Mary Jarrett’s Fight for Recognition

For decades, Mary Jarrett fought for awareness of her role in the founding of the SSW. As the following letters document, Mary Jarrett had to consistently re-explain how her intellectual and administrative work made the first year of the SSW possible and set the school up for success in subsequent years. She attributed the repeated failure to include her in the story of the founding to Everett Kimball’s lack of respect for the first year, because of the shorter curriculum the students received.

Do you agree with her assessment? Read this and other histories of the SSW to decide.


Mary Jarrett, Sophia Smith Special Collections, #156, MS 83, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Brochure listing Mary Jarrett as director in 1918

Informational brochure listing Mary C. Jarrett as Director, 1918, School for Social Work Records, RG 60 Box 1314.1, College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Mary Jarrett turned first to F. Stuart Chapin, the one person who knew better than anyone else whether or not she was the director of the 1918 session–the man Everett Kimball called her “co-director” in his lengthy history of the school. You can see the tenor of their working relationship in this first letter, in which Chapin offers his opinion of why Kimball pushed Jarrett out of her position as Associate Director.

F. Stuart Chapin to Mary Jarrett, January 28, 1924, Mary Jarrett Collection #83, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Black and white photo of a class in the 1920s

1920s class. Mary Jarrett is in the front row in a darker sweater with round glasses. Photographer: Eric Stahlberg. Mary Cromwell Jarrett MS 83, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Black and white headshot

F. Stuart Chapin, Photographer Unrecorded, Digital Image #3972, Smith College, Northampton, MA

The question arose over Jarrett’s place in the founding eight years after her departure when an alumnae association put together an event and asked Chapin, as “the first director,” to speak. In the pdf below, you will find Jarrett’s request to Chapin to intercede after receiving the invitation and his rush to correct the record. You will also find letters from Christine Robb, an alumna, also attempting to correct the record and the alumnae association’s response that Jarrett “had never been director.” Finally, you will see a carbon copy of Jarrett’s letter to Lois Blakely, the SSW alumnae association president, after everything had been cleared up, seemingly for good.

1931 Letters, Mary Jarrett Collection #83, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

It has always seemed to me unsuitable that Smith College should ignore the fact that the school of social work grew out of a definite and well advanced movement that had been developed by the social service of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital.

-Mary Jarrett, 1931

At the twenty-fifth anniversary of the SSW in 1943, the organizers invited Jarrett to offer five minutes of reminiscences after Kimball gave a “short historical resume.” Esther Cook, one of the alumnae of that first year, wrote Jarrett to urge her to accept the invitation, explaining,

For the sake of us who gained so much from that first year and for those who have profited so much since from the firm foundations on which the School was built, I do hope that you are going to be there to receive the acclaim due you.

1943 Letters, Mary Jarrett Collection #83, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

For the conclusion to the story of Mary Jarrett’s relationship to SSW during her lifetime, see “Florence Day and Howard Parad Recognize Florence Day.”

Black and white photo of faculty in formal dress on porch.

Faculty, 1918, School for Social Work RG 60 Box 1315, College Archives, Smith College, Northampton, MA.