"Wheedling, wangling, and walloping" for progress: the public service career of Cornelia Marvin Pierce, 1905-1943

Citation metadata

Date: Fall 2009
From: Oregon Historical Quarterly(Vol. 110, Issue 3)
Publisher: Oregon Historical Society
Document Type: Biography
Length: 10,564 words
Lexile Measure: 1610L

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 

CORNELIA MARVIN PIERCE (1873-1957) is a formidable figure in Oregon history, an important Progressive Era public servant and reformer whose impact on the state is still evident more than fifty years after her death. Beginning in 1905, she directed statewide efforts to develop free public library services as head of the Oregon Library Commission and, later, as Oregon State Librarian. Citizens and civic leaders throughout the state knew "Miss Marvin" for her highly visible and effective efforts to introduce library services, particularly in remote rural areas, and she is best remembered for this phase of her public service career. In addition to serving as the state's leading librarian, Marvin also helped reform and develop public higher education as a Regent of the Oregon State Normal School and as a member of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. She left the State Library in 1928 to begin the second phase of her public service career, this time as a political spouse, marrying former governor Walter M. Pierce. With her support and assistance, Pierce moved to the national political arena as a member of the U.S. Congress during the New Deal era.

In all of these capacities, Marvin operated as a progressive reformer and highly skilled manager, well known for her strong opinions and forceful style. Her tool of choice for sharing these opinions was her pen; she was an extraordinarily prolific correspondent, with a vast national network of contacts in librarianship, education, social reform organizations, and government. Cornelia Marvin Pierce's career and liberal-reform work--especially her pioneering work in the development of free public libraries--influenced and directly affected political, educational, and social conditions in Oregon.

Typical of pioneers in many areas of endeavor, Cornelia Marvin benefited from a fortuitous combination of circumstances: the national public library movement was just gaining momentum in the Pacific Northwest; the tools of direct democracy--initiative, referendum, and the direct primary--were just being implemented in Oregon, requiring a well-informed citizenry; professional training for librarians had just been introduced in American colleges and technical institutes in the 1890s, and Marvin was a graduate of one of these early library schools; and she was recruited to Oregon from the State of Wisconsin, the "laboratory of democracy," where many progressive political reforms had already been tested. (1) She believed the free public library was an institution with tremendous potential for advancing progressive reform, especially with Oregon's new possibilities for direct democracy: "The new form of government being tried in Oregon has sent the people of Oregon to school," Marvin wrote, "and that school is the only one open to adults, and to those who wish to carry on any sort of practical research outside of the public schools and universities--the free public library, state, county and municipal." (2) She used all of her considerable energy and expertise to extend public library services throughout the state.

Marvin was a challenging, demanding, effective leader who was easier to admire and respect than to like. In her correspondence, even with her closest colleagues, family, and personal friends, her tone was often imperious, unapologetically reflecting her confidence in her own judgment and opinions. It was not unusual for her to issue bold, frank, and sometimes public challenges to government officials, colleagues in American library leadership, prominent Oregon citizens, and others when she objected to their actions or wished to offer advice. She was a relentlessly insistent correspondent, and thousands of her letters have been preserved, along with many responses. They illuminate her strong sense of purpose, her resistance to compromise, and the impact she had on local, state, and national affairs. Her life and career exemplify tensions and conflicts between social expectations of a woman from a middle-class background and the opportunities and demands of a high-profile professional position.

Historian Dorothy Johansen (1904-1999) described her friend Cornelia Marvin Pierce's leadership style in a 1959 speech: "she wheedled, wangled, and walloped her way toward her goals." This alliterative rhetoric probably drew laughter from her audience, members of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, most of whom had known "Miss Marvin" during her long career as Oregon's most prominent and powerful librarian and had personally experienced her hard-hitting methods. Johansen, who knew Marvin Pierce well for many years, and who, as a young woman, was briefly on her staff at the State Library, noted: "She was the efficient manager who had everything under her own thumb; whose particular excellence and competence made it difficult for her to suffer other people's trial and error methods." (3) She was uncompromising, direct, and famously persistent in promoting and advancing policies and programs she supported for libraries, public education, and society.

Free public libraries were scarce in the Pacific Northwest in the early twentieth century, although they had become common in many other parts of the country. Oregon's first law authorizing tax support for libraries was passed in 1901, but few municipalities established them; in 1903, there were only three in operation, in Portland, Eugene, and Salem. (4) The relatively late development of the region's public libraries was a reflection of public priorities, as one library board member recognized: "Light and water and the other necessities of municipal life demand their attention and money; they wish the best public schools they can afford, so that they are not without excuse in allowing the comparative luxury of libraries to wait." (5) Public libraries provided clear benefits for communities: tools for self-education, including collections of books, newspapers, and other printed materials; the services of a librarian; and a public facility, sometimes large enough to provide community meeting spaces for civic and social groups. Many of Oregon's communities secured financial assistance from the Carnegie Foundation, which provided building construction grants for those willing to meet its requirements for public financial support. (6)

As popular interest in libraries began to take root, librarians with formal professional preparation were increasingly drawn to the Pacific Northwest, which they correctly perceived to be a wide-open field. Communities in the region began to recognize the advantages of hiring a trained librarian with a command of modern methods and standards. Since the Pacific Northwest had no library schools until 1911, when a program was established at the University of Washington, the region's pioneer librarians were trained in the East and Midwest. Most of them, like Cornelia Marvin, were female, white, and unmarried, and they saw themselves as missionaries for the American public library movement.

CORNELIA MARVIN WAS BORN in 1873 in Monticello, Iowa, the second of five children. Her parents were Charles Elwell Marvin and Cornelia Moody Marvin, a businessman and a homemaker, both from middle-class Midwestern families. For several years, the family lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and she attended high school in nearby St. Paul. At least some portions of her youth appear to have been tumultuous; her family moved to Tacoma, Washington, when she was in her teens, and her mother, who had tuberculosis, died there in 1892. The younger Marvin children had been sent to boarding schools or to live with relatives when their mother became ill, and after her death they were distressed by their father's quick remarriage. Around this time, Cornelia Marvin lived in Boston with her wealthy great aunt, Caroline Adams, and benefited from private tutoring and other educational opportunities her aunt provided. (7)

In 1893, Marvin moved to Chicago and began her independent adult life at the age of nineteen. To support herself and to secure a safe, respectable place to live, she took a position as a "mother's helper" while attending courses at the University of Chicago. She took her first, and most important, step toward her future career as a nationally prominent librarian in 1894, when she became a student of Katharine Sharp, an important early library educator, at Chicago's newly established Armour Institute library school. In New York, Sharp had been a protegee of America's most famous pioneer in libraries and library education, Melvil Dewey. Recognizing Marvin's potential, Sharp engaged her as a teacher after she received her certificate in 1895; she taught in the library school and worked as a reference librarian at Armour's library until 1897, when the school was transferred to the University of Illinois, at Urbana. Sharp remained a mentor and an important professional contact for Marvin until her death in 1914.

