One of the monks, the Rev. Philip Napier Waggett, would have been especially close to Mary’s heart.
Also a student of science during his undergraduate years, Fr. Waggett was a prolific writer on the topic
of science and religion. James Granville Adderley, writing in 1916, described him as the church’s “best
apologist on the side of science and theology.” His topics included The Scientific Temper in Religion,
The Influence of Darwin on Religious Thought, and “Heredity” in the Encyclopedia of Religion and
These writings would have resonated deeply with Mary Harriman, whose enthusiasm for eugenics would
earn her the nickname “Eugenia” at Barnard. Finally, it would be another devotee of Anglo-Catholic
Socialism, the Wellesley professor Vida Scudder, who would inspire Mary to found an organization that
would eventually have international impact. When Mary heard a speech in which Scudder appealed to
young people to work among the poor in immigrant neighborhoods, the wheels began to turn.
According to Nathalie Henderson, Mary felt that working through the church was too sectarian and
hospital work too limited in scope. Her concept would be to organize young women from all religious
backgrounds to go into the settlement houses and do frontline social work among the needy. Thus, in
1901 at the age of 19, Mary organized the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements.
One of the Junior League’s earliest volunteers would be Mary’s friend and Hudson River Valley neighbor
Within ten years, the League had chapters throughout the U.S. At the end of twenty, it had become an
international organization. But this was only the beginning for Mary...
its way toward Barnard College. Not only was the fin-de-siècle debutante at the reins herself, but
alongside her was a secretary with a typewriter precariously balanced on her lap, dutifully recording
Mary’s steady stream of ideas.
It was on just such a ride that the idea for the Junior League
was born, according to Mary’s friend, Nathalie Henderson, who
helped her organize it. Mary was the granddaughter of an impoverished Episcopal priest, the Rev.
Orlando Harriman, Jr., but she had had the good fortune to be born to Orlando’s enterprising son,
Edward, later known as railroad tycoon E.H. Harriman. It would be Mary who would lead her younger
brother, Averell, into political life, and it would be at her kitchen table that the remarkable Frances
Perkins and her colleagues would hammer out the final details of what became the Social Security Act, a
dream Mary herself did not live to see fulfilled.
|The New York Anglicans: Twenty Who Shaped the Twentieth Century
|Debutantes of the World:
The Irrespressible Mary Harriman
|Copyright by Donn Mitchell, 2008
Assuring adequate food, shelter,
and medical care was a
It communicated love through
material means just as a
sacrament communicates grace
through outward and visible
|A student of biology and sociology at Barnard, Mary had been influenced by the writings of the Cowley
Fathers, an Anglican religious order for men formally known as the Society of St. John the Evangelist.
The Cowleys had a high view of the sacraments and a deep concern for the poor. In their view, God
had dignified the human body by taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Assuring
adequate food, shelter, and medical care for the burdened and abused was, therefore, both a moral
imperative and a sacramental act because it communicated love through material means just as a
sacrament communicates God’s grace through outward and visible forms.
The Cowleys exemplified what came to be known as Anglo-Catholic Socialism, sometimes called
Christian Socialism or Christian Sociology. Closer in spirit to Fabian, rather than Marxist, socialism, it
had room for both church and crown, but it favored public ownership of industry, the rights of workers,
social insurance, and a broad distribution of wealth—all characteristics of what later came to be known
as Social Democracy.
|The New York Anglicans
is made possible through
the generosity of the
Historical Society of the
Episcopal Church and the
|The Anglican Examiner, Copyright by Donn Mitchell, 2008.
ven a jaded New Yorker unmoved by the brilliant canopy of fall foliage over Riverside Drive
would have had to look twice at Mary Harriman’s horse-drawn carriage swiftly wending