Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fame: Tia Bates

Here's another famous local woman: Anna Monteith, also known as Tia (Aunt) Bates, a renowned innkeeper in Arequipa, Peru, who hosted the likes of Clark Gable and Noel Coward. A Letter to a Friend in South America (1949) describes a "charming, hospitable, scandalous, autocratic, capable, generous, vituperative old lady":
The journalists have reported that she was born Ana Monteith in what was then called Bath-on-Hudson in upstate New York. She went to South America with her father, a railroad engineer, who had an assignment in the Chilean nitrate fields.
There was controversy over whether Tia Bates was even American, but our 1880 Census lists 12-year-old Anna Monteith whose father was an engineer. The ages match the 1953 obituary of the "Legendary Innkeeper" in Time Magazine. A letter from a guest, also in Time, says:
There was always some kind of ruckus in progress, usually a battle between the fiery old mistress and the servants, accompanied by strikes, walkouts [and] petty jealousies . . . Tia, with her salty tongue, was a joy to listen to. She'd fire half the force, and hire them back next morning.
Here's a sample of Noel Coward's lengthy tribute poem "The Quinta Bates":
Tho' Tia is completely kind,
She has a keen and lively mind,
And when things seem too hard to bear,
She'll soundly and robustly swear
She's learned her life in Nature's School
And isn't anybody's fool.
(From Noel Coward Collected Verse - I don't recommend buying it unless you want a lot more of that kind of poetry - I'll donate my copy to the Rensselaer library.)


Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!! I found at youtube ( ), an interview made it by the american journalist James A. FitzPatrick (for the MGM in 1937)to Mrs. Anna Bates in "La Quinta Bates, Arequipa". Today, La Quinta Bates is renamed "La Casa de mi Abuela" (
Juan C. Leo

Beth said...

Good tip, thanks! It's been taken down at your link, but I found it again here. Starts at 4:40min.