
Mom's post-it. (Click to enlarge.)

Now, about the biggest thrill I can hope for in the daily mail is a utility bill I don't really have to pay because of direct debit.


All Mom drove since the 1960s was a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. Pretty cool, huh? But I don't want you to think Mom was the only groovy character in the family. Take my father, for example. Benton built Baltimore County's renowned elf house in our yard from the trunk of a big, old oak tree shivered by a lightning bolt. And, while polite society sprinkles out diddly little birdie seed for our wee feathered friends, Pop throws out racks of spoiled meat to watch the turkey buzzards feast. It's a wonder I turned out so normal coming from such stock, huh?

Neither of my parents were travelers. Even though they wore out the roads around Hebbville, Maryland, socializing with friends and family, they weren't travelers or movers. I think their only ever airplane flight was to see their son-in-law Ron graduate from seminary. How's this for stability: until my grandfather's farm grew houses in the mid-1990s, Benton could look out of his bedroom window up across the field and see the window of the bedroom he was born in.

We had a Jewish beagle named Bagel, and after him a beagle named Beetle. Beetle jumped in the truck to ride with my father when he went on his rounds. He would accompany my parents up to the livestock auction, for instance. On one "cold, cold Tuesday night" at the auction Beetle locked himself in the old Ford Econoline van by putting his paws up on the lock stems on both doors. My father was pretty good with a coat hanger, but "there was not a crack in any window" for using a wire. They were getting just to the point of breaking a window when . . . well, I'll let Mom take over completely from there:

I was standing by the driver side of the truck and I was praying, in sincerity, for God to solve the problem somehow. A man came by and I said to him, "Would you try your key in this door and see if it will open it?" He laughed at me. He said, "This is an old Ford and my truck is a new Chevy." I asked, "Will you try it anyway?" And positively, that key opened our truck door like it was made for it!

A coincidence, or a minor miracle? - don't look at me.

You can gather that Mom, although fully functional in this crazy, modern world, was what you would call "old-fashioned". Her recreational reading material was generally quite musty. Guess that's where I get it from. Examples of her favorite poetry that come to mind are "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee" - in spite of the mild profanities in the latter. In Mom's last Christmas with us, in 2004, we somehow found ourselves sitting around the dining room table reading favorite old poems from a book she had pulled out.


Mom is in a book.

It's called "America's Most Hated Woman - the Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O'Hair".

Madalyn Murray was the woman we almost exclusively associate with getting prayer out of the schools back in 1963. After that she founded American Atheists and spent the next few decades going postal over every little whiff of a hint of religion with the merest trace of a convoluted connection to government.

So if you're still wondering how I can justify the brazen title of this web page, here you have it: Mom was the No. 1 opponent of "America's Most Hated Woman". Madalyn received her title from no less an authority than Life Magazine, and she reveled in it.

It was a long time ago and many won't remember the furor raised by the Supreme Court decision. Mom was just one of many, many millions of Americans outraged by the decision. The difference was, all the others gave it up soon enough. You can't fight city hall, they say.

Letter to the editor: Supreme Court mistake.
Supreme Court's 'Poor' Decision
Mom's letter to the Evening Sun (Sep 12, 1963)

But Mom didn't let go. She became an activist. Her mode of operation was letter writing, and it was a full-time "job". She got no support in this from her family.

A good insight into Mom's activities regarding Madalyn Murray - better than anything I could provide - survives in a student publication from Rice University called "The Will Rice Profile", which you can find in Appendix 3.

In fairness, Madalyn (which is what she liked to be called) had one greater and more effective opponent, Lester Buttram, founder of the Gospel Tract Society. But he's automatically disqualified, see?

In Mom's record collection I found this flexidisc. I can remember hearing it back in the days. Now let's get one thing perfectly straight: whatever's on a flexidisc, it's cool. My mom played flexidiscs, and that by itself blows your mom out of the water.

I put up the audio for verse 2 since it references Mom's archrival. Click on it to hear it.

(Dave Hendricks, arr. Theron Babcock)
The Hal Webb Team
Distributed by 20th Century Reformation Hour

It was June the 17th, year of 1963,
When the U. S. Supreme Court made a terrible decree.
Folks could not believe their ears and their hearts will filled with fears,
No more prayer or Bible reading in the school.