During her tenure as an instructor at Armour, Marvin began to participate directly in social reform activities. With her younger sister Mabel, who was then a student in the Armour library school, she came into contact with the well-known progressive reformers Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, and she made her first individual efforts to improve a community as a "missionary" librarian:

One of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of my Armour days was the establishment and carrying forward of the "home libraries" in the Chicago stock yards district. I told the famous founder, P.D. Armour, of my plans and dreams for taking good books to the children in those homes and he told me to go ahead, he would furnish the money. I worked with Miss Mary McDowell, well known head of the stock yards settlement house. I took one of the home centers, and my sister and other library students volunteered for services in other centers. This brought me into touch with Jane Addams and Hull House. I also frequently met Florence Kelley, famous as liberator through legislation of laboring women and children. (8)

After leaving Armour, Marvin explored various aspects of professional library work, organizing collections at academic libraries, acting as librarian of the Scoville Institute in Oak Park, Illinois, and then making a transition to state library commission work in Wisconsin.

Marvin's interest in politics was nurtured during her time at the Wisconsin Library Commission, where she worked with prominent librarians Frank Avery Hutchins and Lutie Eugenia Stearns. The Wisconsin commission, established in 1895, was an early model for similar agencies in other states. Library commissions were quite different from the "state libraries" already in existence in state capitols throughout the country. Those libraries were devoted almost entirely to serving government officials and courts, rather than the general public. Library historian Wayne Wiegand explained the special function of commissions:

State library commissions were primarily responsible for fostering public library development and extending library services to remote rural areas by means of small traveling library collections.... And in the vast majority of these states the library commissions were not competing with state libraries for delivery of library services; instead, they were filling a vacuum or void left by state libraries which would not or could not offer such services. (9)

One of the important tasks for these commissions was providing training opportunities for prospective librarians, who were needed to staff newly opened libraries and who were in short supply as the movement grew. Commissions generally offered training during the summer, emphasizing practical skills, such as selection and cataloging of books and periodicals, and training in basic reference work. Marvin became head of the Wisconsin commission's summer library school, taking over these training responsibilities from Sharp in 1897.

The primary responsibility of a library commission was developing public libraries in the state, and this was an important focus of Marvin's work, but she also became interested in another of the commission's activities: providing expert reference service to legislators and other public officials on questions of law and policy. She was adept at this work, which required great skill in using government documents for research and in analyzing and communicating information. Through this experience, her interest in government and politics grew, and she was able to make a direct contribution to the legislative process. She became interested in the potential role of libraries as tools for informing not only legislators and public officials but also ordinary citizens about issues of political importance.

IN OREGON, AS IN MANY other states, laws authorizing state library commissions and the levying of taxes to fund public libraries resulted, at least in part, from women's political activism, channeled through state federations of women's clubs. Mary Frances Isom, head librarian of the Library Association of Portland and Oregon's most prominent librarian until Marvin achieved a statewide reputation, worked with leading clubwomen and drafted the commission bill. (10) The Oregon State Library Commission was established in 1905, the twenty-first to be established in the United States. (11) In 1913, it became the Oregon State Library, acquiring that name from a much older library that had served the courts and state government; Marvin generally called that the "law library" to distinguish it from her agency. (12) The commission was charged with developing free tax-supported libraries as part of Oregon's public education infrastructure.

State governments recruited heads of state library commissions, usually given the title of Secretary, for their expertise in library development and management. Secretaries directed the operations of the commissions, under the control and supervision of commission members, ex officio and appointed. Marvin's fellow commissioners in 1905 were all prominent Oregonians: Governor George Chamberlain, State Superintendent of Public Instruction J.H. Ackerman, University of Oregon President Prince L. Campbell, Librarian of the Library Association of Portland Mary Frances Isom, and Portland businessman Winslow B. Ayer, a citizen member appointed by the governor.

Many library commission secretaries were women, strong administrators who ran their agencies with a great deal of autonomy but who sometimes also encountered resistance as women with authority and power. Mary Salome Cutler Fairchild (1855-1921), another pioneer library educator who worked with Melvil Dewey in New York, discussed this resistance in a 1904 article: "It is evidently believed by men holding such positions and probably by trustees holding the appointing power, that women are not in the present stage of civilization fitted to hold such positions." After listing what were perceived to be disadvantages of hiring women in senior positions, Fairchild observed that there were important exceptions: "In many cases men stating certain disadvantages of women as a class have recognized that exceptional women are not only free from them but positively excel in the opposite direction." (13) As a highly skilled administrator and decisive leader, Marvin was certainly one of these "exceptional women," as was Mary Frances Isom.

Cornelia Marvin had not been searching for a new position when Isom approached her in 1905, asking her to recommend candidates for secretary of the newly formed Oregon Library Commission. She enjoyed her work in Wisconsin, with colleagues she admired and considered great librarians. Still, she quickly indicated her own interest in the job. It would mean a cut in pay and starting a whole new enterprise from scratch--but she wrote Isom to put her own name forward. Her expression of interest is typical of her writing, showing confidence in her strengths as a candidate: "I do not wish to apply but will let you know as soon as I hear from you whether I could accept it if offered. For many reasons I should like to be there." (14) She followed this statement with a litany of questions about library conditions in Oregon, apologizing for the "catechism" as she tried to gather enough information to be sure the move would be a good decision.

It is unclear whether Isom was genuinely surprised when, instead of providing a list of potential candidates, Marvin herself expressed interest in the position; she may have been being coy when she wrote "My dear Miss Marvin, Your telegram quite took me off my feet, the idea that you could possibly consider the position for yourself never once occurred to me." (15) In a 1959 article about Isom, Portland librarian Bernard Van Horne stated that her approach to Marvin was "elaborately contrived," that she "spun a web into which Cornelia Marvin walked with her eyes wide open and probably amused. (16)

Among Marvin's "many reasons" for seeking the Oregon position were the presence of some of her family in the Pacific Northwest and the attraction of heading her own agency. Library historian Joanne Passet observed that Marvin's relocation was at least partly motivated by her desire to be involved once again in the exciting beginning phase of library work: "She enjoyed many elements of her work at the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, but nonetheless had grown restless and discontented as the missionary phase began to be replaced by bureaucracy and politics." (17) In Oregon, she would be a pioneer again, but she stayed on to lead the Oregon State Library past its infancy phase, building on the foundation she helped create, adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and demands over time. The foundation for the state's libraries was solidly established during her career, and the long duration of her tenure distinguishes her from some other library pioneers whose greatest contributions were to set in motion programs that others carried through. In 1927, she reflected on "The Pioneer Spirit in the Library":

