Margaret H. Fulford, 83, founder of college book sale

September 08, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Margaret H. Fulford, whose idea for raising money for college scholarships resulted in the establishment of the Smith College Book Sale, died Monday of heart failure at Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. The former Homeland resident was 83.

The annual sale has grown from 10,000 books at its founding in 1959 to 50,000 books this year -- and has raised nearly $1 million along the way in financial aid for young women attending the college in Northampton, Mass.

"Peggy got the idea after going to Washington and seeing the Vassar College Book Sale," said Nancy L. Boyce of Glen Arm, who has been involved with the sale since 1985.

"I thought it might be a good idea if we tried one for Baltimore," Mrs. Fulford told The Sun in a 1994 interview. "So I had a tea at my house one afternoon. Maybe 14 or 16 came. I thought the sale might be a couple of tables in a church hall. Well, it took off and before long we couldn't hold it in a church. We had to rent stalls at the North Avenue Market."

Earlier fund-raising efforts by the group revolved around fashion shows and the sale of pecans. The first book sale was advertised in the Smith College Alumnae Quarterly as "Rare Books and Rare Beef."

Publicity of a sort came to the fledgling sale when a seemingly cultivated gentleman turned out to be a thief and absconded with the day's proceeds. "He talked to us for a while but then made off with a cigar box full of money. It got into the papers. We had real publicity," Mrs. Fulford said in the interview.

"For years, books that were donated for sale were stored in our basement where they were later sorted," said Martha S. Fulford, a daughter living in Denver.

A slender woman who favored tweed skirts, blouses and jackets, Mrs. Fulford worked alongside other volunteers in sorting the books into categories. "She was a whiz-bang when it came to sorting books," said Mrs. Boyce. "She could easily go through six or seven cartons."

The sale quickly outgrew the old North Avenue Market site. The three-day event's home since 1969 has been the Towson Armory.

"Peggy was not a comedian nor was she imperious. She wanted it done a certain way and that's the way we did it," said Joan Griffith of Roland Park, who has headed nearly a dozen of the book sales. "She took it all very seriously and she was very proud of what the Baltimore group had accomplished. It was really the gleam in her eye and it's a marvelous legacy."

The former Margaret Higgins was born in Petersburg, Va., and moved to Bryn Mawr, Pa., where she graduated from Friends Central School in 1933. She earned her bachelor's degree in history from Smith College in 1937.

During World War II, she worked in Washington, and in 1944 she married H. Lansing Fulford. The couple moved to Homeland in 1952. Mr. Fulford, a manufacturer's representative with Cannon Mills, died in 1985.

She was an active communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held in the church's chapel at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Mark L. Fulford of Denver, and two grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Alumnae Association of Smith College, Northampton, Mass. 01060.

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