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Merrick, Mary Virginia


Social worker; b. Washington, D.C., Nov. 2, 1866;d. Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 1955. Her father, Richard Merrick, a descendant of the Brents and Calverts of Maryland, was a lawyer, and her mother, Nannie McGuire, an Episcopalian convert. As a young girl, Mary Merrick was crippled; she spent the rest of her life confined to a bed and wheelchair. Cardinal James Gibbons gave permission, renewed by his successors, for Mass to be said for her wherever she might be. She was educated by a French governess, and translated two French books for children and wrote two other books, Life of Christ (1909) and The Altar of God (1920).

Her interest in the poor led to the founding in 1886 of the Christ Child Society, which provided clothing and gifts for children at Christmas. Later the society established a settlement house, a convalescent home, summer camps, a boys' club, and other services. From Washington, D.C., it spread to other cities where similar programs were developed. By 1955 there were 37 chapters and 12,000 members, with professional social workers directing many of the society's projects and volunteers giving extensive service. Until her death Merrick served as president of the society, enlisting the active cooperation of others interested in child welfare. She was awarded the Laetare medal (1915) by the University of Notre Dame, Ind., the Cosmopolitan Club medal (1933) for civic work, and the papal medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (1937).

[d. a. mohler]

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