We are the political and social descendants and heirs of pioneers who had a passionate belief in the common man and in his ability to organize a society in which he could live a life free from restraint and intolerance, and enriched by all that his predecessors had found good. We are, or should be pioneers in spirit, for library practice is not fully formulated nor are library possibilities all found, nor half foreseen ... let us help the younger generation of librarians by telling them of our mistakes, and let us put them on the right road. (18)

Marvin moved to Oregon in August 1905, at the age of thirty-one, as the first Secretary of the Oregon Library Commission. The agency was small, with an appropriation of $2,000 per year, and at first she was its only employee. In her first biennial report, covering a little over one year of work (August 1905 through October 1906), she detailed a surprisingly high level of performance across a wide range of activities: traveling libraries were selected, packaged, and placed in forty-five rural communities and small cities; 6,70o books were circulated; a list of books for school libraries was created and published, and purchase prices were negotiated; special collections were developed for over fifty debate topics; legislative reference service was introduced, in cooperation with the state law library; and many publications were issued, including information circulars, school circulars, book lists with suggestions for home and school libraries, and a series of informational and promotional bookmarks. The commission had received nearly as much financial support from private gifts as from its state appropriation, assisting greatly with book purchases. (19) Marvin had also canvassed the state, locating existing small subscription libraries and identifying supporters of library services in local communities. (20) The commission adopted and put into action the utilitarian motto of the American Library Association: "The best books for the largest number at the least cost."

Marvin believed the need for an informed citizenry was a primary justification for tax-supported public libraries that serve individuals from childhood onward. Under her leadership, one of the State Library's highest priorities was to provide information about "public questions" for debaters, Grange lecturers, civic clubs, government officials, and the general public. In her 1913 biennial report, she mentioned one aspect of this educational outreach work, service to immigrants seeking citizenship:

The library has made a special point of reaching those who are seeking naturalization and have filed petitions for hearing, and has arranged to cooperate with the Courts in reaching these people and putting into their hands the books which will help them to understand the history and institutions of our country. (21)

In addition to reference materials, government documents, and other nonfiction publications, the Oregon Library Commission provided patrons with a supply of fiction and other "recreational" reading material. Although Marvin crusaded against "vicious" fiction as harmful to readers and proposed a national moratorium on the purchase of new fiction for libraries during World War I as a money-saving measure, she recognized the importance of light reading, particularly as an alternative to other pastimes she and many other social reformers considered unwholesome:

We all believe that public libraries are almost as important in offering wholesome recreation as in their educational work, and as each year increases the extent of questionable recreation for both old and young. I believe we ought not to consider lessening the library supply of decent fiction. Anyone who has watched the crowds at moving-picture shows must understand the very general desire to be amused, and I personally believe that most tax payers are just as willing to support libraries for this purpose as for any other ... (22) Many library historians have analyzed the motives of American public librarians in attempting to respond to public demand for entertaining literature, especially popular fiction. In competing with other popular amusements, libraries could serve as agencies for social control, promoting middle-class values and morals, as historian Christine Jenkins explains: "The mission articulated for the American public library in the earliest years of the profession--to uplift, educate, and improve native and immigrant working-class citizens--has been viewed by historians as both progressive and an effort at social control." (23) This was certainly the case in terms of children's literature, in Oregon and elsewhere, since librarians in general believed many children's books--including the "penny dreadfuls" that were easy to obtain, cheap, and popular--deserved the "vicious fiction" label and should never be found in library collections. (24) Library supporters presented expert selection of wholesome books for all readers as one of the advantages to communities of employing professionally trained librarians. As Marvin explained, such professionals were prepared "to furnish the best form of wholesome recreation, books of fiction and travel, and to offer to each the chance to enlarge his horizon, extend his information, and receive the inspiration which comes from reading the great classics of biography, fiction, and poetry." (25)

While communities generally appreciated the expertise of librarians in selecting books, members of the public sometimes challenged librarians' professional authority. One public challenge to Marvin's book recommendations was published in the Oregonian in 1907, in response to the Library Commission's pamphlet A Child's Library: Some Suggestions for Christmas Gifts. (26) Most of the editorial writer's objections related to the pamphlet's treatment of popular fiction:

The lists are excellent in the main, and the introductory remarks instructive, though they are not to be taken as gospel throughout. "Thrillers" are condemned too indiscriminately, on the ground that they offer "the abnormal view of life and make boys discontented with their surroundings": ... The dime novel and detective story present life no more abnormally and much more ethically than the "Adventures of Robin Hood" and other books which are offered by the commission.... The point of view of the commission's introductory remarks is distinctly feminine. If the tone is not effeminate its escape is a narrow one.... There is too much of the placid doctrinaire in the commission's counsels and too little acquaintance with reality. (27)

The writer's criticism of the pamphlet's "feminine" point of view is a revealing example of suspicion of female authority in matters concerning the public. The writer also argued with the commission's specific recommendations, defending favorites such as Huckleberry Finn and David Copperfield, which were left out, and objecting to The Prince and the Pauper and The Jungle Book, which were included.

The majority of the State Library's work was not controversial; its main mission was to help and advise public and school libraries throughout Oregon (with the exception of Multnomah County, where such services were provided through the well-established county library system). This was a major task, involving a large amount of field work. Marvin and "library organizers" on her staff made about 340 visits to Oregon communities between 1905 and 1916. (28) She pushed beyond the original mandate for her agency, extending State Library direct service by mail to Oregonians whose communities were too small or too poor to support their own libraries. One of her especially well-known innovations was to "clip" various volumes, including encyclopedias, other reference books, and periodicals, to lend to patrons needing information on specific topics. She defended what must have been a rather shocking practice, recalling in 1955 that "other states adopted it and it is now common and useful." (29) She also introduced specialized reference service for legislators and other public officials, modeled on her earlier experience in Wisconsin. Promoting this service, she found an outlet for her own political activism, not only responding to requests for assistance but also offering unsolicited advice and suggestions. (30)

Her reports to the legislature were carefully crafted to present an account of the state library's activities combined with exhortations to legislators for increased financial support. In 1925, for example, she issued a challenge, and a bit of a scolding, to the legislature:

The State Library has received about 1/28 of one mil; it requests about 1/21 of one mil.... Obviously the appropriation is inadequate; it has always been inadequate; the Legislature must study this public problem and offer a solution through adequate support, or by public statement that Oregon cannot afford a sufficient supply of good books for its people, and the Legislature must determine which people shall be cut off from library privileges and just how it is to be done. (31)

