Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mary Elizabeth Johnston, Librarian and Educator

Mary Elizabeth Johnston is pictured with her brother about 1892. Mary was born in Sandusky on August 22, 1890 to David H. and Mary Phillips Johnston. After David died in 1890, Mrs. Johnston and her three small children moved to Oberlin. The widowed Mrs. Johnston worked as a domestic to support her family.

Mary Elizabeth Johnston attended Oberlin College for two and a half years, but she had to drop out due to financial problems. Mary taught English at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, for 26 years. She then served as a teacher and the Dean of Women at a Manual Training School in Bordentown, New Jersey, and later worked as a librarian at the Thomas Edison High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

After studying at Oberlin College and Kent State University during summer sessions for many years, Miss Johnston obtained her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin in 1937 and she received an M.A. in Library Science in 1952 from Kent State University. In 1955 after taking a trip to the British Isles, and Mary retired in Cleveland, Ohio.

An article in the February 25, 1983 issue of the Elyria Chronicle Telegram reported that Mary Elizabeth Johnston lived in poverty, but left an estate of $60,000 to Oberlin College when she died. Mary Elizabeth Johnston passed away on January 30, 1982, and is buried in the family lot at Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery in Section 66.

Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, while working on The Women’s History Project, wrote a biography of Mary Elizabeth Johnston. Entitled “Across a Stage: The Extra Clap,” the 24 page biography of Mary Elizabeth Johnston was distributed to 30,000 alumni of Oberlin College.

Visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library to read Dr. Lawson’s biography of Mary Elizabeth Johnston. Miss Johnston’s papers are held at the Archives of Oberlin College.

Mary Elizabeth Johnston is the first person on the left in this 1898 Johnston family picture.

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