Contributed by: Joyce H. Munro, Morris Arboretum Archives Volunteer

Where is Miss Morris’s gold clock, the little one that sat on her dressing table? I would like to believe that clock is still ticking somewhere. But it’s not ticking amidst the china and shells and stuffed animals Miss Morris gave the Art Museum. The person who took it is named Mary O’Toole.

No, she didn’t steal it. Miss Morris bequeathed it to her, along with two dress pins—an amethyst lace cabochon and a spray of forget-me-nots. Nice bonuses for being at the mistress’s beck and call. Rising before dawn, working till dusk. Living in a miniscule room on the top floor of Pine Street in winters and Compton in summers. Mary also got to keep the contents of the sewing room as well as her bedroom. And nicest of all, a monthly annuity for the rest of her life.

What did Mary do after her career as lady’s maid? I would like to believe she finally got married. And so she did. I haven’t located her marriage certificate but I guarantee it’s dated after January 1932. This I know because Miss Morris’s will stipulated Mary would receive an annuity “if she be in my employ at the time of my death,” which death occurred on January twenty-fourth.  For a quarter century, Mary laid out the outfits for the day, washed under-linens by hand, tidied up the dressing table. Groomed Miss Morris for social events, like the holiday dinner dance at the Acorn Club, America’s first club for women of a certain social standing. And since it was Christmas, no doubt Mary wrapped Miss Morris in furs and muff for the ride to Rittenhouse Square in her Pierce Arrow limousine.

When did Mary’s heart start giving her problems? I would like to believe it never did, but unfortunately . . . Maybe it started as she climbed the stairs one morning, carrying a bouquet of roses for Miss Morris’s dressing table. Or maybe when she was a child in Bundouglas, Galway, one of Martin Toole and Mary Lyden’s brood of eight. Maybe on the roiling seas en route to America at age twenty, bringing hopes and dreams of a better life and not much else. Or later, after she became Mrs. Francis Patrick Conway.

She never moved far from Compton after marriage, just up the road to Chestnut Hill, where Frank was a successful contractor. Her younger sister Jetta and newly-wedded husband Jim O’Neil—Miss Morris’s former waitress and chauffeur—didn’t move far away either. They were in Flourtown. Patrick and Ellen, two more siblings, were across the Schuylkill. Another—Katherine—in Rhode Island, and occasionally the whole kit-n-caboodle would motor up to visit her. Tom, their baby brother, would have been nearby too, chauffeuring Execs at Tastykake, except he went back to Ireland for three years right after he received a Certificate of Naturalization. When he returned to Philly, authorities ruled he had violated regulations by failing to establish permanent residence. So Tom expatriated himself, probably unintentionally.

Sometimes, Mary and Jetta, with spouses and siblings, picnicked over at Meadowbrook Lane. Near the towering gabled stone house that had been their home for many years. Where they once took care of a Quaker lady with modern sensibilities. And where, in the end, she took care of them.