Mary Drake McFeely, long-time resident of South Hadley and Wellfleet, Massachusetts, died on November 14 at her home in Sleepy Hollow, New York. A librarian by training and profession, she was also an accomplished photographer, and a historian and writer, exploring the work of women at the edges of societies that often discounted that work. A graduate of the Spence School and Smith College, she earned a master’s degree in library science from Southern Connecticut State College, and worked as director of the Chapel Street Library, a storefront branch of the New Haven, Connecticut, Public Library, as a reference librarian at Amherst College and as Head Reference Librarian at Smith College. Her books include Lady Inspectors and Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?. Lady Inspectors tells the story of an indomitable group of women who, concerned with the plight of women and children in British factories, became factory inspectors, carrying out not only standard safety inspections, but night-time raids to make sure women weren’t being housed in the factories as well. When they discovered legal violations, they took the cases to court, making them, in effect, Britain’s first women lawyers. Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? explored the apparently innocuous world of home cooking in twentieth-century America, uncovering the patterns of power and oppression woven into the kinds of basic cookbooks young brides often relied on. And forms of resistance that can also come out of the kitchen.
In addition to being a photographer, which was far more than a hobby, she was a prodigious knitter, a choral singer, an inventive cook, and an avid swimmer in the lovely kettle ponds in Wellfleet. A voracious reader and active citizen, she served for many terms as the elected chair of Wellfleet’s Library Board.
Mary is survived by Bill McFeely, her husband of 66 years, as well as by her children, Drake McFeely (Karen Eliason McFeely), Eliza McFeely (Jeff Fischer), and Jennifer McFeely (James Goodman); grandchildren Matthew, Eric, Laura McFeely, Clara and Maggie McFeely Fischer, and Sam and Jackson Goodman, a great-grandson, Becket McFeely; a sister, Nancy Burr, and brother, Philip Drake. All will miss her enthusiasm, encouragement, curiosity, intelligence, wisdom, good humor, and most of all her love in all the days to come.
A memorial service will be held at Kendal on Hudson in Sleepy Hollow, NY, on December 8 at 3:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mary’s name to:
The Friends of the Wellfleet Public Library
PO Box 857
Wellfleet, MA 02667
Moorestown Friends School