LOTW 67: A Life’s Work

By Olivia Mund

Oftentimes when I am reading through archive documents, I notice a trend in the subject matter and tone of the letters. Most of the letters involve Martha Berry asking for donations or receiving them, and the letters that don’t usually involve other mundane subjects connected to the running of the School. However, this makes me more aware of the letters that are more personal and offer insights into Martha Berry and her love of the School.

In a letter to Martha Berry from Anna W. Hollenback, she sends a significant sum of money as a donation to the School. What makes this letter particularly interesting is that Miss Hollenback asks after Martha Berry on a more personal level, in addition to asking about the School. Her inquiry if Martha Berry was doing well was immediately followed by comments about the current condition of the School in light of the recent drought. Letters like this illustrate how Martha Berry’s well being was caught up in that of the School, and the fact this woman recognized that importance in her letter is encouraging to see.

The other letters that catch my eye are ones that show the extreme dedication of a person to the School. The Archive contains a number of letters to Martha Berry from Annie L. Vickery, but one in particular that got my attention was from May of 1926. In this letter she sent a donation for the rebuilding of the boy’s dormitory, which burnt down. However, in this letter she also mentioned being incapacitated by an illness for many weeks. This information stuck with me because of how she delivered it. Annie L. Vickery was not asking for prayers or sympathy, rather she was actually apologizing for being unable to do more to help. She knew how devastating the situation at the School would be for Martha Berry and was troubled she couldn’t make it all better.

In their letters, both of these women acknowledged interesting information about Martha Berry and her relationship with the School. They illustrated how important the School was to Martha Berry, not just as someone instrumental in its running, but for her own self. Berry College was Martha Berry’s life work, and being able to see women acknowledge the fact she would not be happy if the situation at the School was not well reminds me she wasn’t so alone as it might sometimes seem.

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