Sister of preserved girl in coffin was high society San Francisco beauty


The world was riveted when the preserved body of a little girl who died in 1876 was found underneath a San Francisco home last year. When crews cracked open the coffin, the 3-year-old girl, identified formally last week as Edith Howard Cook, was found clutching a rose in her hand, strands of her blond hair still visible.

While Edith, who had been nicknamed “Miranda Eve,” has grabbed all of the current headlines, her sister, identified by the same genealogists,  made a splash on the society pages in San Francisco more than 100 years ago because of her great beauty and "fluffy blond hair."

Edith’s younger sister, Ethel Cook Postley Curran, was apparently a high society woman, as featured in 1903 in the San Francisco Call newspaper.

According to a gossip column archived by the California Digital Newspaper Collection, Ethel was set to take a trip for her mother’s ranch in Mendocino County.  She was married to Sterling Postley. whom she divorced, and then married Ross Ambler Curran, whom she also divorced in 1933, according to newspaper articles. 

Her beauty was described by the columnist like this:

“Duke Boris, on his last trip to San Francisco, pronounced Mrs. Postley the most beautiful woman he had seen here. She is certainly a very striking woman of the blonde type, with fluffy hair, always arranged in the most artistic manner. Her figure is also very fine and her gowns are dreams.”

Much of the research about the family was conducted by volunteer genealogists and history buffs from the Garden of Innocence, a nonprofit dedicated to burying unidentified children.  The two key investigators studying  Ethel were Bob Phillips of Seattle and Dave Frederick  of Montana. The pair helped create a family tree of the Cook family by reading articles, studying burial records, analyzing maps and piecing together census records.

According to the their research, Edith died of marasmus, a childhood disease that led to severe malnourishment ,when she was 3 years old, and her coffin was found last May on Rossi Street near the University of San Francisco. Ethel died in 1935 at age 57. There were also two brothers, Clifford and Milton Cook. The four siblings were born to Horatio Nelson Cook and Edith Scoofy. The Scoofy family was among the first pioneers to arrive in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and made their money selling oysters, according to the research.  The Cook family made a fortune from industrial belting and fire houses, and the heart of the company still exists in San Leandro. 

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Information source: The Garden of Innocence 

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