No more prayer or Bible reading in the school,
I wonder who we think that we can fool?
Can we so dishonor God while we walk upon His sod?
Let's put prayer and Bible reading back in school.

What injustice can this be? Is this land no longer free?
That one atheist so bold could upset our liberty?
Who'd have thought the court would say that effective on that day,
"No more prayer or Bible reading in the school"?


'Twas November twenty-two, year of 1963,
John F. Kennedy was killed, what an awful tragedy.
How men thought of God that day, all America did pray,
Still no prayer or Bible reading in the school.


How we fear what next may be in this land of liberty,
Will they tell us that our church can no longer be tax-free?
Will they tell us that we must take from coins "In God we trust",
Just like they took Bible reading from the school?


Besides doing battle with Madalyn, issues that Mom took up included the dangers of communist propaganda, the wrongheadedness of the "ecumenical movement", and the need for more preaching on the "Second Coming". In the bigger picture, she was fighting the moral decay of society. She truly believed we were on the "Eve Of Destruction" (one of Mom's "songs".)

If at this distance worrying about Commies hiding under our couches and in our tv sets seems quaint, think of our own times, where a 3rd-grader with a pair of kiddie scissors in her school supplies will send a whole airport diving for cover.

Did Mom ever go "too far" in her efforts to save society? I found an episode in 1985 where she took on "Fundamentalists Anonymous" - a group formed to help such folk kick the habit, see? They reported Mom to her pastor. In a letter to a minister friend, Mom wrote:

Thinking about these few times - four is all that there have been - when someone has complained about me to other sources, out of the many people that I have been involved with over a period of approximately 20 years, I don't think that is too bad.

One of those four times would have been when Madalyn ordered the post office to block Mom's mail, and sought criminal sanctions against the "fanatical pest." Madalyn even returned mail that Mom had sent personally to her employees, which Mom, of course, viewed as "wrong". I'd say that good ol' Madalyn could dish it out, but she couldn't take it very well.

Did Mom have a knee-jerk, negative reaction to everything Madalyn did? Surprisingly, no. For example, Mom agreed with Madalyn on the issue of taxation of church investment property.

Here is probably the most polite and printable note from Madalyn that I came across. The card was self-addressed by Mom. The postmark is Sep 19 1974. Ford is President Ford. "Mem" is Madalyn Evalyn Murray.

Keep the faith, Jane, but keep it to yourself
- which is what Ford should be doing
Madalyn Murray O'Hair note. (Click to enlarge.)
Mem o'Hair

See my so-called book report on "America's Most Hated Woman - the Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O'Hair" in Appendix 4.


So Mom's campaign to save society explains the huge archive of letters I had to choose from for this page. At the end of the letter, quoted above, to the minister friend, Mom wrote:

I have received far more beautiful, very, very beautiful letters and favorable responses to my letter writing, which I feel safe to say averaged 2 letters, maybe 3, a day for the past approx. 20 years.

Although I barely skimmed the letter archives, what I found definitely bears that out. Mom wrote to soldiers; see Appendix 5. Mom wrote to all the presidents, plus governors, mayors, religious leaders, astronauts and other public figures too numerous to even list. As one example, she kept up a correspondence with former Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel while he spent his term in federal prison. I remember that she corresponded with Governor George Wallace, but I didn't find any of that, which makes me think I missed a cache of special correspondence. No matter, I think you get the picture; and this page is probably long enough already for most readers. But see Appendix 6 for a few samples from this "public figure" category.

All that, all that... and I haven't even touched on her main life's work, corresponding with prison inmates. There are 10 large boxes and drawers filled with letters from prisoners, filed alphabetically. I wouldn't know where to begin to extract a representative sample.


As Elizabeth noted, Mom was perfectly at peace during those last two weeks. She was her regular self, brightening up everyone in her presence, just slightly weaker day by day. The only reason she didn't win her last game of Rummikubs was because Benton pulled a joker on his last draw to win by 2 points. He and my sister Diane were with Mom at the end. Pop was lying on the bed with Mom, and had dozed off shortly before she took her last breath.

Mom went through a valley in 1996 when she felt like she was "all done" - no wonder, for someone who did as much as she had done over almost seven decades. But then she gave us another ten great years, maybe the best of all. Thanks, Mom!

