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Violet Fults Bidwill Wolfner (January 10, 1902 – January 29, 1962) was the owner of the Chicago / St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) for over 14 years, from 1947 until her death in early 1962.[2] She inherited the team in April 1947, following the death of her husband Charles Bidwill, Sr., who purchased the team in 1933. She was the first woman to become principal owner of an NFL team.[3]

Violet Bidwill Wolfner
BornJanuary 10, 1902[1]
DiedJanuary 29, 1962(1962-01-29) (aged 60)
Burial placeQueen of Heaven Cemetery
OccupationOwner of the Chicago / St. Louis Cardinals
Years active1947–1962
Spouse(s)
Children2 adopted (Bill, Charles, Jr.)

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Wolfner was born Violet Fults in Red Bud, Illinois, the daughter of Alonzo Fults, of German and Irish descent, and Mary Ann "Mamie" Vogel, of German descent. She had an older sister, Imelda. Her father died in 1906[4] and her mother worked as a waitress.[1][5]

Chicago CardinalsEdit

Her first season as owner saw the Cardinals, led by the "Dream Backfield" of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg, and Charley Trippi, defeat the Philadelphia Eagles for the franchise's first undisputed league championship. They made it to the league title game again in 1948, but lost to the Eagles in a rematch in the snow. The Cardinals had only four more .500 seasons under her ownership.

Move to St. LouisEdit

Violet married St. Louis businessman Walter H.S. Wolfner (1898–1971) in 1949,[6] becoming known as Violet Bidwill Wolfner. When it became apparent that Chicago wasn't big enough for both the Cardinals and the cross-town Bears of George Halas, the Wolfners moved the team to St. Louis after the 1959 season.

DeathEdit

She died in a physician's office in Miami Beach, Florida, on January 29, 1962,[3][7] and is buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. In her will, she split her more than 80% interest in the Cardinals between her adopted sons from her first marriage, Charles Bidwill, Jr. and Bill Bidwill, the club president and vice-president.[8][9][10]

The will was contested in court by her second husband, who was the managing director of the football team.[11][12][13] The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the will, in favor of the sons, in February 1963.[14][15] Wolfner sought to invalidate the legal adoption of the two sons,[16] who had eliminated his position with the team in May 1962.[17] The sons co-owned the team for a decade, until Bill purchased his brother's share of the team in 1972.[18] 16 years after Bill took over the franchise in full, the team made another relocation to Phoenix, Arizona, and have based there since, becoming the Arizona Cardinals in 1994.

Her wardrobe was auctioned off in November 1963. Among the 25,000 items were 1,000 coats and dresses and 1,500 pairs of shoes, many never worn; the auction fetched more than $40,000.[2][19][20]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 for Violet Bidwell
  2. ^ a b Fitzgerald, Adeline (December 3, 1963). "She seldom wore her many hats". Toledo Blade. Ohio. (Chicago Daily News). p. 24.
  3. ^ a b "Mrs. Wolfner, Cardinals' owner, dies". Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. January 30, 1962. p. 1, part 3.
  4. ^ Missouri, Death Records, 1850-1931
  5. ^ 1910 United States Federal Census
  6. ^ "In Re Estate of Wolfner". Leagle.com. October 15, 1963. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  7. ^ "Mrs. Wolfner dies in Florida of heart attack". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. January 30, 1962. p. 2, part 2.
  8. ^ "Card owners to be active". Milwaukee Journal. press dispatches. February 8, 1962. p. 13, part 2.
  9. ^ "Court fight begins for Cards' control". Pittsburgh Press. UPI. March 29, 1962. p. 48.
  10. ^ "Bidwills face court action". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. March 31, 1962. p. 2, final.
  11. ^ "Wolfner gains in bid to get Cards". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. March 31, 1962. p. 4, part 2.
  12. ^ "Grid Cards center of legal wrangle". Lewiston Evening Journal. Maine. Associated Press. November 20, 1962. p. 16.
  13. ^ "Cards' Wolfner dies at 73". Montreal Gazette. UPI. July 2, 1971. p. 14.
  14. ^ Howard, Robert. "Court rules for Bidwills". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 1, part 4.
  15. ^ "High court rules in favor of sons". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. February 2, 1963. p. 2, part 2.
  16. ^ "In the Matter of the Estate of Violet Bidwill Wolfner, Deceased. – Walter H.S. Wolfner, Appellant, v. Charles W. Bidwill, Jr., Individually and as Executor of the Last Will and Testament of Violet Bidwill Wolfner, Deceased, and William V. Bidwill, Appellees". Court Listener. Appellate Court of Illinois. October 15, 1963. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  17. ^ "Wolfner fired by grid Cards". Pittsburgh Press. UPI. May 19, 1962. p. 7.
  18. ^ "Bill Bidwill sole owner of Cards". Southeast Missorian. Cape Girardeau. Associated Press. September 12, 1972. p. 8.
  19. ^ "Dresses, shoes by the hundreds found in rich woman's closets". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. November 16, 1963. p. 1.
  20. ^ "Clothes auction brings $40,000". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. Associated Press. November 21, 1963. p. 7.

External linksEdit