Mary Butler Markley was born in 1864 in Henry County, Iowa. Seeking a higher education, she left her home in Iowa to attend a nonsectarian girls boarding school called Brooks Seminary for Young Ladies in Poughkeepsie, New York. She inevitably returned to her midwestern roots when she attended the University of Michigan, where she received her B.A. in 1892. She was appointed a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society upon its establishment at the university. After attending U-M, she taught at a Friends school in Wilmington, Delaware, and at Harcourt Place in Gambier, Ohio. On July 6, 1893, she married Dr. Joseph Markley, who became Professor of Mathematics at University of Michigan. The couple took up residence at 1816 Geddes Ave. in Ann Arbor and began planting their local legacy. According to the Board of Governors, the Markleys’ “home on Geddes Avenue at Oxford was a place that the students knew well.” In addition, Mary was an active member of the First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, where she taught Sunday school to adults.
Mary Markley was active in alumnae affairs after her graduation. She was the vice president of the Detroit branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae and, in 1902, organized the Ann Arbor branch. From 1915 to 1917, she was the president of the Women’s Club of Ann Arbor and under this title organized the Washtenaw County Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was also a part of the Michigan Alumnae Club, the Emeritus Club of the Michigan Alumni Association, the League of Women Voters, and the Faculty Women’s Club. Through her memberships with many alumni associations, she helped to found the University Women’s League, now the Michigan League.
During World War I, Markley was the chairwoman of the Women’s Committee of National Defense for Washtenaw County. In 1918, she was appointed an ex-officio member of the Michigan Preparedness Committee for Washtenaw County by governor Albert Sleeper for her efforts within the Women’s Committee for the War Board. She raised awareness of the hard work that the women in her committee were doing and tried to get equal representation for them in the county meetings. She insisted that the women whom she supervised did great work in collecting pledges to help in the war efforts and therefore deserved to inject their opinions into the War Board. In her campaign of support for their voices, she wrote that “many valuable inspirational talks [had] been given in Ann Arbor…but [they had] not yet reached the state of unity which brings representation from [all] of the units of the county to a county meeting. That is an ideal state to work for.” It was apparent that she wanted for these women to have their efforts recognized and their ideas considered.
The Alumnae House was renamed Mary Markley House in her honor. The house closed in 1950, but the Board of Regents kept Markley’s name in the runnings for future dedications. With the opening of a new residence hall designed to house 1000 women in 1959, her name was agreed upon by the board and thus the building became Mary Markley Hall. It is the hope that her name and legacy will be remembered by those who live there, and that the residents will reflect her values of hard work and dedication.
- “Woman Who Helped Found League Dies,“ Ann Arbor News, March 6, 1956.
- Council of National Defense, Women’s Committee, Michigan Division records, 1918-1919.
- “Markley Hall General,” Box 4, University Housing Records.
Portrait of Mary Markley, Alumni Association Records.