I'll wrap up with my favorite sympathy card, from my little 2nd-grade friend, Mizan.

She was a Angel all along. She was just here to help us.
Mizan's sympathy card. (Click to enlarge.)    Mizan's sympathy card. (Click to enlarge.)
She was a Queen now she's in her palace.










APPENDIX 1 - Letters and notes relating to children and elderly friends

From: Ruth Rosner
Date: Oct 12 1963

Dear Mrs. Sauter -

You never cease to amaze me with your great kindness and ability to be able to do everything. You will make some little girl extremely happy this Christmas with her lovely doll outfits. Truly, you are a gracious lady and it is a pleasure to be able to work with some one like you.

From: Janice Beelar, with a little help from her mom.
Date: undated.

I just want you to know how much I love those beautiful Barbie clothes you made. They are so perfect in every detail, everyone who sees them raves about them.

Janice Beelar's thank you. (Click to enlarge.)

From: Tim Lehmann, nephew
Date: Aug 2 1971

Dear Aunt Jane,

Thank you for having me to your lovly party. I enjode the baseball game because baseball is my very very best sport. I liked the binggo game very much. Thank you for giving me a prize when I never even won.

From: Mrs. Emma Smith, elderly friend of Mom's
Date: Nov 8 1968

How is Debbie when I think of the times her & I used to watch the TV and enjoyed it so much then you used to bring us a little snack while we watch the TV. She was not big then and was not going to school then.

I sure wish I could see you again it is so far now to get to you. I miss all my friends in Woodlawn.

Well I will close because my hand is hurting when I write awhile.

Love from Emma.

From: Anna, elderly friend presumably down at the retirement apartments
Date: 1980s?

Dear Jane,

I missed your friendly face popping all week bringing a little sunshine n. happiness around. Thank you so much for surprising me with washed window. Getting those storm windows in seemed like a mountain to me. Maybe you can use the little thank you money for your stamps or other things your doing constantly for others. Thank you and God bless.

From: Ruth K., Activities Director
Date: 1980s?

Dear Benton and Jane,

Thank you for the use of your magnificent lawn for our picnic. It was the first time many of our residents left the Nursing Center. What a wonderful time they had on that beautiful day.

[Signed by Ruth and 29 nursing home residents.]

APPENDIX 2 - Letters relating to Mom's volunteer work at Springfield State Hospital

From: Salliann Broessel, Director, Volunteer Services, Metropolitan Baltimore Association for Mental Health
Date: Mar 31 1970

Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for your most delightful letter and poem.

I am pleased that you will continue as a Homecoming volunteer. We are so appreciative of your efforts and services during the Winter Homecoming program. I would like to have a hundred volunteers willing to work as hard and take as much interest as you have done.

With kindest personal regards . . .

From: Ida W., Springfield State Hospital
Date: Feb 4 1970

Dear Jane,

All of us missed seeing you [Mom had a sick friend] as it gives us a chance to get away from here for a little while.

Many thanks for your group. You are all doing a good thing by coming out to see us as most of us have no in town contacts. We are sometimes referred to as children but we are very much adults. We are a long way from being helpless and only need the chance again to prove we can live in the outside world.

P.S. I hope I haven't put my troubles on your shoulders. You are a good friend.

Date: Feb 11 1970

Dear Jane,

I'm glad you are such an understanding friend. Your letters are very nice and I will sit down and answer them.

When I leave here I know I'll leave friends behind me and then I'll need more friends out side.

Date: Mar 9 1970

The last letter was very good I save them so I'll be able to read them over again. I think what you lady's are doing for us is very nice.

Date: Apr 3 1970

Thanks a lot for taking me to my mothers home last week. I had a real nice visit. My mother is 73 years old now and I hope she made a nice impression on you. I was glad you stopped in to meet her. I know she gets lonely and needs some one with her but she would never say so.

I'm glad to have you for a friend and I'll try not to impose on you, but there are times when these people (Doctors & nurses) don't want to let us go alone.

I do hope we can keep in touch with each other as friends are important and as you grow older you find they grow scarce.

From: Rose G., Springfield State Hospital
Date: Mar 27 1970

I certainly was pleasantly surprised to receive your "beautiful Easter" card and the message it carried.

