Margery Bailey

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Margery Bailey

Margery Bailey (May 12, 1891 - June 17, 1963) was a professor of English and Dramatic Arts and Literature at Stanford University and today the Margery Bailey Professorship in English bears her name. She is regarded as "one of Stanford’s most celebrated teachers in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s."[1]


Margery Bailey was born on May 12, 1891, in Santa Cruz, California, the daughter of John Howard Bailey and Margaret Elizabeth Jones.[2]

She attended Stanford University, B.A. in 1914 and M.A. in English in 1916. In 1920 she took a sabbatical year and earned a Ph.D. from Yale University.[2]

From 1916 to 1963 Margery Bailey was first instructor and then professor of English Literature at Stanford University, the first women to achieve tenure as professor in 1937.[3][2] Despite her advanced degrees, she was not promoted to full professor until 1953.[4] Her students included John Steinbeck, Laird Doyle, Waldo Salt, Archie Binns[5] and Angus Bowmer, who later founded the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.[2] Twice she persuaded Steinbeck to return to his studies at Stanford, and she is regarded as one of the two influential people in his formative years (the other being another Stanford professor, Edith R. Mirrielees).[6] Charles R. Lyons (1933–1999), professor of drama and comparative literature at Stanford University, as an undergraduate at Stanford focused on Shakespeare working with Bailey,[7] and later was endowed the chair that bears Bailey's name.[8][9] Baily difficult personality and a flair for the dramatic was famous at Stanford.[4]

She was active in Stanford dramatics and was involved in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland, Oregon, founded by her former student Angus Bowmer, both as actress then director.[3] Her collection of rare volumes on Shakespeare’s life and time, that she used at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, amounted to 200 volumes; once donated to the Southern Oregon University, the Margery Bailey collection has grown to more than 7200 volumes.[2] In 1957 she published Ashland Studies in Shakespeare.[2]

Middle of the 1930s she established the Stanford University Dramatists’ Alliance and founded a Shakespearian Festival in the San Francisco Bay Area.[2]

She wrote 3 books illustrated by Alice Bolam Preston: Seven Peas in the Pod (1920), The Little Man with One Shoe (1921) and Whistle for Good Fortune (1940).

In 1928 she edited The Hypochondriac: Being the Seventy Essays by the Celebrated Biographer James Boswell, Appearing in the London Magazine from November, 1777, to August, 1783, and Here First Reprinted (her Ph.D. thesis at Yale) and in 1951 she wrote the introduction for Boswell's Column. Being his Seventy Contributions to The London Magazine under the pseudonym The Hypochondriack from 1777 to 1783 here First Printed in Book Form in England, both books by James Boswell.[10]

She corresponded with John P. Marquand, Clarence Darrow, Gertrude Stein, Robinson Jeffers, Irvin S. Cobb, Harold Bell Wright, Helen Keller and Gregory Peck.[3]

From 1939 to 1963 she lived at 559 Kingsley Avenue, Palo Alto, California, with her companion, Dr. Margaret Lamson.[11] The house is now an historical landmark.[2] Lamson was the sister of Stanford executive David Lamson who was framed with killing his wife, Allene, in 1933. He was sentenced to be hanged at San Quentin, but a team of Stanford colleagues, including his sister Margaret, stepped in to form the Lamson Defense Committee. The group included poets Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis and criminologist E.O. Heinrich. They managed to overturn the verdict.[11]

Margery Bailey died on June 17, 1963, at age 72.[2]


Stanford University endows the Margery Bailey Professorship in English.


  1. ^ Lyons, Charles R. et al. (1991). "Memorial Resolution: Eleanor Prosser (1922-1991)"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "PROFESSOR MARGERY BAILEY". mruzik. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Guide to the Margery Bailey Papers". The Online Archive of California. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b CARNOCHAN, W. B. "English Stanford 1891 – 2000 A Brief History". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  5. ^ Cline, John (1938). "Dr. Margery Bailey Is First An Actress". The Stanford Daily. 94 (46). Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  6. ^ Lynch, Audry. "Two Views of Stanford's Teaching Legends: Margery Bailey and Edith Mirrielees and Their Effect on John Steinbeck and Irma Hannibal". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  7. ^ "UNFORGETTABLE TEACHERS: MARGERY BAILEY". Stanford Magazine. March 2003. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Stanford Fill Professorships". San Jose Mercury News. 12 December 1985. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Memorial Resolution: Charles R. Lyons". Stanford Report. November 17, 1999. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Margery Bailey". jamesboswell. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  11. ^ a b Zaniello, Tom (2016). California's Lamson Murder Mystery: The Depression Era Case that Divided Santa Clara County. Arcadia Publishing. p. 113. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
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