Margaret McRory oral history

Margaret McRory is a descendant of Perkins founding Director Samuel Gridley Howe, renowned activist, author, and poet Julia Ward Howe, and their daughter, Florence Marion Howe, a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Margaret “Peg” McRory receiving an award in 1977.

Biographical information

Margaret “Peg” McRory (1921-2010) was born on April 5, 1921, in New York City. After graduating from the Hannah More Academy (Reisterstown, Maryland) in 1938, she attended Radcliffe, where she majored in chemistry. McRory did not graduate from Radcliffe, however, because she decided to marry George Whitfield McRory, Jr. and was not permitted to remain enrolled due to school policy. The couple married in August 1941 and had three children: Elizabeth (1943), Susan (1946), and Camilla (1954). After George returned from serving in World War II in 1946, the family lived in Alexandria, Virginia before moving to Wiesbaden, Germany while he served a tour of duty for three years. When George retired from the US Air Force in 1962, the family moved to Sandy Spring, Maryland.

A great-granddaughter of Perkins founding director Samuel Gridley Howe and renowned activist, author, and poet Julia Ward Howe, she grew up hearing stories of her Howe family. Her grandmother, Florence Marion Howe (Florence Howe Hall) (1845-1922) won the first Pulitzer Prize with her sisters for a biography of their mother, entitled Julia Ward Howe. Marion Howe was a writer, critic, and lecturer on women’s suffrage. Daughter Camilla McRory has served as a Member of the Corporation of Perkins School for the Blind since 2010.

Following in the footsteps of her grandmother and great-grandmother, McRory joined the League of Women Voters and fought for higher housing standards, affordable housing, and greater equality. Her work as a member of the League of Women Voters Housing Committee led her to become the Housing Consultant for the National Capital Area League, the Montgomery County Council, and later the Community Ministry of Montgomery County. She was a founding member of the Montgomery Habitat for Humanity and the Montgomery Housing Partnership, among service on many other boards and committees.

Photographed in 1977 receiving an award, McRory a white woman stands in front of a microphone. She wears glasses and a polka-dot jacket over a light turtleneck shirt decorated with a necklace made of beads and wire curl shapes. Behind her is Elizabeth Lee “Betty” Scull who was a friend to McRory and a member of the Montgomery County, Maryland Council.


Related resources

Notice and permissions

This interview is an edited digitized copy of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Perkins School for the Blind. The interview was conducted on May 28, 2009, by Jan Seymour-Ford. 

This edited oral history transcript may be quoted if cited. A preferred citation is provided. The interview may not be published in full except with the permission of the Perkins School for the Blind. For permission please contact [email protected].

Preferred citation

McRory, Margaret. “Margaret McRory oral history interview conducted by Jan Seymour-Ford,” 2009-05-28, Perkins Archives Oral History Project, AG195-2009-01, Perkins School for the Blind Archives.

Audio recording

Recording of the oral history of Margaret McRory


Jan Seymour-Ford: This is an oral history interview with Margaret McRory who is a descendant of Samuel Gridley and Julia Ward Howe. The date is May 29, 2008. The interviewer is Jan Seymour-Ford and the interview is conducted by telephone. Are you willing to have an oral interview with you, is that still a convenient thing for you?

Margaret McRor: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Oh super. We really appreciate your willingness to spend a little time and share your memories with us.

McRory: OK.

Seymour-Ford: So just to get started, there’s a formality, may we ask you to state your name and to spell it?

McRory: My name, my name is Margaret M-a-r-g-a-r-e-t Hall H-a-l-l McRory, M-c-R-o-r-y.

Seymour-Ford: Great, thank you very much, and I understand you, tell us where you live, what city you live in?

McRory: Well I live in Montgomery County, it’s a rural area.

Seymour-Ford: And that’s in Maryland?

McRory: Maryland, yes.

Seymour-Ford: OK, and then the last thing, if you’re willing to tell us what your date of birth is and there’s no need to do this if you prefer.

McRory: My date of birth is April 5, 1921.

Seymour-Ford: Super, thank you very much. So let’s see, to get started, did you grow up near the, the Perkins campus in the Boston area?

McRory: No, I grew up in New Jersey.

Seymour-Ford: Have you ever visited the, the Perkins campus here in Watertown?

McRory: No.

Seymour-Ford: Ah. Have you, you can see it from the turnpike. Have you ever driven past it and…

McRory: I don’t, the only time I’ve spent any time in Massachusetts was two years at Radcliff and I didn’t have any automobile at the time.