I do want you to know that even though I was one of the last to join your group, I enjoyed the outings very much, since it made such a change for each member of the group.

APPENDIX 3 - The Will Rice Profile article

Newsletter: The Will Rice Profile
Issue: Number Four
Date: Dec 8 1965

Letter from Baltimore
"Fear God"

"To all Rice University Students and teachers also,

This Madalyn Murray is just about wearing me out. Every time she appears some place or with someone, I have to make known to them that she is dangerous material! Second John, verse 10, says that if anyone comes to you bringing NOT the doctrine of Christ, receive them NOT. It says that in receiving them you have partaken in their evil deeds!

Good luck to you all,
In God I trust
Mrs. Jane L. Sauter"

The effects of Madalyn Murray O'Hair's talk here were far reaching. Shortly after she appeared here, the above and another letter turned up on the bulletin board in the Commons.

"To the 500 Rice University students on the Will Rice College speaker program to which Madalyn Murray spoke," was the address on one of the envelopes. Huge letters on the other declared, "Watch out for Madalyn Murray! Her way of life will definitely take one to Hell!

To check on the history of this letter and to see if any others had come in, I talked to Mr. Estes of the Development Office. He informed me that they had indeed received many letters and calls and were still receiving them but that most of them were being taken care of by his office. Other sources told me that several persons have withdrawn money from the University Drive because of Mrs. O'Hair's appearance here. Also, I learned that most of the callers and writers were women who did not complain that Mrs. O'Hair was an atheist as much as they thought she was a tramp.

So the only other way to find out about the letter was to call the writer herself. When she came to the phone I had but to introduce myself as a student from Rice before she began to speak. "I've had it in the back of my mind ever since right from the beginning. I couldn't understand why you students would have a known atheist come to speak to you."

She admitted, "I'm something of a fanatic on religion." If voices mean anything, she had a smooth, matter-of-fact one, with not the first hint of fanaticism. "But I feel that it's my duty to warn people about Mrs. Murray... after all, "In God We Trust" is the motto of America, and if we deny Christ, it is the downfall of America."

Talking with her revealed that she believes "(Murray) is doing this for the publicity. Deep in her heart, she knows there is a God... What we must do is have someone, I don't know who, oh, some minister, sit down with her... I honestly believe that she could be convinced of God."

I asked her about the letter itself. Did "receive them not" mean not to listen to them? "Oh, no, I don't mean to be nasty to them. You can listen to anyone and you should, but when they teach not the teachings of Christ, receive them not."

I concluded our conversation asking if she felt WRC [Will Rice College] was wrong not to invite someone to present the other side. She said "It would have been best..."

And so ended my conversation with a most unusual letter-writer.


APPENDIX 4 - "America's Most Hated Woman" - book report

"America's Most Hated Woman - the Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O'Hair" was written by Ann Rowe Seaman and released in the summer of 2005. It's an amazing piece of work. That doesn't necessarily mean "enjoyable", at least in the recreational sense. If I were reading a piece of fiction this sordid, I would throw it out by the second page. But this is history - and it affected every one of us.

The cast of characters is staggering, which, if you read like me makes for difficult going. But good things generally require effort and I encourage you to plug away. I sliced the index out of the book and bound it separately to facilitate the routine of looking up earlier references when a character pops up again.

You'll want to read the 35 pages of footnotes as well. I regret not having sliced them too for my first pass. Besides confirming the book to be of the highest scholarly order, many of the footnotes are as fascinating as anything in the book. Here's one example (p265):

Details [regarding the disappearance of Madalyn, her son and granddaughter] surfaced in the press: unfinished breakfast on the table, dogs unattended, insulin and heart medicine left behind.

The footnote (p370) tells us:

It later turned out that [the "half-eaten breakfast"] was a false detail planted by Spike Tyson to see who would come forward and refute it. The only person who did was David Waters. In a November 1988 Austin Chronicle interview, he said the O'Hairs "didn't rush out of here leaving breakfast on the table."

So how come that didn't turn any heat on Waters at that time???

Seaman clarifies for us the part that Madalyn Murray played in the Supreme Court case in 1963. In fact, she grabbed the "glory" by jumping on a bandwagon that was already rolling. She got her case attached to one already heading to the Supreme Court.

