|Title||A Profile of the Life and Character of Mary Knight Bradford Stone|
|Date||October 10, 1985|
|Creator||G.W. Stone, Jr.|
Local history, profile of Mary Knight Bradford Stone (born January 29, 1868, died February 1946). Profile was written by her son George Winchester Stone, Jr. in 1985.
Text is as follows:
MARY KNIGHT BRADFORD STONE (1868-1946)
Mary Knight Bradford Stone, a woman for all seasons in her span of life, is the subject of this profile, which moves sometimes chronologically, sometime thematically. One's life, though bound by the sequential movements of days and years, often receives essential meaning from continuing pursuit of special interests which recur and feed upon themselves and bespeak the essence of one's being better, perhaps, than the mere recording of events touched upon in the strict order of time. Thematic development often outruns chronology, but picks up dates again as the story proceeds.
Several persons have contributed details to this story of Mary Bradford Stone's life. Memories of her and her many activities are vivid and have been long lasting to me, to my brother, Bradford W. Stone, and to many of the persons mentioned in the course of the narrative.
Death in a family, always shocking, seems often ironic in its realistic circumstances. Mary Bradford Stone, a resident of Washington, D.C., for sixty-six years, died in an ambulance crossing 14th Street at K late one wet, cold February afternoon in 1946. Suffering from an inoperable cancer at age 78 she was being taken from the old George Washington University Hospital back to her home in Chevy Chase, but her pulse stopped shortly after the trip began. The nurse directed the driver to return to the hospital. I was following in another car, but lost the ambulance in traffic. Twenty minutes earlier fairly cheerful in mind, lying on a stretcher lowered to the ground floor by elevator by attendants taking her to the ambulance, she said, but with characteristic calm, "I feel as though I am being lowered into my grave." "Not hardly," I replied, putting a good face on the situation, for she had not been told about the cancer. That was our last conversation.
The funeral service several days later from the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church was packed. Why? Because Mary Bradford Stone counted friends by the hundreds in her many, many community, church, and municipal activities. The Reverend J. Hillman Hollister developed his eulogy from verses from the Book of Proverbs (XXXI, 10) - "Who can find a virtuous woman, for her praise is far above rubies?" and he took 'virtuous' in its ancient meaning of 'pristine strength.' To this he added Proverbs XXXI, 20 - "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor, yea she reacheth out her hand to the needy." Strength, compassion, and persistent selfless action, combined with a fine sense of humor truly characterized her qualities. She did things on her own, but also had the knack of administrative leadership which produced cooperative action from both women and men in community affairs. She was known as a "live wire" who was adept at getting things done.
Eldest child of a Congregational minister and school teacher, she was brought to Washington in 1881 at age thirteen, when her father, the Reverend James Henry Bradford, after teaching in reform, industrial, and preparatory schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut, came to Washington to work in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. He had attended Yale for two years, leaving with some classmates to join the 12th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers in the Civil War. Her mother, Ellen Jane Knight, at one time a music teacher, came from an old New England family. Ellen's uncle, with whom she lived after her mother's death, was the Honorable Horatio Gates Knight, Vice Governor (1863-1872) of Massachusetts. She married James Henry shortly after the Civil War. The family first lived on Capitol Hill in a house with a large yard of fruit trees and arbors. Mary Bradford's memories of Washington in the 1880's indicate what a small and provincial town it was - and how pleasant. She, her brothers and sister, attended neighborhood parties at the nearby home of Emil Frey, Minister from Switzerland, who had five children the ages of the Bradfords. They put on children's parties at one of which Mary remembered twenty-five children sitting on the floor listening to Frances Hodgson Burnet tell fascinating stories. Her book of Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) was becoming popular, and subsequently caught the imaginations of at least two generations of children.
Mary speaks for herself in a brief sketch of her girlhood days (attached as an appendix hereto) which she wrote in about 1932 when she realized that such an account might also describe something of the Washington scene in the 1880's - the horse cars and slippery snow on Capitol Hill (when the horses would be detached so the cars could slide down the hill with their brakes applied and not overcome the animals), the horse-drawn "Herdicks" instead of cabs, with straw on the floors to keep the occupants' feet warm, the obligingness of the car and cab drivers, the Tiber creek open to the air at the base of Capitol Hill. This creek once overflowed so deeply that an enterprising man, for a quarter, rowed people across Pennsylvania Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets near the old Center Market. She also recalls the friendliness of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Lothrop in their department store, then on Pennsylvania Avenue between 8th and 9th streets. Having come from Boston they called the store "The Boston House." She recalls the social and religious life centered (for her) in the First Congregational Church at 10th and G Streets, N.W., which at the time had the largest auditorium in the city. The sabbath was then so quietly observed that nothing was open save the churches. A visiting minister, who was to come to the Bradford home for dinner after the sermon, refused to ride the street cars on that day as too commercial a venture, so walked up to the house and delayed the meal for nearly an hour. She recalls attending Central High School, then new and located at 7th and O Streets. It was the only high school in the city, and at her graduation, President Cleveland handed out the diplomas. She recalls her father standing in a crowd awaiting sad news of the shooting of President Garfield, and accepting a bulletin, hand written on a sheet of paper by a White House attendant, which he tacked on a nearby tree for all to see. She later saw a child, Nellie Arthur, playing on the White House grounds. When her father, James Henry, first came to the city in 1880 (his first visit after the Civil War) he wrote to his wife, Ellen Jane, that plans were afoot to finish erecting the Washington Monument, which at 560 feet, would be the tallest building in the world, "if it doesn't fall down."
She recalled the excitement of attending the inaugural ball of Benjamin Harrison with her uncle, Horatio Knight. She also recalled dances at the Naval Academy when invited by Cadet cousin, Louis Driggs, and by Cadet Baron Uriu (later Admiral Baron Uriu of the Japanese Navy who had been a student at her father's preparatory school, Bradford's Student Home in Middletown, Connecticut. The great actor, Edwin Booth, who never came to Washington after Lincoln's assassination, played occasionally in Baltimore, when "Washington nights" were billed, and days occurred when trains carried folks over to events (and shopping) more exciting than what was happening in the District of Columbia. She remembered sledding down the 13th Street hill from the Franklin School at K Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. After high school she attended Mrs. Elizabeth J. Somers' School for Girls (later to become Mt. Vernon Seminary) at llth and M Streets, from which she graduated in 1888. Upon graduation she had hoped to enter Smith College but family finances would not permit.
In fact, finances provided only a thin margin beyond basic necessities from her father's salary at the Indian Office. Sensing a need to contribute her share, at the age of twenty she had taken the Civil Service Examination for Federal employment in July, 1887, had received high marks, and had been placed on the Register for any opening that occurred. Her first appointment came in February, 1888, at an annual rate of $720 in the Dead Letter Office of the U.S. Postal Department. She had first to serve a six-month probationary period. This done successfully she received a regular appointment there in September, 1888, at that salary. A year later she received a promotion to $900. In 1891, she transferred to the topographical office in the same department, where by December of that year she became a "skilled draughtsman" and was promoted to a $1,200 salary. With glee she told her old teacher, Mrs. Seiners, who wrote her a congratulatory note saying in part, "The twelve hundred dollars are good in and of themselves, but the ability that made the $1,200 available for my girl is better far." Eight years later, her mother, Ellen Jane Knight Bradford, at the early age of sixty, died of a cancer, and Mary assumed household headship of the family for her father, two brothers and sister Faith. But she worked on in the post office until shortly before her marriage in 1902.
She viewed life (metaphorically) through a wide-visioned lens for she felt deeply, brought up as she was, that humanity was inter-related everywhere. The concept took hold when she was a very young woman, so part of this vision received some documentation when she first traveled abroad in the summer of 1890.
Heartened by her promotion to a $900 a year salary in 1889, Mary Bradford saved funds, and her friend, Lora H. Gunn, planned a European trip in May, 1890. The tour was advertised as educational costing $200 round trip with all necessary expenses included, under the aegis of Mr. and Mrs. Elias Brookings of Springfield, Mass. He would guide a party of 66 (to be broken into smaller groups on special excursions) leaving New York on 28 June and returning by mid-September. The itinerary was rich in towns to visit, places to see, rivers and lakes to boat on, mountains to view and climb, and historic monuments to wonder at. Ten days at sea took the group across the North Atlantic to Glasgow, and would return from Moville in Ireland. The ship was the Furnesia of the Anchor Line, and the smaller return steamer was the Circassia. Land travel was by train and "Talley Ho" coach - from Glasgow to Edinburgh, to York, to Hull, across to Amsterdam, the Hague, Brussels, Antwerp, Mayence, a trip up the Rhine, Cologne, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, seven hours through the Black Forest to Lucerne, Interlaken, a two-week stay in Montreux, then on to Geneva, Chamonix (and the Mer de Glas), Paris, London, Stratford, Chester, Belfast, Dublin, the Giant Causeway to Moville, and thence the return to New York. Even the thought of such a trip was enough to make the eyes of a young girl sparkle and the cheeks glow.
