Mary Masters became a member of Alpha Chi Omega at its Beta Chapter at Albion College, in Albion, Michigan. She later married Henry Beach Needham. The couple were writers, working as correspondents and doing freelance work. A 1913 Lyre reported, “In the Saturday Evening Post for February 15, appeared ‘A Minister’s Daughter’ by Mary Masters Needham, Beta. In the Post for November 30, appeared the highly interesting article ‘Going to School with the Movies,’ based on an interview with Mr. Edison. Mrs. Needham contributes to the Outlook and other magazines.”
The Needhams travelled to Europe. While there as a war correspondent for The Independent, Henry Beach Needham was killed in a plane crash on June 17, 1915. He had asked the storied young British aviator Sub-Lieutenant Reginald ‘Rex’ Warneford to take him for a ride. While on the joy ride, the plane crashed. It was reported that his wife was pregnant at the time and later delivered a still-born baby.
Instead of returning home, Mary Masters Needham stayed in Europe. She served as a nurse in the early days of the American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly. Her experiences were detailed in an article, “What a War Nurse Saw,” she wrote for the August 23, 1915 Independent.
The chapter report of the Theta Chapter at the University of Michigan in Volume 21 (1918) of The Lyre reported, “The university has been extremely fortunate in its lectures this semester. Mary Masters-Needham, B, gave a most interesting talk on the reconstruction work in France. Several of the girls from Theta met her after the lecture and enjoyed visiting with her for a few moments.”
The following volume of The Lyre included an article, “Our Agricultural Workers and the Army Garden Service.” Needham was identified as a “Special Correspondent in France for the American Committee for Devastated France.”
She kept writing and publishing articles. In 1929, she earned a graduate degree at the University of Michigan.
In 1936, she published a book, Tomorrow to Fresh Fields: The Story of An Attitude, which chronicles her efforts and her husband’s efforts during “The Great War.” In the epilogue she noted:
I didn’t comprehend how I could live on. And, in truth, for ten years I didn’t live. At least that decade comprises what I must always call ‘my lost years’ — years that the locusts have eaten. During them I feigned and falsified both emotions and thoughts in an effort to come into some port on a beach no matter how barren. Not then would I accept the voyage on the open sea where only one can search for beauty and for truth.
In 1929 I went to the University of Michigan for some graduate work. I thought of this venture as a kind of last gesture to retrieve something — anything — that had the breath of life. It proved to be an experience which I would recommend to others suffering from the disease of my generation could I be sure they would fall under just the combination of truth-giving instruction and guidance I found there.
At this University I met, too, a group of youth — post-war youth. To my surprise I found they had much to say to me and I something to say to them. I found, in short, that we could and did talk the same language. In the war I had seen the birth of many of their problems. I had been one of those who had helped to smash the trammels of many conventions out of which they now walked unfettered — often to the horror of their elders! I understood the necessity in their efforts to construct — usually by trial and error methods — a new scale of values, for had I not helped to throw overboard the old! I came even to comprehend what they themselves did not wholly realize — the reason for their restlessness. They wanted life. They wanted it more abundantly. They were not getting it. Surrounded on all sides by us who had passed judgment on life — its futility, its vanity — how could they hope to escape from that judgment?
Mary Master Needham died on January 17, 1955 at the age of 71.
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