Elizabeth Barlow Cutler-Wotton

Barlow Cutler-Wotton, Elizabeth
Elizabeth Barlow Cutler-Wotton died March 23, 2013, after a brief illness. She was 91 and a half. A lifelong resident of Westport, Conn., she led a full and active life and will be remembered as a pioneering conservationist. Elizabeth "Barlow" Cutler was born September 15, 1921, in the house at 79 King's Highway North, Westport, Conn., that her architect father, Charles E. Cutler, designed for his family. Her mother, Amelia MacDonald Cutler, landscaped the gardens. Educated at Mrs. Bolton's School for Girls and The Hartridge School, she graduated from Vassar College in 1943. This was a minor victory since her staunchly Republican father, who would not allow FDR's name to be mentioned at the dinner table, had threatened to take her out of Vassar for fear she was becoming a socialist. However she was a natural humanist and her egalitarian ideas were well established before she went to college. Her mother Amelia, also a graduate of Vassar and a suffragette, nurtured Barlow's independent spirit. After college she hoped to become an architect and enjoyed her war work, drawing destroyers and radar systems for a firm of naval architects in New York City. She later worked for architects in Los Angeles and Westport, but did not pursue a degree because marriage and family intervened and, as she later confessed, she didn't think she'd had the necessary creative drive. She remained a keen observer and connoisseur of buildings and design and was very proud that her son, Scott Matthews, became an architect. Except for some years in New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico, Barlow lived at the house in Westport where she was born. She continued the civic engagement of her parents, serving as President of the League of Women Voters and as a member of the RTM, and staying active in town affairs on the Historic District Commission and the LWV Observer Corps well into her eighties. Her chief legacy is as an advocate for the protection of the environment and as a conservationist dedicated to securing nature's open spaces for the public. She was one of the founders of the Aspetuck Land Trust and a crucial force in the movement to preserve the natural landscape. Her early concern for protecting the salt marshes came as much from an appreciation of their beauty as it did a respect for their vital function in the prevention of erosion and floods. She was in her element, as her great friend Margery Silk relates, when they took to the marshes to identify the indicator grasses. As in all her pursuits in life, she was hands-on and no holds barred. During the campaign to save Cockenoe Island from the proposed nuclear power plant, she rode her horse to the beach in a flaming orange ensemble. If there was an environmental issue at stake, she was sure to be a driving force, to have formed a committee, or to offer her knowledge and research as a resource. She followed the local and national political scene and was an avid reader of the New York Times, The Nation, Harper's Magazine, and other periodicals. With a fine political intelligence and a love of economics, she instinctually had the measure of politicians and would deliver short acute appraisals that were rarely wrong. After retiring from Fairpress, where she had designed ads and sold advertising space, she devoted herself to her garden. Gardening and garden design gave her great joy, as it combined many of her lifelong interests and talents. Having majored in zoology and art history at Vassar, worked in architecture, and been an avid naturalist, she took to her retirement profession with great zeal. Her garden became celebrated and was photographed and included on many garden tours. She shared her experiences and knowledge with a vital community of gardeners and garden lovers. She continued gardening until her last years. She was predeceased by her sister, Janet Nichols, and her three husbands, Joseph O. Matthews, Roswell G. Ham, Jr., and Peter T. Wotton. She is survived by her brother Richard W. Cutler, her children Scott Matthews of New York, Helen Clement of Beaverton, Oregon, and Jacqui Ham of London, England, and four grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Aspetuck Land Trust, P O Box 444, Westport CT 06881-0444. A memorial service is being planned for later this year.

Published in StamfordAdvocate on July 5, 2013