Show Menu

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

A Death in the Family

"Dearest, if only you could come to me. I feel as if I were in a horrible nightmare and the time seems endless..." - Excerpt from this letter, sent by Mary Woolley to Jeannette Marks on March 27, 1905

Marks soon moved into another residence in the village of South Hadley, this time with fellow Mount Holyoke faculty Helen Cady and Dorothy Foster. Dubbed the "Green Pea," the three painted it bright green and lived in a manner they found most satisfactory. Woolley often walked down to the small home for meals, though she did respect her duty of sitting at her official table in the Brigham Hall dining room.

Their relationship became strained during these years. Marks' letters were often disrespectful, irreverent, and provocative. Woolley often reacted to her provocation with disappointment and anger, but remained the chief agent of conciliation between them, even when she had not been the cause of one argument or another. 

Both women had taken time away from the college to recuperate from illness early in the year. They had not enjoyed Christmas together as usual in Pawtucket, and Marks convalesced without Woolley in the Green Pea. Woolley remained at her family home with her mother, who was suffering from "intestinal idigestion."

Spring 1905,"Dearest, if only you could come to me"

Letter from Woolley to Marks, March 27, 1905

Flip through the letter | Read the transcription

"Dearest, I am so full of regrets, so full. I have never loved you so much as in the last two weeks, yet I have failed you… I have been so lonely, lonely, lonely; lonely, too, because you could not understand." - Excerpt from this letter, sent by Jeannette Marks to Mary Woolley on April 6, 1905

Woolley's mother's minor illness soon developed into a serious issue -- a month after Woolley returned to campus for spring semester she was forced to return to Pawtucket to look after and sit with her mother, who was dying. She wrote to Marks multiple times from her family home, begging for her company and relaying all the woes and sorrows she was suffering at the time. The letters may have been delivered, but it seems they were never responded to -- Woolley's mother died on the 28th of March without a single word in reply from Marks. 

Marks' letters the following weeks are full of mingled frustration and placation. She apologizes for having failed Woolley in her time of greatest need, but also demands frequently that Woolley pay more attention to her, make an effort to allow them to live together in a home together, and questions Woolley's motives in loving her. 

"If I give all to you and give up the idea that I must protect myself from you, will you really care for my work as well as loving me? Will you, Dearest? If you will, please answer these questions, Sweet and I will keep the letter in a coat pocket for constant reference when you break the rules. I cannot be happy away from you, yet supposing I should be wit-less because I have given in to you? Do you understand, dear Dearest?"

Spring 1905, "Dearest. The choice between writing to you and seeing Yale College is no choice at all"

Letter from Marks to Woolley, April 6, 1905

Flip through the letter | Read the transcription