Marion Albee Galbraith Merrill
Born and raised in the St. Johnsbury area; career in higher education, serving as research assistant to her historian husband, H. Samuel Merrill and mentor to graduate students at American University and the University of Maryland; advocate of racial equality.
Date of Birth08/04/1914
Primary ResidenceSt. Johnsbury
Although she has spent much of her life outside of Vermont, Marion Galbraith Merrill has remained a Vermonter at heart. Her life has exemplified the Vermont ideals of "freedom and unity" and she is always certain to make sure that each new acquaintance knows she is a Vermonter.
Marion was born August 4, 1914 at Bright Look Hospital in St. Johnsbury, the daughter of John Service Galbraith and Alice Albee Wilson Galbraith. The Galbraiths lived in Passumpsic, three miles south of St. Johnsbury, where her father operated a general store and served as the town's postmaster. Marion was baptized at Grace Methodist Church in St. Johnsbury. An only child, Marion spent time assisting her father at the store and visiting her grandparents, who lived nearby. Decades later Marion attributed much of her intellectual development to Mrs. Lila Fisher Woodbury and Osman P. Hatch, her teachers in a two-room school in Passumpsic, who "led a little girl gently by the hand into the magical world of books and free inquiry."
She attended St. Johnsbury Academy, graduating in the class of 1933. She was a good student at the Academy and participated in many of its theatrical programs. Through a connection at St. Johnsbury Academy, Marion received a scholarship to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where she received a pre-medical degree. After graduating in 1938, Marion went to work for the college as an executive assistant.
In 1941, Paul Douglass, an acquaintance from Vermont who had recently begun his tenure as President of American University in Washington, DC, invited Marion to join his staff. Among her first assignments was to review resumes the university had received for a teaching position in American political history. Douglass hired Marion's choice, Horace Samuel Merrill, who had recently completed his doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin. Marion and Sam soon began a courtship. They were married in St. Johnsbury in 1943.
Sometime after their marriage, Marion resigned from American University to serve as Sam's research assistant. This partnership carried over to his career at the University of Maryland, where Sam advised students who were pursuing MA and PhD degrees in history. For many of these students, the Merrills served as surrogate parents while also guiding their academic careers. Decades later, students who were mentored by the Merrills recalled the positive impact they had upon their lives. One student noted recently, "They were role models both in terms of personal and professional development. First and foremost, the Merrills showed me the positive effect a caring teacher can have."
Marion's activities as a research assistant were notable as well. In fact, the 1971 book, The Republican Command, 1897-1913, includes Marion Galbraith Merrill as co-author, noting that she was "experienced in manuscript research and especially interested in the record of political successes and failures to alleviate poverty and improve race relations."
Indeed these political themes have been important throughout Marion's life. While a student at Rollins College, Marion became a member of group of interracial students from Bethune College (now Bethune-Cookman University) in Daytona, Florida. Through this group, Marion became acquainted with Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the school. Marion and Sam participated in the 1963 March on Washington, at which Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and became friends and colleagues with noted African American historian, John Hope Franklin.
Marion and Sam retired to Cokesbury Village in Hockessin, Delaware in 1988. Marion cared for Sam until his death in 1996. She remains an active resident of Cokesbury Village, where she proudly proclaims her Vermont heritage and shares her many memories of life in St. Johnsbury.
Organizations or Movements
- Civil Rights
- World Peace
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Democratic Party
- Research Assistant in Higher Education
- BA, Rollins College