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Mary Field Parton (January, 1878 - July 3, 1969) was a member of the Heterodoxy Club. Her older sister was Sara Bard Field, poet, suffragist, Georgist, and Christian socialist, who married Colonel Charles Erskine Scott Wood, a noted attorney, poet, satirist, and Indian fighter (later Indian friend). Mary, a friend of Clarence Darrow and Theodore Dreiser, was a social activist, writer, and journalist. Publications include Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925) and Metropolis: A Study of New York (1939).
Mary Field Parton was born in 1878 in Covington, KY, and raised in Detroit by a fundamental baptist father, George Bard Field, and a Quaker mother, Annie Jenkins Stevens. Later, Mary revolted against her upbringing and attended the University of Michigan, where she graduated in 1902. She taught school in Ovid, Michigan for two years and after being influenced by Eugene Debs during a lecture, moved to Chicago where she worked in a slum settlement house called Chicago Commons. She later worked with Jane Addams in the famed Hull House settlement project. She began working as a labor reporter around 1908 when she became acquainted with Clarence Darrow, whom she met through Helen Todd. According to Margaret Parton, they had a brief affair and remained life-long friends. The letters between Darrow and Mary Field which are mentioned in Journey Through a Lighted Room are in the Newberry Library in Chicago. She worked for several magazines, including "The American", "Everybody's", and "McClure's". Mary Field covered many labor trials, including the McNamara trial in Los Angeles. In 1913 she married Lemuel Parton and in 1915 Margaret was born. Mary continued to write; between the 1920's and 1940's she wrote fiction and many magazine articles. Her books include a biography of Mother Jones (1928?) and Your Washington (1938).
In 1913 she married Lemuel F. Parton (1879-1943), city editor of the San Francisco Bulletin and author of "Who's News Today," a nationally syndicated column. Lemuel Parton and Mary Field Parton, moved in circles that included Sinclair Lewis, Clarence Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, sculptor Jo Davidson, Will Irwin, and Berta and Elmer Hader. Their daughter Margaret (Parton) Hussey (1915-1981) also chose journalism as a profession. Writing as Margaret Parton, she worked for the New York Herald Tribune as a reporter and foreign correspondent and for the Ladies' Home Journal as an associate editor. She was the author of Laughter on the Hill: A San Francisco Interlude (1945), The Leaf and the Flame (1959), and Journey Through a Lighted Room (1973).
Lemuel F. Parton and Mary Field Parton moved to New York in 1920 and into historic Sneden's Landing in 1924. The Partons' home became a visiting spot for many journalists and reporters. They would sit under an old grape arbor and discuss the events of the day. For a time Mary Field Parton worked for Theodore Dreiser on his periodical, "The Delineator".
Parton decreased her activities as a reporter and writer in the 1930s. After her husband died in 1943, she did research for the planned parenthood movement and the United Fruit Company. She was also the author of "Life of Mother Jones", about a labor organizer in Kentucky's coal country. She also wrote book reviews for the New York Herald Tribune.
Mary Field Parton died in 1969.
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