The author provides lots of good observations and insights. For instance, gung-ho "atheist" Madalyn Murray O'Hair didn't unleash her zeal on all religions - all she really cared about was Christianity. And even there, she didn't start out as an atheist, just a born trouble maker who finally found her "cause". In fact, her son Bill Murray points out in his book that "in her high school yearbook, she listed her goal as serving God for the betterment of man."

A few things I never did figure out, such as whether Richard O'Hair married Madalyn out of love for her and in support for her cause, or to keep tabs on her activity in his capacity as a spy for the FBI. Very strange...

Of course, it was interesting for me to correlate various bits from clippings and letters in Mom's archives with the book. For example, we read (p200):

At home, [Madalyn] found that the Audi Robin was supposed to have for school had been stolen, the Center's signs vandalized, and one of the Cadillacs shot at. One night, vandals sprayed the Center with paint and blew BBs into some windows. Fed up, Madalyn erected a chain link fence with barbed wire along the top.

David Kent, an employee of American Atheists who left in early 1982, wrote in a letter to Jane (Mar 1982):

I am enclosing another item from the local paper about the Cyclone fence. Anything for publicity (as a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that _____ _____, without or with Madalyn's knowledge, is the one who knocked out the van window and splashed paint on the building, to build up public sympathy for Madalyn; he often talked about ways to get sympathy for the cause, and he was the only one who stayed up late in the building). . . . Madalyn simply seems to be bored with the whole operation. On a local talk show, opinion seemed to be that the atheist's putting up a fence seemed to be pretty tacky, an obvious play for sympathy. And pointless: that kind of fence certainly won't stop anybody from shooting out the windows.

It seems that Seaman let her guard down regarding Madalyn's claims about the American Atheist Library. She writes (p113):

Over the next 30 years, she built the library into an asset estimated at several million dollars. . . . Though she chronically lied about everything from the size of her organizations' memberships to her number of subscribers, income, achievements, education, and troubles, she did right by the library.

In a letter to Jane (Dec 1981), David Kent had this to say about that multi-million dollar library:

My wife was volunteer librarian this summer (cab fare was paid), and found out about what Madalyn describes as "the largest Atheist or freethought library in the world." This library has 6,000 to 7,000 books in it and a few pamphlets and periodicals. Of these, a large portion are sex books, erotica of various kinds (about one-sixth); and a large number of out-of-date textbooks; another group is standard novel literature (Michener, Whittier, Hawthorne, Tolstoy, and so on); and a large group which are on the shelves for some inexplicable reason: Mad magazine, "Jim the Wonder Dog" and so on. Madalyn regularly sends [the same "_____ _____" as above] out to buy sex magazines for her: "Hustler" and so on; there are large piles of both "Hustler" and "Playboy"--the ostensible reason for which is that Madalyn wants to order books advertised in them. If all the material which is not strictly Atheist were taken out, there would be about 2,000 books remaining, perhaps two or three hundred of which wouldn't be available in the Austin public library. In fact, on occasions when we wanted pictures of prominent freethinkers to use in the magazine, I had to go down to the State Library and the Austin Public Library to find some, since the "Charles Stevens American Atheist Library and Archives" had nothing. Madalyn advertises the hundreds of scholars who use her library yearly, but in the last six months, there has not been one use of it. Again, bluff.

There are newspaper clippings from March 1976 in Mom's collection announcing, "Madalyn O'Hair decides to quit" - an episode that didn't make the book. Madalyn declared: "I quit. I've had it. Anyone who desires to take over leadership of the American atheist community can have it." She went on to say the Christian community had "abused and brutalized" her and atheists "never supported me. . . . I do not have the support of one person in the entire nation." No doubt Mom exulted at the news and rightfully felt partly responsible. It turned out to not be true, or, at best, only temporary. David Kent commented on the story in 1982:

I had no idea that Madalyn O'Hair had once "quit", but it was evidently just for the publicity value; too bad it didn't stick.

Mom's clippings show that Madalyn pulled a similar stunt in 1986. If she were planning a third decennial performance for 1996, she didn't quite make it.

Madalyn's vulgarity poured off of almost every page. (Ok, that's an exaggeration.) Jane had a humorous letter from Lester Buttram on this subject.

