FEATURES

ELIZABETH MALLORY PARMELEE 1905-2004
Charles William, Charles Daniel, Hezekiah, Dan, Dan, Hezekiah, Joel, John, John

Sisters Lydia, left, and Elizabeth M. Parmelee, in 2001. Below is Elizabeth at her 75th Wheaton College reunion a year later.

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In 2002, historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough paid tribute to Elizabeth in his commencement speech at Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.:

"I want to tell you a little story about New England history, about a woman named Elizabeth Parmelee, Class of 1927, Wheaton College, who went on from Wheaton to become one of the first three women ever to earn a master's degree of education at Harvard. She was descended from a long line of New Englanders who arrived here on these shores in the great migration that brought such people as John Adams' forebears, Abigail Adams' forbears. John Parmelee came to this country in 1636 and began what was a succession of generations of sea captains. Miss Parmelee's great-grandfather, Hezekiah Parmelee, was lost at sea in 1867 in a Caribbean hurricane. Her father, Charles Parmelee, settled in Providence in the 1890s and began an oyster business in Narragansett Bay, which lasted until the Hurricane of 1938.

"Miss Parmelee never married because if you were devoting your life to education, that wasn't permitted for women. What she did instead was to serve for 40 years as a primary school principal. Forty years. When asked once how she achieved what she did, why she was so exceptional, she said that she was part of a patch quilt of all the people she had known who had influenced her, helped her, affected her, inspired her.

"And there is in that fundamental colorful patch quilt to be sure an essential American goodness. She still teaches those who take care of her. And what she is teaching above all is a life of decency.

"There are no people in our society who deserve more credit, who are doing more important work, and who will continue to do more important work and need to be raised substantially in our eyes and in the estimates and in the appreciation of society at large than our teachers.

"Miss Parmelee is here for her 75th Wheaton College reunion. She is unable to stand up."

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Video

Check out this off-site video tribute to Elizabeth at YouTube.

Photo Nos.: 10-0482a. 10-0482b, v10-0482