Details of the trip and commentary on the people and places are preserved in Mary's 13 clearly-written letters to her family in Washington, and their 18 letters keeping in touch with her.
The two girls had a marvelous time, attended by young men from Harvard, Amherst, Yale and Princeton who were on the trip. They carried their luggage at all stops, bought them flowers and suppers, held their hands ("to keep them warm") on high peaks in the Alps, attended church services with them, and talked endlessly. The cards of her special acquaintances are mounted in her scrapbook of the trip, along with flowers pressed (it was the in-thing to do in those days) from the Scots Highlands, to Alpine slopes plentiful with edelweis all still in perfect form but faded condition.
As each day unfolded, according to her letters, more marvelous and beautiful things came in view. The stormy voyage in the North Atlantic brought them within sight of an iceberg three miles long and 200 feet high. The burial at sea of a poor steerage passenger (who died of tuberculosis) saddened all. Through the trip four mature people kept an eye out for the girls. Judge William G. Bassett, of Northampton and J.N. Lyman of Easthampton, were introduced to Mary by her Uncle Horatio Knight in a letter just before sailing. Mr. and Mrs. P. H. Smith of Washington, D.C., seem to have been watchful and sobering characters as well.
Points highlighted in her letters were a "red letter day" in the Scottish Highlands, under the awesome height of Ben Nevis. She preferred Edinburg to Glasgow, felt the movement of history at Sterling Castle, Holyrood, and Abbotsford, and of distant history in the Roman walls around York. She marveled at the cleanliness and orderliness of the Hague and the magnificence of its avenues under arched trees. She remembered that the Dutch were some of the first traders with Japan and saw evidence in the Japanese work in the Palace, noted that the Dutch lower classes exhibited less poverty than their counterparts in England. She decided not to go to Oberamergau, for she heard that accommodations were very scarce. Her Brookings' party traveled together in five "Talley Ho" carriages, when not on trains, and both she and Lora found the manners of some of her countrymen abroad unprepossessing and uncomfortable, but the girls liked the attentions of the American college boys enroute. Her detailed descriptions of the Hague and the Cathedral at Antwerp are excellent. The Rhine River, save for its picturesque castles along the banks, she thought did not overmatch the Hudson. A seven-hour ride through the Black Forest "on the best road in Germany" she found exciting. The Swiss towns were especially gay for the tourists, band concerts every evening, festivals of music and lights in Geneva. In Montreaux, she and Lora one evening at the Kursaal, "for a lark" each bought a beer ("for every man, woman and child there takes it") "But," she wrote to her mother, "I hope I may be forgiven, for it was the vilest stuff I ever tasted, and I was glad to buy a box of caramels to take the taste out of my mouth." In Geneva the girls found hire of a carriage to do the sights too expensive, so for six cents each they took the steam train to the end of the line and back for miles and miles, and enjoyed every minute of the trip.
While in Montreux she wrote a piece on what two girls saw and did in Switzerland and sent it to the Washington Star. Her family read it with great surprise in the issue of 30 August, 1890.
Each city and town, of course, had been more beautiful than the last, but Paris she thought "The most beautiful city in the world." She took it all in, went to the opera twice, where "she never had heard such music, or seen such staging anywhere," but unfortunately tells us not the name of the operas she saw.
In London she felt like one of Dickens' characters, went to the churches, and to Madame Tussaud's, looked at the palaces, and shopped the stores. In France she had picked up two books by Mark Twain to read in moments of leisure. When she arrived in England she was halfway through A Yankee in King Arthur's Court, but both it and the other one were confiscated at the customs office. "Some excuse about copyright law," they said. Stratford she found charming, along with Kenilworth ruins and Warwick Castle, and in Chester the city walls, houses overhanging the streets, and the one marked "God's Providence is my Inheritance" stuck in her memory for by legend it got its name because during a plague in the 14th century it had belonged to a wealthy family who heedless of the sickness cared for the poor, and escaped totally the ravages of the plague.
She had told her family much, but declared she had a lot more to tell upon her return. Her mother had written a touching but sentimental poem of twenty-two couplets "On the Departure of my Daughter for Europe" in which she mentioned delicately the "restlessness of youth" and prayed for safe going and safe return. It was published later in the Boston Congregationalist and picked up by a paper in Atlanta. Mary, when she heard of it, commented that it was sweet and thoughtful.
She told one of her sons many years later, and still with chagrin, that upon return she had to wire her father for money to buy a rail ticket from New York to Washington.
The Bradford family was tee-totling, and Mary's view of the saloons along Pennsylvania Avenue confirmed her belief early on that demon rum was indeed a wicked thing in its social consequences. She later approved of the Volstead Act arguing with her eldest son that "those who could drink in moderation had the moral obligation to abstain, even if by the force of law, to prevent those who could not be moderate in their drinking thus affecting their families and society. When of age she had taken the vow of the W.C.T.U., and was nearly as adamant about smoking, which she called a filthy habit. Late in life her husband retired to an attic room occasionally to smoke his pipe and cigar. She was distressed at the discrepancy between the hooting and disruption accorded the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue of the Suffragets in 1913, and the quiet and enforced discipline that prevailed the next week when the Grand Army of the Republic had its last parade in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysberg. Idealistically she believed that when the women would get the vote (as they surely would) many social problems and dubious practices would be cleared up. She lived to see that vote established, and the Volstead Act repealed. But disillusionment failed to shatter her, for she possessed remarkable emotional stability and a good sense of humor. She was pragmatic enough. Her many other ideals carried sufficient strength to sustain her continuing involvement in civic activities.
An up and coming woman of 34 she married George Winchester Stone, an architect, in 1902, who had come to Washington to work in the Supervising Architect's Office then located in the Treasury Department. They lived variously on P Street, at 1409 20th Street, and at 1753 Park Road, N.W. On his own time, G.W. Stone was the architect for the Kenesaw Apartment House. Mary bore him four children, two of whom died in infancy. Of the two sons who lived, one became successful in business, the other in academia. As a citizen of the District of Columbia, she was active in the Red Cross from its beginning, and was one of the seven founding members of the Washington Y.W.C.A.
In 1909, she and the family moved out to Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she lived at 410 Cummings Lane the rest of her life, and gave to the budding community, church, and school there the continuous benefit of her tireless community involvement.
First came a transfer of allegiance from the old First Congregational Church (her father, grandfather, and great grandfather had all been ministers in that New England protestant sect) to Presbyterianism as embodied in the congregation just forming first in the Chevy Chase Library and shortly afterwards at a location on the east side of Chevy Chase Circle. Hers and George's reasoning for the change-over was that it was more convenient not to have to "go to town" every Sunday and that the only difference between the two sects was one of government, not of creed. Though still maintaining social ties with her long-time friends at 10th and G she became a staunch pillar of Dr. Hubert Rex Johnson's Church at the Circle, taught in its Sunday school, led in its Women's Guild and Missionary Society. She reached out in a most practical way in the Church's foreign missions program by providing a home base for internationals, and in the church's home missions by working for support and positive action in the congregation's commitment to West Virginia communities such as Caney Creek. One of the church trustees, an investment banker and real estate operator, Lee D. Latimer, met her once in the church vestibule. "I have an idea," she began, "Now Mrs. Stone keep it to yourself," said Mr. Latimer humorously," for every time you speak out it costs me money." And so it did, as she designed activities for the various church groups which became buzzing and dynamic.
Nor did she neglect study of the history of the presbytery in America. She taught her sons about the first Presbyterian church in Snow Hill, Maryland, about synods, and assemblies, and about Knox and Calvin, about progressive views as well as about the older more restrictive ones. She was never a strict Calvinist. Sundays the boys went to Sunday school, then stayed on to church, for the discipline of it and formation of habits, while they were too young to follow the disquisitions of Dr. Johnson - who was as apt to take his text from the Literary Digest as from the New Testament. Their exposure was never tyrannic. She always carried a small pad and pencil in her purse. When a son got restive at sitting quietly for ten minutes, she would ease out the materials and suggest that we draw, or form letters, or otherwise quietly amuse ourselves. We loved it when the sermon broke and a hymn started. We would stand up and sing. I even joined the choir in my teens.