Her frustration with appropriations she considered inadequate also occasionally appeared in her correspondence with Isom: "I am feeling a little more hopeful about the possibilities of doing something in this benighted state, but for a few days after the close of the legislature it seemed to me quite useless to attempt anything that would really count for good." (32) Her biennial reports included statistics of the commission's activities that served as quantitative evidence of the work she accomplished despite limited resources. Recognizing the advantages of supplementing statistical information with powerful anecdotal evidence of the library's effectiveness and value, she quoted extensively from letters received from patrons throughout Oregon, expressing their gratitude for services and materials. (33) She explained the importance of both kinds of evidence--qualitative and quantitative--in assessing the library's value:

The reports of librarians so generally consist of tables of statistics that the public may be justified in assuming that the value of a library may be measured by figures. Books are dangerous and powerful, as well as helpful and inspiring. The modern tendency in library work has been to emphasize the utilitarian value of books and libraries, and their usefulness in helping men in their occupations and professions, making it possible for them to overcome the disadvantages resulting from lack of education in colleges and technical schools. But, aside from this service of books in the ordinary affairs of life, where competition is keen, there is still to be felt their great inspirational purpose and their recreational possibilities.... It is the privilege of the librarian to bring books and people together, to find the books of value and power, and to put them into the hands of the people who need them, but can not, unaided, find them, and possibly can not afford to buy them (34)

In her final official report to the legislature, Marvin reflected on her career: "It has been my delight and my great and happy privilege to do real library pioneering in this pioneer state." (35)

In her summary of library conditions in Oregon as she retired, she provided statistics about the scale of activities of the State Library: a collection of 271,306 books for circulation, plus periodicals and government documents; 706 traveling libraries; and 29,816 patrons to whom the State Library provided direct mail-order service, sending out 276,855 volumes in the 1926-1928 biennium. The extent of public library growth in Oregon's towns and counties was another measure of her contribution: in 1928, there were eighty-two independent public libraries, compared with only three when she began her work in 1905. (36)

As she left the State Library, Marvin took advantage of the occasion to articulate her vision for the future of public libraries. She believed the library as a public educational institution was not rising to its full potential for social good because of competing priorities for government support:

The library is a great constructive force. Its trustees and those of other educational institutions must soon face the issue and decide whether the major expenditures and activities of the state shall be concerned chiefly with the provision for the defective and delinquent, supplemented by such material benefits as good roads, or whether the educational privileges now given only to youth congregated in a few places, shall be state-wide and open to old and young, poor and rich, people of all kinds, performing useful tasks in all occupations, citizens all, participating in the privileges made possible through cooperation in the political life of the state. (37)

Marvin had approached Oregon as a mission field upon which she could place her personal stamp, systematically introducing her own version of the best standards and practices. This sense of pioneering, of participating in a great social mission, was common among librarians at this time: "Cornelia Marvin, along with countless others, viewed the West as a tabula rasa, where she could exercise professional and personal autonomy." (38) Confident in her expertise and capabilities, and building upon the foundations laid by Isom and others, she put her programs and policies in place. Her biggest ongoing challenge of obtaining funding had a political aspect: "The library, as it is now situated, can never be entirely free from the partisanship of party politics, but it is disastrous for it to face the necessity of legislative log-rolling for funds." (39) The appropriation, though never sufficient in her opinion, had grown twenty-fold during her administration, to $85,000 for the 1927-1928 biennium from $4,000 when she started in 1905.


Many Progressive Era librarians were conscious of the potential of free public libraries as tools for improving society. Library historian Suzanne Hildenbrand, writing about librarians and progressive reform, observed that "Progressivism linked large-scale government intervention, necessary to deal with the new conditions, to an old tradition, individual opportunity." (40) Cornelia Marvin is an excellent example of a Progressive Era reform activist in the emerging library profession. An influential advocate for what she believed to be the greater social good, Marvin enjoyed the social and financial advantages of the American middle class and used the power of her position to advance the moral and political values of that class, particularly the ideal of empowering individuals to prosper and succeed to the maximum of their potential. Dorothy Johansen recognized her commitment to these ideas, observing: "What she was for and what she was against engaged her militantly and courageously-" (41) Her profession provided her with opportunities for social and political activism, bringing her into constant contact with the public, with government officials, and with professional colleagues in the United States and abroad.

Marvin belonged to a generation that defined a new middle ground between the traditional world, where "women's work," especially for middleclass women, was highly circumscribed and an emerging world of women from various classes who worked for wages. Her life and career exhibited conflicts arising from this middle ground. She protected her personal reputation by conducting herself according to traditional standards of female respectability while also being paid for professional work. For women like Marvin--who were drawn into paid employment by new professional opportunities--wage income was secondary to the personal importance of the work itself. Her intellect and education would have marked her as a bluestocking in earlier generations, but by the 1890s, these qualities enabled her to enter a public world where they were valued.

She was, writes one biographer, "concerned with a great variety of reforms--ranging from the promotion of direct democracy measures in Oregon to the improvement of public school outhouses, which she declared to be 'shockingly bad, unsanitary, filthy, and disgusting.' Among her favorite groups were the National League of Women Voters, the National Child Labor Committee, the American Birth Control League, and the American Breeders Association (eugenics)." (42) The last group is particularly striking because it falls far outside what we would consider to be "progressive" today. In the early twentieth century, however, Social Darwinism and "scientific" racism were common Progressive themes that were also embraced by conservatives and others concerned about "improving" society.

In 1955, ill with heart disease and nearing the end of her life, Marvin reflected on her career and her civic accomplishments. She revealed her strong sympathy with the eugenics movement and its most determined and powerful advocate in Oregon, Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair: "I believe my most important work outside of the Library was the backing I was able to give Dr. Owens-Adair in her long fight for legislation in making possible sterilization of the unfit. That bill was signed by Governor Walter Pierce. I also assisted in the preparation of her autobiography." (43) Though it may seem paradoxical that individuals labeled "progressive" would promote causes such as involuntary sterilization, such views were common in Marvin's time. The Oregon law was similar to those in other states, allowing "the sterilization of all feeble-minded, insane, epileptics, habitual criminals, moral degenerates and sexual perverts who are a menace to society. " (44) Historian Mark Largent explained that Owens-Adair "and many other social and political leaders in Oregon, believed that eugenic sterilization and marriage laws could improve the quality of the state's citizenry by preventing 'unwise marriages' and their subsequent offspring." (45)

Marvin viewed her promotion of the sterilization law as an extension of her responsibilities as State Librarian and also as a tool for improving society. Concerned about what she perceived as the misallocation of resources in favor of the "unfit," she wrote: "there are just two things to be done to relieve the terrible burden of the tax-payers. The first is the income tax. The other is to put a stop to the terrible increase of the unfit. In about a quarter of a century, with our humanitarian bills, as they are, we shall be doing nothing but raising money to support the unfit, and we shall not have a decent citizenship at that." (46) Marvin persistently attempted to persuade the legislature and Oregon's citizens to provide adequate financial resources for the delivery of library services to Oregonians. Framing her arguments about the allocation of resources in the language of Social Darwinism may well have made them more persuasive to her readers, who would have been familiar with this way of thinking about society. (47) Historian Richard Hofstadter, considering eugenics and society, observed: "Accompanied by a flood of valuable genetic research carried on by physicians and biologists, eugenics seemed not so much a social philosophy as a science; but in the minds of most of its advocates it had serious consequences for social thought." (48) This phenomenon of simultaneously promoting such different causes as free public libraries and eugenic sterilization generates some of the most interesting questions for interpreting the activities of Progressive Era reformers.