I am well aware of her filthy style of writing and she sometimes talks that way if you talk to her in person. The last time I talked with her in Austin, Texas I reminded her that she was not quite as bad as when I was with her a few years before in Baltimore, Maryland. Her reply was that when we get older we probably lose some of our spark. I told her it was to her benefit if she lost all of it.

So Madalyn may have been losing it, but we learned well, and now you can't walk down the street - what am I saying? - you can't walk down the halls of the Library of Congress without getting splattered with verbal excrement.

In addition to the hundreds of named characters in the book, Seaman admirably portrays the anonymous, typical citizen and his reaction to these sea changes. In a 380-page torrent of machine-gunned, documented facts - which is great, by the way, more writers should try it - there are occasional, almost poetic passages describing his annoyance with "that woman again", his frustration and outrage, his dismay at the dismantling of traditions, his confusion over what you could or couldn't do anymore, his concern about where all this was heading.

Here's one example of a passage of Seaman's commentary that I find powerful and touching. It's about a 1991 Supreme Court decision declaring prayers at public school graduations unconstitutional (p248):

Of all the clipping away at school traditions - Christmas and Easter pageants, posting of the Ten Commandments, moments of silence - the Weisman case banning even the smallest blessing on children at graduation seemed to stick in America's craw. There was an insidious kind of decay, said even liberal churchmen, when you have to surgically remove every shred of religion from public life. The country was gagging on its "values-neutral" education system, said angry opponents. Factions parsed what a value actually was. School districts feared lawsuits if a teacher or administrator took a position on anything - punishment, sexuality, patriotism, history. There was no neutrality. The new value that rushed into the vacuum was diversity. That was the diabolical thing about this rampant litigation; in addition to running up everyone's costs and robbing institutions of their authority with threats of lawsuits, lawyers attacked the foundation of our sanity, the meaning coded into words and language. An unambiguous rule of "pay your debt" could be blurred with a perfectly rational argument over the definition of "debt," and an irrational result got. The legal ground shifted instead of clarifying.

Which sort of connects up with what I originally wrote as an aside: The book will leave you wondering, can our justice system get anything right: Constitutional matters, run-of-the-mill civil cases, brutal criminal cases... anything? I counted up something like 10 or 11 heinous murders, never mind brutal beatings and intended murders, among the relatively select cast of characters in this book. The position of our "justice" system, when it gets involved at all, seems to be, "Boys will be boys." David Waters, the man who strangled Madalyn and was responsible for the murders of her son and granddaughter, among others, laughed his way through it all: "Murder is the easiest crime to commit!" Who came up with this insane "system of justice", and where do we find these loony-toon judges? I swear, we could save tons of money and improve the performance by fifty-infinite percent simply by hiring cows to decide guilty/not guilty by which way they swish their tails.

Ok, so every now and then they dismissed a case that was, coincidentally, undeserving, but you can't know whether or not that's just to free up quality doughnut-gulping time. The rule is, the government doesn't care what people do to each other, that is, as long as you don't try to take justice into your own hands. They own the monopoly on that, see? Now, when somebody owes the government - that's a different story. If Waters had owed a $20 parking ticket, they would have made him crawl.

Sorry about this; Mom had her agenda, I have mine.

By the way, there was a tenuous connection between my family and Madalyn Murray. Filling out Madalyn's "troika" were her second son Jon Garth and her granddaughter Robin. Robin was the daughter of Madalyn's first son Bill. Robin's mother was Susan Abramovitz, and the Abramovitzes were neighbors and friends with my aunt Hilda's family in Baltimore, which is how we knew them. I also think my father did some home improvement work for the Abramovitzes.

Mom only ever met Madalyn once, in the courtroom where the nasty mess between Madalyn and the Abramovitzes was being heard. I should also make clear that Mom only gets a bit part in the book - so don't read it for that! Read it for the unbelievable story of how one tail of a crude, loud-mouthed trouble-maker can wag the most powerful nation on earth.

Madalyn won; Mom lost.

And look where we are today.

APPENDIX 5 - Letters from soldiers

From: Bob Gibson, soldier in Vietnam
Date: Dec 21 1965

Dear Mrs. Jane Sauter!

The letter I was so fortunate to receive from you was the best letter any G.I. would be grateful to get.

From reading your letter over several times I gather you are a very religious person - for this I really admire you. The one thing I agree is that there is not more people like you. If there were, I assure you the world would be a better place to live in.