Racial imbalance disturbed Mary Bradford Stone. One suspects she bore a load of guilt for years over the practice of slavery in this country. She, as her father and mother before her, were all for Lincoln, abolition, emancipation, and the long road of follow-up rehabilitation. She employed the blacks and took great interest in their families. Martha and William Brown, who had been employed as house servants by Mary's mother were with us for years and years. She to wash, he to garden and be handy man. William had been a lamp lighter, with a regular route of igniting the gas street lamps in the Northeast part of D.C. When the gas lights gave way to electrification he needed other work. Mary got it for him in the Chevy Chase area. The couple was childless, but had neighbors in the Ivy City section of D.C. with boys about our ages. Mary got Martha to take us several times to play with those boys, and once to spend the night in their house. Our mutual interests were not exceptionally compatible, as I remember it, but the exercise taught us some respect (which children of my generation seldom took thought about) for all people as individuals. While in Ivy City we played along the railroad yards of the B & 0 and near the Round House, where William Brown, as part of his numerous jobs went at times to help turn the engines around manually for their return trips to Baltimore or to points west.
Mary paid close attention to the public schools, and for a term headed the PTA of the Elizabeth V. Brown Elementary School at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street. It employed an exceptionally gifted group of teachers under a fine principal, Ella Given, from Miss Aiten in kindergarten to Miss Berry and Miss Hendry in eighth grade. Mary Bradford never interfered with the educational programs, but saw to it that the PTA backed and constructively criticized the system as it then operated.
As for outreach and internationalism, Mary had been accustomed to the presence in her home of foreign students and missionaries from abroad. We were likewise reared in the presence of such at 410 Cummings Lane as long as I can remember. Example: After World War I some church groups stood behind a program to bring to the D. S. a group of sixty young men from the Balkans to teach them the ways of American business and industry, on the hope that they might take to it, return to their homelands, introduce modern American methods in farm and shop, and "make progress" in the peace that had to be preserved in a "world made safe for democracy." The trouble was that the foreign students (young men and some women) arrived with fares paid but with no funds to meet their living expenses until they got placed. Through the Y.W.C.A. and the churches, the citizenry rose to the challenge and parceled out the sixty to various homes for temporary support until they had learned the language and had a chance to capitalize on any experience afforded by American business and industry. Mary Bradford Stone took in one Dushan Milan Illich, an attractive young Serbian officer (grade of Second Lieutenant) who spoke not a word of English. He lived with us for over a year, picking up the language, adjusting to American middle-class customs and life, and helping to earn room and board by working with us on family chores. Dushan's point of view expanded with the experience, for, as a Serbian junior officer, he was amazed to see that heads of households in the Chevy Chase community came home from government offices in spring and summer, changed clothes and spaded up or cultivated their gardens, what opened his eyes and made him quietly gasp in disbelief was the vision of the next-door neighbor, Lieutenant Commander Frederick Reichmuth (later Admiral Reichmuth) who came home from the Navy Department, removed his uniform coat, rolled up his sleeves, and spaded his large garden. As Illich gradually got over the shock of the informality of living in suburban Maryland, he was a help and fitted well into the family. When he was competent in English he was sent to the Mid-West (his choice) to spend a month with the John Deere Company and observe the manufacture and operation of farm tractors, bailers, reapers and other agricultural equipment. Mary Bradford Stone had visions of Dushan's helping to reform the agricultural business in Serbia. The family kept in touch with him, and Mary visited him in Belgrade in 1932, where he and his new Scotch wife, Margaret Fowler, entertained her at their place outside the city. However, there was no evidence of a modern farm. He had reverted to his Serbian way, had regained a commission in the army, and was then a Captain. Another slight shock for Mary Bradford Stone - the Illichs seem to have been wiped out in the Second World War.
Another long-time live-in was Seth Edwards, a minister-in-training from India. He taught in our Sunday school/ and preached from time to time. Mary corresponded with him upon his return, but never heard what really happened to him. He was exceedingly dark, almost black, much to the consternation of some of the southern members of the Chevy Chase congregation. A third was Mr. Zong San Zia, another minister-in-training in the Presbyterian faith from Shang Hai. He lived with us for nearly a year and brought his wife over towards the end. Upon his return he did have a small but flourishing church in China, and corresponded with the family for many years until the revolution cut off communications. Young Pastor Wolfhart from Alsace lived in with us but for not so long. His experience seemed a happy one, for he returned to head a church in his homeland, and to build into it a thriving elementary school. The stream continued with visitors and with those needing support. In the early thirties a Mr. Lee from Korea, with a Japanese price on his head, came to study banking and political science in Washington. He took night courses at George Washington, where I paid his tuition, and my father made bond for him several times when he needed funds to continue and stay out his visa time. His English improved immensely. Towards the end of his stay he brought over his young wife who spoke only Korean. She was a delight to have in the household, for she spoke with Mary Bradford Stone most eloquently with her eyes and gestures - a sign language which the two developed between them. An Italian girl followed from the Y.W.C.A. to polish up her English.
All visitors and live-ins wished to make Mary a gift of some sort. None could offer much, and gifts were embarrassing to Mary Bradford Stone. Hence she devised a workable plan by suddenly expressing an interest in making a rock garden on a bank along the curving front path to the house, where she planted small flowers, and gradually (by gifts) developed a collection of small rocks and stones with international flavor - a pebble from the Taj Mahal, a chip from one of the Pyramids, a piece from a crumbling part of Westminster Abbey, small stones from Mexico, Italy, Argentina, Spain and Belgium. The idea took off and friends from all states brought pebble offerings. She I knew where she had placed them, and loved to point them out. A great conversation piece, but she made no chart. They are all there now, but no one can distinguish them. Her firm belief was that despite the transitoriness of life, of things, of I institutions, and peoples, each bit of out-reach improved both the giver and receiver.
She carried on with this idealism not with grim determination but with grace and humor. She saw life and customs changing as they always do over both short and long periods. She would listen to arguments, enjoy the process of arguing (with her sons at least) both sides of many of then thorny questions. A favorite between us was the subject of temperance. I argued that the abstraction presumed a middle ground, a moderation rather than total abstinance. She with years of WCTO indoctrination argued that in some things the world was better off on the abstinance side. In the midst of one of these friendly exchanges, neighbor (new Commander) Reichmuth came to the door with a rather large carton full of bottles. "Mary," he said, "I have been ordered to sea duty for the next six months. We'll rent the house and Clara (his wife) and the family will go to the base in San Diego. The Navy will pack our things, but I'll be back from time to time. Now I have here a short, but quality supply of spirits of various sorts, and I can think of no safer place in the world to leave them I temporarily than your house. What do you say?" There was a twinkle in his eye, as he must have expected her to respond with mild explosion. But she twinkled back, and somewhat non-plussed him by taking up the sporting challenge and agreeing. "Well, Frederick, I'll have to justify your faith, so take them down cellar and put the box in that far corner behind the coal bin. I'm sure they'll remain untouched." And so he did, and so they were until he retrieved them several months later.
Our house was in Martin's addition to Chevy Chase, which included Cummings Lane and upper Brookville Road. This addition was new in 1909 and fairly raw in its development. Pew houses existed above Newland Street. The streets in the addition were dirt roads for a long time. Only Bradley Lane was paved in asphalt from Connecticut Avenue to Harry Martin's new subdivision. But houses sprang up on Brookville Road and the community grew rapidly from 1909 to 1926. As automobiles came into fashion macadam roads were deemed necessary. The county and state responded in Maryland fashion - a minimum-width strip of hard surface, then later cement shoulders three feet wide. But the strips were innocent of sidewalks. The only store in the area, Sonneman's, stood a long four or five blocks from our house, and the E.V. Brown school was a mile away.
