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Scholar donates Marietta Holley collection to city library


The city library’s collection of books by Marietta Holley has grown considerably.

Pennsylvania scholar T.R. McIntosh donated seven boxes stuffed with about 100 vintage books by the author who has been called “the female Mark Twain” to Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library on Tuesday.

“This is the culmination of 55 years,” he said. “It was a personal thing.”

Over the years, he collected every book by Ms. Holley he found. A man who says he “counts books by the feet,” he had 18 copies in different editions of Ms. Holley’s first book, “My Opinions and Betsey Bobbet’s,” written in 1873, among the donations. He said he wants the library to sell most of the books and create a scholarship for students who want to study the author.

Mr. McIntosh has collected 23 of the 25 books Ms. Holley wrote from 1873 to 1914. In 1985, he began his doctoral thesis on the author at Pennsylvania State University. In 1992, he was diagnosed with cancer and never finished his thesis.

At age 73, with Stage 4 prostate cancer that has spread to his bone marrow, he wanted to give his books and research away.

“Marietta Holley is part of our local history,” library Director Barbara J. Wheeler said. “I was delighted to provide a home for his collection, which obviously meant so much to him.”

Ms. Holley lived on a farm between Pierrepont Manor and Adams. She became best known for her best-seller “Samantha at Saratoga.”

Some of her book’s titles hint at the issues she explored as the character Samantha, such as “Samantha on the Race Problem,” “Samantha on the Woman Question” and “Samantha on Children’s Rights.”

Although Ms. Holley’s pseudonym was “Josiah Allen’s Wife,” she was a feminist and was friends with well-known suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony.

When the character was not pressing important issues, she was traveling to the Thousand Islands, to the World’s Fair and to Europe.

“She tackled a lot ahead of her time,” Mrs. Wheeler said. “Feminism ... human rights .”

Mr. McIntosh said her books were popular at the time because of Ms. Holley’s personality. “She was the sensible, nonthreatening feminist,” he said. “She created a character called Samantha you couldn’t help but love.”

Like Samantha, Mr. McIntosh said, he had a “long and sketchy” life questioning authority, including protesting the police and being a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr.

“I’ve been a writer and scholar all my life,” he said. “I brought every book of hers, I’d say, and I’d still keep doing it.”

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