I would like to thank you for taking the time and writing to a total stranger! Give your family my regards.

A friend . . .

P.S. Thanks again!!!

From: PFC Jimmy Reed, Vietnam
Date: Sep 11 1968

Dear Mrs. Sauter,

I got your letter along with the prayer book. I read most of the prayers, and do agree they have an inspiring thought in each one of them.

Forgive me, but some how I would have thought you to have been an older lady. Not in age, but because of the way you arrange your letters, because you set your letter up in a manner that is an art that would take some people years to do.

As far as you saying that you are somewhat conceited I don't think you could call it conceit, because I know how you feel in your life for God. It's like when something happens to you is good you just want to tell everyone of it. I know when I was really close to God I was so proud of myself too, because I had something to brag about.

From: Chris L. Reeb, Thailand
Date: Dec 28 1968

I recently received your much welcome Christmas card and note. I deeply appreciate the fact that although I have never had the pleasure to make your acquaintance you were concerned enough to share witness with a fellow Christian.

I have shown your letter to my friends and we would all like to express our thanks.

APPENDIX 6 - Letters and notes from public figures

From: Lester Maddox
Date: Jul 27 1966

Dear Mrs. Sauter,

I appreciate your views, comments and words of encouragement. It is good to know that you are still in the fight and continue to stand up for liberty and America.

I deeply appreciate your prayers and seek your continued friendship and confidence.

Best wishes.

From: Mrs. John L. Whitehurst (Sarah)
Date: Apr 13 1966

Dear Mrs. Sauter,

Although I received hundreds of letters, yours was more effective and beautiful than all of the others. Many thanks. I expect to make a number of speeches to large groups of women. I shall tell of your beautiful letter and quotations.

I shall keep your letter before me at all times.

[Thus began a years-long correspondence with Mrs. Whitehurst, an amazingly active woman who, for example, had been president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs which claimed 11 million members worldwide. Mom's first letter was prompted by a news item on Mrs. Whitehurst, and Mom admired the stand she took on communist propaganda and/or the "Berkeley rebellion".]

From: Betty Ford
Date: Sep 1975

Dear Mrs. Sauter:

Thank you for writing about my appearance on the "Sixty Minutes" interview. The concern which inspired you to share your views is appreciated.

I wish it were possible for us to sit down together and talk, one to another. As every mother and father knows, these are not easy times to be a parent. Our convictions are continually being questioned and and tested by the fads and fancies of the moment.

From: Marguerite Oswald, mother of Lee Harvey Oswald
Date: Dec 16 1964

What a wonderful family! Thank you for thinking of me at this time.
Marguerite Oswald card. (Click to enlarge.)    Marguerite Oswald note. (Click to enlarge.)
"Very Merry Christmas"









Here are full and variant names of folks mentioned on this page, for the sake of web searches: Jane Sauter, Jane L. Sauter, Jane Lehmann Sauter, Jane Lehmann. Benton Sauter, Ben Sauter. Susan Bossom, was Susan Sauter. Diane Hochheiser, was Diane Sauter. Sharon Sauter. Steven Sauter. Donald Sauter. Deborah Sauter, Debbie Sauter. Ron Bossom (Susan's husband). Elizabeth Kiewiet, was Elizabeth Bossom (Susan's daughter). Ed Klohr. Louise Klohr, was Louise Lehmann (Jane's sister). Ruth Chalker, was Ruth Lehmann (Jane's sister). Cleo Garriott, was Cleo Lehmann (Jane's sister). Hilda Bogat, was Hilda Sauter (Benton's sister). Mizan Walker. Mrs. John L. Whitehurst, Sarah Whitehurst. Mrs. William A. Broessel, Salliann Broessel. Bryan Hochheiser. Melaney Hochheiser. Emily Hochheiser. Luke Hochheiser. Minister friend = Rev. Asbury Smith. Pastor Bisset, Arlington Baptist Church.


Contact Donald Sauter: send an email; view guestbook; sign guestbook.
Back to Donald Sauter's main page.
Rather shop than think? Please visit My Little Shop of Rare and Precious Commodities.
Back to the top of this page.

Parents, if you're considering tutoring or supplemental education for your child, you may be interested in my observations on Kumon.