Alumnae Quarterly, Winter 1977

Mary E. Woolley Biography Status Explained

Last summer, in a letter to the editor, Anna Mary Wells '26 told about the biography she is writing (under contract to Houghton Mifflin) about Miss Woolley and Miss Marks. Since that time a New York Times article about the book carried inaccurate information which led to the subsequent circulation of rumors: that the College had denied Miss Wells access to some of the Woolley papers in the College archives; that the College had denied Miss Wells the right to quote from some of the papers; and that the College possibly wanted to destroy some of the papers. It seems desirable to try to set the record straight.

Miss Wells was given access to all the material with the expressed faith that she would treat it sensitively. Concerning the right to quote, the official permission, in an effort to protect everyone's best interest, was expressed in complicated legal terms which Miss Wells referred to as "a very Catch-22 letter" that seemed to be "a skillful executive no." However this might be read, the concern of the College was that its association with a discussion of the personal relationship between Miss Wooley and Miss Marks not be misconstrued. The College has every reason to believe that Miss Wells has dealt with this relationship in a scholarly fashion and without jumping to conclusions, although the Times article said that she had. The College took the position that if Miss Wells wished to quote from the letters, consent from the heirs would be secured, and that this consent "would be facilitated if the College and the heirs could examine the manuscript and the proposed use of the material." As for the safekeeping of the papers, they have been properly filed to be available to appropriate scholars for future research.

Since the original position of the College caused so much complication and misunderstanding, the College has reconsidered its approach. Anna Mary Wells has been given full permission to quote and to cite sources. The College has continued to express complete confidence in the scholarly capacities and sound judgment of Miss Wells and Houghton Mifflin to produce a book which will be a tribute to the great stature of Miss Woolley and to the accomplishments of Miss Marks.

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