Marvin's position on woman suffrage was another of her surprising, if not paradoxical, opinions. Though she later became a supporter of the League of Women Voters, in 1910, she wrote several letters to her younger sister Mabel Marvin, articulating her opposition to the suffrage movement:

I can't understand how the women of this country can feel justified in devoting such tremendous sums of money to the cause of woman suffrage when the children are growing up in such neglect, vice, and ignorance. If they think their votes will help matters, they are singularly short-sighted for no body of women were ever vastly superior to the body of men with whom they are associated, and no generation of voting men ever sank below the level of their woman kind. I have no sympathy for these ranting women who have proven so hopelessly inefficient in woman's first work, and go clamoring for more responsibility before having met their first responsibilities. Here's to the death of the cause of woman suffrage! (49)

Although there is scant surviving evidence to reveal the reasons for her opposition, or to illustrate the development of her views, the 1910 letters clearly indicate that her opposition to woman suffrage was, at least in part, a reaction to the tactics and conduct of some suffrage activists. Reed College student Melissa Brisley, in her thesis about Marvin, observed: "The suffragettes of Italy appealed to her because they were not militant, and were interested more in 'rights' than political power." (50) In contrast, the suffragettes of England, where "decent women go about the street 'sandwiched' into suffrage signs"--offended Marvin, as did women "who make speeches, stand on street corners selling papers, march in parades, etc ..." (51) These passages show that she considered women making public demonstrations in suffrage campaigns to be vulgar. In 1912, the year Oregon voters approved woman suffrage after several unsuccessful attempts, Marvin's friend and colleague Mary Frances Isom, a suffrage advocate, teased her that when they next met she would publicly display her own opinion and wear her "Votes for Women" button. (52)

Considering some of the complexities and contradictions in Marvin's activities and beliefs, Johansen made an illuminating observation on a rare occasion when Marvin, near the end of her life, questioned or defended the Progressive movement and her own involvement in it. Marvin was troubled and angered after reading Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform, and Johansen thought she knew why:

She had thought to have found in Hofstadter a contemporary spokesman for her generation. But The Age of Reform had tremendously disappointed her. She objectified her criticism of this book by pointing out that it contained errors--too many errors to make it worthwhile. But I recognized that her real hurt was not this, but rather, what seemed to her to be Hofstadter's judgment on the participants of the Progressive movement and the liberal reforms of her generation. (53)

Johansen observed that Hofstadter's judgment troubled Marvin and caused her to question the principles and accomplishments she had always proudly defended: "One day in an unusual mood of depression she asked whether I thought the liberal had lived out his time--to no effect. This was the moment of tragic insight when Cornelia Marvin Pierce briefly admitted the moral ambiguity of the questions she in her time had helped to raise." (54)


Marvin's career at the State Library ended for a reason that was much more common for young librarians: marriage. Despite her age, she followed the usual custom of the time and resigned from her professional position when she married, but her commitment to social reform activism and public service continued into the next stage of her life. Johansen described her transition from state librarian to political spouse: "Cornelia surrendered the library in 1929, to carry Walter Pierce into a larger political arena and to broader issues of reforming and remaking society toward the goal of what in her earlier days had been called 'rational democracy'." (55)

Two years later, during a period of radical reorganization of public higher education in the state, Governor Julius Meier appointed Marvin Pierce to the newly created Oregon Board of Higher Education. For many years, the State University at Eugene and the State College at Corvallis had competed for programs and funding, resulting in a great deal of political lobbying that higher education administrators considered necessary but that Marvin Pierce and other reformers deplored as unseemly and inefficient. The Board of Higher Education replaced the earlier Board of Higher Curricula, and the legislature greatly expanded its power and authority, with a charge to reform public higher education in Oregon. (56) Marvin Pierce's appointment to the board appears to have been widely supported and approved; in an editorial, the Oregon Voter described her qualifications:

Endowed with extraordinary mental capacity, experienced in affairs, informed on educational subjects, peculiarly in touch with rural conditions, she has a background and a personality which are certain to make her effective. The masculine members of the board may find it a bit difficult to keep up with her, for she knows what she wants and usually keeps at it until she gets it. Fortunately, what she wants is likely to be constructive and of genuine educational benefit ... (57)

Marvin Pierce's most important assignment was as chairman of the Library Committee. Under her leadership, Oregon's higher education libraries were intensively surveyed. In accordance with the recommendations of the survey group, and Marvin Pierce's own vision, they were radically restructured and consolidated into a single statewide system. (58) She also served on two other Board of Higher Education committees: the Curricula Committee, which reviewed and recommended consolidation of programs and disciplines for greater efficiency, and the Committee on Military Affairs, which she chaired. As chair, she framed a report recommending that military training, at that time compulsory for male students, be made voluntary. There was substantial opposition to this recommendation, and it was withdrawn by the committee. (59)

If her service on the State Board of Higher Education was noteworthy, her departure in 1935 was more so. Marvin Pierce had moved with her husband to Washington, D.C., after his election to Congress in 1932. Her relocation made it impossible for her to attend board meetings regularly, and Governor Charles Martin (who she always referred to as "the General") requested her resignation. Marvin Pierce objected to what she perceived to be a political maneuver. The Oregonian reported that Martin requested her resignation to retaliate through her against her husband, who had refused the governor's request to resign as Democratic national committeeman from Oregon. (60) Marvin Pierce suspected another political motivation: the board was in the process of selecting a new chancellor for the state higher education system, and she had been working hard to assist in identifying candidates with national reputations for the powerful position. She expressed concern that Martin would appoint someone likely to represent his own--presumably different--agenda. The board had been created with long terms of service (nine years) in order to preserve its political neutrality and to prevent any single governor from packing it with his own appointees; she accused Martin of "court-martialing" her for his own political purposes. She also believed she was able to serve effectively from a distance. Her refusal to resign prompted Martin to convene a hearing where he successfully presented his grounds for her dismissal. (61)

