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

Mount Holyoke and The New Century

"My own Precious Bunny. I miss you so much tonight - I would give anything to put my arms tightly about you and kiss you and kiss you. I love you so, my own Dearest, and you are not one instant out of my mind. One week more - Sweetheart." - Excerpt from this letter, sent by Mary Woolley to Jeannette Marks on May 2, 1902

Jeannette Marks accepted the offer to teach in the Mount Holyoke English Literature Department in a note to the school on January 11. She hardly waited to visit Woolley on campus, following her letter, and arriving on January 15. She lived in Mansfield for a time before moving into Brigham Hall, where she was assigned a fourth floor room. 

Both women were busily occupied in their new positions at the college; Woolley with the transfer of power and understanding her new position and its expectations, Marks with teaching courses in English Literature, American Literature, and courses on several famous authors. 

The pair were something of a spectacle in Brigham Hall; living elbow-to-elbow with professors and administrators was not unusual at Mount Holyoke, but Woolley's habit of scaling three flights of stairs each night to kiss Marks goodnight did not go unnoticed by the student population, who viewed it as alternately amusing or embarrassing. 

Jeannette Marks as a young woman

Jeannette Marks as a young woman, circa 1895-1905

Marks was not entirely pleased with her position at the college; she was daunted by the heavy workload and disappointed with the level of education obtained by current students, and by the end of her first semester teaching was unsure that she would return for the 1901-1902 school year. 

Woolley, coming into her own and quickly demonstrating her proclivity for her new position and its influence, did not share her trepidation. Her mental well-being and emotional health rested greatly upon the presence of Marks, a fact which was noted by many of their friends in the summer of 1901. 

Friends and colleagues urged Marks to return and teach another year at Mount Holyoke. She agreed only under the stipulation that her schedule would permit her to continue graduate studies at Wellesley as well as the writing career she was beginning to cultivate. 

After a quarrelsome time in the summer, Woolley had convinced her partner to return to campus. Whether or not this would be a permanent return remained to be seen; it was success enough to have Marks near in this second year of their lives at the college. 

Woolley's clout in the academic world began to increase as she demonstrated her effectiveness as a college administrator. She encouraged faculty to pursue advanced and terminal degrees, and encouraged inexperienced or elderly faculty into retirement or resignation. She represented Mount Holyoke well in the media and in organizational affiliations for the benefit of the school. Her reputation for driven and effective fundraising began in these years with the increase in alumnae and charitable donations to the college.

Spring 1902, "My own Precious Bunny. I miss you so much tonight"

Letter from Woolley to Marks, May 2, 1902

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