Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society
Maie Bartlett Heard was a collector who established the Heard Museum in Phoenix. She also contributed in many other ways to the city’s cultural development.
Born on June 11, 1868, in Chicago, Maie Bartlett studied at Loring School and Dearborn Seminary, a finishing school. When she was 14, her mother died, and Maie assumed the responsibility of overseeing the household and caring for three younger children. She met her future husband, Dwight B. Heard, on a trip to Paris with her father, and the young couple married on August 10, 1893.
Two years later when Dwight became seriously ill with a chest ailment, his Chicago doctors advised him to seek a warmer climate. So, Maie and Dwight loaded some possessions in a wagon, bought a team of horses and headed for the Pacific Coast. They got as far as Phoenix, decided the little town was home and stayed.
After regaining his health, Dwight became an active businessman in the young community. In 1912 he bought The Arizona Republican newspaper, now The Arizona Republic, and published it until his death in 1929.
The Heards started their collection of Indian art with a Pima basket. From there it was a short step to pottery in varying shapes, rugs, and prehistoric Indian artifacts all to decorate their ranch house on the western outskirts of Phoenix, around present day 51st Avenue and McDowell Road. The collection grew and grew, becoming so extensive that the only logical way to clean out some closets at home was to build a larger house, which they did around 1900. Finally, when the house, too, was burgeoning with treasures, they built and endowed a museum.
Maie was interested in furthering the cultural life of Phoenix. She and other Phoenix Woman’s Club members pushed for a city library, and the Carnegie Library was completed in 1908. She was the philanthropist who donated the money to build a gymnasium at the YWCA, and she provided the family coach house as the first theatre for the Phoenix Little Theater.
But as busy as she was, her main interest centered on her family’s collection of primitive art, including wonderful Hohokam artifacts and native Arizona arts and crafts. It would have been easy to relax, to lay down the lamp of civic and social work when her husband died just months before the museum they had both worked to establish was due to open. But Mrs. Heard continued working as curator of the Heard Museum which was established to preserve these artifacts, to encourage public appreciation of primitive art and culture and to promote archaeological research and investigation.
Maie Heard also continued volunteering with the Phoenix Little Theater, donated land for the Phoenix Civic Center, and gave time to youth. During her years in Phoenix, Mrs. Heard cared for people in large, public ways such as founding the Welfare League (the forerunner to the present- day United Fund), and in small, private ways such as extending a mortgage for a deserving family, establishing firewood distribution for the poor, or comforting a soldier’s widow.
In May 1948 she was honored by the Phoenix Rotary Club for her service to youth, and the same year she was named Woman of the Year by Beta Sigma Phi, a business women’s sorority.
She was 83 years old when she died in Phoenix Good Samaritan Hospital on March 14, 1951, the 22nd anniversary of her husband’s death.