Seymour-Ford: Ah, so you’re not really, so I was going to also ask you if you ever visited the site in South Boston, but it sounds like you probably didn’t do that either.

McRory: No.

Seymour-Ford: OK.

McRory: I know about it but I’ve never been there.

Seymour-Ford: And let’s see, because I spoke to Camilla, I know you’re descended from Florence Howe Hall.

McRory: Yes, correct.

Seymour-Ford: And I think Camilla said that only two of the Howe daughters.

McRory: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.

Seymour-Ford: Camilla said that only two of the Howe children had offspring.

McRory: That’s right.

Seymour-Ford: And so the other one would be the children of Laura Richards.

McRory: That’s right.

Seymour-Ford: So do you have any family stories about Samuel Gridley Howe, just to start with him that…

McRory: Well of course, there was a great deal to talk about him. My father was very proud of his grandfather.

Seymour-Ford: Well, that’s great because he’s someone to be very proud of.

McRory: Most of the stories that I know are in published, published books of various members of the family have written. I mean I know about him being arrested in (inaudible) for carrying relief to the Polish officers and being thrown in jail.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: Rescued by an American who had arranged to meet him and reported to the American authorities that he had disappeared on, he tore up paper as well as threw it in the slop bucket making them think that that was important documents.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: And when he was many years later, he was decorated by the (inaudible) king for his work at Perkins, he ascertained the devalue of the metal he was given was equivalent to the money he paid for his incarceration, or so he said. He never set foot in (inaudible) again.

Seymour-Ford: Oh well, good thinking. So do you, he had to pay a ransom in order to get, get out of jail?

McRory: No, he had to pay for his food and lodging. That was…

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness!

McRory: Sort of in the olden days. You didn’t stay in prison free.

Seymour-Ford: My goodness!

McRory: You didn’t know that?

Seymour-Ford: No.

McRory: That was true everywhere.

Seymour-Ford: My goodness. That’s adding insult to injury.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: So, I imagine you’re also very proud of your connection with Julia Ward-Howe.

McRory: Of course. She was quite a character.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, I’ve read her biography. She’s quite, quite a woman.

McRory: Yes. Of course, there was a strange marriage.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: There was a strong feeling in some circles in the family that he married her for her money.

Seymour-Ford: My goodness.

McRory: And there isn’t any question but what he disposed of an awful lot of is by foolish land investments in South Boston. He thought that was the direction that Boston was going to grow.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness.

McRory: And he was wrong.

Seymour-Ford: I think I read in her biography that he sold her holdings in Manhattan and used that money to buy that property in South Boston because he thought Manhattan was just, you know, had no future.

McRory: I couldn’t understand, you know I’m sort of deaf.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, OK, I’ll try to speak a little more into the, into the microphone. Is that better?

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Great. I read in her biography that Samuel sold her property in Manhattan because he thought it had no future? That’s the money that he used.

McRory: He was a very poor judge of real estate.

Seymour-Ford: I think so.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Well so do you have any family stories about the, the mismatch between Samuel and Julia?

McRory: Well I know that there was friction. I know that she spent quite a time, I’m not sure exactly how long, in Italy with her two younger children at the time. It was before [Maude] and young Sammy were born, so that my grandmother and Julia Romana were very close to grandfather.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: My father told me years later when she was rid of Flossy, lived with him, he was a bachelor at the time, and if she had a nightmare, he could hear her cry out papa, pa pa, whereas most people would have called for their mother.

Seymour-Ford: Oh! That’s true.

McRory: That she, because their formative years, she and Julia were living at Perkins with their father while mother was in Italy, changed the relationship, but grandmother told my father many years later, I guess in response to comments about the difficulties in the marriage, she said marriage was a commitment for life, and so she stayed with it.

Seymour-Ford: Well she sure did.

McRory: Yes, except for that little valiance in Italy.

Seymour-Ford: I think, I think I read a snippet of a poem by Julia that was something like “all hope within me died when I lay upon my marriage bed.” Just, my goodness, that’s, that’s pretty, that’s pretty sad.

McRory: Yes, well, he was a bit of a male chauvinist and she was a good deal of a female feminist so.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: So it was inevitable that there would be friction, and of course she worked for women’s suffrage and other things that he would not have approved of.

