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

Retirement and the Final Years

"It will be only a short time now before we can be having a good time in the gardens. You know it is the first week in April when I plant the [?], and I want you there not only for that but also to see me pick [?] the early peas into the garden. You and the doggies are my mascots, you know, and I can’t get on in the garden without you, my dear." - Excerpt from a letter, sent by Jeannette Marks to Mary Woolley on March 13, 1947.

After Woolley's retirement in the spring of 1937, she moved into Marks' family home, Fleur de Lys in Westport, New York home. Although she wanted to remain in South Hadley, Woolley knew that it would create tension for Marks, who didn't retire from teaching until 1941. Their letters from this time period speak a lot about the presidential transition as well as daily goings on at Mount Holyoke. In a letter from Marks to Woolley in March of 1938, she reports on the state of the College English department, saying, "Mr. Ham “ruled” against any courses in play production being given in the Speech summer school...But so far the Encumbrance [?] has not succeeded in steamrolling the Faculty as a whole, whatever he is succeeding in doing to our Department." Marks spent much of her energy before retirement on the Laboratory Theatre she had started at Mount Holyoke in 1928.

While Marks was finishing her years teaching, Woolley signed with a booking agency and began putting energy into her public service. She accepted many chairperson positions of various groups and, in February of 1938, took a trip around the country speaking to different organizations including the San Francisco-based National League for Women's Service. 

Jeannette Marks was also engaged in public speaking. In October of 1944, she writes about a talk she gave for the Business and Professional Women's Foundation at the Twentieth Century Club in Buffalo, New York. She reports that, "The dinner meeting of the BPW was at the Twentieth Century Club in a beautiful [?] spacious dining room surrounded with long windows and lighted by “Kind” [?] light. Before the talk I was a bit nervous, for I had had so little chance to prepare, nor had the afternoon at the radio station helped me much!" 

 

Jeannette Marks, Professor Emeritus, circa 1941

Jeannette Marks, Professor Emeritus, circa 1941

Woolley had a stroke in 1944. She suffered a lot of pain so spent more time at home and less time traveling and engaging in social causes publicly. She also used a wheelchair and began losing her eyesight. In a letter from March 13, 1947, Marks encourages Woolley to keep using her eyes and "Perk up!" because despite the sadness of the past few years, Woolley has "a pleasant and kind old home, happy doggies, good food and many faithful friends." Marks cared for her in their Fleur de Lys home for three years, until Woolley's death on September 5, 1947 at the age of 84.

Marks received many letters of condolence, including ones from Frances Perkins, presidents of many other colleges, and various alumnae of MHC. Marks remained at Fleur de Lys, her childhood home, until her death on March 15, 1964 at age 88.

 

Spring 1947, "May dearest, this is being written on the train."

Letter from Marks to Woolley, March 13, 1947

Flip through the letter | Read the transcription