Middlebury credits Guild for town monument
MIDDLEBURY — Marion Guild left Middlebury 71 years ago with some disappointment. She had just seen one of her male bosses take credit for designing the Emma Hart Willard monument that still stands at the top of Main Street in front of the Congregational Church of Middlebury.
Well, Tuesday provided a triumphant return to Middlebury for Guild, now 95, who received belated credit for being the true designer of the monument honoring the person credited for starting women’s collegiate education in the United States.
“I feel very honored and I am very grateful to the selectboard for being so helpful,” Guild said after being presented with a town resolution recognizing her as the designer of the stately marble monument.
“I am glad you have been waiting all these years, too,” she said to the many family, friends and admirers who assembled in the municipal gym to witness the ceremony.
Guild was an aspiring artist in her early 20s when she was put to work designing the Emma Willard monument as part of a federal jobs program implemented by the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The program sought to help jumpstart an economy trying to emerge from the Great Depression.
But it was Guild’s late boss, Pierre Zwick, who received credit for design of the monument. It was an era during which women could not really speak up for themselves.
“At the time I was terribly resentful,” recalled Guild, who uses a walker to get around but is still very sharp and possesses a delightfully dry sense of humor. “But I had to get over it.”
She quickly left the program and took a job within the printing company of the Burlington Free Press. During World War II she would move to Massachusetts, where she spent much of her fruitful life. She would go on to illustrate “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” and other children’s books for Robert May as a staff artist for a printing company in Springfield, Mass.
But there, too, she became accustomed to not getting credit for her work in a male-dominated workplace. The original Rudolf that she illustrated did not mention her, though the subsequent pop-up book and “Rudolf Shines Again” do credit her as the illustrator.
In the meantime, thousands of people and cars have passed by the Emma Willard monument and admired it, never knowing that it was in fact Guild who had designed the structure that honors a woman.
“I gave up worrying about it a long time ago,” Guild said.
But her family hadn’t. Led by her niece, Leslie Tucker, her family accumulated evidence of Guild’s accomplishment and provided it to the Middlebury selectboard earlier this year. The board was convinced and unanimously passed a resolution honoring her as the monument designer.
“We are here today to honor two great ladies, Marion Guild and Emma Hart Willard,” Selectman Victor Nuovo said in addressing the crowd. “I want to say, Marion, that we owe you a special debt of gratitude because you reminded us of Emma Hart Willard and the monument has been there as long as I have lived here, which is 50 years, and I have noticed it but never realized the full significance of it; that (Willard) was one of the founders of this nation, a person who conceived — in this town — over 200 years ago, the idea of women’s equality and women’s higher education.”
Guild now lives in Burlington, where she is happily retired.
And happy to close the final chapter on a saga that was 71 years in the making.
“It means the world to all of her family,” said Tucker, present on Tuesday and visibly moved by the ceremony. “It is the completion of something that has been bothering her all these years.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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