Mary Williamson Averell
American philanthropist
Mary Williamson Averell
Mary Williamson Averell was born in New York City into a prominent New York family. The only daughter, she was tutored at home and completed her education at a finishing school with the “…expectation that one day she would become a fine wife and mother for some young man of equal or greater social standing than the Averells. ” Mary’s father, William J. Averell was a successful New York banker and president of the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad.
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  • 1932
    Age 80
    Died in 1932.
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  • 1929
    Age 77
    She received the Pugsley Gold Medal in 1929 " for her services in the establishment of the Palisades Interstate Park."
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  • 1913
    Age 61
    In 1913, she created the E. H. Harriman Award in her late husband's honor to recognize outstanding achievements in railway safety; the award is still presented on an annual basis today.
    More Details Hide Details She had six children: Mary in 1881; Henry Neilson in 1883; Cornelia in 1884; Carol in 1889; W. Averell in 1891 and Edward Roland Noel in 1895.
  • 1910
    Age 58
    In 1910, Mary donated 10,000 acres (40 km²) of the Arden estate to the State of New York, leading to the creation of Harriman State Park as an extension of the Palisades Interstate Park, along with the one million dollar endowment for its management.
    More Details Hide Details She made it conditional upon others contributing $1.5 million and the State of New York matching these funds with an added $2.5 million.
  • 1909
    Age 57
    By the turn of the century, lumbering and quarries were beginning to encroach on the tranquility of the region. When, in 1909, the state of New York acquired a parcel of land at Bear Mountain to build a new prison, Harriman approached New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes with a proposal to extend the Palisades Interstate Park with a donation of thousands of acres and one million dollars as an endowment for its management if the governor would agree to locate the prison somewhere else.
    More Details Hide Details In September 1909, E.H. Harriman died, but the offer was ultimately accepted, and Mary and her son Averell completed the gift. After her husband's death, Mary continued to manage her considerable empire, valued between $70 and $100 million dollars. As one commentator noted, Mary's “…lifelong interest in philanthropy was about to become a profession.” One of her first undertakings was to fulfill E.H.’s vision of an immense state park.
  • 1901
    Age 49
    In 1901, her daughter Mary, as a 19-year-old New York City debutante, formed the Junior League.
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  • 1851
    Born in 1851.
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