The newspaper coverage of the conflict provided Marvin Pierce with a public forum to criticize the governor, culminating in a lengthy open letter to her friends and supporters that ended up being widely circulated and published. In a fairly balanced but sometimes sarcastic editorial, the Oregonian addressed some of the specific points in her letter, dismissing most of them but acknowledging her useful service to the state. Her criticism of Martin was characterized as an attack in an accompanying editorial cartoon, showing him fleeing an exploding missile labeled "Compliments of Cornelia." (62) Richard Neuberger, a student at the University of Oregon who later became a U.S. Senator, wrote a letter to the editor of the Oregonian praising Marvin Pierce and objecting to her dismissal: "Numerous advocates of liberal educational ideals regard with deep respect her adherence to enlightened and progressive principles. The removal of Mrs. Pierce from the state board of higher education leads one to the inevitable conclusion that Governor Martin has sacrificed the services of an eminent liberal for the sake of gratifying an obeisance to technicalities " (63)

In one noteworthy episode that seems improbable but is documented in Walter Pierce's memoirs and in major newspapers, Marvin Pierce briefly considered running for national elective office in 1932. She was approached to run for Congress on the Republican ticket, for the same seat her husband was seeking as a Democrat. Walter Pierce recalled the event:

My wife, Cornelia, was registered as a Republican. During the spring of 1932, the Republicans of the second district from Union County commenced a campaign to make her the Republican nominee for Congress, and the Democrats about the same time commenced quite an active campaign to again make me the Democratic nominee--husband and wife running against each other on opposite tickets. It created quite a good deal of amusement in the state, and finally reached the press of the nation. (64)

The New York Times picked up this irresistible political story:

Possibilities that ex-governor Walter M. Pierce and his wife, Cornelia Marvin Pierce, may enter the May primaries for nomination as Representatives in Congress from the Second District in opposing parties has created a situation not without interest and amusement to the voters of the State. Mr. Pierce has long considered opposing R.R. Butler, Republican incumbent, in the race this Fall, and the report that Mrs. Pierce might enter the Republican primaries came as a surprise. (65)

In an editorial, the Oregonian exploited the humor in the situation: "But we hasten on to a careful analysis of a possible situation lest it be hastily assumed by persons not given to such deep thought as are we, that there is herein forecast an immediate political debate within a distinguished family, beginning at the breakfast table to the detriment of the toast, and spreading out day by day over the largest congressional district in America." While it was not certain that Marvin Pierce would seek the Republican nomination, the newspaper considered her a credible candidate, noting her education, background, and long experience as State Librarian. (66) Marvin Pierce eventually announced that she expected to vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt for president, if he secured the Democratic nomination, and that she would be campaigning for her husband rather than seeking office herself.

Walter Pierce had run for Congress before, without success, and had a long record of winning local and state elective offices, culminating in his successful campaign for Governor of Oregon in 1922. He ran for re-election in 1926, but was defeated. That had also been a difficult time for him personally. In 1925, he was widowed for the second time when his wife Laura died of cancer. By 1927, he was courting Cornelia Marvin. (67) From the beginning of their relationship, she was involved in his political ambitions and plans:

My wife was very much opposed to my being a candidate again for the governorship for the fourth time. She thought the same influence that had defeated me in 1926 would be again used against me to defeat me in 1930- She thought I ought to be a candidate for Democratic national committeeman, which election was to take place in May, 1930, in the Democratic primaries, to take office at the meeting of the Democratic National Committee in 1932. Her persuasive influence prevailed. I gave up my dream of being governor again and entered the national field. Cornelia wrote the platform; I signed it. She wrote the letters to various Democrats over the state; I signed them. She wrote the article for the Voter's Pamphlet, telling the Democrats why I should be elected national committeeman; I signed it. She made the newspaper contacts; I endorsed them. It was decidedly her campaign. (68)

Their next campaign was the 1932 congressional race. When Walter Pierce took his seat in Congress in 1933, he was seventy-two years of age--"the oldest congressman in history to take his seat for the first time." (69) With his wife's active support and participation, he served five consecutive terms, encompassing all of the New Deal era. He was involved in many of the New Deal programs, including the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the introduction of Social Security, the implementation of agricultural reforms, and the creation of federal hydroelectric power development programs. He also supported the birth control and family planning movement, long advocated by his wife. (70)

Cornelia Marvin Pierce was a highly visible partner in her husband's Congressional career, directing his campaigns and running his Washington, D.C., office; this was her final official public service assignment. Pierce unabashedly presented his candidacy as a "two for the price of one" bargain for Oregonians. He seemed proud of his bright, dynamic, formidable wife, viewing her as a major asset during this last phase of his own political life. After her name appeared on a list of family members employed in national government offices, she resisted the "nepotism" label, arguing that she more than earned her $308 monthly salary. An Oregonian editorial recognized her productivity and contribution but used the occasion to criticize her husband:

It will be recalled that in the last campaign, our Walter declared from the hustings it was worth while to keep him in congress, because instead of one, his district had the services of two able representatives--the second one, of course, being Mrs. Pierce, his secretary. Confirmation from Washington has not been lacking in the gossip. Indeed, it has been bruited about that the lady, rather than our Walter, runs the office. The answer to all that by those who object to nepotism might well be that we should send to congress gentlemen qualified to run their jobs for themselves ... (71)

Despite criticism and ridicule in the press, Pierce was re-elected four times, until he was finally defeated in 1942. Both Pierces found the defeat hard to accept, despite Walter's age, and they returned to Oregon in 1943, stunned and disappointed.

CORNELIA MARVIN PIERCE BROUGHT a high level of commitment and intensity to all of her endeavors. Her writings--personal or professional letters, formal reports, articles, editorials--offer enduring and powerful evidence of this commitment, and also of her character and personality. Her voice is distinctive: supremely confident, direct, and fluent, expressing strong opinions, asking pointed questions, often marshaling evidence for an argument, demanding action, or calling others to account. It commands attention, with the kind of expression that compels close and careful reading, and twenty-first century readers can only imagine what it would have been like to hear her speak in person, to have known her and, inevitably, to have been challenged by her. She was adept at serving up both praise and scorn, and she distributed them energetically and widely. Library historian Laurel Grotzinger observed that "her social and paper network was immense. She worked with the legislature at regional and national levels, with national and state library associations, as well as with a variety of community organizations." (72)

