Postmarked Philadelphia, December 3, 1910
Miss Mary Lear,
Have lost your school address so send to Madison.
Dear Girlie; I am glad you like teaching as much.. Do you go home very often? I suppose you take the “Index” & do [several words illegible] much. My school is progressing nicely. I hope you will enjoy Thanksgiving. “Answer soon”, and I’ll be more prompt next time. [Anna] Lee.
Mary Engleton Lear was born in Madison, Monroe County, Missouri on September 4, 1891 to Elijah Thomas Lear and Mary Frances Willis. When she received this postcard, she was only 18 years old but already teaching.
Teaching, it seems, defined Mary. She never married or had children; rather, she devoted her life to her career.
After that teaching job referred to in the postcard, she didn’t stop learning. The September 1920 edition of Sigma Xi Quarterly (Vol. 8, No. 3), includes the Missouri Chapter report, which shared that,
During the academic year 1919-1920 seven scientific and business meetings were held. The first two meetings were devoted to a discussion of the research work being done, time available for research, equipment for research, and research projects. […] The first public meeting where active members presented papers was on March 18, 1920. […] At the meeting the following associate members were elected. All were graduate students.Sampson, H. C., et al. “CHAPTER REPORTS: Ohio, Missouri, Illinois.” Sigma Xi Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 1920, pp. 74–88, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27824140.
Mary Engleton Lear, a chemistry student, was among those elected. She received degrees from the University of Missouri and by 1927, had begun teaching chemistry at Lindenwood College.
The Madison Times published a history of Madison, Missouri compiled by then-student Mary Humphrey in 1948-1949 as instalments. In the section on schools, she wrote that Miss Mary Lear was at that time honored by Lindenwood College with “a lifetime job as Professor of Chemistry.” Mary Lear would spend a total of 44 years in the position.
Mary Engleton Lear died on February 27, 1971 in St. Charles County, Missouri at the age of 79 — ten years after her retirement. She is buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Madison with her parents, and was survived by a number of cousins: Sam Cornelius, Mrs. Tura Foster, Mrs. Alphia Willis, and Mrs. Fannie Maude Roberts.
A 1971 edition of The Lindenwood Colleges Bulletin included a short write up on Miss Lear following her death:
Professor Emeritus Mary Engleton Lear, who taught chemistry at Lindenwood for 44 years, died Feb. 27 in St. Charles.The Lindenwood Colleges Bulletin, Vol. 144, No. 10, August 1971
A native of Madison, Mo., Prof. Lear earned degrees from the University of Missouri and was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Lindenwood College in 1960, the year she retired.
In her honor the chemistry floor in Young Hall of Science is designated “The Mary E. Lear Chemistry Laboratories.”
And so, Mary Lear’s name lives on — and not just on a postcard.
Are you a descendant of Mary Lear or do you have some connection with her? Please reach out using the form on the “Contact” page.