Margaret Waller Freeman Cabell (1893-1983) was an interior decorator, founding editor of The Reviewer, and supporter of the arts.
Born in Richmond, Virginia on August 29, 1893, Cabell graduated from Miss Jennie Ellett’s School (now St. Catherine’s School) and in the 1920s became one of the founding editors and the business manager of the Richmond-based literary magazine The Reviewer. During the 20s, Cabell also briefly studied interior design in Paris which would later lead to her operating a New York City-based interior decorating studio under the name Waller Freeman. Following her time at The Reviewer, Cabell went on to receive training as a nurse. During World War II, she helped run the servicemen entertainment venue The Stage Door Canteen in Washington, D.C.
In 1950, Margaret Waller Freeman married Richmond author James Branch Cabell in Richmond and gained Ballard Hartwell Cabell as a step-son. She supported the arts and was an active member of many Richmond civic organizations including the Woman's Club of Richmond, the Colonial Dames of America, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Cabell fundraised to restore the late-19th century Confederate Chapel located behind what is now the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Margaret Freeman Cabell continued to actively advance the literary legacy of James Branch Cabell following his death in 1958. Through the 1960s and 1970s, she co-edited Between Friends: Letters of James Branch Cabell and Others, founded the James Branch Cabell Society, and encouraged scholars to write about and research James Branch Cabell.
In the late 1960s, Margaret Freeman Cabell arranged for the donation of James Branch Cabell’s personal library to Virginia Commonwealth University. Soon after the establishment of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 1968, created by the merger of the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), the University began construction for a new library on the Monroe Park Campus. RPI had already planned for a new library and approached Margaret Cabell about naming it for her husband. VCU approved the name, and in 1970, the James Branch Cabell Library opened its doors. Margaret Cabell additionally advocated for the donation of books and materials to Cabell Library’s Special Collections and Archives department. Cabell died in Richmond, Virginia on March 28, 1983.
From the guide to the Margaret Freeman Cabell Papers, 1910-1982, (Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University)