In my last post I wrote about a scrapbook at the Tioga Point Museum which, I concluded, had come from the home of church member Ida Corbin. The clipping that called my attention to this scrapbook was about a talk given to the young people’s organization at the Athens church by “Miss Maysie Green” in the 1890s.
“Maysie” Green was probably Mary Wolcott Green, daughter of Walter K. Green and Marion Elizabeth Wolcott. She is not recorded as a member of the Athens church, but her parents and her older sister Euphemia were members in the 1880s and 1890s. Mary Wolcott Green was identified as a Universalist in the 1914 Woman’s Who’s Who.
Mary was born in 1871 in Athens (she was a year older than Ida Corbin). She attended Rutgers Female College in New York City, then transferred to Syracuse University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1895. She became a school teacher, as did her sister Euphemia, who graduated from Bloomsburg State Teachers’ College in 1894.
Mary and Euphemia taught in Flemington, N. J., for a few years before settling in Staten Island, N. Y., where their parents had moved in 1898. The sisters taught in New York City schools for about twenty years.
Mary Green was a remarkable woman in many ways. She started her career teaching Latin, Greek, and German, but wanted to broaden her knowledge. While teaching on Staten Island, she took a course at the Cooper Union – five nights a week for three years – and earned a diploma in chemistry in 1904. She taught high school science for most of the rest of her career.
She was passionate about American history, especially women’s history. With her brother Harry, she co-authored The Pioneer Mothers of America, which was published in 1912. (With the exception of Pocahontas, all of the “mothers” in the three-volume work, as far as I could tell from a quick skim, were white.) Mary was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt. D.) degree from Syracuse University in 1914, probably in recognition of this literary accomplishment.
Dr. Mary Wolcott Green was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and other “patriotic” clubs. She joined the Society of Descendants of Henry Wolcott shortly after it was organized in 1906. She served as its secretary for twenty years and was elected its first woman president in 1933.
The Wolcotts, most of whom lived in Litchfield or East Athens, were the most numerous family in the Athens Universalist church. At least seventy-five descendants and spouses were associated with the church. The first Wolcott genealogy was published by the Society of Descendants in 1912. The book has been updated several times; the Tioga Point Museum has copies of the editions of 1986 and 2002.
What words of wisdom did Miss Maysie Green share with the young Universalists of Athens in the 1890s? She spoke about the history of secular laws and of the religious thought and urged her companions to carry on the work of making the world better. She said:
“The church has grown broader, the old thought in which fear for the unknown future predominated being superseded by the striving to live right here, content to leave in the hands of God, trusting in his love, the things of eternity. This church now embracing countries unknown at its foundation found in one of these religions peace for its followers… The church has begun to expand in spirit, but there is room and need for more work, more life, more energy and well directed intentions…
“A Universalist church must be founded on Universalism, on all that the name implies of love to God, peace and good will to our fellow men, and charity for all. It needs promoters who are not afraid to stand for the truth, to labor for the right in spite of all discouragement. It needs those who strive to lift their souls to a higher conception of God’s love, who strive to do their duty in any path in which they may be led…
“We, the Young People’s Christian Union, have a mighty work before us… We must take our places in the labor and responsibilities of active life with minds strengthened and disciplined, ready to be ripened into full maturity in our encounter with the stormy world.
“Our competitors are becoming more hardy, ardent and determined, so if we succeed we must be vigorous, prompt and persevering. The demands of humanity and Christian living are more extensive than ever before.”
Mary Wolcott Green and her sister Euphemia moved to Florida about 1920. Mary continued to teach for several years in Bradenton before retiring. She died in 1947.
There’s more to come from the Corbin scrapbook!