Mary Bradford Stone got into the act early on. She applied to Cy Cummings, the local county politician, whose farm had been partially sub-divided by the Harry Martin purchase. She asked for sidewalks and better streets. "Mary Stone, if we didn't spend so much money on our damned schools, we'd have more funds for better roads and surfaces". He was under pressure but his reply shocked her and turned a request into action. She organized - not to protest the politics of the situation, but to get the sidewalks down. Every weekend for months in the summer and for several years she got the women of the community to have bake sales and ice cream sales. The tables were set up on the corner of East Bradley Lane and Brookville Road. McKeever, the baker, of Kensington was conned into supplying gallons of the best ice cream in the area for a very low sum if any. He knew the value of such quiet advertising. Soon, mirable dictu, a sidewalk was laid from Taylor Street the seven blocks to Quincey on one side only, and it's still there. It gave safe and easy access to people all along the way to Sonneman's store.
Transportation for the suburbanites to town was by the Capital Traction Company street cars - a trolly line which stopped at every street from Chevy Chase down to and across the Calvert Street Bridge to the "Loop" where the trolly was lowered and the cars attached to an underground electified rail. The cars ran frequently. The fares were low - ten cents from town to Chevy Chase Circle, and a nickel from there to Chevy Chase Lake. Most of us walked from the Circle up Brookville Road, but if we wished to get places a bit faster and would spend an extra nickel, we walked five blocks through Raymond Street to Connecticut Avenue. Mary Bradford Stone's feet were not the strongest, and she disliked the hike. But as she rested aboard the streetcar she bethought herself of the tiredness which the motorman had to endure, standing at the controls for eight hours a day. The conductor could (and often did) sit for a spell were there an empty seat. When the company instituted the skip-stop procedure - stopping only every two or three blocks for passengers - she figured the motorman would have to be doubly alert for the pick-up in speed, and also to function comfortably. She appealed to the Capital Traction Company to devise a hinged seat for motormen. The humanitarian plan was adopted. Doubtless she smiled quietly to herself as she thought of the relief to aching feet that the move had probably brought about.
Early in her Chevy Chase career she carried on a minor crusade for milk to be delivered in bottles instead of being ladled out to family pitchers, and for the delivery of bread that was wrapped and thus not exposed to dust from the roads and dried grasses. She thought she had won a significant battle for the nutrition and health side when her bread man obligingly delivered her bread in a wrapper. She found out soon that he would just pause at the foot of Cummings Lane and wrap up her loaf with paper and string. Another of her small but thoughtful acts was to have regularly a cup of coffee ready for the mail carrier. Once when the regular carrier was on vacation, his substitute rang our bell and said, "Mrs. Stone, I have a note here which says, 'ring the bell at 410 Cummings Lane' I don't know what it means." Mary Bradford smiled and provided a cup of coffee. The post office got word of the practice, thanked her but asked that she desist, for if carriers stopped at each house for refreshment, little mail would get delivered. She sighed, marked the logic, and ceased the practice, save on an occasional bitter cold morning. So much for feet, sidewalks, and nutrition.
In terms of intellectual communication and mentertainment, Mary was instrumental, with a group of others, in starting the Chevy Chase Round Table. It met monthly in the Chevy Chase Library for lectures, discussions, readings, and illustrated slide talks such as Burton Holmes was giving downtown at the First Congregational Church. She and her sister, Faith Bradford, also put together pageants and patriotic Fourth of July celebrations. Sometimes they were elaborations of the religious plays devised by her mother for church groups in Massachusetts and then in Washington. An adaptation of Lew Wallace's Ben Hur, created by her mother, Ellen Jane Knight, was something to behold, but nearly got Ellen into trouble with the author because of the copyright. My brother and I have clear memories of being powdered and be-wigged, then dancing a minuet with a small group of peers on our side lawn on one Fourth of July. For a number of years the community fireworks were set alight on our side lot.
A triumphant Fourth of July occurred in Mary's life in 1919, the first Fourth after World War I, when a great celebration was held on the Mall in Washington to mark the independence of all of the freed nations from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other parts of Europe. The color and spirit of native costumes, and native dances created a true "event". A Russian woman somehow got to Mary Stone several weeks beforehand. She was the commandant of a women's battalion in the Russian Army in that war. She was tall and very heavy-set, with a commanding personality, she needed a flag to represent her battalion at the celebration. She described the make-up of the flag to Mary, who somehow, perhaps with brother Harry's aid, had it designed, the cloth and symbols specified, and the whole thing stitched together in time for the event. It was carried with great pride that afternoon.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, were also apt times for community gatherings and pageants. Weeks of preparation, the making of costumes, and learning of lines kept the participants (a rather large number of children and parents) occupied and busy. In between these dates were bazaars put on at the library auditorium to raise money for causes national, local and international.
One such had a Russian motif when a seamstress who had visited Russia came to Washington and produced with the aid of an artist a fine set of Icons prominent in the Orthodox Churches in the Romanoff regime, but frowned upon by the Bolshevik uprising. Another two or three had a Greek motif, sparked by Mary's espousal of the causes of Florence Duryee and the American Friends of Greece. Mrs. Duryee came to Washington annually from New York with a small cargo of Greek costumes, embroidery, textiles, stitchery and ceramics which were channeled into bazaars in Chevy Chase and at the YWCA downtown for aid to the women of Greece through the American Friends group. Mary Stone also organized the sending of clothes, textiles and sewing kits, collected from the organizations with which she worked, through the same channels to Athens.
Every day and every trip seemed to open possibilities which she seized to enrich the life of the neighborhood, such as the promotion in the Chevy Chase Women's Club (on whose Board she sat) as late as 1944 of a Christmas party on the theme of Christmas in Mexico (where she had twice visited her eldest son). Description of the event was written up in the Washington Evening Star (10 December 1944). During the Second World War, she introduced to the Chevy Chase and church groups (1941) an English woman, Mrs. Mackworth Rees, who was kindling a symbol of help for beleaguered England in the form of a "giant afgan" at 25 cents a stitch from a wide base of givers. The symbol represented the warmth we must feel for the English, and the money collected went for the purchase of blankets at $4.00 each for the English wounded and for refugees in the early years of the war.
Sympathy was a chord easily plucked in her being. Large causes and small attracted her, such as that of the anonymous preacher, aid for whom she wrote up for the local papers in June, 1941 - an aged black preacher with much spirit and no income or congregation. She helped get him a pension of $16.00 a month, and odd-job day work in the community.
Little wonder that her resourcefulness combined with her sister and artist brother's talents were called upon at the fiftieth jubilee celebration of Mt. Vernon Seminary to mastermind certain effects and displays for the occasion. Her special task was to find funds and an artist to complete in time for the occasion a portrait in oil of Mrs. Somers. This she did, making one hurried trip to Cleveland to raise funds from a wealthy alumna. She could (and did) often enlist the services of her brother, Harry Bradford, an artist in the Bureau of Entomology, and teacher at Howard University, to give "chalk talks" at schools and to aid in designs for pageantry. Theatres were far downtown, and a movie house came to Chevy Chase only in the late 1920's. Community entertainments were the thing, and ran their course substantially aided by Mary Bradford Stone.
Hers was not a faith that actually moved mountains, but her optimistic basic idealism, and persistent drive worked for the benefit of many. Two years after she came to Washington, four national events occurred which have had continuing repercussions - the founding of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the start of the Modern Language Association of America, and the passage of the Civil Service Reform Act. She was swept up in none of these (though she profited from the Civil Service Act), but years later one of her sons became the Executive Secretary, later the President of the MLA, and one of her granddaughters danced in the Met ballet. Whether she ever crossed the Brooklyn Bridge is uncertain.
She lived very much in the present and in 1923 bethought herself of facilitating transportation for her many activities. One day a young friend, Augustine E. Winnemore, got on the same streetcar with her and asked, "Where are you going, Mrs. Stone?" "Well, Gus," she said, "I'm going downtown to buy an automobile." That astounded friend Gus, but sure enough, she bought a Model T Ford, and after a short lesson at the controls, drove it home. Evidently she and her husband had discussed the purchase which came to $600. She did well with the car, and after a lesson or two, so did he. He used to accumulate his annual leave to take off the whole month of September. Together they drove their sons up to Dartmouth College (a trip that took four days then). After that they drove across New Hampshire to George's sister's cottage in Alton with its splendid view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipees. On their first night out of Washington they made it as far as Oxford, Pennsylvania, the second to Armonk, New York, having crossed the Hudson at the Dyckman Street Perry. The third night brought them to Putney, Vermont. Thence on to Hanover, and thence to Alton in the Model T.
Mary in Alton participated in local activities, especially of the old church at Oilman's Corner - an edifice more than one hundred years old, without a congregation but supported by the East Alton Community Club, with a supper and vesper service once every fall. On the drive returning to Chevy Chase, they often visited with friends in Grafton, Vermont, where Mary's grandfather had been the Congregational minister, and where her father had been born and reared.