Seymour-Ford: Well you know I think in theory, he approved of women’s suffrage, I think he just didn’t approve of his wife being a public speaker on the topic.

McRory: Yeah, well, yes, he thought the woman’s place was in the home.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Well I think I remember reading a story where he, he met Florence Nightingale and in fact your great grand, your grandmother was named after her I believe, and Julia was jealous because Samuel was encouraging Florence Nightingale to, to pursue her dreams and her work, which, of course she did, and then later in private, Julia said well gee, you, you encourage her and, and you keep me tied down. Why is that, and he said well you’re my wife. 

McRory: Yes, Florence didn’t have a husband. That made a difference.

Seymour-Ford: That, it certainly did.

McRory: Yes. I have a question for you.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: I am 87 years old and this is the first time anybody at Perkins has made the slightest effort to say anything to contact me, although they are well aware of the fact that I existed. I have always contributed money to Perkins.

Seymour-Ford: Oh lovely.

McRory: In memory of my father, and no one has ever told me when they had functions like the big to-do over the Julia Ward Howe stamp, no, I never heard a word.

Seymour-Ford: Oh dear. Well, I apologize and we have a new administration that is, is very interested in including the Howe descendants to the degree that they wish to be, and I think Steve Rothstein is the new President. We’re doing these oral histories under his encouragement and I think, I think there’s a plan a foot to have a, a, an event at which all of the Howe descendants are invited to come and, and see the wonders that their ancestor Samuel Gridley Howe created, so I’m sorry that there’s been neglect in the past, but I think, I think things are different now.

McRory: Well, there’s also the fact that you know there’s the family has always resented Perkins emphasis on Sullivan and Helen Keller who was, you know, Sullivan was described as the miracle worker.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: Well the miracle was many years earlier.

Seymour-Ford: With doing…

McRory: Sullivan used grandfather’s notebooks to, for, and to make her start.

Seymour-Ford: It’s absolutely true.


McRory: Well, there’s also the fact that she publicized Keller improperly. You do know the story of the book that was published as written by Helen Keller?

Seymour-Ford: Oh yes, “The Frost King Story,” yes.

McRory: Yes. That really wasn’t a very, you know, the woman had to know that Miss Keller hadn’t written that.

Seymour-Ford: Well, yes, there’s still controversy. When you look at the story closely, there’s, there’s some possibility likelihood even that, that Keller, that and Sullivan did read the story to Helen and, and denied it later.

McRory: Well anyway. This is, you know, it annoys me every time I see a reference to Sullivan as the miracle worker. I mean, there were quite a number of deaf-blind children who were taught at Perkins before Helen Keller.

Seymour-Ford: Oh absolutely! They were teaching deaf-blind children here for 50 years before Helen Keller was born, so, and we’re, we’re actually, we’ve put Laura Bridgman who was the first in a place of honor here, so because Howe was her, her teacher and the fellow who figured out how to educate her.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: You know, I, I think it restores him to the position he should hold in the field which is, you know, the pioneer.

McRory: Yes. The Miracle Worker.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. I don’t know if you were aware, it’s a few years now, in 2001, there were actually two books about Laura Bridgman and Samuel Gridley Howe.

McRory: I’ve read them both.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Yes. Actually, I thought, I thought in some ways the Gitter book was a little hard on him.

McRory: He was a peculiar person.

Seymour-Ford: He, he was indeed, and, and he still deserves his due and I think in some ways Gitter judged him by 20th and 21st century standards that weren’t entirely fair. That’s what I think.

McRory: Well, he was gung-ho on that business of lump sum ahead to describe, you know, the (inaudible) for people’s personality and so on.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: But that was a scientific approach at the time.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, I think it’s…

McRory: It wasn’t a cookie thing that he adopted himself. It was one of the things that was considered, but that, you know, I say that was a tough book.

Seymour-Ford: Yeah. The one by, by Ernest Freeberg I thought was maybe a little more fair minded in terms of dealing with, with Howe and…

McRory: Of course you also don’t know about the secret six.

Seymour-Ford: I do.

McRory: Oh dear. That went into more detail about the John Browns business that I had known through family stories.

Seymour-Ford: Ah.

McRory: It was obviously few secretly involved.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Absolutely.

McRory: My daughter acquired the documents, the copy of the testimony that grandfather gave before the Senate Committee, did she tell you?

Seymour-Ford: Oh no. How interesting.

