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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Marion Willetts Brower: Exemplar of Civic Service

Marion Willetts Brower (1888 -1974) played a major role in many of the civic improvements undertaken by Roslynites in the early twentieth century. She and her first husband, Ernest Cuyler Brower, came to Roslyn in 1910.

Marion and her children c. 1910

Shortly after moving into their home at 110 Main Street, Marion experienced the circumstances that would set her on a path of service to the Roslyn community. Although her family’s home, “Locust Hill,” was situated on the hillside, the Browers were not immune to frequent bouts of malaria caused by the mosquitos that plagued the swampy area that constituted the area that is now Roslyn’s Gerry Park. As founding members of the Roslyn Neighborhood Association (RNA), Marion and Ernest were actively involved in the organization’s efforts to clean up the marshland and eliminate it as a mosquito breeding ground.

Marion joined with other women in Roslyn to form the Roslyn Visiting Nurse Association. This group raised money to hire a Registered Nurse who, along with trained volunteers, treated people for minor illnesses and injuries in their homes. Under the auspices of the RNA, she was involved with the Roslyn Patriotic Thrift League during World War I. This group, tasked with promoting food conservation and other home economic measures, ran classes to teach canning methods to local housewives. The group established the Roslyn Canning Kitchen in the RNA Neighborhood House (now the Bryant Library Annex) to prevent surplus fruit and vegetable produce from local estates, country

Letter to Marion Brower regarding the canning program

homes, and family garden plots from going to waste. During the summer of 1917, volunteers canned 400-quart jars of vegetables and fruits along with 400 pounds of marmalade and jam. The program remained in operation through 1918, with most of the canned goods being donated to the military and the Red Cross.

In the Spring of 1917, Marion was made chair of the RNA’s Committee in Charge of the Roslyn School Lunch Association. The purpose of the program was to provide a hot lunch to students unable to return home for the noontime meal. Records indicate that some of the canned goods produced by the Canning Kitchen were donated to the School Lunch Program. Operation of the program was eventually taken over by Roslyn Public Schools.

Documents related to the School Lunch Program including lunch tickets
Children enjoying a hot lunch at the Neighborhood House

Marion’s concern for the well-being of Roslyn's children continued during the following decade through her involvement with the Nassau County chapter of the American Red Cross. Through the Junior Red Cross, she was instrumental in developing a program that provided dental and vision examinations to children attending public and private schools throughout the County.

When the Village of Roslyn was incorporated in 1931, Marion was one of the first elected Village Trustees, serving in the position for twenty years. She also served as Roslyn Village Historian for many years. It was through Marion’s joint roles as Trustee of the Grist Mill Historical Association, overseeing the historical museum that operated in conjunction with the Roslyn Mill Tea House, and as Village Historian, that she recognized the importance of preserving documentation of Roslyn’s past and making it available to the public.

In 1953, she donated to the Bryant Library a small collection of documents and photographs that she had begun to amass. This was the beginning of the Bryant Library Local History Collection, which is currently housed in the library’s upper-level Bryant Room.

DID YOU KNOW? Marion Brower is featured in our Roslyn War Memorial Building video, a 30-minute documentary on the building which currently houses the Bryant Library.

1 Comment

Mar 25, 2023

Very interesting story--especially about her role in preserving the history of Roslyn. In her letter she mentions using the bookcase from the old Bryant library to store artifacts. Does this still exist in the History Room?

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