Chevy Chase was filling with folk from the Library of Congress, scientists from the Bureau of Standards, and the Bureau of Terrestrial Magnetism, economists from the Federal Trade Commission, and workers from other government agencies. The Chevy Chase Round Table was founded and liberally supplied by these groups thrown together by neighborhood proximity. But as transportation improved, and as the movie industry developed its suburban theatres and life grew busier, the informal Round Table dissolved (without any formal action what-so-ever) and Mary Bradford Stone's participation in community affairs shifted to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Women's Club and the Montgomery County General Hospital in both of which she served as a prominent board member.
But crossing and intercrossing the semi-organized social and church circles in and around Washington existed a subtle inter-group web of men and women acquaintances of hers, unorganized, but often effective when need arose. Through the Congregational Church circle, Mary knew well Mrs. William Adams Slade, wife of the man who became first Director of The Folger Shakespeare Library, and Harriet Conor Brown, wife of Herbert D. Brown, whose company of efficiency experts was contracted to recommend improved administrative procedures for agency after agency in Hoover's Federal Government, through the use of time and motion studies and such. From the same circle she knew well Oliver and Nita Fassig, he of the weather bureau, with a specialty in hurricanes and their generation in the Virgin Islands. Also from the First Congregational Church she knew Dr. and Mrs. Albert F. woods, he the President of the Maryland Agricultural College just at the time he turned it into the University of Maryland. We played with the Woods children. Prom her membership on the Board of the YWCA she knew well Mrs. Harlan Fiske Stone, wife of the Chief Justice, and Mrs. William Allen Wilbur, wife of the Dean of Columbian College at George Washington University - two died-in-the-wool Baptists. And so it went including Brookings, founder of the Brookings Institute. The web widened as the circles loosened. Her friendship with two of these - Mrs. Slade, and Mrs. Wilbur - was instrumental in starting her youngest son's scholarly and academic careers - as first reader and semi-cataloguer of the Garrick Collection at the Folger, and in his first teaching position at The George Washington University.
Bearing considerable reputation as a woman who got things done, she was called upon at the time of World War I to find housing for many who descended on Washington for war work. She found places, for example, for Dr. Ralph Blanchard (then a captain in the army, but in civil life an economist and actuarial expert from Columbia University) at Mrs. John Harvey's across Cummings Lane, as well as places for Lyman Vanderpile, and Jack File (Ohio and New York). She took in for longer and shorter periods Henry McCoy, nephew to her husband's cousin Barry Bacon (architect of the Lincoln Memorial), who was working on his uncle's project, and for her nephews-in-law Ralph, Robert and Lawrence Hills, the latter two enroute to uniformed service. Ralph came back with his wife and adopted son to live in the Cummings Lane residence for months. He did not go overseas, but kept the home fires burning by leading the then-popular community sings in Washington - morale building gatherings which he led by gesticulation and a resounding (sometimes a trifle off-key) voice. She found a place for the three Terwilliger sisters from Minnesota (secretaries in three government offices).
Once in the late twenties word was passed through the YWCA that a Mrs. Davis had come to town, had badly sprained her ankle, was not sick enough for a hospital but needed a place to recuperate for several days. Mary took her in. Three days later, her daughter, the young actress, Bette Davis, came to town to take her home. Mary thought Bette a pretty and attractive girl who seemed to have some talent for acting in the movies, gave her tea, showed her the rock garden, and helped her get her mother into a cab. Mary Bradford Stone was not bowled over by the burgeoning movie entertainment field. She liked Ben Hur, De Mille's Biblical pageants, Charlie Chaplin, and Shirley Temple - so funny, and so "dear." Along with everyone else, Mary was amused by pictures in which Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks played. Arbuckle was anathema. Wallace Berry was gross. She really preferred the legitimate stage with giants of their day, Richard Mansfield, Maude Adams, E. H. Southern and Julia Marlow, George Arliss and Helen Hayes. The boys and their friends could spend a dime or two on Saturday afternoons seeing episodes of The Oregon Trail with William S. Hart, or watch the exploits of Harold Lloyd, not uplifting, she thought, but exciting and generally inoffensive.
Alert she always was to the reading and discussion of the latest books, and to current events. With her active lines into the religious, educational, library, military and government fields she lived a busy, full, and to her, a rewarding life. Through her brother, Ray (in the army), and her father (Chaplin to the Garfield Post of the Grand Army of the Republic) we often went to Fort Meyer to see the horse riding shows and drills. Through acquaintance with Harold Abbot, renovator and landscape architect for Mt. Vernon, we were introduced to areas and activities there not generally seen by the visiting public.
Through her brother, Harry, we regularly attended opening art exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery. As children we were taken again and again to Washington's museums and places of public interest, for Mary wanted us to make use of the myriad opportunities for culture which the city afforded. She supported husband, George, in taking us to hear the performance of the Washington Opera which sparked local talent by bringing in a few principals from New York. We heard Aida, Tanhauser, and Carmen, Chaliapin as Faust, and in concert heard Paderewski.
Books in the house had always provided resources for Mary Bradford's formal education. Her ancestors read as well as worked. As one would suspect, her shelves contained many Bibles, concordances, psalms and Psalters, an Epitome of Old Testament Stories (in easy Latin, 1825) the Communicant's Companion (1704) a curious New Testament translated into the language of the Ojibwa Indians (hardly for daily reading, obviously from her father's work in the Indian Affairs Office), an elderly volume of twenty-one brief biographies and testimonials of preachers as models for youth. But Isaac Watt's Divine and Moral Songs for Children and Bunyan's pilgrim's Progress gave way to more modern works. She obviously read little in her father's Battles of the United States by Sea and Land, 2 vols., but John Lord's Beacon Lights of History (1833-83) lectures in fifteen volumes became a standby in her family and in the reading of her children. Its essays dipped into "Old Pagan Civilizations," "The Religions of Indians, of the Greeks and of the Orient," and "Ancient Philosophies Seeking after Truth," with emphasis on Socrates, Greek art and literary figures. It then traveled down the ages to "Writings of American Leaders," ending with an index volume. It filled out in words and stories the picturization laid out in a double sized folio "Adam's Syn-chronological Chart" of the history of civilization from the stone age to modern times. This sweep, along with the Harvard Classics, provided introductions to types of thought worldwide. The novels of Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, some George Eliot, Hawthorne, Clemens and J. Fenimore Cooper, appeared. A well-worn edition of Tennyson's poems, a good deal of Robert Louis Stevenson and some Ruskin essays occupied a space. A prized possession, and one apparently well read was a volume of Wordsworth's poems, with markers in pages presenting "I wandered lonely as a Cloud," "Lines written in Early Spring," "Tintern Abbey," "Ode on Intimations of Immortality," and the sonnet, "The World is Too Much With Us." The volume was a birthday gift from her husband in 1903. Shakespeare had been a by-word for lip service, at least, with every literate person in the western world since the end of the 18th century, so his works were included among her books, but her real poetic affections lay with the more modern Robert Browning - not the Browning of "The Soliloquy in a Spanish Cloister," but the cheery Browning of "Rabbi Ben Ezra." She understood the poet's subtleties of characterization, but his boundless optimism had its ready and continuing appeal to her. We often talked about it. She was a devotee of William Lyon Phelps' approach - a buoyant, positive outlook. In the early years of the twentieth century the auto-suggestion formula for backing a cheerful view of life introduced by the French psychologist, Emile Coue', appealed to her. He had suggested that one repeat several times a day - "Day by Day in Every Way, I'm getting Better and Better." One needed something in the thirties to boost confidence. Verses by William Oxnam about low and high ways to choose in life also appealed, as did the easy appeal of Bruce Barton's books. The Man Nobody Knows brought her back again to the spiritual books of her youth. But she had a good taste and relish for contemporary cartoons, especially by John Berryman of the Evening Star in the daily press, and she could even relish some of James Thurber. Her view was broad, her tolerance was enviable, and her kindliness exemplary. She never gossiped, and her sons never heard her bad mouth anyone.
