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Mary Skinner

(Rhodes Visiting Fellow & St Anne's 1975) (1936-2023)

Mary Skinner was a remarkable woman who had an extraordinary life. Mary was born in New York in 1936. Mary’s mother (Maidee) had been born in Bremen in 1913, but the family emigrated to the United States during the first world war. After the war Mary’s mother returned to Germany to stay with relatives and friends; in 1933, however, her mother decided to bring her back to New York City. Mary’s father (Joe Moore) was a medical practitioner who started his long career working for the US Government eradicating malaria in the Georgia Sea Isles and then with the health provider Kaiser Permanente before going into private practice. Both of Mary’s parents had strong sympathies with the political left, despite coming from affluent backgrounds. After a brief period in upstate New York, they moved to California, settling ultimately in Inverness on the beautiful Port Reyes coast.

Mary was such a cosmopolitan figure – in the course of her life she was to live in America, Africa and Europe – that it would be foolish to associate her too closely with any particular place. Yet I am sure that California was a key element in her complex personality: apparently ‘laid back’ yet dauntingly energetic, pleasure-loving yet highly principled, unfazed and eternally optimistic.

Politically, Mary was always a Rawlsian liberal and quite to the Left of the Democratic Party. Anyone who thinks that Buckingham was the exclusive preserve of hide-bound reactionaries should remember Mary Skinner.

So, after study and teaching in the United States, research with her then husband David in Africa and research in Oxford, Mary came to Buckingham, and it is on her time with us that I want to concentrate. Perhaps the thing that most impressed lazy British colleagues – like me – was Mary’s amazing energy. She thought nothing of rushing up to London for a party, catching an early train back to Buckingham, teaching all day and then returning to London for another social event.

Read the full obituary here.