Margaret Katherine Majer

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Margaret Katherine Majer
Born (1898-12-13)December 13, 1898
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died January 6, 1990(1990-01-06) (aged 91)
Linwood, New Jersey, U.S.
Spouse(s) John B. Kelly Sr. (m. 1924–60)
Children Margaret Katherine Conlin
John Brendan Kelly, Jr
Grace Patricia, Princess of Monaco
Elizabeth Anne Levine
Parent(s) Carl Majer
Margaretha Berg

Margaret Katherine Majer (December 13, 1898 – January 6, 1990) was an American Instructor of physical education for women and first coach of women's teams at Penn. She was the wife of Jack Kelly, three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner in Rowing, and mother of Grace Kelly, actress and Princess of Monaco (thus maternal grandmother of Albert II, Prince of Monaco), and of John B. Kelly Jr., an accomplished rower.

Early life and education[edit]

Margaret Katherine Majer was born on December 13, 1898 in Philadelphia,[1] Pennsylvania, the daughter of German immigrants, Carl Majer (1863-1922) and Margaretha Berg (1870-1949). Margaret and her two siblings grew up in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city. Margaret, an outstanding athlete, excelled in intercollegiate swimming as an undergraduate at Temple University, her beauty brought her jobs as a model and cover girl.

Academic career[edit]

After earning her B.A. from Temple University in 1921, Majer succeeded Ethel Loring as Instructor in Physical Education for Women at the University of Pennsylvania's College for Women. She led the undergraduate women in athletic pursuits at the Kingsessing facility used as a gymnasium by Penn's female students. While teaching at Penn, Majer became the first coach of women's athletic teams at the University, organizing and training a women's basketball team and scheduling the first intercollegiate competitions for women, the women's basketball team played eight opponents in its first year, including Bryn Mawr College, Drexel University, and Temple University. Teams in gymnastics, softball, swimming, and tennis were planned for the next year. Majer also led a successful fundraising campaign to build women's tennis courts on what, for a few years, was a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Thirty-Fourth and Walnut Streets, after only three years at Penn, Majer's achievements brought her well-earned celebrity as the founder of women's athletics at Penn.

Marriage and children[edit]

Majer married Olympic oarsman John Brendan Kelly in 1924, ten years after they first met at a neighborhood swimming pool. Kelly, the son of an Irish Catholic immigrant and ten years her senior, won an Olympic gold medal for sculling in 1920, after working in the brickmaking businesses of two older brothers, he started his own business, eventually becoming a millionaire. He was also involved in politics, after serving as Democratic City chairman, he ran unsuccessfully as the Democrat candidate for mayor of Philadelphia in 1935 and would also have run for senator if his wife had not discouraged the move. Majer's family was Lutheran and she converted to Roman Catholicism prior to the marriage, they had four children: Margaret Katherine (1925–1991), John Brendan, Jr. (1927–1985), Grace Patricia (1929–1982) and Elizabeth Anne (1933–2009).

Later life[edit]

After her children were all in school, Margaret Majer Kelly became active in various civic organizations; in 1935 she began a long association with Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, serving on its Women's Auxiliary and Board of Corporators before chairing the Development Program and then receiving an honorary Doctor of Letters from the school. In recognition of her contributions, the Woman's Medical College named a section of the hospital for her, she also served as a member of the Philadelphia Board of Education from 1961 to 1964 and as a leader of volunteer boards and groups associated with the Philadelphia Association for Retarded Children, Moss Rehabilitation Hospital and the Committee for Philadelphia House.

Margaret Majer Kelly died on January 6, 1990 in Linwood, New Jersey.



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