- Mary Leue's
- and Curriculum
My aunt used to tell a story
about plays she and her siblings would put on for their elders. One
such involved a sailor husband who was absent from home for twenty
years on a globe-girdling voyage, who finally returned and recounted
to his wife the story of his exploits and travails. At its end, his
wife exclaimed to him proudly, "I too have not been idle!" and, with
a grand gesture of her arm, swept away a curtain concealing a long
row of children of all ages!
Is there something not quite
"comme il faut" (even if one does not label it as such) about
boasting about one's accomplishments, particularly when one is a
woman? I feel strangely awkward in giving a full account of my
sixty-odd years since the halcyon days of undergraduate Bryn
Mawrtyrdom. Yet I am pleased with my more than half-century's doings,
and really want to share them.
Actually, the "careless love"
which created my family of five is the most acceptable form of
self-revelation for a woman, is it not? Of course, one is not
supposed to give details about how such an indiscretion occurred! Too
unladylike, no doubt. But then, I have always had trouble being "a
lady." Four brothers and four sons, a father, a husband and a lover,
all of whose freedoms and realms of power I longed to share while
avoiding the pitfalls and pains of masculinity, probably conditioned
me early and late to yearn in the direction of non-ladylike
At any rate, aside from such
female considerations as reproduction, I append my "vita" to the
biography below. Do I feel proud of all this? I do, I
- Lots of
- This biography, originally
written in 1993 by two members of The Free School staff for me for
a newspaper article in the Albany Times-Union, was added
to, corrected and updated, first in 1996 and then in
- In her eighty-nine years,
Mary M. Leue, mother of five, grandmother of thirteen,
great-grandmother of seven, has been a Maine farmer, registered
nurse, teacher, civil rights and anti-war activist, lay midwife,
leader in both alternative education and natural childbirth
movements, therapist, community organizer, editor, writer, desktop
publisher and bookseller. She has published a number of articles
in national and international journals of education and
psychotherapy, including the Journal of Orgonomy, Energy and
Character, Holistic Education Review, SKOLE, the
Journal of Alternative Education, which she created nine years
ago, as one of eight co-editors of the Journal of Family Life,
later re-named the Journal For Living; and an
online bookstore and publisher (Down-to-Earth Books), with
twenty-nine titles in print: ten as author, the remaining nineteen
- Born and raised in
Massachusetts, Mary graduated with an A.B. in history from Bryn
Mawr College in 1940. In 1943, she received her graduate nursing
degree from The Children's Medical Center Hospital School of
Nursing in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1950, she became a member of
a committee of distinguished Boston doctors and other medical
professionals working (fruitlessly, in the end) to create a
national heath service. At that time she also served as
secretary-treasurer of a committee of tenured professors from
Harvard and MIT (and others) which had been formed in defense of
an MIT mathematician, Professor Dirk Struik, a Marxist accused by
the Massachusetts Un-American Activities Committee of advocating
the violent overthrow of the American, raising $13,000 on his
behalf. Professor Struik's case never came to
- In the early 1950's she
accompanied her husband, then a young Harvard University PhD and
professor of philosophy, to Denton, Texas, where she raised five
children, taught at a small private school and did graduate work
in English literature and education at Texas Woman's University.
The family moved to Albany in the early 1960's, where Mary began
training and experience in a number of therapeutic individual and
group modalities including neo-Freudian, Transactional Analysis,
T-grouping, Gestalt, Orgonomic, Bioenergetic, Past Lives Therapy
(Deep Memory Process), Marital Counseling and Jungian group
techniques - in addition to doing graduate work in psychology at
the State University of New York, where she is now an Associate
Fellow of the Center for Arts and Humanities.
- Following a Sabbatical year
at Oxford University in England in 1968-69 with her husband and
two youngest children, and returning to Albany, Mary responded
creatively to the distress of her ten-year-old son, who was now
suffering badly in Albany's public schools, by allowing him to
drop out of his overcrowded class. Her (and his) decision to
create The Free School and locate it in the inner city was
influenced by the educational philosophies of New England
Transcendentalist Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott
of Little Women fame), Wilhelm Reich and A. S. Neill, as
well as the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the father of
anarchism, Prince Pyotr Kropotkin. Mary firmly believed that open,
democratic education should be available to the children of the
poor as well as to those of the middle and upper classes. When she
had consulted with A.S. Neill, founder of Summerhill, a democratic
school in England, about such a possibility, his response was pure
Neill: "I would think myself daft to try."
- In 1969, Mary proceeded to
gather an entire group of "daft" individuals, many of whom are
still together in 2009 (although none of them still teaches in the
school), having joined her in her vision of living and working in
genuine community in a post-industrial world. The school they
created and developed together as they went along, learning from
experience and adapting their programs to the needs and
enthusiasms of the actual children who were members of the school
at any one time, is still staffed by a group of self-chosen
teachers and interns who believe deeply in what they are doing,
and have continued most of the policies in practice during the
early years of the school..
