Sunday, September 9, 2018

Not Mary Elizabeth Frye

Here's something different, though not entirely out of place, I hope, considering the number and relative popularity of Melvilliana posts on authorship questions.
https://academic.oup.com/nq/article-abstract/65/3/423/5056203
As my article in the current issue of Notes and Queries (September 2018) demonstrates, the consoling poem known as Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep was originally written by Kansas native Clare Harner (1909-1977) and published under the title "Immortality" in the December 1934 issue of The Gypsy.

Clare Harner
The ubiquity of attributions to Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004) in print and online formats, calls to mind the persistence with which the quote "We cannot live for ourselves alone...." has been falsely attributed (by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Garrison Keillor, for example) to Herman Melville.
 http://melvilliana.blogspot.com/2011/09/finest-thing-herman-melville-never-said.html
On the internet right now, attributions of Clare Harner's "Immortality" to Mary Elizabeth Frye are sometimes accompanied by photographs wrongly supposed to represent the "Baltimore housewife and florist."
 https://www.poetseers.org/contemporary-poets/mary/index.html
 https://www.poemhunter.com/mary-elizabeth-frye/
Newspaper columnist Richard K. Shull first attributed the poem to "Mrs. Mary Frye" in a story for The Indianapolis News (June 9, 1983). As portrayed by Shull, however, the admirable Mrs. Frye sounds more like a copyist than composer. And the extended version presented by Shull as "her original text" is certainly not the "modern definitive version" of "Do not stand at my grave and weep" given in the London Times obituary of Mary E. Frye.

Of two pictures most often identified by internet sources as Mary Elizabeth Frye of Baltimore, neither actually depicts the person claimed. Though intended to represent Mary Elizabeth Frye the homespun poet of "Do not stand at/by my grave and weep," these pictures are in fact photographs of other women, namely:
  1. Mary Frye of Dallas, Texas; and
  2. Mary Elizabeth Switzer
Mary Frye of Dallas has long been a leader in the home decor business.
"She is an active industry advocate, speaker and panelist at home furnishings seminars and conferences. A strong supporter of networking and a believer in servant leadership, she is dedicated to the mission of fostering connections to grow careers and build lasting relationships." --WithIt 2011 Professional Conference brochure
As president of Home Furnishings Independents Association in 2010, Mary Frye won the Chairman's Appreciation Award. The 2010 announcement of her award was accompanied by a smart, business-style photograph that has since been misidentified as a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Frye the reputed author of "Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep."
Mary Frye
via Furniture Today
This Mary Frye continues to excel in her field, recently winning a 2018 WOW Award for Mentoring. Professional articles in RetailerNOW by Mary Frye, executive vice president of the Home Furnishings Association may be found via the link below:
http://retailernowmag.com/author/mary-frye/
For an updated photo see Mary Frye on LinkedIn.

Another image misidentified online as Mary Elizabeth Frye of Baltimore is in fact a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Switzer (1900-1971), the distinguished government administrator and influential advocate of expanded services for persons with disabilities.

Mary Elizabeth Switzer (1900-1971)
via Smithsonian Institution
More about Mary Elizabeth Switzer:
  • https://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_arc_306377
  • Mary E. Switzer Facts 
  • https://www.aph.org/hall/inductees/switzer/
I don't know why, but the bio of Mary Elizabeth Frye at Emily's Poetry Blog features an image of Margaret Thatcher.

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