Alumnae Quarterly, Summer 1980

Miss Marks and Miss Woolley

I am grateful to Thisbe Comins '38 for her letter about Miss Marks and Miss Woolley. Many of Miss Marks's former students, while I was working on the book and since, have attested to her tactful kindness and unobtrusive generosity, which indeed I experienced myself. It was a side of her character less well known than her eccentricities. As Mark Antony or Shakespeare put it, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." I'm glad I was able to do a bit of disinterring, though perhaps not as much as I might have.

A feminist reviewer has taken me to ask for failing to appreciate the magnitude of Jeannette Marks's achievement. I did try to persuade myself that she was as good a writer as she hoped to be, one worthy of rediscovery by this generation in the search for neglected women writers from our past. I couldn't quite manage it, but it is certainly true that the list of her publications is impressive and that several of her books are still being read. I noted also in the course of my work that Wellesley ranks her much higher as an alumna author than Mount Holyoke does as a distinguished professor.

The Marks-Woolley letters are now properly preserved in our archives, arranged chronologically, indexed, and available to serious scholars. In addition, Miss Marks's own papers - including manuscripts, correspondence with a number of distinguished men and women, department records, newspaper clippings, and a staggering array of trivia (apparently she never got around to sorting and arranging them herself) - have been sorted and arranged for posterity, I believe without any restriction. Perhaps a younger scholar without my personal bias will some day devote a full critical biography to Jeannette Marks. The material is ready and waiting in our library.

One of my many reasons for being proud of Mount Holyoke is that we rose above the personal embarrassment the letters caused to recognize their permanent value to social historians. Their preservation was in the true Mount Holyoke tradition.

Anna Mary Wells '26
Washington, D.C.

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