Margaret Alexander Marsh Papers
Margaret Alexander Marsh was born Margaret Charlotte Alexander on August 22, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were George and Emily Carter Alexander. She attended the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn, New York, and competed a B.A. in 1914 and an M.A. in 1916, both at Smith College. Her masters thesis, "The Development of the Power of the State Executive, With Special Reference to the State of New York" was published in Smith College Studies in History, Volume Two, Number Three, April 1917. Marsh worked as a Reader in History and Government while she did her M.A. at Smith 1914-1916.
From 1916 to 1924 Marsh worked in New York City as the Executive Secretary of the American Association for International Conciliation, an affiliate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and as Secretary of the International Relations Clubs, which was organized by the Institute of International Relations. In addition she worked as a specialist on American investments in Mexico for the Federal Council of Churches. She also took courses at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University. While on leave from the AAIC from 1920-1921, she studied at the London School of Economics, worked with the League of Nations in London, and spent six months with the Junior Red Cross in Albania. On August 6, 1924, she married Allison Wilson Marsh on the Island of Guernsy. Mr. Marsh was a member of the Class of 1913 at Amherst College and was a Professor of Physical Education there 1917-1958. During the 1924-1925 academic year, Margaret Marsh worked as a Reader at Amherst College for Professors Harry Elmer Barnes and Frank H. Hankins, both of the Economics Department. Barnes and Hankins were also on the faculty of the Sociology Department at Smith, Barnes from 1923-1930 and Hankins 1922-1946.
From 1925-1927, Marsh did research on economic and social conditions in Bolivia for the American Fund for Public Service. The AFPS funded studies on American expansion and investment with the goal of advancing human enlightenment and social justice. The result of her research was the book, The Bankers in Bolivia: A Study in American Foreign Investment, which was published by The Vanguard Press in 1928. This series was edited by Marsh's colleague, Harry Elmer Barnes. Marsh worked as secretary of the Freshmen course "Problems of Citizenship" at Dartmouth College September 1, 1927 until June 30, 1929.
Marsh joined the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Smith College in 1929 and taught at Smith until her retirement in 1959. She was hired as an instructor and then made Assistant Professor in 1930, Associate Professor in 1940 and Professor in 1953. She was chairman of the department for three years, 1942/1943-1944/1945. Charles H. Page, Sociology Professor at Smith 1946-60, writes in his book, Fifty Years in the Sociological Enterprise: A Lucky Journey, "The eldest in years but young in spirit, and least troublesome among us, was one of Smith's finest teachers, Margaret Marsh, admired and held in affection by students and colleagues alike. Margaret's widely elected courses on 'The Expansion of Western Culture,' showpieces in the college's curriculum, were a successful synthesis of the anthropology of cultural change, the sociology of what was later called 'modernization,' and the economics of imperialism."
The focus of Marsh's research was international relations, particularly the social and economic consequences of twentieth century imperialism. Most of her work dealt with Central and South America, but she also did research in Russia, Japan, China, and Africa. Marsh published several articles on Latin America for The National Encyclopedia and National Year Book. In addition, she was a staff editor of the American Sociological Review in 1958. During her first sabbatical in the spring semester of 1936, Marsh did research in East Asia. While on sabbatical during the 1945-1946 academic year followed by a leave of absence during the fall of 1946, Marsh did research in Venezuela and Central America under a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. This research resulted in her article "Monoculture and the Level of Living: An Hypothesis," which was published in Inter-American Economic Affairs, Vol. 1, no.1, June, 1947. She defined "monoculture" as the restriction of a national economy to one dominant export, such as oil from Venezuela or coffee from El Salvador. During her sabbatical in Central America and Venezuela, she did research on how monoculture effected the standard of living of different social classes. Marsh said the following at a Round Table on Imperialism and War at the Student Anti-War Conference at Smith College in 1934, "I do affirm that the demands of capitalist enterprise in terms of raw materials, markets and fields for surplus capital investment, cannot be satisfied ultimately in a nationalist world without war-that permanent peace is not compatible with an economic nationalism which has its roots in the capitalist system."
In addition to teaching, Marsh served as Class Dean for the classes of 1952 and 1957 and directed the Junior Year in Geneva program during the 1958-1959 academic year. She remarked to Frank Hankins, on being appointed Class Dean, "I feel as though I had charge of 500 Ellens," referring to her daughter, Ellen, born on August 2, 1932. Marsh was well-loved by her students as evidenced by the voluminous correspondence she received from them.
Marsh remained active after her retirement in 1959. Her entries in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly document her travels with her husband all over the world including, Egypt, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Nepal, Kashmir, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Jordan, Portugal, Scotland. She studied Russian and other languages and continued to write on various topics. She also served as Treasurer of the Class of 1914. In the February 1968 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, she notes that "When in Amherst , our consciences are relieved slightly by joining the Sunday noon silent vigil for peace in Vietnam." Her husband Allison Marsh died in 1976 and she died on December 10, 1984 in Amherst, Massachusetts at the age of 91.