Marietta Tree

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Mary Endicott Tree, known as Marietta, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1917, the daughter of Malcolm and Mary (Parkman) Peabody. In 1925, her family moved to suburban Philadelphia, where her father served as rector of St. Paul's Church, and Tree went to Shady Hill Country Day School, followed by St. Timothy's, a boarding school in Maryland and a year at a finishing school in Italy. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania before marrying Desmond FitzGerald, a lawyer and conservative Republican, and moving with him to New York City in 1939. A daughter, Frances, was born in 1940. (In 1973, Frances FitzGerald won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam .) Desmond FitzGerald enlisted in the Army in 1942 and the war years, combined with her husband's absence, proved to be a formative time for Tree.

Deeply interested in politics and social issues, she volunteered with Nelson Rockefeller's Hospitality Committee for New York City's Office of Inter-American Affairs, and also worked with Dorothy Paley, William Paley's first wife, to establish a nursery school in Harlem and to found Sydenham Hospital, the first multi-racial hospital in the United States. Her paid jobs during this time included work as a researcher for the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Association and, beginning in 1943, for Life magazine. At Life she shared an office with Earl Brown, an African American writer who spurred her interest in the civil rights movement; this interest lasted for the rest of her life. She also joined the Newspaper Guild, becoming a shop steward. Throughout this period, Tree met vast numbers of public figures, ranging from world leaders like Jan Masaryk to Hollywood figures such as John Huston, who wanted to marry her and who became a lifelong friend. (In 1960, Tree played a brief scene opposite Clark Gable in Huston's film The Misfits and she also had a small role in Huston's son Tony's film Mr. North .)

FitzGerald returned from the war in November 1945, and he and Tree soon found they had little left in common. She had become involved with John Huston and had also met Ronald Tree, a former Conservative member of the British Parliament, who would become her second husband. She and FitzGerald divorced in 1947 and she married Ronald Tree a few days after the divorce decree was finalized. They had a daughter, Penelope, in 1949. (In the 1960s, Penelope Tree had a brief but dramatic career as a model, rivaling Twiggy.) The Trees resided at Ronald Tree's estate, Ditchley Park, until 1949, when the estate was sold for financial reasons. They then maintained homes staffed with several servants in New York City and Barbados.

As time passed, they spent increasingly large portions of the year apart, with Ronald Tree primarily residing in Barbados, where he co-founded the Barbados National Trust, which preserves buildings and parks. In New York, Tree resumed political activities, joining the Lexington Democratic Club and the Democratic State Committee. She had met Adlai E. Stevenson through her husband and was deeply impressed by him; she was active in his presidential campaigns and they developed an intimate relationship. In 1961, President Kennedy, on Stevenson's recommendation, named Tree U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Stevenson was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and in 1964 he promoted her to the post of U.S. Representative to the Trusteeship Council of the U.N.; this gave her the title Ambassador and provided her with a diplomatic passport. Tree and Stevenson frequently traveled together on U.N. business and she was with him on July 14th, 1965, when he collapsed on a London street; he died en route to the hospital. In 1966 Tree was invited by the U.S. State Department to embark on a fact-finding tour of Asia, with particular emphasis on human rights and the status of women; the following year she served as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention and resigned from the U.N.

Also in 1967, Tree met Richard Llewelyn-Davies, an urban planner, and in 1968 became his business partner in Llewelyn-Davies Associates. (She and Llewelyn-Davies developed an intimate relationship which lasted until his death in 1981.) Beginning in the 1970s, Tree was an active (and sometimes the only female) member of many committees and boards, including the Citizens Committee for New York, which she chaired, and Central Broadcasting Station (CBS), to which she was appointed by William Paley, in response to pressure to hire a woman. She also worked as a consulting editor and scout for Architectural Digest, drawing upon her extensive circle of acquaintances to find subjects for the magazine. Ronald Tree died in 1976 and Tree did not remarry. She died of cancer in 1991.

From the guide to the Papers, 1917-1995, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers, 1917-1995 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
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Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Subject
Adultery--United States
Occupation
Function

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