Show Menu

Mary Woolley & Jeannette Marks: Life, Love, & Letters

Mary Assumes the Presidency, Jeannette Follows

"Dear Heart - Thy love to me is wonderful, passing the love of men - I can imagine no greater happiness than to be loved as you love me and to give in return, the love of my whole heart and life - without reserve" - Excerpt from this letter, sent by Mary Woolley to Jeannette Marks on January 6, 1901

Mary Woolley assumed the presidency of Mount Holyoke College on January 1, 1901. The idea of starting her tenure as President at the beginning of a new century pleased her, and she wanted to spend a year travelling and observing the administration of other colleges, so that she may better understand her position at Mount Holyoke and how she might bring a breath of fresh air to the college. 

Marks was engaged in her own life's revolution. Having just graduated from Wellesley, she was faced with the choice to pursue her graduate studies at another college, attempt to start her writing career, or pursue an instructorial position at a preperatory school.

 

Winter 1901, "My precious little sister - I had written so far"

Letter from Woolley to Marks, January 6, 1901.

Flip through the letter | Read the transcription

Marks' inexperience in the educational field meant that she should not necessarily have been eligible for a professorial position at Mount Holyoke College, but Mary Woolley's determination and Marks' committment to graduate work in English Literature at Wellesley, made it possible.

Jeannette Marks was appointed to the English Literature Department at Mount Holyoke shortly after Mary Woolley took office in January of 1901, under the provision that she would continue her graduate education (a prospect she was less than pleased with, determined to start her writing career as soon as was feasible). 

Woolley reminisced in the letter to the left about the time that had passed since first the women admitted their feelings to one another:

"Do you remember that yesterday was the anniversary of the night when you realized that I needed you and that you might love me as much as you would? Just one year ago that you came in to find me ill and wanting you, so that your hard heart melted!"

Woolley moved into the President's Suite on the first floor of Brigham Hall, where she would remain until the construction of the President's House in 1909.

Mary Emma Woolley, President of Mount Holyoke College

Mary E. Woolley in her academic robe at a desk, writing