McRory: Well it was a very long testimony, I don’t know, 10 or 12 pages I believe, and it was very, very modern. He talked all this time, he never told them anything, not anything. He just kept talking.

Seymour-Ford: Oh you know what, yes, Camilla did mention this, yes, and it was quite, quite, quite admirable considering that, that he managed to, to, to dodge some very dire consequences.

McRory: That sounded exactly like a hearing before the Senate Committee today.

Seymour-Ford: That’s very funny.

McRory: It was very amusing to me.

Seymour-Ford: Well, I think, I think grandfather Howe had the gift of the gab as well.

McRory: Yes. Oh, one of the, you know he used to ride, he was a very good rough horseman and he rode a black horse with a red saddle blanket because it emphasized his beauty. He was a very handsome man.

Seymour-Ford: He was indeed.

McRory: As a one story, he said that the first words of modern Greek that he learned, of course he knew classic Greek, but the first words of modern Greek he learned when he was in Greece was, “What a handsome youth.”

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness.

McRory: So he was conceded about his physical appearance.

Seymour-Ford: Well seeing his portraits, I can understand why.

McRory: Now you know my father was born at the house in Rhode Island, on Newport Island.

Seymour-Ford: Oh really?

McRory: (inaudible) Street, when Flossy took her children to spend the summer with their mother every year, he grew up spending all of his summers there on the island, and one of the things that always impressed me about, well after I realized it, my grandmother, my father was born on the 20th of June and there were two, three older children.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: So she had to have left New Jersey early in June and got to Newport in time to have her son born on the 20th

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: And I was impressed. I mean I would not like to have taken three children on a boat from New York to Newport, wow.

Seymour-Ford: Nine months pregnant.

McRory: Nine months pregnant, but she did and he was born in the middle of the night and nobody ever bothered to record his arrival. He had no birth certificate.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my.

McRory: Since he worked in a musician’s in the sea of sound remaking war products in World War II. He had to have security clearance and his older brother had to testify that this was indeed he.

Seymour-Ford: Oh wow.

McRory: They weren’t very fussy about that sort of thing. And of course Julia was very active in the Unitarian Church, if it could be called a church, and so Flossy was, was a Unitarian. She married a good Episcopalian, but neither one of them took the trouble to have my father baptized.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my.

McRory: Which bothered my mother enormously but it didn’t bother him any, so never said anything about it. Oh my.

Seymour-Ford: Is that piece of property in Newport still in the family?

McRory: No. No. I can’t remember when it was sold.

Seymour-Ford: So it sounds like your branch of the family has moved southerly to the, to the Maryland area and Washington area, and so you don’t consider yourself New Englanders at all?

McRory: Well I consider my background as sort of New England. My father was definitely, although he grew up in New Jersey, he spent all his summers, as I said, in Newport, and he spent often, you know, educated at Harvard and he considered himself New England related, but Maryland is a very modern part of our background. I married a man in the service moved all around until he retired and went to work for IBM and we came here to Maryland in 1962.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: Before that, we never had anything to do with Maryland.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: It’s… I don’t know, what else do you want to know?

Seymour-Ford: Well, let’s see. Do you have any family stories about the abolitionist work, the anti slavery work that, that the Howe’s did?

McRory: Well.

Seymour-Ford: Aside from the secret six?

McRory: A lot of it is that I know is in the books and I know that Flossy in her sixties was living in an apartment with my father in New York City and she went through the tenements, you know, working for votes for women which I certainly never would have done. She was a tough-minded gal. My Hall grandfather was an attorney and he was active in local, really local public youths there in New Jersey and they had need for a special bond issue for a new school and he was afraid that he was not going to get the folks to approve the bond, so he planned to bring some women into vote if it was going against him.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: Unfortunately for women suffrage, and the bond issue passed without the women, but they were in the back room waiting, so they were very much involved in women’s right to vote.

Seymour-Ford: Well good for them.

McRory: When they with a long biography of grandmother written by the three girls.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, it won the Pulitzer prize.

McRory: And it was Flossy who wrote all the bit about the women’s suffrage. The other two were not much involved in women’s suffrage. Laura lived up there in Maine and had all those children and not much money. She supported her family with her pen.

Seymour-Ford: She was very prolific.

McRory: Well she needed to be. Her husband didn’t produce any money.

Seymour-Ford: Was he an artist?

McRory: No, he was not an artist. The only thing that I know that he did to be constructive was to run a boys’ summer camp which was on one of the lakes there in Maine.

