Quaker Practice: Who is Mary McDowell?

Who is Mary McDowell?

Mary McDowell Friends School is named for Mary S. McDowell (1876–1955), who was a member of Brooklyn Meeting and an outstanding Quaker educator. Mary’s legacy embodies the tradition of integrity and commitment to learning that MMFS continues to this day.

Mary was committed to the cause of peace and to teaching New York City’s children. A Swarthmore College graduate, she was an instructor in Latin at the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn.

When she refused to sign a loyalty oath in support of World War I because it conflicted with her Quaker principles, she was put on trial before a special Board of Education committee. She was charged with “conduct unbecoming to a teacher” and was dismissed from her position. Mary was reinstated five years later, in 1923, and she resumed her life’s passion of working with children.

Mary McDowell’s integrity in the face of hardship continues to inspire our entire community, resonating for each of us as we endeavor to act with integrity, clarity, and responsibility in facing the challenges that arise in our own lives.

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