Jean Walker Simpson

Time Period

1910-1940

Notable Facts

Notable philanthropist who established and ran the John Woodruff Simpson Memorial Library. Led the first Girl Scout troop in Craftsbury, served two terms in the Vermont legislature, served on the school board, and was an animal rights activist. Strongly promoted theatre in the small town, earning honorary degrees from the University of Vermont and Middlebury College for this work.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1897

Date of Death

1980

Primary Residence

Craftsbury

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Jean Walker Simpson was a philanthropist who established and ran the John Woodruff Simpson Memorial Library in the location of her grandfather's general store, which she often visited as a child and moved into the house next door later in life. She opened the library in 1921 and named it after her father who died the year before. She donated many interesting and odd antiquities that she had acquired in her world travels to the establishment. A nonprofit organization now runs the library and it is sustained by Simpson's endowment. During her years in Craftsbury, she also led the first Girl Scout troop in Craftsbury, served two terms in the Vermont State Legislature, served on the school board, and was an animal rights activist.

Simpson grew up in Manhatten, New York and was an only child. Her father was a prominent lawyer whose clients included the Carnegies. Her mother was an art lover who donated collections to the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Simpson was taught to speak six languages and to read Greek and Latin by her private tutors. Like her mother, she possessed a love for art and, in addition, traveled worldwide. Friend and famous photographer, Edward Steichen, photographed her and the portrait now belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Simpson promoted Shakespeare through 50 years of performances by the East Hill Players in Craftsbury. She purchased numerous sets and costumes for the occasions. She earned honorary degrees from UVM and Middlebury College for this work. She was the first cousin of Mary Jean Simpson, another influential Craftsbury town member and Jean Walker's next door neighbor. Mary was once the Dean of Women at the University of Vermont.

Organizations or Movements

  • East Hill Players, Craftsbury, Vermont

Occupations

  • Philanthropist
  • Vermont legislator
  • Animal Rights Activist
  • Community Volunteer

Education

  • Honorary Degrees, University of Vermont, Middlebury College

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Seven Days Article on the John Woodruff Memorial Library Link

  • Simpson General Store Records Link

  • Urie, Sherry. "Jean Walker Simpson." Edited by John Duffy. In the Vermont Encyclopedia, University Press of New England, 2003.

Additional Images

Edward Steichen's portrait of Jean Walker Simpson
Edward Steichen's portrait of Jean Walker Simpson
Jean Walker Simpson as Hamlet
Jean Walker Simpson as Hamlet