Seymour-Ford: Is that Camp…

McRory: He just was sort of a failure.

Seymour-Ford: Oh. Is that Camp…

McRory: Because a classmate of Uncle Harry Howe’s at Harvard, and that’s how she kind of, Laura met him, of course, and then many years later, Uncle Harry Howe was talking to my father. They were both meddlers, and in the little speaking of Richards and said he lost his slip, the race, I can’t remember the year in the race, damn him! So he was sort of not well thought of in some.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness.

McRory: Now, one of the things that might give you a feeling of what Laura was like was once in talking to her sister, [Maude], she expressed herself in such a way that [Maude] cried out to exclaim, “The Virgin Mary had two immaculate conceptions, Laura Hughes had six.” She was a very Victorian prissy woman was Laura.

Seymour-Ford: Oh dear.

McRory: Very, very different from [Maude] and Florence. Of course, that bothered, was very fond of her, he used to be a counselor at the camp that for a good many years.

Seymour-Ford: Well do you think maybe she became more relaxed as she got older?

McRory: Well she wasn’t getting pregnant any more so that didn’t do wise. I guess so. I scarcely knew her.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: I only saw her once or twice. I did stay with Aunt [Maude] for a couple of weeks or a month or so, I guess, one summer in my teens, and of course I really didn’t know Flossy because she died in 1922 when I was one year old.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, yes.

McRory: So, see my father was 40 when I was born, which pushed the generations pretty far apart.

Seymour-Ford: Yeah, those are long generations because it’s really, it’s really stunning to me that, that Howe’s are your great grandparents, you know, that’s, that’s amazing.

McRory: Well, my father was the youngest son of the youngest son of the youngest son.

Seymour-Ford: Yeah, so that lengthens the generations too.

McRory: Yeah, so they’d have to be very long regenerations.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, I have a question for you. There is a publication we have here at, at Perkins and it goes back to Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. It’s a critique of the Frost King episode.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: And it’s written anonymously but it has been speculated that your grandfather wrote it, Mr. Hall, and so is there any family story about, about that?

McRory: That’s very likely. There was a family that’s very upset about this whole episode because at one time I had some papers relating to it. I don’t know where they are now, I’m sorry to say. It’s very, very likely that grandfather wrote that.

Seymour-Ford: Well, it is probable, because it’s a very attorney-like examination line by line.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: So that’s, that’s part of why people thought maybe he did it.

McRory: I can’t give you an assurance, I just think it’s very likely.

Seymour-Ford: OK, well.

McRory: Because I know that they were, the correspondence that I had they considered taking legal action and I don’t know exactly what shape it was, and there was some correspondence with, between my grandmother Flossy and the Sanborns in Boston who may, made a very close associate of the family.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: And he advised them to, not to do anything.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, well who were they hoping to take legal action against?

McRory: I guess Sullivan, I’m not sure.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness.

McRory: And it was just considered a pretty nasty episode, and said bad light on the whole Perkins episode, everything about it.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Yes.

McRory: It was bad public PR.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, it embarrassed, very embarrassing.

McRory: So, so although I can’t assure you one way or the other, I agree that it’s very likely that my grandfather was a very meticulous attorney.

Seymour-Ford: That’s very interesting. So, can you remember when, how, when did you first become aware that, that your family was famous and influential?

McRory: Did you know what that noise is?

Seymour-Ford: It’s my telephone, and it’s over now.

McRory: When I became aware of what?

Seymour-Ford: Became aware that you were the descendants of famous and influential people?

McRory: From the earliest childhood, my father talked a lot.

Seymour-Ford: Wow.

McRory: He told stories about his life and growing up there in New Jersey, I know stories about living in the summer in Rhode Island. I know, I can tell you stories about Harvard in the turn of the century that are a bit unusual.

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: Like, he told the same stories over and over which is I listened to fondly through the years so I remember them well, you know. One story is about the professor who said to his class, “If that dog is not put out of the room immediately, there will be an hour exam in this course next Tuesday.”

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness. Whose dog was it?

McRory: One of the kids obviously, well, I mean I know that just will show you that my father repeated verbatim stories that were had been with him, you know, 50 years, 60 years before, so I knew about the distinguished family from my earliest years.

Seymour-Ford: Wow.

McRory: He was proud of his family.

Seymour-Ford: Well excellent and he passed that pride down to his kids.

