71 Years Later, Designer Of Emma Willard Monument Is Honored

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Seventy-one years ago, a 24-year-old woman from Essex Junction designed a monument in Middlebury.

It was during the Depression, and the monument was built by the Works Progress Administration to honor Emma Hart Willard – a local luminary and pioneer in the education of women. But ironically, as a woman in a male-dominated society, the designer got no credit.

Now, Marion Guild is finally being publicly recognized for her work. Guild says today, at 95-years-old, she’s no longer jaded about being jilted.

  "I gave up worrying about it long ago," she said. "I just felt that it’s ancient history. This has just been a lucky break."

A break spurred by her niece Leslie Tucker, who in the spring wrote a letter to Middlebury town officials explaining how her aunt’s boss, Pierre Zwick, had taken credit for designing the monument.

 The Middlebury Select Board took action immediately by doing what boards do. It passed a resolution.

"It was really, really unbelievable," Tucker said. She wanted to set the record straight about her aunt’s role in designing the monument, which was dedicated here in 1941 just off Route 7. It was on this site in 1807 that Willard gave the earliest collegiate instruction for women in America.

Tucker supported her aunt’s case with accounts published in the Burlington Free Press that showed Pierre Zwick, pressured by the public, had in fact acknowledged Guild as the designer.

Tucker says Middlebury’s action should be seen as inspiration for others.

"Even though it took 71 years, it happened," she said. "There are tons of people – women artists and minority artists and musicians – that have not been recognized and I think that any justice can be righted at any time."

At a ceremony in the town gym earlier this week, for the first time, Middlebury publicly recognized Guild as the designer of the monument.

One by one, family, friends and complete strangers approached Guild to say thanks.

"It’s all so very overwhelming," Guild said. " I’m so grateful to the people who made this happen."

Among them is Select Board member Victor Nuovo. After the ceremony, the Middlebury College philosophy professor read the inscription carved on the granite monument – a quote from Willard herself:

"Education should seek to bring its subjects to the perfection of their moral and intellectual and physical nature in order that they may be of the greatest possible use to themselves and others."

Nuovo says it’s one thing to drive by those words everyday, but it’s another to say them out loud.

"We have this treasure of memory that Emma Hart Willard lived here," Nuovo said. "We had women in a second class of existence, and you read that statement – it started. And Marion brought this to us."

Marion Guild had not always been treated equally in her life. Now she hopes other female artists long forgotten will get credit for their work.

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