Marjorie Greenblatt was born in Atlantic City on October 6, 1917. In 1935, after graduating from high school, Marjorie moved to New York City on scholarship and joined the Martha Graham Dance Company. As a core company member for 20 years, Marjorie appeared in such iconic pieces as Primitive Mysteries and Appalachian Spring. Two of Marjorie’s early students were Erick Hawkins and Merce Cunningham.
Marjorie met Woody Guthrie in 1942, when he was a member of the Almanac Singers and together they had four children; Cathy, Arlo, Joady, and Nora.
Marjorie was with Woody throughout his illness with Huntington’s disease and determined to find a cure, she founded the Huntington’s Disease Society of America on September 18, 1967. Marjorie spent 16 years traveling the world talking about Huntington’s, bringing together patients, caretakers, doctors, and politicians. Marjorie was a messenger and activist. She gave a message of hope and strength to a new generation. Her actions changed legislation for the betterment of humankind.
BUT ENOUGH FROM US…LET’S HEAR IT IN WOODY’S OWN WORDS.
In a letter to their unborn child, Woody wrote, “Do you know what a hoper is? Well, that’s what your mama is, a hoper. She has more hopes per square inch than almost anybody else. Hopes about this and hopes about that, hopes about you, about me, about all of the relatives, hopes about lots of people, all people. I ought to say, she’s what’s called a planner. I guess she makes more plans in a day than fascism could tear down in a century. I really believe this was what made me like her…Every detail of her life is not only a plan, but it is a dream, and the whole plan of a better world is one that she dreams about always. And she dreams it so plain and so strong that everybody who gets close to her notices it, and picks it up like a radio taking music out of the air.”
So, I’ll be traveling a little to record oral histories with people who knew my grandmother well.
I had the fortune to recorded Irma Bauman 2 years ago. If you don’t know Irma, her and her husband Mordecai (Mordy) Bauman founded Indian Hill Arts Summer Camp and was one of my grandmother’s very closest friends. She’s now 98 years old and when I told her about this project, she was beyond happy.
As Irma has always said to me, “Anna darling, there is no such thing as “very unique”. You’re either unique or your not, but you can’t be “very unique”. Marjorie, was very unique!”
I look forward to following up with her in the next couple of weeks and seeing what she has to say.
For now, I’ve booked my flights and in the beginning of May, I’m heading to Oklahoma to visit my great-aunt, Mary Jo Edgmon. She is Woody’s baby sister. She knew my grandmother very well and when I asked her if I could speak with her, she said, “Darling, I could spend a week telling you stories about Marjorie. I loved her so.” So, I’m very excited to hear those stories.
While I’m there, I’ll also have the chance to sit down and record Ann Guthrie, Woody’s sister-in-law (Roy’s wife) and her 2 children, Marie & Mary Ann.
My name is Anna Canoni and my grandmother was Marjorie and this is the beginning of my journey…
My grandmother had many names and was many things to many different people. Perhaps you knew her?
Did you know her as Marjorie Greenblatt – daughter of Yiddish poet Aliza Waitzman & Isadore Greenblatt – who was born in Atlantic City and grew up in Philadelphia?
Or maybe you knew her as Marjorie Mazia, dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Company and teacher to Merce Cunningham and Erick Hawkins?
Perhaps you knew her as Marjorie Guthrie; mother to Arlo, Joady, and Nora?
Or did you know her as Woody Guthrie’s wife?
Did you know her as a counselor at Raquette Lake Girls Camp or Indian Hill Arts Camp?
Do you attend the Marjorie Mazia School of Dance in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn?
Perhaps you knew her as the woman who co-founded the Woody Guthrie Foundation, supporting the work of like-minded organizations like the Beacon Sloop Club and SingOut Magazine.
Perhaps you knew her as the woman who worked and organized neurologists around the globe to come together in the hopes of finding a cure for Huntington’s disease?
Did you know of her dream to one day opening an archive of Woody’s materials – to create a place that people would learn from Woody’s life’s work and be inspired to create?
She was many things to many people and this really is the short list.
I endeavor to create a place where I can learn who she was through the stories that are still around. I don’t know what the final outcome will be, but I’m interested in seeing how many of you out there knew about her. So let’s go back in time together and remember Marjorie Guthrie!