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Mary C. Goodwillie


photo of Mary Goodwillie

Mary C. Goodwillie was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1870. She attended Miss Hershey’s School in Boston, there developing a love and appreciation of literature. She came to Baltimore with her family in 1898. Goodwillie was for many years active in the Family Welfare Association and from 1924-1945 was the president of the Baltimore Social Service Exchange. She was also president of the Friends of Johns Hopkins University Library, and during World War I she organized the Red Cross Home Service. For many years she was active in the Community Fund from which she was given a distinguished service medal in 1938. Goodwillie was instrumental in establishing the Junior League of Baltimore, the Contemporary Club, and the Baltimore Poetry Society. She was very much interested in music and the theater.

For many years she was on the Board of the Women’s Auxiliary of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and outstanding among her services to the Hospital was her reorganization of the Medical-Social Services Department. In 1940 she was given an honorary M.A. degree by Johns Hopkins University in recognition of her many contributions not only to Hopkins, but to the community. For a time she gave courses in Social Economics at the University. She died on June 28, 1949 and left a legacy to Johns Hopkins of $10,000. To honor Goodwillie’s memory, the Goodwillie Room was opened in Gilman Hall in October 1949 as a special library reading room and lounge. Formerly used as a meeting room for the Board of Trustees, the room was designated as the meeting place for the Friends of the Library.

In 1910, Miss Mary Goodwillie gathered together ten friends to learn about social service, to better understand the needs of the Baltimore community, and to take steps to help ease the plight of the city’s oppressed. The group expanded and on April 22, 1912, Miss Goodwillie and her colleagues established the Junior League of Baltimore (JLB) – the fifth Junior League internationally. The young members, many from families where community service was a way of life, quickly immersed themselves in their mission, “to promote voluntarism and improve conditions through trained volunteers.”

The first members met at Goodwillie’s house to read and discuss books on civic responsibility. However, soon the women began to see that the JLB offered a way to impact their community in an era before women won the vote. Early JLB literature indicates young members were asked to boycott stores that didn’t comply with labor unions to show support for fair wages. Additionally, the JLB hosted what The Baltimore Sun called “probably the first public debate by women ever held in Baltimore on the question of woman suffrage.”

The benefit of her contributions to society and to the advancement and independence of women can be seen in the long and rich 103 year history of the Junior League of Baltimore whose members have been advocates for women, children, people with disabilities, and senior citizens since the organization’s founding at the start of the 20th century.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2016.

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