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Mary Billings French

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mary Montagu Billings French
Mary Montagu Billings

(1869-03-06)March 6, 1869
Woodstock, Vermont
DiedJune 14, 1951(1951-06-14) (aged 82)
Board member ofYoung Women's Christian Association
Spouse(s)John French (m. 1907)
Children3, including Mary French Rockefeller
Parent(s)Frederick H. Billings
Julia Parmly
RelativesFranklin S. Billings (cousin)
Franklin Noble Billings (uncle)

Mary Montagu Billings French (March 6, 1869 – June 14, 1951)[1] was an American heiress and society figure, as well as YWCA president and board member. She was the daughter of Frederick Billings and inherited the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park from him before she died. She passed it on to her daughter, Mary French Rockefeller.

Early life

Mary Montagu Billings was born to Frederick Billings (1823–1890) and his wife Julia Parmly on March 6, 1869 in Woodstock, Vermont. Her mother Julia was born as the daughter of Dr. Eleazer Parmly of New York on December 8, 1835. Mary was named after her mother's older sister.

View of Pogue Road on the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Carriage Road, Woodstock, Windsor County, Vermont

Billings French had six siblings: Parmly (1863–1888), Laura, Frederick, Elizabeth, Ehrick (1872–1889), and finally Richard. Mary was the fourth child, after her brother Frederick and before her sister Elizabeth.[2][3] The Parmly Billings Memorial Library, now called the Western Heritage Center, is named for Mary's brother Parmly.

Billings French grew up in a wealthy family during the Gilded Age.[4] Her father Frederick was one of the wealthiest men in California and was considered one of its "foremost citizens". After marrying Julia, they settled in Woodstock, Vermont, where the family was the wealthiest family of the town "by far". They owned the largest corn field in the state of Vermont, as well as a mansion on the family compound.[5]

Vermont estate

After the death of her father on September 30, 1890, Billings French inherited his Vermont compound. It comprised 4,228 acres and six buildings, including the mansion, stables, a cottage, a farmhouse, and other buildings. When she died, it passed to her daughter Mary.[6] At left is a view from the compound, the future Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

Marriage and family

Mary's son-in-law Laurance S. Rockefeller and her daughter Mary French Rockefeller.
Mary's son-in-law Laurance S. Rockefeller and her daughter Mary French Rockefeller.

On June 1, 1907, she married John French, son of the Hon. Warren Converse French and Sarah Ann Steele.[7] The couple married at noon with Rev. Dr. William R. Richards officiating at the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York. The best man at the wedding was James R. Kingsley, with ushers being Dr. Frederick S. Lee, William Norman Campbell, Richard Billings and Dr. Thomas M. Taylor. After the two married, they lived in an apartment on Madison Avenue in New York.[8]

Together Billings French and John had three children:[7]


Through her son John French Jr., French's grandchildren include: John French III of New York City, Roberts Walker French of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Mary French Moore of Cheyenne, Wyoming.[9] Through her daughter Mary, she was the grandmother of Laura Rockefeller Chasin, Marion Rockefeller Weber, Lucy Aldrich Rockefeller, and Laurance S. Rockefeller, Jr.


Billings French was very involved with the Young Women's Christian Association, also known as the YWCA. She was chair of the executive committee, as well as president.[11] Her daughter Mary also carried on the tradition; In 1951 she joined the YWCA National Board, then was vice-chairman and then chairman of the YWCA's international division from 1955 to 1973. From 1958 to 1964, she was chairman of the YWCA's World Service Council, followed by being elected to the YWCA Board of Trustees in 1988. Together with her husband Laurance, Mary flew over 50,000 miles for YWCA activities around the world, inspired from her mother's example.[12]


  1. ^ Duffy, J.J.; Hand, S.B.; Orth, R.H. (2003). The Vermont Encyclopedia. University Press of New England. ISBN 978-1-58465-086-7. Retrieved 2015-04-01. page 251.
  2. ^ Winks, Robin W. (1998). Frederick Billings: A Life. University of California Press. p. 148. ISBN 9780520214972.
  3. ^ The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 45. New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1891. p. 261.
  4. ^ Curry, Jim (2002). PARMLY BILLINGS LIBRARY: THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS. Parmly Billings Library.
  5. ^ "Frederick Billings's Vision and his Farm in the 19th Century". The Vermont Standard. 26 May 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  6. ^ "French Farm" (PDF). State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b Cutter, William Richard (1913). New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 2. Lewis historical publishing Company. p. 643.
  8. ^ "MANY JUNE BRIDES WED YESTERDAY" (PDF). New York Times. 2 Jun 1907. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Paid Notice: Deaths TEAGLE, RHODA WALKER". New York Times. 15 Aug 2001. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  10. ^ Pace, Eric (22 Nov 2000). "Ethan A. Hitchcock, 91, Lawyer and Civic Leader". New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  11. ^ Robertson, Nancy Marie (2007). Christian Sisterhood, Race Relations, and the YWCA, 1906-46. University of Illinois Press. pp. 141, 154. ISBN 9780252031939.
  12. ^ "Women's Rights Advocate Mary Rockefeller, 86". Chicago Tribune. 23 Apr 1997. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
This page was last edited on 3 April 2021, at 15:58
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