Despite family attachments to army officers, Mary Bradford Stone was at heart a sincere but quiet pacifist. She argued at length with her cousin, Louis Driggs, long-time friend and munitions makeer in Upper New York State, urging abandonment of the manufacture of explosive weapons, and certainly against widespread sales of guns and handguns, which Driggs manufactured and sold to all Balkan governments. We never had a weapon in the house, save for a BB gun toy I requested when very young, on which Mary frowned, "Mary," Driggs would say, "your sentiments, though essentially womanly, are perhaps right, but you don't face the realities of human relations - municipal, national, or international." She deplored his patronizing attitude. Yet she was horrified, as were so many, by reported German atrocities in Belgium in the early years of World War I, and of Hitler's pressures leading to World War II. When her youngest son joined the Navy as a JG Lieutenant educational specialist in 1943, she took him hard by the hand and said with genuine concern, "Son, you are not going out to kill people are you?" "No," he replied, "the world's in a mess, and I can best serve in the Navy's educational plan in the Bureau of Personnel, which may go a long way towards saving a generation of youngsters of some talent who may be missing out on their potential college years." He was not sure the answer satisfied, and the more he thought about the seemingly necessary logistic support of fighting fronts, the more he thought about his real motives. He rationalized his action by his view of the concatenation of complex events which was requiring such decisions. The world was indeed in a mess.
The outside community usually thought of Mrs. Stone as a board member of some activity, and a pusher for causes. Some wondered about her concern for house and family inside the walls of 410 Cummings Lane. What mother constantly engaged in outside activities could care for family details? She managed both with considerable skill and warmth.
After moving in the early years of marriage to several houses -- P Street, 20 Street, and Park Road, the family settled for good in Chevy Chase. She certainly turned the house at 410 Cummings Lane, one of the architectural disasters of the community, into a home, more livable in each decade. Not much could be done to it externally, but one could rearrange things internally, the will and means being present. George Stone, though an architect of taste himself, found it hard to reach a decision to go forward with changes she proposed. The front hall had an entrance way just in front of a useless fireplace. Two medium-sized rooms gave off to the left, a parlor and dining room, undistinguished in size and shape. Mary Bardford's life-long friend from girlhood, Julia Pond, from Bucksport, Maine, found herself with a male relative from Brunswick coming to visit - a pleasant downeasterner, Richard Melcher, by trade a carpenter. His charges were nominal, and he needed work. George Stone liked him, and before any of us knew what was happening, Mary had Melcher knock out the partition between these rooms to create a respectably large one, and persuaded him to add on a porch dining room to the rear and build a garage underneath. Breathing space was gained. The room was now large enough to hold Wednesday night prayer meetings, devout but not lengthy. Trouble was that two not-too-elegant hot water pipes leading to the upper bedrooms became exposed on the east wall. They had been concealed in the partition. The plumbing job was too much to manage, so there they stood painted to blend in with the wall for the rest of the fifty years of Stone occupation. One got used to them, and with erection of a beam and plaster ceiling, the place took on a pleasant warm look. Eyes were attracted to the Windsor desk, and the window flower boxes, the pictures, the couch, the grandfather clock and the bookcases. All seemed very agreeable. She changed the former butler's pantry into a dinette off the kitchen, and everyone was happy. The atmosphere was what counted.
Having experienced as a child (as we all do) some periods of loneliness and boredom when the regular sessions and comforting routines of school had closed for the summer, Mary was sympathetic to the resurgence of such periods in her children. "What can I do now, Mom?" was often heard from the boys aged five to seven. The urge to say "go and amuse yourselves" gave way to the desire to suggest some constructive activity which would absorb attention and lead to further amusement. She and her friend, Mrs. John Lane, who had boys the same age, started a small home industry in basket weaving. The wooden bottoms, complete with holes bored around the edges in circles, and the ratafia, the thin circular spokes, were purchased at small charge, and mornings were spent in the handiwork to produce childish masterpieces. Then they could be carefully stained to become Christmas gifts for aunts and uncles.
To vary the activity, we did beads, and here the girls in the neighborhood joined up. Long triangle-like pennants were cut from colored magazine advertisements. These we rolled from the large edge to the tapered point on a long sturdy hat pin, making a colorful losenge, which we then shellacked, both to hold the paper in place and make it shine. When dry it was removed and strung with a smaller needle. The detail was a challenge to young fingers.
Then we got into preparing Japanese gardens on large trays - a little sand, a little turf, a piece of broken mirror for a lake, bridges, paper-mache shrubs, plaster miniature pagodas, and even little people with parasols, and some with swords completed the picture and the model. These miniature props could be had from Osgood's Store of Oriental curios. He was friendly to Mary Stone as a member of the First Congregational Church. His trips to Japan and China brought back all sorts of delights including water flowers (tightly bound, colored dry straw, or pulp circles looking much like dried chips) which when dropped into a glass of water expanded before our eyes into vari-colored flowers. He also provided children costumes from the Orient for parties. As we grew older we and the whole neighborhood of our age group played endlessly on a lumber pile in our side yard on fine days.
The pile consisted of planks which George Stone bought from a neighbor with the idea of building a garage. The years passed and no garage appeared, but the pile was a wonderful outdoor play object. It became a ship, a fort, a train or anything we boys wanted to make it. On rainy days, Mary Stone provided us with molds for producing miniature lead soldiers, made from melted down lead-foil wrappers from candy bars. Their uniforms could be painted on. Then came an old car to be taken apart and put back together again. The usual neighborhood sports abounded - baseball, football, cops and robbers, hikes and swims in Rock Creek Park. Next to the lumber pile we boys once had a tent, equipped with old army cots, in which we slept on warm summer nights. A flag pole stood before it with flag aloft, very military. Once a guest asked in Mary's presence, "Do your boys raise the flag at sunrise?" Mary replied before we could, "Yes, at sons rise."
Music lessons took up an hour on Saturday afternoons, from Mrs. T. W. Norcross, a neighbor. I was encouraged to pay for mine by cutting her grass with a push mower, hard to move. The effort may ultimately have soured me, but I did learn (I found reading music difficult) the "Soldier's Chorus," "Narcissus," "La Paloma," and "Adeste Fedelis," well enough to play them in school. The rolls on our player piano attracted me more - from "The Whistler and his Dog," to "The Moonlight Sonata," to the overture from William Tell, Bradford fared better and carried his touch on into adult life, long after the notes and arrangements had left my fingers and memory. Mary Stone also encouraged a young, pretty elementary school teacher to set up some dancing classes, twice a week after school, to teach us ballroom movements, and prepare us for the social life to come in high school. Square dancing, especially "The Virginia Reel", we had picked up at neighborhood parties. I was surprised, I remember, to see at one of the library socials what good dancers Mother Mary and Father George were in the waltz and fox trot.
The point is that Mary Bradford Stone, with all her community, church, and international activities kept a creative eye on her family. She took little interest in cooking, though her spice cake and gingerbread were quite tasty. Black Betty Forshee, who lived in, cooked for us for many years and did the simple meals. The rest was plain living. Gourmet meals were for banquets elsewhere. Burnt toast still tastes good to me.
Her concern for her sons was the more touching because she worked by indirection rather than by demand. She wanted them reared as responsible individuals. Once when I got up to give my seat to a lady on the streetcar and the lady declined saying "Child, just stay there, I can stand," Mary Bradford said to her quietly, "Will you please sit and help me to rear my son to act as a gentleman?" Non-plused, the dame sat down. The only rule that she required when the boys became teenagers was that they should awaken her, no matter what the time, when they came home late from social events - no questions asked. She could then sleep comfortably the rest of the night. She did keep a distant eye on their young girl friends. Her standard was not for ravishing young beauties, or for developing intellectuals, but for what she called wholesome types. She accepted graciously any friends we turned up with, but had several in the community picked out as wholesome. They all married someone else to the relief and benefit of all hands.
When the boys were away from home, she expressed hope that they would keep in touch on a regular basis by letter. They did, and she preserved many a piece of such correspondence. When her youngest went abroad for the first time in the summer of 1933 with his college roommate, A. Wayne Van Leer, he wrote often. The trip had been made possible by his brother who was working for General Motors in Spain. As Wayne wrote regularly to his family, Mary made a pleasant arrangement with Mrs. Van Leer, who was a regular competitor in putting tournaments at the Columbia Country Club, that whenever either received a letter from the boys they would meet at her Ford car at Chevy Chase Circle for a brown-bag sandwich lunch to read the letters to each other. Busy as she was in outside affairs, Mary Bradford never neglected the family, but she guided it with a pleasantly loose rein.
