Around the Island

A Mother’s Day remembrance from the Shelter Island Historical Society’s archives

“‘Mother’ is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.” ~Dorothy Canfield Fisher

 For Mother’s Day, the Shelter Island Historical Society posted this photograph of Mrs. Mary “Mollie” Smith, wife of Francis Marion Smith, “The Borax King,” from the Society’s Archives.

The Smiths spent their summers on Shelter Island, enjoying clambakes and picnics with their family on Cedar Island in Coecles Harbor.

Mollie Smith dedicated most of her life to fundraising for, mentoring and adopting orphaned children.

In 1901, her husband gave her around 30 acres just north of their Oakland, Calif. estate and they created the Mary R. Smith Trust, enabling her to start the Home for Friendless Girls.

She built approximately 10 cottages and adopted more than 50 orphaned girls between the ages of 4 and 25. Mrs. Smith carefully selected a loving and nurturing “House Mother” for each cottage.

The girls were taught how to sew and helped with the housework. All of the girls attended public schools and many grew up to attend college and were permitted to live in this community for as long as they needed or wanted.

Mollie Smith was an extraordinary woman and mother.

 Happy Mother’s Day!