Johansen believed Marvin Pierce's life was worthy of a full-length biography by a professional historian and planned to write it herself. This would have constituted an important contribution to a greater understanding of Oregon's social and political history, but the work was apparently never produced, or was lost. (73) She had made an excellent start with her observations and analysis in the speech quoted in the title of this article, which was published in pamphlet form as The Library and the Liberal Tradition, written for the fiftieth anniversary of the Pacific Northwest Library Association. In the speech, Johansen considered the characters and careers of three Oregon pioneer librarians: Marvin, Mary Francis Isom of the Library Association of Portland, and Ida Kidder of the Oregon Agricultural College library. Each of these women had a significant impact on library development in Oregon, and they were friends as well as colleagues. They were different in temperament and methods, but Johansen placed all of them, and the library movement they embodied, firmly within the liberal political tradition: "The women I have been telling about were liberals, fighting liberals, in the field of their professional interests--the library. The library movement in 1900-1920 was part of the liberal movement." She also noted that they encountered resistance to their work: "We do not take kindly to enthusiasm, to the crusader, to the man or woman of action, whether with the padded glove of kindliness of an Ida Kidder or the hard-clenched fist of Cornelia Marvin or the smiling firmness of Mary Frances Isom." (74)

Marvin Pierce has received more attention than many other prominent women in Oregon history. During her life and since her death, a variety of works have been written about her, including newspaper articles such as those mentioned here, many tributes and obituaries, essays in biographical dictionaries, a Reed College undergraduate thesis, articles in library journals and history journals, tributes written by colleagues and friends after her death, and an article she wrote herself, reflecting on her career and accomplishments. (75) Her opinions, ideas, recommendations, and values are strongly and clearly articulated in many archival sources, although most of her personal papers were lost in the 1970s. Her influence and impact endure in Oregon, in its public library system, and in higher education. Today, there is a Cornelia Marvin Pierce chair in American history and institutions at Reed College, funded through one of the last acts of her life, the bequest of her substantial estate. (76)

In both phases of her public service career, as Oregon's most important library leader and as the spouse of a prominent politician, Marvin Pierce successfully used her strengths--tremendous capacity for hard work, intelligence, and, especially, her tenacity- in the service of progressive causes. As a highly capable and competent professional, with deeply held convictions and great certainty that she knew best, her life and achievements illuminate the complexity and ambiguity of progressive reform in the first half of the twentieth century.


(1.) Joanne E. Passet, "Marvin, Cornelia," in American National Biography Online, http:// www.anb.org/articles/09/09-01052.html, February 2000 (accessed August 14, 2008).

(2.) Oregon Library Commission, Biennial Report (Salem: 1909), 5.

(3.) Dorothy O. Johansen, The Library and the Liberal Tradition (Corvallis: Friends of the Library, Oregon State College, [1959]),10,15.

(4.) An Act to Authorize the Establishment and Maintenance of Public Libraries, and to Provide for their Control and Protection, General Laws of Oregon, 1901 (passed February 13).

(5.) William L. Brewster, Sr., "Library Conditions in Oregon," Library Journal 30:10 (October 1905): 785. Brewster was a member of the Library Association of Portland board.

(6.) The biennial reports to the legislature issued by the Oregon Library Commission and the Oregon State Library include in formation about Carnegie grants to Oregon communities.

(7.) Cornelia Marvin's stay with Caroline Adams in Boston is mentioned in two records of a 1958 oral history interview of her sister, Mabel Marvin Hairgrove: "Notes from Mabel Hairgrove interview, 1958" and "Interview with Mabel Hairgrove," Cornelia Marvin Pierce Papers, Special Collections and Archives, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College, Portland, Oregon.

(8.) Cornelia Marvin Pierce, "Oregon Started Reading When the Library Came," Capital Journal, August 1, 1955, 6.

(9.) Wayne Wiegand, "The Historical Development of State Library Agencies," in State Library Services and Issues: Facing Future Challenges, ed. Charles R. McClure (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1986), 7-8.

(10.) Jim Scheppke, "The Origins of the Oregon State Library," Oregon Historical Quarterly 107:1 (Spring 2006): 136-39.

(11.) Oregon Library Commission, Biennial Report (Salem: State Printer, 1907), 5. For more information about library development at this time, see League of Library Commissions, Handbook (Chicago: League of Library Commissions, 1910).

(12.) Oregon State Librarian Jim Scheppke discussed the "other 'Oregon State Library"' and its relationship to Marvin's agency in "The Origins of the Oregon State Library."

(13.) Mary Salome Cutler Fairchild, "Women in American Libraries," Library Journal 19:12 (December 1904):161.

(14.) Cornelia Marvin to Mary Frances Isom, April 29, 1905, Oregon State Library Records, 89A-35, box 54, Oregon State Archives [hereafter Oregon State Library Records], emphasis in original.

(15.) Mary Frances Isom to Cornelia Marvin, April 28,1905, Ibid.

(16.) Bernard Van Horne, "Mary Frances Isom: Creative Pioneer in Library Work in the Pacific Northwest," Wilson Library Bulletin 33:6 (February 1959): 411.

(17.) Joanne E. Passet, Cultural Crusaders: Women Librarians in the American West, 190o-1917 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), 81.

(18.) Cornelia Marvin, "The Pioneer Spirit in the Library," Libraries 32 (December 1927): 537.

(19.) All data derived from Oregon Library Commission, Biennial Report, 1907.

(20.) Melissa Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce, Pioneer in Library Extension," The Library Quarterly 32:2 (April 1968): 137.

(21.) Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (Salem: State Printer, 1913),10.

(22.) Cornelia Marvin to Chalmers Hadley, December 24, 1910, Oregon State Library Records, box 37

(23.) Christine Jenkins, "'Since So Many of Today's Librarians Are Women ... Women and Intellectual Freedom in U.S. Librarianship, 1890-1990," in Reclaiming the American Library Past: Writing the Women In, ed. Suzanne Hildenbrand (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1996), 223. One important and early revisionist analysis of librarians and society is Dee Garrison, Apostles of Culture: The Public Librarian and American Society, 1876-1920 (New York: Free Press, 1979).

(24.) Marvin observed that the disappearance of these books from a community, even from its newsstands, was a measure of the benefit of a good public library. Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (Salem: State Printer, 1913), 16.

(25.) Oregon Library Commission, Biennial Report (Salem: 1909), 27.

(26.) Oregon Library Commission (Salem: State Printer, 1907).

(27.) "Books for Children" (editorial), Oregonian, July 13,1907.

(28.) Oregon State Library, "Field Work 1905 to Date" [unpublished report, n.d.], Oregon State Library Records.

(29.) Marvin Pierce, "Oregon Started Reading:'

(30.) Melissa Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography" (B.A. thesis, Reed College, 1966), 26.

(31.) Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (Salem: 1925), n.p., emphasis in original.

(32.) Cornelia Marvin to Mary Frances Isom, March 5, 1909, Oregon State Library Records, box 54.

(33.) Marvin advertised the presence of these anecdotes with a statement on the front cover of her 1917 report: "Patrons of the Library tell what it does for them on pages 14-20."

(34.) Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (1921),5.

(35.) Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (Salem: State Printer, 1929), 6.

(36.) Ibid., 3-4.