McRory: Well, it’s worth it. One, of course I have a brother-in-law who felt that talking about your ancestors was just, you know, talking up yourself but that’s not the way we look at it. If you come from good stock who have accomplished things, it’s a responsibility on you to do things, and I have tried to do that myself.

Seymour-Ford: Well when I spoke to Camilla, she said the same thing, that she really feels that she inherited an obligation to serve.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: So.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Clearly that’s one of the things you’ve given her as a, as a heritage.

McRory: Yes. And it was very strong in the family, so, you know, to those to whom much is been given from those to whom much has been given, much is expected.

Seymour-Ford: Well what are you proudest of having done in, in that respect?

McRory: Me personally?

Seymour-Ford: Yeah.

McRory: Well there is a piece of legislation here locally, which has been copied all over the country, that requires every development of houses 50 units or more to include 20 percent moderately priced.

Seymour-Ford: Oh! That was your work.

McRory: I was involved in creating the legislation and I was the chairman of the group who lobbied it through the government.

Seymour-Ford: Well excellent, well done.

McRory: I’m proudest of.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: And the, the concept has been copied all over the country.

Seymour-Ford: Well it’s a good one.

McRory: Yes. Not enough but it’s something, so that one for a while I was considered the conscience of the county in government circles, but I’m old now so I, I’m retired.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, that’s a great legacy to, to have.

McRory: Yes, I think so.

Seymour-Ford: I have a question.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Even today, perhaps, perhaps several times a month, I hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

McRory: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.

Seymour-Ford: I hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic all the time.

McRory: Oh yes.

Seymour-Ford: And I’m just wondering, do you, do you, do you like it?

McRory: Well I, yes, I like it very dearly, in fact one of the lines of it, I have used as sort of my motto. “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never found retreat,” which has pushed me ahead. I hate the way it’s produced, a song. They also changed some of the words which I think is very annoying.

Seymour-Ford: Really? I didn’t know that.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: Do you know which words have been changed?

McRory: The last verse, “as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” That’s been changed to “Let us live to make men free.” I don’t think you have a right to change people’s –

Seymour-Ford: Oh.

McRory: – words, but that was my sister sent me a clipping about a performance. It was Easter I believe, she said she didn’t know what the Battle Hymn had to do with Easter, but she pointed out that they had changed that one line.

Seymour-Ford: I never knew that.

McRory: Well, I guess not everybody does in, but dying is considered quite so, well I don’t know, you aren’t supposed to give up yourself I guess.

Seymour-Ford: Well also I think it, sing, “let us die to make men free,” it makes the song squarely a battle hymn, you know, about waging battle.

McRory: But it’s a song about warfare.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, yes, so I think maybe they’re just trying to, to make it more metaphorical, that it’s –

McRory: Yes, it has.

Seymour-Ford: – a battle of, of, against evil, not picking up swords and killing guys, so I, that’s the only thing I can think of.

McRory: Well, I do think it’s a beautiful poem. I think it’s the only one she wrote that was really good. I don’t think her poetry was any great shape, although it is true, you know, that she wrote that thing came into her head in its entirety in the middle of the night and she got up in the night and wrote it down.

Seymour-Ford: Well good job, otherwise it would have been lost.

McRory: Yes. But it sounds like a corny and not very likely thing. She obviously, you know, people say that Mozart wrote without any study or anything. That’s baloney. He wrote things down without any hesitation but he had been doing it in his head for ages, well that’s the way it was with grandmother, I’m sure she had been thinking about the tune that she was asked to do new words for. She had been, you know, doing it over in her head and when she woke up in the night, it was complete, so she wrote it down.

Seymour-Ford: Well it’s still a rouser all these years later.

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: That’s why we hear it all the time.

McRory: Yes, well it has a good swing.

Seymour-Ford: It does, it does.

McRory: And, I don’t know, am I any help? Oh, you’ve been great. I think maybe a last question is what, if, what do you want the world to remember about the Howes?

McRory: Oh my goodness. I suppose I want it remembered that they were people who saw a need, a human need and they responded.

Seymour-Ford: Well, that’s, that’s, that’s an admirable legacy.

McRory: Yes. And in a way that’s what happened to me. I mean I saw the housing problem and I did something about it, so that’s what they did. When they saw a problem, they reacted, and they had enough rains and, and money to be able to do it, do something about it. Of course you knew he also, grandfather also was very active with the work of the insane.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Yes.

