• Date of Birth: November 1, 1860
  • Born City: Newington
  • Born State/Country: CT
  • Parents: Roger, asst. attorney general for Connecticut and state legislator, & Mercy Delano Aiken W.
  • Date of Death: January 2, 1930
  • Death City: Newington
  • Death State/Country: CT
  • Education:

    A.B., Smith, 1883; study at Yale, 1898-9, 1901-2; Ph.D., 1904; graduate work Columbia, 1902-3; Harvard, 1904; study in Leipzig, 1892; ASCSA, 1892-3.

  • Dissertation:

    “The Appropriation of Herodotus in Thucydides” (Yale, 1904).

  • Professional Experience:

    Greek teacher Danielson (CT) High School, 1883-5; private tutor, 1885-6; classics teacher, New Britain, (CT) High School, 1886-9; Washington, DC, 1889-92; instr. Greek, Goucher, 1893-4; asst. prof. Goucher, 1894-8; instr. Greek, Smith, 1899-1901, Greek teacher, Hartford High School, 1904-7; General Secretary, Consumers’ League of Connecticut, 1907-30.

  • Publications:

    A Glance at Some European and American Vocational Schools (Hartford: Consumers’ League of Connecticut, 1911); The Department Store Girl and Her Friend in "The Five and Ten" (Hartford: Consumers’ League of Connecticut, 1915); Child Laborers in the Shade Grown Tobacco Industry in Connecticut (Hartford: Consumers’ League of Connecticut, 1918); Accidents to Child Laborers in the First Compensation District of Connecticut, January, 1927-January, 1929 (Hartford: Consumers’ League of Connecticut, 1929).

  • Notes:

    Mary Welles's family roots in America trace to the early Puritans. Her early education took place in a one-room schoolhouse in Newington, but at the age of eleven, she began to walk four miles every day first to the Hartford Grammar School and then the Public High School. She entered Smith shortly after its founding.   Following graduation, she spent a year of study in Germany and Greece but there she became interested in industrial working conditions and spent four months visiting factories and interviewing workers. On her return she began teaching in high schools and continued her interest in classics by taking courses at Harvard, Columbia, and Yale, where she finally achieved her Ph.D. in 1904. Family needs brought her back to Connecticut and she returned to Hartford in 1901 to teach at Hartford High School. . She became so interested in the work of the Consumer’s League when its Connecticut branch opened in 1907 that in that year she became the first salaried secretary of the League. Her focus was on the health and working conditions of women and children. In 1909 she was sent to Europe to study vocational schools for childrenHer focus has been the health and working conditions of women and children. She needed considerable negotiating skills to deal with the captains of industry who were reluctant to reform their practices, even to provide toilets for their workers. She visited factories, interviewed workers and drafted legislation and lobbied for their passage. She lectured throughout Connecticut on working conditions. Of her classical preparation for her social reforming, she wrote,

     “…classics in one form or another …could be considered preparation for handling industrial questions only from the fact that all scientific work is at bottom the same, no matter what the subject of study may be It is training in accuracy, thoroughness, method, rejection of preconceived notion and prejudices, willingness to accept all evidence at its real value, It is training in love of truth and the desire to add something to the sum total of human good. In a way, this is no mean preparation for the difficult task of handling labor problems.” (Cyclopaedia, 108)

    She helped secure the passage of 12 reform statutes, including those limiting the workday to eight hours, eliminating night work for women and children, securing safe bathroom facilities for men and women. She wrote over 30 pamphlets and leaflets for the League during her time in office.

  • Sources:

    Rockwell Harmon Potter, Mary C. Welles, Ph.D., November 1, 1860-January 2, 1930. General Secretary of the Consumers’ League of Connecticut for 22 Years (Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwell & Brainard, 1930); Biographical Cyclopaedia of American Women 2:106-10; “In Memoriam” Phi Beta Kappa Key 7,10 (January 1931) 670-1.

  • Author: Ward Briggs