(37.) Ibid., 6.

(38.) Passet, Cultural Crusaders, 151.

(39.) Oregon State Library, Biennial Report (Salem: State Printer, 1929), 5.

(40.) Suzanne Hildenbrand, "Ambiguous Authority and Aborted Ambition: Gender, Professionalism, and the Rise and Fall of the Welfare State," Library Trends 25:2 (1985): 185-86.

(41.) Dorothy Johansen, "Cornelia Pierce, Widow of Ex-Governor, Wills Reed $300,000," Reed College Bulletin 35:6 (February 1957):1.

(42.) Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 31.

(43.) Marvin Pierce, "Oregon Started Reading."

(44.) General Laws of Oregon, 1923, Chapter 194.

(45.) Mark Largent, "'The Greatest Curse of the Race': Eugenic Sterilization in Oregon, 1909-1983," Oregon Historical Quarterly 103:2 (Summer 2002):193.

(46.) Cornelia Marvin Pierce, quoted in Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 31

(47.) For a thorough discussion of eugenics as a "social hygiene" issue, see Mark Largent, Breeding Contempt: A History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008).

(48.) Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism in American Thought (New York: George Braziller,1959),161.

(49.) Cornelia Marvin to Mabel Marvin, August 10, 1910, quoted in Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 33-34.

(50.) Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 33-34.

(51.) Cornelia Marvin to Mabel Marvin, August 10, 1910, quoted in Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 34

(52.) Mary Frances Isom to Cornelia Marvin, April 22, 1912, Oregon State Library Records, box 54. For more information about woman suffrage activism in Oregon, see Kimberly Jensen, "'Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign': Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Suffrage Victory of 1912," Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:3 (Fall 2007): 350-83.

(53.) Johansen, Library and the Liberal Tradition, 17.

(54.) Ibid., 18.

(55.) Ibid.,16.

(56.) For more information about the Oregon Board of Higher Education and its reform mission, see M.M. Chambers, "State Administration of Education," Journal of Higher Education 1:4 (April 1930):203-207; and Charles D. Byrne, "Co-ordination in Higher Education," Journal of Higher Education 13:2 (February 1942): 66-72.

(57.) "Mrs. Pierce on Higher Education Board" (editorial), Oregon Voter, March 31, 1931, 428.

(58.) This restructuring and consolidation is described in William Hugh Carlson, The Unification of the Libraries of the Oregon State System of Higher Education (Corvallis, Ore., 1968).

(59.) This compulsory training was opposed by many groups including the Grange, women's clubs, the Portland Council of Churches, and the American Association of University Women, among others. See Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," 46.

(60.) "Ousting of Mrs. Pierce from Board Sought," Oregonian, February 24, 1935.

(61.) "Trouble Visioned Between Martin and Mrs. Pierce," Oregonian, April 16,1935; Duane Hennessy, "Martin Target of Mrs. Pierce," Oregonian, April 30, 1935; "Published Letter Proves Surprise to Mrs. Pierce," Oregonian, May 7,1935; "Mrs. Pierce Due for Skids Today," Oregonian, May 1, 1935.

(62.) Several articles in the Oregonian covered this event: Quincy Scott, "Quick, General! The Dugout" (cartoon), Oregonian, May 1,1935; "The Letter of Mrs. Pierce" (editorial), Oregonian, May 1, 1935; Duane Hennessy, "Martin Target of Mrs. Pierce," April 30,1935; "Published Letter Proves Surprise to Mrs. Pierce," May 7,1935; "The Letter of Mrs. Pierce" (editorial), May 1, 1935; "Trouble Visioned Between Martin and Mrs. Pierce," April 16,1935. In his biography of Governor Martin, Gary Murrell interprets Marvin Pierce's dismissal as political retaliation against Walter Pierce. Iron Pants: Oregon's Anti-New Deal Governor, Charles Henry Martin (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2000), 148-49.

(63.) Richard Neuberger, "Appreciates Mrs. Pierce" (letter to the editor), May 5, 1935. (64.) Walter Marcus Pierce, Oregon Cattleman, Governor, Congressman: Memoirs and Times of Walter AL Pierce, ed. and expanded by Arthur H. Bone (Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1981) 338.

(65.) "Oregon Is Intrigued by Family Politics," New York Times, January 21,1932.

(66.) See "The Pierce Family Candidacies," Oregonian, February 11, 1932. Pierce also recorded his wife's comment about writing two platforms in his memoirs, Oregon Cattleman, 338.

(67.) Some of his letters from their courtship survive, but she insisted that he destroy her letters to him. Walter M. Pierce to Cornelia Marvin, April 10, 1927, in Walter M. Pierce Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, box 75.

(68.) Pierce, Oregon Cattleman, 251.

(69.) Arthur M. Bone in Pierce, Oregon Cattleman, 344.

(70.) Gerald Schwartz, "Walter M. Pierce and the Birth Control Movement," Oregon Historical Quarterly 88:4 (Winter 1987): 370-83

(71.) "The Lady Earns Her Keep," Oregonian, July 6, 1935.

(72.) Laurel Grotzinger, "Invisible, Indestructible Network: Women and the Diffusion of Librarianship at the Turn of the Century," in Laurel Grotzinger, James Carmichael, and Mary Niles Maack, Women's Work: Vision and Change in Librarianship (Champaign: University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 1994), 21.

(73.) Several references to this planned biography can be found in the Cornelia Marvin Pierce papers at Reed College. I have searched for the manuscript without success; only research notes, mostly in the handwriting of Johansen's assistants, seem to have survived.

(74.) Johansen, Library and the Liberal Tradition, 21-22.

(75.) These works include Brisley, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: A Political Biography," and "Cornelia Marvin Pierce: Pioneer in Library Extension"; Melissa Brisley Mickey, "Cornelia Marvin Pierce," in Dictionary of American Library Biography, ed. B. Wynar (Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1978): 395-98; Passer, Cultural Crusaders; Passer, "Bringing the Public Library Gospel to the American West," Journal of the West 30:3 (1994): 45-2; Cheryl Gunselman, "Cornelia Marvin and Mary Frances Isom: Leaders of Oregon's Library Movement," Library Trends 52:4 (Spring 2004): 877-901; Scheppke, "Origins of the Oregon State Library"; and Marvin Pierce, "Oregon Started Reading."

(76.) Most of Marvin Pierce's papers were lost during a transfer from the Oregon State Library to the University of Oregon in the 1970s. This incident is described in Cheryl Gunselman, "Cornelia Marvin and Mary Frances Isom," 898n1. Because these papers were heavily referenced in Melissa Brisley's works about Marvin, some of their content has survived. Several boxes of papers thought to have been among those lost were recently located at the University of Oregon. Cornelia Marvin Pierce Papers, UP 614, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library.


Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A208131433