Friday, March 5, 2021

A Creative Voice for Women

Photograph of Hazel MacKayeThis month is Women's History Month and we are celebrating on our Instagram account, @raunerlibrary, by posting images of amazing women who have made Dartmouth College what it is today. We also want to take a moment here to celebrate one of the phenomenal females from our collections who don't necessarily have a Dartmouth affiliation. Hazel MacKaye was the daughter of Steele MacKaye and a member of a family whose creative and cultural output ran impressively down through four generations. We have the family's papers here at Rauner, including numerous boxes dedicated solely to Hazel.

Although we've posted about Hazel before within the context of the women's suffrage movement, which is arguably how she is best known by the general public, she was a successful theater professional in her own right outside of her activity as a suffragist. As an actor, she toured with Winthrop Ames's Castle Square theater company and appeared in several plays written by her brother, Percy MacKaye.

a page from one of MacKaye's notebooks
Hazel's primary vehicle for artistic expression was the pageant play, which she employed to support the suffrage movement. She also wrote pageants for the YWCA (and served as their Director of Pageantry and Drama), had a pageant published by the Department of the Interior, and taught drama at Brookwood Labor College for several years.

Sadly, like so many creative visionaries, Hazel struggled with severe depression for most of her life. Eventually, at the age of 48, she had a major depressive episode and entered a care facility in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She would spend the rest of her life there and later at a similar facility in Greens Farms, Connecticut, before passing away in 1944 at the age of 63.

To explore Hazel's legacy, including her numerous notebooks containing observations and information about pageantry and theater, come to Rauner and ask to see relevant boxes from the MacKaye Family Papers (ML-5).