The restlessness of youth which had prompted her first trip abroad in 1890 reasserted itself forty years later when an invitation came from her son, Bradford, to visit him in Belgium where he was working for General Motors. A rather large-scale plan opened up possibilities, for she would go on, that November in 1931, to visit Dushan Milan Illich in Belgrade, then her distant cousin, Minna Knight Mason in Florence, with short stopovers in London, and visits to YWCA's in every town that had them. She sailed on The American Farmer, again on rough seas.
Friends in Washington showered her with gifts for the journey (all listed in her diary) from fountain pens to fruits, from flowers to luggage. She was a popular lady. Bradford met her at Southampton, and accompanied her to London where she put up at the YWCA, visited with Colonel and Mrs. Ernest Gold, shopped at Selfriges, saw a lovely performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Old Vic, had a coat remodeled for $12.00, and was surprised to view the bronze statue of a horse at Colder's Green - "a memorial to the 375 horse casualties in England during World War I remembered as only the English remember animals in the service of their country."
Three days later she crossed over to Antwerp to stay with Bradford in his apartment. Her first social visit was to tea at the Letcher's (our U.S. Consul General in Belgium) where, among others, she met Mrs. Aubrey Pershouse, and Mrs. Edward Riley (the wife of Brad's boss) not knowing, of course, or even suspecting, that fifty years later, her son, Bradford, a widower, and Edith Pershouse, widowed, would marry in New Canaan, Connecticut. In Antwerp she visited the Cathedral again, noting Corregio's "Descent from the Cross," art museums, and the street market, went to Bruges, dined again with the Pershouses, and after a week, took off for Serbia. Bradford put her on the "Orient Express" in Brussels to be met by the Illichs in Belgrade. Everywhere she went she purchased small items for sister Faith's doll's house (now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington) and picked up small stones for her rock garden. They would flabbergast the customs officials.
The Illichs lived in the suburbs of Belgrade, but took her to the city to see the parks and the palace. In the city she visited a Washington acquaintance, Reed Clark, our American Consul there, and his charming wife, and met many members of the American colony. The walk from the Illich's house and garden to the rail station was, she remarked, long and muddy, but behind the Captain marched an orderly who carried his shiny boots and the ladies' dress shoes. A week in Serbia opened her eyes to a different world. They talked of Dushan's year-long stay in Chevy Chase, and of the many events that had occurred in the interim.
Not having been to Italy on her first trip, Mary looked forward with some anticipation to a few days in Florence to see its galleries, its gardens, its churches, and to enjoy its culture-laden atmosphere. But at age 62, people and their customs really attracted her more, perhaps, than museums and monuments. Minna Mason had her to tea, which she poured from a silver teapot and creamer of delicate design engraved "M. K. " Minna noted that Mary Knight Bradford Stone was the only other M.K. she knew, so planned to leave her the tea service at her death. And so she did.
En route back to Antwerp the train broke down near Milan. Mary and her compartment mates whiled away a two-hour stay in the city visiting the Duomo, and the covered Galleria. In it she saw thousands of people gathering to pay respects to Mussolini's brother who had died suddenly several days before. She and her friends signed the book of condolences "as a gesture of international friendship," though she had not much use for 11 Duce himself.
On Mary's return to Belgium she visited the Plantin Museum in Amsterdam, spent a day at Louvain, where she was proud to see the University Library which had been restored by funds from American school children and colleges. She spent Christmas in Antwerp, with a fine dinner at the Riley's. Bradford wanted to entertain, but she surveyed his equipment and found only a few utensils left, for he had packed to be off to Spain on his next assignment. On 31 December, she embarked on the Pennland for New York, but the ship was delayed for a day and a night because of heavy fog along the Scheldt. On board she read and wrote letters during a continuously rough passage. Waves broke over the decks, but her mind was on her two books, a thick history of Belgium (from which she took notes), and another on Russia. On board she conversed with a lawyer named Fallow, who was convinced that the girl, Anastasia, (much in the news) was the real Romanof princess.
Her afterthoughts on Belgium were a composite of her trip and her reading. She prepared a long lecture on the subject to entertain the church and YWCA folk at home - from Belgium funerals to farm implements, from schools to museums, architecture, and customs of living, security, food, and politics. The talk then carried her through Serbia, Italy and England. A thick ringed notebook tells us all, as she told all to many a group in Chevy Chase and Washington.
Towards the end of her life the Chevy Chase church involved more and more of her energy and devotion. She liked what she saw in and heard from Dr. Hollister, and more than approved the wide scale of endeavors in which the congregation was active; But she also remembered with fondness the first pastor, Hubert Rex Johnson (1908-1924). She wanted to help provide a dignified and attractive memorial to him, so persuaded the excellent local artist, Alexander Clayton, (recently engaged, by the way, to do Richard Nixon's portrait) to paint a fine likeness of Dr. Johnson from a photograph in the church archives and persuaded her husband to draw plans for an altar and chapel - the Johnson Chapel - in the west tower room of the church. The mission was accomplished and would never have been there but for her initiative and follow-through. Mary Bradford Stone's trips and reflections on people, places, and events were not yet over, for in 1936 she visited her son, Bradford, and his then new wife, Pauline, at his new General Motors post in Mexico City. In her clear hand she commented rather fully in an 84-page diary upon this journey and three-month visit. The comments continue to reveal her character, consistently developing and reacting to new interests in an hispanic setting.
She and husband, George, left on 24 June and returned on 15 September, 1936. He sketched daily in and around the city. They both visited the sights and surrounding areas with Bradford and Pauline. Soon Mary became acquainted with ladies active in the YWCA, the church, and the American school there. Both Mary and George had a fine time and a rewarding experience.
The world, of course, had changed a good deal in customs and social values, some of which saddened her, especially the lack of Sunday observances aboard ship, and the avid pursuit of trade and business on the Sabbath in Mexico City.
The daily program aboard the S.S. Siboney, bound for Vera Cruz, included even on Sunday, ping-pong, a treasure hunt, a sweepstakes game, and dancing. When she spoke to the deck steward about the absence of a Sabbath atmosphere he replied, "Well these passengers are New Yorkers, and there is no Sunday in New York." On the return trip on the Siboney on a Sunday, she quietly requested of the band master in the lounge whether he might insert a few hymns in his music. He replied, "Madame, that would be too depressing." and swung into his jazz routine. But she did not pout. The first stop on the way down was at Havana which she found over laden in public buildings, with gaudiness and display of wealth despite the streets filled with beggars. Even the public gardens lacked simplicity and dignity, she thought. However, the Morro Castle, which had guarded the harbor since 1530, seemed to her the most impressive sight there.
Upon arrival at Vera Cruz, they were met by Jorge Pasqual, the General Motors customs agent, who was to drive them "up the hill" to Mexico City. He could not do it that day, so insisted they stay at his house for the night. The Pasquals were wealthy but very Latin. She was amused that they prided themselves on a new Frigidaire, set up prominently in their elegant dining room. They served some courses directly from it. Their bath was lined with mirrors. Mary laughingly noted to Bradford later that she had never in her life seen so much of herself.
She found the scenic route from Vera Cruz, at sea level, to Mexico City (7/500 feet above the sea) breathtaking and beautiful. She liked Bradford's small house, but noted the way in which all houses in that section guarded privacy by high, vine-covered walls all around. Life seemed sheltered, guarded, or involuted. The city streets, narrow, crowded, and noisy, especially from blaring traffic horns - were at first disturbing, but crowded though the streets were, she felt in touch with the people, as she walked, and as she had in her first trip to Europe in 1890 (at street markets) and again in her 1931 trip to Antwerp, Belgrade, and Florence. The Mexican climate was rainy and cold, but open fires kept the house warm. A ten-day electric workers' strike made householders rely on candles and a temporary fireplace in the yard for heating water for drinking and bathing. Some General Motors people feared a revolutionary uprising was brewing, but Mary Bradford Stone's nerves on the subject remained continually calm.
She shopped daily in the markets, took tea at Sanborns and sewed baby clothes for the infant expected by Bradford's wife, Pauline. Mary read heavily in books about Mexican history, especially about Maximillian and Carlotta (The Phantom Crown and Elizabeth Empress of Austria). She lunched with Mrs. Fred Adams who had founded the YWCA in Mexico City, and attended four "Y" board meetings. Through acquaintance with a Mrs. Gadsbury, a kindergarten teacher, she often visited classes in the American school there, and wrote down a detailed description of classes, ratios to teaching staffs, pictorial supplements to teaching (pictures of George Washington and of Mexican patriots side by side), and noted that the teachers wanted their pupils to correspond with counterparts in the U.S. schools. Girls in the YWCA had prepared a scrapbook for the USA "Y" girls.
