Birth: August 17, 1879
Birthplace: Mercer County, Pennsylvania
Died: January 3, 1972
Place of Burial: Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, New York
Contribution: Suffrage leader, educator, and university dean
Marian Patterson was born on August 17, 1879 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, a county in the northwest portion of the state. Patterson was born to William C. Patterson, a Pennsylvanian oil producer, and Jane Patterson. Patterson had four siblings: Nancy, William, Marmaduke, and Margaret.[i] Marian Patterson remained unmarried for all her life, which was not typical of a woman born in her time.
Marian graduated in the 1901 class at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a private women’s college that would later on graduate notable alumni such as Hillary Clinton and Pamela Melroy.[ii] Following her graduation, Patterson took a course in library science at the New York State Library School and served at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for several years. During this time, Patterson also became involved in the suffrage movement, serving as the chairman of the City Committee of Jamestown, New York, a group consisting of young suffragist women. This group was created near the beginning of 1915 following the 1915 annual convention of the First and Second Assembly Districts of the Chautauqua County Suffrage Association, held in May in Mayville, New York. At the 1916 rally of this organization, Patterson was first vice-leader; in May of 1917 she was made First District leader. The City Committee worked closely with a similar organization, the Campaign Club, helping to raise awareness and funds for the suffrage movement until New York State women gained the right to vote in a statewide referendum in 1917. Patterson also served as the first vice-leader of the annual convention of Chautauqua County suffragists of 1916, held in Jamestown.[iii]
After this period of involvement in the push for women’s suffrage, Patterson served as the second dean of women at the University of Vermont from 1922 to 1937, succeeding the first dean, Pearl Randall Wasson. Following her retirement, she moved back to New York State, but returned to Vermont to visit during the summer. During the 1960s, following renovation and construction, a hall of residency on the University of Vermont campus was named for Patterson.[iv] The residence hall is still there, making up one part of the Christie-Patterson-Wright complex.[v]
During the 1940s, Patterson also served as the chairman of the Sixth District of the New York American Legion, and later on became the district auxiliary president.[vi] Soon, Patterson also began work with the Young Women’s Christian Association in Jamestown, New York, often helping with events and raising funds or collecting resources for those in need. These activities consumed much of Patterson’s time for the rest of her life. In one instance, Patterson worked with volunteers from the Junior Board to produce over seven thousand garments for those in need, breaking a forty-year record. [vii]
Patterson passed away on January 3, 1972, at the Women’s Christian Association Hospital in Jamestown. Her funeral was held at the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jamestown, on January 5, 1972. She was 92 years old at the time of her death. Posthumously, she gave to the Jamestown Young Men’s Christian Association and Young Women’s Christian Association, as well as providing funds for the coronary care unit at Women’s Christian Association Hospital. Patterson is buried in the Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown. [viii]
Compiled by Bowen Caskey, 2017
Primary Sources to Explore
Patterson and other Jamestown, NY suffragists pledge their support for the war effort during World War I
Patterson spearheads citizenship course for local women, 1918
Patterson first named acting dean of women at the University of Vermont, 1922
Patterson’s advice to female graduates of the University of Vermont, April 1933
[i] 1900 U.S. Census, Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York, population schedule, sheet no. 4, dwelling, family, Marian Patterson; Ancestry.com, accessed April 6, 2017, https://www.ancestry.com.
[ii] Alyssa Creamer, “Wellesley College’s Famous Alumnae,” The Huffington Post, June 26, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/wellesley-colleges-famous_n_1629053.html.
[iii] John P. Downs and Fenwick Y. Hedley, eds., History of Chautauqua County, New York, and Its People (Boston: American Historical Society, Inc., 1921) 1: 356, https://archive.org/stream/historyofchautau02downs.
[iv] “Miss Patterson, Former UVM Dean, Dies,” Burlington (VT) Free Press, January 4, 1972.
[v] “Campus Treasures: Christie-Patterson-Wright Complex,” University of Vermont, last modified January 2007, http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2007/deon/christiepattersonwright/cpw.html.
[vi] “Legion Auxiliary President Here,” Ithaca [NY] Journal, May 21, 1946; “Legion Parley to Be Sunday,” Binghamton [NY] Press and Sun Bulletin, April 19, 1945.
[vii] “Junior Board Activities Linen Supplies-Continued,” [Jamestown, NY] Post Journal, January 13, 1948, 10.
[viii] “Miss Patterson, Former UVM Dean, Dies,” Burlington [VT] Free Press, January 4, 1972.