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

Life Before Mount Holyoke College

Summer 1900, "Dearest, It is Sunday afternoon, almost five o'clock"

Letter from Woolley to Marks, July 9, 1900.

Flip through the letter | Read the transcription

"Darling, you must realize that I am with you, that my love is about you, that I am thinking of you, that I love you as no one else in the world can love you, that you are my love, the sweetest woman in the world." - Excerpt from this letter, sent by Mary Woolley to Jeannette Marks on July 9, 1900

After Woolley and Marks admitted to one another the depths of their shared affection, their relationship underwent a significant change. Letters filled with adoration and prose about the love they shared and the time they spent together became frequent and poignant. 

Mary Woolley applied for a leave of absence from Wellesley College for the 1900-1901 school year to pursue research for her doctorate, but in the winter of 1899 she received two job offers that would change the course of her life forever. The past year had been full of upheaval and speculation as she was passed over for nomination to the vacated Presidency of Wellesley College, but new opportunities were not slow to reveal themselves.

Both Pembroke Women's College at Brown University and Mount Holyoke College offered her the reins. A deanship versus presidency; her alma mater and a coeducational environment (valued by Woolley for its depth of experiences) versus the seminary-turned-college in dire need of a strong leader and an overhaul in the new century.

The choice was made. While reinventing a prestigious but undervalued women's college may have been the more difficult challenge, Mary Woolley accepted the offer to become President on January 15, 1900.

This choice was to prove initially stressful for the women and their relationship; accepting the job meant that Woolley would move away from Marks, and with Marks' impending graduation from Wellesley the pressure mounted. This was perhaps one of the major catalysts for the revelation of their mutual feelings in March of 1900, after which the adoration and declarations of love began in their letters.