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LMS's Final Illness and Death

Lucy Salmon became seriously ill and was hospitalized in January 1927 and died of a stroke on February 14, 1927.  The letters sent by LMS’ relatives, friends, former students and colleagues to Adelaide Underhill during Salmon’s illness and following her death express their concern for her and demonstrate their recognition of the depth of their relationship and AU’s loss as well as their love and esteem for Lucy Salmon.

Letter, Minnie Fraser to AU, February 23, 1927. View in New York Heritage

While LMS was ill, her family sent many letters to AU.  Minnie Fraser, LMS’s niece, also sent some pillows while Salmon was in the hospital, and she and AU arranged their return to her as a remembrance.  This sentimental pillow exchange may have been an established custom for far-flung friends and relatives.   Immediately following LMS’s death, Minnie Fraser wrote to AU:
“I hope you have not sent the pillows because I wanted you to keep one for yourself- any one you wish perhaps the one that gave Aunt the most comfort.”

Letter, AU to Minnie Fraser, February 28, 1927. View in New York Heritage

AU’s return letter to Minnie Fraser is both formal and intimate:

“Dear Mrs. Fraser,

I hope the pillows, sent by parcel post insured, have reached you safely. Thank you for the privilege of keeping one. I selected a little white one which was & frequently placed under her head by the nurse. It recalls a beautiful picture. Her face was full and her fair skin was flushed a little, to the last.

Very sincerely yours,
Adelaide Underhill”

Letter, Margaret Orendorff (relative) to AU, March 4, 1927. View in New York Heritage

“…How rich in memories and inspiration are we who knew her- you, especially, who were the recipient of her greatest love and care! For I realized that summer when we were in France, how greatly she loved and admired you, from her own words, as well as in other ways; and two years ago, I saw there was the same strong affection and regard for you on her part. Indeed the friendship between you has always seemed to me to be perfect. Each of you gave to the other what the heart of each needed. It must surely be a joy to you, now, to think that you made her life so happy and complete as you did. She so greatly enjoyed her home, after the years during which she longed for one, but it was you who made it home for her...”

Letter, Mary Tremain to AU, March 20, 1927. View in HRVH

“I was particularly struck by the expression “she opened doors.” I never knew another who could, by a few words, suggest so much- open such a vista for thought.

It is a comfort to think of you in the quiet, peaceful home where her presence now must seem as real, still, as if she were visible- I shall always think of you both, together, there as I saw you.”

Letter, Julia Lathrop to AU, September 28, 1927. View in HRVH

Julia Lathrop (VC ’80) was a former student and colleague of LMS, who founded the School of Euthenics at Vassar and served on the Board of Trustees. She worked with Jane Addams at Hull House in Chicago and went on to become Chief of the newly created Children’s Bureau under President Taft from 1912-1921. In this letter, she expresses her regret that AU did not take a more public role in the memorial service for LMS that was held at the college:

“It was very good of you to send me the addresses at the Memorial Services for Miss Salmon. Perhaps you felt too near to take part but one could wish that your understanding view of her life and work might be recorded.”

Memorial Card for Lucy Maynard Salmon, 1927. View in HRVH

This card was sent by Underhill to LMS’ colleagues, friends and former students.

Letter, Margaret Judson to AU, April 29, 1927. View in HRVH

Margaret Judson (VC ’03), who taught English at Vassar, Simmons College, and Dennison University, wrote:

“It was very kind of you to think of me when you sent your beautiful and fitting card to Miss Salmon’s friends. Her death seems to me the greatest single loss that could come to the college, and I share in the general tragic sense of this fact. But I had also a personal affection for Miss Salmon that was more intimate than was really justified by my acquaintance with her. In feeling my own private pang of sorrow, I have realized that there are many people who have just this feeling about Miss Salmon- who loved her better than they knew her. As one of these, I hope you will let me express to you my deep sympathy for your personal loss, which must be a thing that now one could understand or measure.”

Last Will and Testament, Lucy Maynard Salmon, November 1916. View in HRVH

Salmon left the bulk of her estate, including the home they had shared, to Adelaide Underhill. Her will also entailed that after Underhill’s death the estate would be liquidated and donated to Vassar College, with specific gifts dedicated to the library and to the Goodfellowship Club, a philanthropic organization on campus that was established in 1901 to benefit maids working at the college.

Letter from Attorney H.R. Gurney, May 4, 1911, Poughkeepsie, NY.  View in HRVH

Salmon’s lawyer, H.R. Gurney, wrote AU a letter assessing the will, explaining that while the inheritance she left to her brothers would be taxed at 0-2%, the portion left to a “non-relative” would be taxed at 5%.

Photograph of AU at library, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. View in HRVH

Adelaide Underhill retired from her position as head librarian in 1928, and dedicated herself to assembling and archiving Lucy Salmon’s papers. She died in 1936 after a short illness.