Mary found the Shrine of the Virgin at Guadaloupe impressive as an emotional outlet for the sad, sick, and lonely, filled with praying people and with piles of discarded crutches by those healed. She viewed the pyramids of Toltec, but noted the decay of the Aztec culture along the way in the run-down Indian villages. She talked to a protestant Sunday school class about her trip to Serbia. At a Monastery of the Carmelites she noted the beautiful garden, but horrid catacombs where the monks did penance. "For what?" she asked herself. A clinic set up by the YWCA, where some 450 children received health shots pleased her, despite her long-time distrust of hypodermics.
This Mexican trip was probably the triumphant seed time for her international interests. From her diary and her readings she made up a book of lecture notes for use after her return to Chevy Chase where she knew she would be asked to speak about the highlights of her long visit. She spoke at 32 group meetings in churches, high schools, guild meetings, and before missionary societies in the District of Columbia, Chevy Chase and Kensington, Maryland. Many of the comments in her diary are, of course, descriptive, but many are also evaluative. She went with certain convictions, but kept open-minded about new ways and different customs. In Mexico she read Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and found it to be cleverly sarcastic, but vulgar in spots. She attended movies, the theatre, the opera in Mexico, enjoying all, just, as she said, from the point of view of amusement, though one feels she longed for evidence of some serious strain which she felt was lacking.
"Feor cythe beoth selran gesohte tha the him seolve deah," runs a line of gnomic wisdom in the Old English Beowulf. It means "Distant lands are best sought by one who himself avails," or, more loosely, "Foreign countries are better visited by one who has accomplished something and who is able to participate." Mary Bradford qualified as such a traveler, for she brought something to, as well as took something from, each of her experiences abroad.
In 1938, she, a confirmed internationalist, was not quite through with visiting foreign cultures, for then she and George Stone went again to visit Bradford for another three-month stay in Mexico City. Bradford and Pauline by then had two daughters, Josephine, aged two, and Mary Bradford, aged eight months, who occupied much of Mary's time, although nurse, Eleanor Gray (from London) took major care of these granddaughters.
Mary immediately renewed acquaintances, especially at the Union Evangelical Church, and the YWCA, along with those at the American School, the Embassy, and the General Motors family. She lunched, dined, and had tea with one or more of these friends rather regularly.
On the trip south to Mexico, she again registered in her diary her disgust that an American ship should in no way observe the Sabbath with dignity and some solemnity, instead of by dances and "those foolish little race horses." But she got into the spirit of the passage on weekdays and even once played a game of Bingo. She and George went ashore in Havana to escape the noise of the unloading of steel and the taking on of many new passengers. They found the usual polyglot populace on the Havana streets, the sidewalks so narrow that two could hardly walk abreast. They had met a pleasant young man, Samuel Lecky from Rock Springs, Wyoming, who hit it off well with George, and who invited them to visit his ranch. George did so in 1939.
When the Siboney set out for Vera Cruz after the Havana stop, a storm that had whipped across Texas hit the Gulf, and was so strong that it roughed the sea for two days. Even Mary Bradford Stone had to take to her bed, from which she was thrown twice to the stateroom floor by the violence of the waves. The Thanksgiving dinner in the galley, which dauntless George attended, was dashed to the floor. En route from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, Mary became even more aware than she had earlier of the gap between the haves and the have-nots both in the countryside, and later in the city. She felt for the lame, the halt and the blind, and wondered about the plan, or lack of it, for life.
Rumors of new strikes afoot did not perturb her as much as news that Belgium and Spain had broken diplomatic relations due to Spain's Civil War, hence Pauline's parents, representing the Spanish Republic in Brussels, were cast afloat. Brad and Pauline asked them to come to stay with them, and Mary offered haven in Chevy Chase. This break also meant that Pauline's Spanish passport would not long be valid, so she began the process of becoming an American citizen.
Mary, a neat but not a stylish dresser, had an eye for style and beauty, and commented twice in her diary on the stunning looks of Pauline as she and Brad went out to a New Year's Eve party, she in black lace, low cut dress, with a string of pearls, and a white gardenia in her raven hair.
Mary spent hours with the babies, playing games, and telling stories, but had time to read two books by Pearl Buck Fighting Angel, about her father fifty years ago in China, and Emelie, about her mother in China in the same period. She loved them, and also read a book banned in Germany, Insanity Fair, by Donald Reed, a New York Times correspondent, which she found so interesting that she wrote him a commendatory letter about it. Nothing, if not vocal, Mary argued pleasantly (on the trip down) with the purser, when the sea was calm, and with a Mr. Hogan, after a dinner gathering in Mexico City, who had sounded off on the coal miners as being at the root of all disturbances in Mexico. He was all for Standard Oil and Dutch Shell, who seemed to own 98% of the oil reserves, and he noted that enough oil existed in Texas alone to last the world's needs for a thousand years. He thought John L. Lewis (of the Congress of Industrial Organizations) should be shot, but that Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull, and Sumner Welles were the brightest men in America. All this Mary later noted down for future thought, but without much comment.
This stay in Mexico was long, but was cheered by regular letters from home by sister Faith, who kept Mary apprised of local community affairs, such as the wedding of Isabel Dynes, long-time neighbor, upon receipt of which news she asked Bradford to send a telegram of congratulations from "the family."
Mary had seen the Mexican sights, so on this trip she spent more time with Mrs. Gadsbury, with the family, and with the people at the Union Church. By mid-February, she was ready to return to Chevy Chase, where she made a few talks, but did not list them. She was often introduced as the wide traveler, but she refused to bore groups with repetitions of what she had told after the earlier Hispanic voyage.
In all of her talks she had no particular message or moral to promote, save that of extending the vision, or refreshing the memories of those in her audiences concerning other ways of living, other customs and international goodwill in general. Had she lived in a later age she would surely, as a youngster, have volunteered for the Peace Corps, or have sought to be on one of the commissions of UNESCO. She was as cheered at its founding (the year before she died) as she had been sad at the defection (in an earlier time) of U.S. participation in the League of Nations. All her talks were gratis, nor was she ever in training for heroineship. She never thought of compensation. She was an amateur in the best sense in all her talks and activities. In her "pro bono publico" took on a living definition and exemplification.
Obviously a deep religious strain was inherited by her from her New England ancestors, but her devotion was not to the strictly theological side, though she was up on doctrinal points of both Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. For her Christianity was encapsulated in a faith set forth in the Ten Commandments, the eight Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mour She used to talk about the (perhaps then necessary) negativism of the Commandments - the "thou shalt nots." of the Old Testament, but preferred the positives of the Beatitudes - the "Blessed ares" of the New Testament. In these she found four deal essentially with an individual's inner spiritual concerns "Blessed are the pure in heart," "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (that is who recognizes they may be lacking in spirits fullness) etc. But that the other four emphasized beneficial social and moral outward action - "Blessed are the peacemakers, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted." Blind faith and assured dogmatism were never Mary Bradford's mainstays, but reasoned activity which envisioned consequences. She relied upon the power of example even more than the power of reason. Once her youngest son, who was directing a summer settlement camp in Towaco, New Jersey, invited her for the weekend and took her to a nearby church service on Sunday. The small congregation was enjoying a real hell fire and brimstone sermon from an impassioned minister who evidently had "the call," but little else. She politely waited the service out, but on the return trip mused in the car, "Had my father or grandfather heard that talk each would be turning in his grave. I prefer the work you are doing with the New York street urchins in your camp."
So that ambulance crossing 14th Street in February, 1946, bore the remains of an exceptionally talented woman-a founder of the Washington YWCA, and the D.C. Chapter of the Red Cross, President of the PTA, of a community club, chairman of a church guild and missionary society, board member of a large suburban women's club, and of a county general hospital, an internationalist who housed many a foreign student, a doer and helper in a hundred little nameless unremembered acts for as many people. In 1947, twenty-five neighbors, women of mark in Montgomery County affairs, gathered at the County General Hospital in Sandy Spring to plant a pink dogwood tree in her honor - a fitting growing tribute - which still flourishes there. She would have liked it as a momento, a growing thing.
Mary Bradford Stone was indeed a woman to be reckoned with in her time, but one with whom it was a pleasure to reckon-even tempered, gently persuasive, civilized, and with a twinkle in her eye that sometimes belied the passion and commitment that lay in her heart.
GWS, Jr. 2/14/85