Margaret Hamilton (1871 - 1969)

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About Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton -- (1871-1969) Third child of Montgomery and Gertrude Pond Hamilton. Her sister Alice says of Margaret "Margaret is two and half years younger than I, but because she was the only one of us who had ill health as a child, she did not seem really younger.

" Today, her sore throat and rheumatic pains and listlessness would be traced to infected tonsils, the source would be removed, and she would emerge from chronic ill health; but in those days the old family doctor had no remedy except quinine, and all my mother could offer was sea-salt baths and long hours on the sofa."

"This meant reading and thinking for Margaret, while the rest of us were playing football and climbing trees, and it made her the quiet, stable, thoughtful one among us. I cannot remember fits of temper or deliberate teasing and tormenting on Margaret's part, such as the rest of us were sometimes guilty of." (From Alice's autobiography, pg. 19)

When the 3 girls were about 17 they were sent to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Massachusetts. The curriculum offered at Miss Porter's School in the late nineteenth century included: "British literature, English history, Greek and Roman history, French, German, Latin, Moral Philosophy (ethics), Mental Philosophy (a rudimentary psychology), music lessons (usually piano), and drawing. Unusual for a girl's school a variety of science courses were given: geology, astronomy, botany, physiology and chemistry." (From letter of Shirley Langhauser, Archivist at Miss Porter's). Margaret graduated in 1890.

There is no record of which courses the young Hamilton women chose to take (except Alice who details her classes in her autobiography) and students had no required courses. Lifelong friendships were formed at Miss Porter's School. Years after graduation one of Montgomery's daughters, Alice, delivered a graduation speech at Miss Porter's. She said the school taught "respect for work, scorn for sloppiness, idleness and selfishness, and devotion to high thinking and simple living. (Weber, Traces, pg. 32)

Margaret then attended Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia with her sister Edith for her first year and then Edith graduated. According to the college archives she attended both semesters in the 1893-4 college year (with Edith); the first semester of 1894-5 college year, the second semester of 1895-6 and both semester of 1896-7.

The college awarded her a bachelor's degree in Biology and Chemistry in 1897. And she was elected European fellow for the academic year 1897-8. (Edith had received a similar award in 1895, after her graduation, for her work in Greek and Latin.) Margaret studied biology in Paris and Munich (1899) and anatomy at Johns Hopkins. It appears that like her sister Alice, she had hoped to have been a physician.

But her studies were interrupted when she was involved in a carriage accident while at Johns Hopkins. The accident severely injured her hip. Margaret was slightly lame for the rest of her life.

She returned home to Fort Wayne in 1900 where she was left in charge of her younger 4-year-old brother, Quintus, when her Mother, Gertrude, went to care for her younger sister Norah in Europe. But she did not remain there long as her sister Edith had a job for her in Baltimore.

" Margaret was at Bryn Mawr School for 35 years, beginning with her appointment to teach Science in September of 1900 (Edith was Headmistress from 1896 to 1922.) In 1907 Margaret was appointed Associate Head Mistress (to Edith) while remaining a teacher of science.

"From 1910 to 1933 she served as Head of the Primary School, and tried to resign in 1922 when Edith left, but was persuaded to stay. She and Elizabeth Thomas ran the school until Amy Kelly was hired. So she served as Headmistress 1922-1933.

" In 1928 Margaret oversaw the Primary School's move from it's previous location at Cathedral Street to it's present one on Melrose Avenue, north of the city line. The rest of the school did not join the Primary School until September of 1933. She was Headmistress of the entire school from 1933-1935."

Source: Bryn Mawr School Archivist Elizabeth Nye Di Cataldo, Feb. 24, 2006

The Washington Post in honoring her father noted " Margaret Hamilton, was the headmistress of Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore (not to be confused with Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania) where Edith Hamilton also taught for a while. She died in Hadlyme, Conn. in 1969 at the age of 98. "

She retired to Hadlyme (with Alice and sometimes Norah) in 1935 and lived there the rest of her life -- 34 years. She was the practical head of the household and managed the finances in the old house. After retirement she and her sister Alice traveled extensively to Morocco, Spain and Guatemala. She confided in her cousin Caroline Creighton Williams Muller that she felt disliked by the other relatives in Ft. Wayne. She believed this was because Gertrude had influenced Montgomery to separate emotionally from his family of origin. Margaret died at the age of 98 at Hadlyme, Connecticut.

Cousin Holman Hamilton remembered her well. In November 1979 in an interview with Allyn Wetmore he said, " Margaret was one of my favorites. She was the practical member of the family. In the later years at Hadlyme she managed the finances; she ran the household.

"She had a very good friend named Clara Landsberg. Well, Clara Landsberg lived with them at Hadlyme. She was a very delightful person and was really one of the family, and for many, many years she lived at Hadlyme with Alice and Margaret. I called her cousin Clara, and I liked her very much. She had also been a teacher at Bryn Mawr School. And I think she had also been a classmate of Margaret's at Bryn Mawr College. I think she was a Rabbi's daughter, and I think she had connections with upstate New York and my first guess is Rochester, but I'm a little fuzzy on that. And she lived to a great age too...

"Margaret was lame. It was not a lameness that required a crutch or a cane, but it was a matter of a slight dragging of one foot and the lower part of one leg. I mean she didn't walk as a normal person would, there was a little draggy thing. It went back to her early life.

"Margaret had a fine career at Bryn Mawr, and she was later the person who ran the household. She was not without her philanthropic streak. My first cousin, Rush, has five sons, and one of his sons, whose name is Philip, is crippled. And Margaret was crippled. At some point Margaret wrote to me and said, "I think the family should make up a fund for Phillip." This was when he was not very big, maybe ten or twelve or fourteen years old. "His brothers, "she said, "are all very healthy, and they're going to get along all right; Phillip may have some difficulty." So she asked me to be the agent to write to various members of the family to make up a fund for Phillip and to invest it. And it didn't amount to a huge sum, but four times a year Phillip gets some income and will so long as the Bank of New York and Phillip continue to thrive. It isn't large, but it's something; and that's a result primarily of Margaret Hamilton's interest in Phillip, who was a pretty distant relative, and I thought that little sideline might interest you. She was a very fine person. "

Cousin Allen Hamilton took a "great interest in them (Margaret, Alice and Norah). They didn't have much money and in later years he set up a certain financial situation that made it possible for them to live as comfortably as they did (at Hadlyme). He was very much interested in them and he kept in very close touch, particularly with Margaret on the finances."

Obituary in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Monday July 7, 1969 Page 1B, Col. 5:

"Miss Margaret Hamilton, a member of one of Fort Wayne's most distinguished families, died Sunday noon at her home in Hadlyme, Connecticut at the age of 98. She grew up in this city and worked in its first library, which was known as the Women's Reading Room. Miss Hamilton was a graduate of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She taught English in the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore and later was headmistress of the school . She was the daughter of the late Montgomery and Gertrude Pond Hamilton. She was the sister of Dr. Alice Hamilton, noted pioneer in industrial medicine, with whom she lived and who survives her at the age of 100 years. She also was the sister of the late classicist author, Dr. Edith Hamilton, famous for The Greek Way" and other books, and the first cousin once removed of Dr. Holman Hamilton, of Lexington, Kentucky, formerly of this city. "Funeral services will be in Hadlyme Wednesday with burial there."

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Margaret Hamilton's Timeline

1871
1871
1969
1969
Age 98