Augusta “Gus” Lewis Maverick Kelley, artist, suffragist, teacher, and trendsetter, was born on June 24, 1885, in St. Louis, Missouri, to George Madison and Mary Elizabeth (Vance) Maverick. Augusta Maverick belonged to a prominent family. George Maverick practiced law, business, and helped develop modern San Antonio. Mary Maverick was an artist, wrote memoirs, and helped found the San Antonio Conservation Society. Augusta Maverick’s maternal grandparents John Vance and Rowena Felt Baldwin Vance and paternal grandparents Samuel Augustus Maverick and Mary Ann Adams Maverick were well-known successful Texas families. Maverick was the fifth of six children: Mary Rowena, Lola, George Vance, Lucy Madison, and Lewis Adams. In 1896 Maverick’s family moved to San Antonio, Texas. Maverick lived the life of a young socialite while in San Antonio. She participated in fundraisers for causes such as supporting the Protestant orphan home, and she attended parties and luncheons. Maverick maintained memberships in the Skatilion Club, which gave skating parties, and the San Antonio Club, along with her sister Lucy. Her education mainly related to her artistic ambitions, as she attended the Mary Institute in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Art Students League in New York.
Maverick met Nicholas “Ko” Kelley, son of internationally-known social reformer Florence Kelley, through her sister and brother-in-law, Lola and Will Lloyd. Maverick and Nicholas Kelley became engaged by 1908. On a trip abroad with her sister Lucy in May 1908, Maverick contracted typhoid fever in June and was hospitalized in Bremer Haven, Germany, until she recovered. Nicholas Kelley was traveling with his mother, gathering documentation for the official U. S. naturalization process, presumably in preparation of his marriage to Augusta. He was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1885, and, while his mother was a U. S. citizen, his father was a subject of the Russian crown. The Kelleys met the Mavericks in Bremen during July to travel together. Nicholas Kelley began his career as a lawyer in New York City and worked bankruptcy cases in 1909. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1910. He began working for the U. S. government during 1917 by assisting with aspects of the draft before working in the U. S. Department of the Treasury from 1918 to 1921. After earning experience with arbitration and labor relations, he became vice president of the Chrysler Corporation from 1937 to 1957. Throughout his life, Nicholas Kelley served on several boards for civic and social reform organizations. He also referred to Augusta Maverick as “Gus” in his letters.
Augusta Maverick and Nicholas Kelley married on June 19, 1909, in San Antonio. While Florence Kelley did not attend the wedding due to her lecture traveling schedule, she was happy about the match, wrote often to both Augusta Kelley and Nicholas Kelley, and treated Augusta as her own daughter. Following their marriage, the couple lived in the New York City area for the majority of their lives, splitting their time between there and Little Compton, Rhode Island. They also traveled internationally. The couple had three children: Nicholas Jr., Florence, and Augustus. Augusta Kelley suffered many serious illnesses early in life, yet she always fully recovered.
Augusta Kelley took part in the woman suffrage movement in number of ways. She attended the inaugural two-day meeting in 1914 of the Congressional Union that eventually led to the formation of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), of which Kelley was a regular donor and participant. She also served on the NWP Lobby Committee that interviewed and met with congressional members regarding the federal suffrage amendment. In October and November 1918, Kelley was arrested several times while picketing the White House with other members of the National Woman’s Party, including other Texans Elizabeth Kalb and her sister Lola Maverick Lloyd. During these events, the police and bystanders physically attacked the suffragists.
Beyond her suffrage activities, Kelley remained busy although she did not list an official occupation in census records. During 1931 she taught young children at a primary school despite suffering from a mild case of polio. Little Compton served as the center of the majority of Kelley’s activities. She was a member of the Little Compton Garden Club, and she socialized with other members of the upper class, such as screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Kelley created the majority of her artwork in the area as well. She displayed her work across the country, such as at an art show at the Pan American Galleries in San Antonio alongside the work of her three sisters (including the deceased Lola Lloyd). Her art was described as “elegant and sophisticated,” and she participated in exhibits as both a sponsor and honoree until at least the age of 100, the age at which she also attended a Maverick family reunion in San Antonio marking the 150th anniversary of Samuel Maverick’s arrival in the state.
Nicholas Kelley died in October 1965. Augusta Lewis Maverick Kelley passed away from congestive heart failure on April 1, 1989, at her home in Little Compton and was cremated at Swan Point Cemetery in Rhode Island. The location of the interment of her remains are unknown. The family requested that flowers not be sent and that there was no visitation, but if they chose to, individuals were to donate to Little Compton Nursing Association. Kelley donated her husband’s papers to the New York Public Library, which included correspondence from herself. Letters to Kelley are also located in the Florence Kelley Papers at the New York Public Library. All of her children lived in Little Compton at the time of her death. Nicholas Kelley, Jr., became a lawyer; Florence Kelley worked as a lawyer, District Attorney of New York County, and then a judge in the Domestic Relations Court in New York City; and Augustus Kelley became an author and a publisher. In 2017 the Little Compton Historical Society announced an exhibit featuring twentieth century artists from the area, including Augusta Kelley.