Mary Paley Marshall (1850-1944)
Mary Paley Marshall, great-granddaughter of the eighteenth-century theologian and philosopher William Paley, was one of the cleverest women of her generation, the first woman to lecture at an English university, an early student of the fledgling college that would become Newnham, lecturer in economics, primary author of a popular book on economics, chief inspiration of the Marshall Economics Library at Cambridge, and skilled water-colourist. She and her husband built Balliot Croft (later Marshall House), the Presidentís lodge of Lucy Cavendish College; her ashes are scattered in its garden.
Her life captures the complexities of the educated Victorian woman. Raised in a strict evangelical household, she was encouraged to be both intellectually ambitious and self-sacrificing. In 1871, the was one of five students to form the nucleus of Newnham College and one of only two taking hitherto all-male examinations. She developed a passion for economics and, with help from her teacher, Alfred Marshall (often described as the father of modern academic economics) she wrote an influential textbook on economic theory. Alfred became her husband and during the long marriage that followed Mary Ďmerged her life in hisí to use John Maynard Keynesís phrase from his obituary. The textbook was revised primarily by Alfred and reprinted under his name alone. Even in that form Alfred disapproved of it since he had come to dislike any popularising of complex ideas, and he worked to suppress the work.
Mary wrote hardly anything more on economics and took no part in the conversations with Keynes, Jevon and other theorists at Marshall House. Instead she became a member of a Ladiesí Dining Society where, among themselves, women discussed intellectual matters.
Mary Marshallís subordinate role suited her husbandís beliefs. Alfred had been a staunch advocate of womenís education when he married but later he declared that womenís first duty was not to their capabilities but to their families and that, in any case, nothing could be expected from womenís weak intellects. Bolstered by the new evolutionary science, he considered that the average of mental power in men was above that of women. Marshall House, with its large balconied study and cold dark kitchen, is a testimony to the power relations in the Marshall marriage, but there is evidence that Mary found her husbandís opposition to womenís educational emancipation difficult to take and she aired her feelings with her women friends including an early principal of Newnham Eleanor Sidgwick. Nonetheless the marriage survived the ideological clash: Mary remained loyal to and supportive of her husband until he died: instead of further collaboration on economics they took up cycling together.
After her husbandís death Mary Marshall devoted herself to the establishment of the Marshall Library of Economics at Cambridge. She continued to live at Marshall House and her ashes are scattered in the garden.