Josephine Marbury, St. Paul's School for Girls teacher, dies

School trustee had also sought to reform political campaign financing

  • Josephine Marbury
Josephine Marbury
March 30, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Josephine Marbury, a retired St. Paul's School for Girls teacher and trustee who was active in election reform, died of pneumonia March 22 at the Blakehurst retirement community. She was 98 and had lived in Ruxton.

Born Josephine Worthington in Baltimore and raised on Park Avenue, she was a 1930 graduate of the Bryn Mawr School and earned a degree at Goucher College. She remained active in Bryn Mawr alumnae affairs and established a scholarship for students interested in science because her mother graduated from the same school and became an early Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine student.

"She was a woman not bound by convention. She was active in good causes in Baltimore from the 1950s to the time her failing vision prevented her from driving to her volunteer work at the Joseph Richey Hospice in 2001," said her daughter, Silvine Marbury Farnell of Boulder, Colo.

After raising a family, Mrs. Marbury began teaching history at St. Paul's. She joined its faculty in 1961 and remained until 1974.

"She had a deep and booming voice," said Valerie Wethered, a grandniece and former student who lives in Baltimore. "She stood in front of a class, one hand on her hip and another extended out. She turned her fingers like she was squeezing a grapefruit to make a point about how important history is in the decisions we make. Her curiosity about everything just drove her."

After she left the classroom, she was a school trustee from 1981 to 1989 and an honorary trustee from 1989 to 1993. She also belonged to the school's Ivy Society, and with other family members she established the Marbury Fund to provide additional money for students on financial aid.

Her daughter said she kept her teaching style "exciting and alive by constantly learning herself." During the Vietnam War, Mrs. Marbury sought speakers who represented different viewpoints.

"She encouraged her students to think for themselves about the difficult issues raised by that war," her daughter said. "She herself became more and more deeply opposed to the war, and more and more liberal in her political opinions."

When she retired from teaching in 1974, she joined the board of Common Cause Maryland. Family members said she worked for a sunshine law to make the processes of state government more open to the public. They said her "greatest disappointment" was that Common Cause was not more successful in bringing about campaign finance reform, which she considered crucial. She often wrote letters to the editor on this point.

In the 1940s and early 1950s, she served on the board of Planned Parenthood. "She found this work especially satisfying because the board was integrated, as few institutions were in the Baltimore of that day," her daughter said.

Mrs. Marbury also belonged to the Society of Colonial Dames. She was on the board of the Mount Clare Mansion near Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore.

"She saw how removed the mansion was from the neighborhood surrounding it and volunteered as a tutor at a local school and encouraged other members of the Dames to do the same," said her daughter. She volunteered at Paul's Place, a community service agency in that neighborhood.

She also served as a guide at the Maryland Historical Society from 1975 to 2000 and led city school tours. She encouraged students to handle artifacts whenever possible.

She also spent nights at a homeless shelter at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on St. Paul Street. "She was 'Aunt Jo' to these men," her daughter said.

Mrs. Marbury took a course at the Richey Hospice and became a volunteer. "She did what was necessary — laundry, sitting with residents, and even taking one of the residents who loved music to her first opera in a limousine provided by the hospice," her daughter said.

She also enjoyed travel adventures. On a bus trip around Turkey, she sent postcards that ended, "I'm learning so much!" While in her 70s, she began whitewater canoeing. She also took a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and slept under the stars.

Services were Saturday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where she was a member.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Frances Marbury of Marlboro, Vt., and Marian Marbury of Baltimore; and three grandchildren. Her husband of 50 years, Francis Marbury, died in 1986. Her son, Kent Worthington Marbury, died in 1972.

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