San Francisco County
RHEBA CRAWFORD SPLIVALO
Rheba Crawford Splivalo was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1898. Shortly after her birth her father, who was a Salvation Army officer, was transferred to California. She entered primary school in Sacramento, and completed her education in the east. She was graduated from the North Avenue Presbyterian School in Atlanta, Georgia, and did postgraduate work under Professor Wolff, a graduate of Magdalen College at Oxford, England. Miss Crawford also attended Columbia University. She entered the Salvation Army at the time of the World war, completing her course in training college in New York city. She was stationed in St. Petersburg, Florida, and later was in charge of the Salvation Army work in the theatrical district in New York city, where the newspapers gave her the title of “Angel of Broadway.” In 1922 Miss Crawford became the wife of Ray Splivalo. At the time of her appointment by Governor Rolph to her present position as state director of the department of social welfare, a San Francisco paper said in part:
“As the “Angel of Broadway,” Mrs. Splivalo was a blue-eyed blonde slip of a girl, flinging the fire of her personality into evangelizing the Great White Way. The militant Salvation Army lassie who inspired a riot when policemen arrested her on Broadway for blocking traffic, is more conservative now. She has exchanged the formless blue frock for a modish gown. The blonde hair is still unbobbed--but it waves more softly about her piquant face. Her eyes still flash with fire- one can’t escape being militant when Irish heritage and soul-saving fervor are her birth and breeding. “I like the masses better than the classes she has said many a time. “I am more at home on the street corner than in a drawing room.” She didn’t give up preaching when she doffed the blue bonnet. She still burns with a zeal for helping others. You can see it behind the blue placidity of her eyes. Determination sits on the firm chin, and resolve in the tilt of her nose. She is tremendously well fitted for welfare work. She has kindliness, understanding. “I always want to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves, and speak for those who are inarticulate,” she said one time. “I am at home on the platform. I can talk to five thousand people better than to four or five. Her platform manner is inspiring. She has an Ethel Barrymoreish habit of running her fingers through her hair when she’s at a loss for words. And as if by electric contact, the words seem to respond to the gesture. Relief for the aged, welfare work for women and children, help for the blind, supervision of women in institutions--these are the tasks that fall to the lot of the state director of social welfare.”
Mrs. Splivalo is also a facile writer and for two years was editor of the children’s publications of the Salvation Army in New York city. Versatile and accomplished, hers is a striking personality. As a social worker and a lecturer on religious subjects she has accomplished much good, and for six months she filled the pulpit of the First Congregational Church of San Francisco.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Byington, Lewis Francis, “History of San Francisco 3 Vols”, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1931. Vol. 2 Pages 60-62.
© 2007 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.