McRory: Helping to get away from chaining the insane up in the attics and stuff.

Seymour-Ford: Really, considering what he did in his lifetime, it’s just amazing, he was a real fireball. Because I like to say…

McRory: Probably was something.

Seymour-Ford: I’m sorry?

McRory: I thought of something, many years later when he was a famous man, he was visiting at Brown.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, his alma mater.

McRory: Yes, talking to the President who said in the course of the conversation, “Damn it, Howe, I feel as if the fire crackers are going to go off under my chair.” Now that he was involved as an undergraduate in exploits.

Seymour-Ford: Oh, he was referring to.

McRory: Was of course up in the balcony of the steeple of the church.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Yes, he was a prankster when he was an undergraduate.

McRory: Says he was a terrible prankster which is surprising when he became such a, you know, a do-gooder.

Seymour-Ford: Yes, is probably rather unpromising material when he was –

McRory: Yes.

Seymour-Ford: – at college.

McRory: Yes, and he was sort of at loose ends after he finished his medical studies at Harvard, and he was just went to Greece and worked there. You knew he had brought the buyers helmets home.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: And then, had Maude who made a trip to Greece and returned to do the government, my Uncle Harry went with her.

Seymour-Ford: Oh my goodness. That was a great gesture.

McRory: Yes. Well, it’s where the thing belonged.

Seymour-Ford: Yes.

McRory: Which is funny, both Maude, Camilla, and I have been working on is trying to get things where they belong. I gave them dishes that were to Perkins that were part of grandfather’s bachelor household stuff.

Seymour-Ford: Oh which dishes are those?

McRory: Well, I think there were two pieces, I can’t remember, they were serving dishes, surely somebody has some idea about them.

Seymour-Ford: Well, we, there, there’s a great China cabinet with antique China in it and I think what I’ll do –

[End of Tape Side A]

Seymour-Ford: Yes, yes.

McRory: That’s one of the characteristics of my family. They wrote books, my goodness.

Seymour-Ford: They certainly did.

McRory: Harry wrote articles about fishing and hunting which was what he was interested in. My father wrote extensively about making steel. He wrote the first scientifically based book on the operation of a steel foundry and he wrote that in 1915 and he wrote the last such book that every could be written because he was the last man who knew everything about the foundry is beginning to become so complicated that they were divided into various different areas and nobody was expert in all of them the way he was. So.

Seymour-Ford: So is that, is that the son of Samuel and Julia?

McRory: No, that’s the son of Flossy and –

Seymour-Ford: OK, OK, I just lost.

McRory: – David Prescott Hall.

Seymour-Ford: Oh. Because I think their son was a metallurgist as well.

McRory: Yes he was and he wanted to adopt my father so he had no children, but my father refused to give up his Hall name. He was proud of that line also.

Seymour-Ford: Yes. Well, good for him.

McRory: So he and Uncle Harry were very close, so, they worked together on some projects and they, they, the two of them were instrumental in bringing a scientific approach to metallurgy.

Seymour-Ford: Wow.

McRory: So.

Seymour-Ford: Well you know I think there’s still an annual award named after –

McRory: Yes. Yes.

Seymour-Ford: – Uncle Harry.

McRory: That’s what my father wanted. Yes indeed.

Seymour-Ford: Well Mrs. McRory, you’ve been very generous with your time and I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and you’ve shared a lot of wonderful information.

McRory: Well I don’t know about that.

Seymour-Ford: Oh actually you have. You really have. You really.

McRory: Well good.

Seymour-Ford: Helped bring these people to life, which is –

McRory: All righty.

Seymour-Ford: – wonderful.

McRory: You’re very welcome, and if I can be of further service, just let me, I won’t live much longer probably.

Seymour-Ford: Well I hope that’s not true.

McRory: While I’m here, I’m happy to help.

Seymour-Ford: Well, thank you so much.

McRory: All righty. Good-bye!

Seymour-Ford: Bye-bye.

Exerpt of handwritten letter from Henry David Thoreau.

A letter from Henry David Thoreau

Read more
Charles Lindsay with his uniformed driver, George S. Harvey. Both men are wearing long coats and hats, Lindsay in a bowler hat. Lindsay has his hand on Harvey's elbow, in a sighted guide position. There is an old-style car behind them.

Sir Charles William Lindsay

Read more
Howe Building in the snow in 1913.

Memories of a Perkins’ winter wonderland

Read more