Margaret Katherine Kelly

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Margaret Katherine Kelly (Majer)

Also Known As: "Ma"
Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: Schloss Helmsdorf, Württemberg, Germany
Death: January 6, 1990 (91)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Charles Majer and Margaretha Majer
Wife of John B. Kelly, Sr.
Mother of Margaret Conlan (Kelly); John Brenden Kelly, Jr.; Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Anne LeVine
Sister of Carl Tituts Majer, Jr. and Bruno Majer

Occupation: Member of Philadelphia School Board, Member of Women's Auxiliary and Board of Corporators for Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, Chairperson of Development Program of Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, Board Member of Moss, Instructor in Phys
Managed by: Joseph William Thomas
Last Updated:

About Margaret Katherine Kelly

I was born in Schloss Helmsdorf, Germany, the daughter of Margaretha, and Carl Majer. Soon after my family moved to Philadelphia and my two siblings and I grew up in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city. I was an outstanding athlete, excelled in intercollegiate swimming as an undergraduate at Temple University. My beauty brought me jobs as a model and cover girl.

After earning my B.A. from Temple in 1921, I succeeded Ethel Loring as Instructor in Physical Education for Women at the University of Pennsylvania's College for Women. I led the undergraduate women in athletic pursuits at the Kingsessing facility used as a gymnasium by Penn's female students. While teaching at Penn, I became the first coach of women's athletic teams at the University, organizing and training a women's basketball team and scheduling the first intercollegiate competitions for women. The women's basketball team played eight opponents in its first year, including Bryn Mawr College, Drexel University, and Temple University. Teams in gymnastics, softball, swimming, and tennis were planned for the next year. I also led a successful fundraising campaign to build women's tennis and I was standing at the far right, as coach of 1924 woman's field hockey team at Penn. After only three years at Penn, my achievements brought me well-earned celebrity as the founder of women's athletics at Penn.

I married Olympic oarsman John Brendan Kelly in 1924, ten years after we first met at a neighborhood swimming pool. Jack Kelly, the son of an Irish Catholic immigrant and ten years my senior, won an Olympic gold medal for sculling in 1920. After working in the brickmaking businesses of two older brothers, he started his own business, eventually becoming a millionaire. He was also involved in politics. After serving as Democratic City chairman, he ran unsuccessfully as the Democrat candidate for mayor of Philadelphia in 1935 and would also have run for senator if his wife had not discouraged the move.

John B. Kelly, Sr., receiving a civic award in 1960 (shortly before his death), accompanied by me and daughter Lizanne, Margaret and Jack Kelly settled in the East Falls section of Philadelphia where they raised four children: Margaret (or "Peggy"), Jack Jr., Grace, and, the youngest member of the family, Elizabeth Anne (or "Lizanne"). Two of these offspring graduated from Penn, Jack in 1950 and Lizanne in 1955. Jack won an Olympic bronze medal for rowing in 1956, became involved in my family's construction business and later became a Philadelphia city councilman as well as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Grace, of course, gained fame first as an actress and then as princess of Monaco.

After my children were all in school, I became active in various civic organizations. In 1935 I began a long association with Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, serving on its Women's Auxiliary and Board of Corporators before chairing the Development Program and then receiving an honorary Doctor of Letters from the school. In recognition of my contributions, the Women's Medical College named a section of the hospital for me. I also served as a member of the Philadelphia Board of Education from 1961 to 1964 and as a leader of volunteer boards and groups associated with the Philadelphia Association for Retarded Children, Moss Rehabilitation Hospital and the Committee for Philadelphia House.

I died January 6th, 1990.

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Margaret Katherine Kelly's Timeline

December 13, 1898
Schloss Helmsdorf, Württemberg, Germany
- 1921
Age 18
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
- 1935
Age 24
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
June 13, 1925
Age 26
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
May 24, 1927
Age 28
Philadelphia, PA, USA
November 12, 1929
Age 30
Philadelphia, PA, USA
June 25, 1933
Age 34
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
- 1960
Age 36
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States