- Mary saw clearly from the
start that such an experiment would need to have its own internal
economy based on self-help, simple living and shared, peer-level
leadership, and that it would depend on ongoing emotional honesty
for its long-term survival. Guided by Wilhelm Reich's concept of
"work democracy," Mary and the others began creating a series of
small-scale community institutions to both broaden the school's
mission and support the health and growth of community members.
They dedicated their first community-owned building as The Family
Life Center, to use for supportive activities - which included a
shared investment and loan program, The Money Game; a
medically-supported midwife-managed pregnancy, birth and parenting
program, The Matrix Birth Center; a weekly growth group, simply
called The Group, which enabled its members to create lifestyle
changes by working out conflicts, enhancing both their
interpersonal skills and their basic joie de vivre; an adult
educational program entitled the Adult Learning Exchange; a small
bookstore, Down-to-Earth Books (which has since become the online
bookstore and publishing company mentioned above), and an organic
foods store, The Down-to-Earth Store, supporting their needs for a
- As more new community
members stayed on and became pregnant, Mary had begun offering
home birth for a few families, assisted by Betsy Mercogliano, a
teacher in the school. Betsy dropped out of teaching to take a
full course of nurse's training, and subsequently, one in
midwifery from a national accrediting organization. She and Mary
organized the birth center together, including the publication of
a monthly birth news periodical whch also offered locally-built
birth stools for sale. Two community members, Howie Mittleman and
Frank Houde, had set up a wooden boat-building shop they called
North River Boatworks in the garage next door to the school, where
they were building prize-winning wooden boats and restoring
"woodie" station wagons. For Matrix they created and built several
hundred simple but very effective birthing stools. Matrix is still
going strong under Betsy's able leadership, and supports many
families in pre-natal, doula and parenting support as well as
occasional births in the center's birth pool.
- Finally, the awareness
developed in Mary and others that a vital community needs a
celebratory spiritual basis - and what has evolved is
multifaceted, drawing from many diverse sources including Judaism,
Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Wiccan and native American
traditions. The women of the community even spent one summer
digging a kiva behind the school.
- The community also wanted to
offer school children as well as community members more
experiences in a natural setting, and bought a lodge and land on a
small lake in the Taconics which they called Rainbow Camp, half an
hour's drive from Albany. They paid for this by offering a very
successful weekend workshop program conducted at the lodge for
many years. The community also serendipitously inherited a large
tract of wooded land a few miles away by paying off the unpaid
county taxes on the land. This land had once been original Mohican
homeland, and, long before that era, had been a Neolithic site
dotted with dolmens and stone piles. Here they developed a
wilderness preservation and teaching program for both adults and
children from nearby public schools including a high ropes course
and a wilderness shelter deep in these untouched and magnificent
- Next door to this land was
the site of a Nipponzan Myohoji (Japanese) Buddhist Peace Pagoda,
a structure closely linked in its creation with both native
American rights and international peace movements - and was worked
on by many members of the Free School community throughout its
development, including the children of the Free School. All this
land had been the property of Hank Hazleton, a supporter of both
Native Americans and Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhism, who had donated
the site of the pagoda to them.
- Mary retired from the school
in 1985, and left the community in 1998 to live on family land,
along with two of her five families, in Ashfield, Massachusetts, a
small hilltown in the Berkshires. Until 2002 she was a member of
the Council on Aging for four hilltowns including Ashfield,
driving seniors who needed transportation to the doctor in nearby
cities, and helping to organize senior housing. She was also a
member of the Board of the local newspaper, The Ashfield
News until 2006.
- During the late 80s Mary
taught herself webmastering, in order to create her own web site
to acquaint a wider public with the work of alternative education,
to offer books on the subject hard to find elsewhere, and a wide
choice of articles and reviews. She has also written and published
three volumes of her memoirs, both online and in book form. She
calls her reminscences Trying to Get it Right This Time:
Confessions of a Survivor of a Large Family.
- Mary heats her farmhouse
with wood cut by her son Mark, raises a fair amount of her own
food in a joint garden with her son Tom and his wife Nancy and
boils the sap from her family's trees to make maple syrup in early
- MML CURRICULUM VITAE (Note:
see the Review link on the Home page for my
- MARY MACOMBER LEUE, born
December 21, 1919, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, one of six
children of Dr. Donald Macomber (Harvard College 1905, Harvard
Medical School, 1909, HMS faculty member, OB-Gyn, Sexuality,
1920's-30's; practicing MD Ob-Gyn, Boston, MA, 1920-50) and
Harriet Seaver Macomber (Bryn Mawr A.B. 1907).
- Primary and secondary
schools in West Newton, Lincoln and North Quincy,
- A.B. Bryn Mawr College,
- R.N. Children's Medical
Center Hospital, Boston, MA
- M.A. Texas Woman's
University, Denton, Texas (English, psychology, Teacher
- (ABD) SUNYA (psychology), on
a part-time basis 1955-57 and 1966-68.
- Three additional graduate
courses in teacher ed. and nursing during the
- FAMILY LIFE:
- Married William H. Leue,
- 5 children: William, 1944,
Peter, 1946, Thomas, 1948, Ellen, 1954, Mark 1958. Three
miscarriages, one stillbirth.
- Has lived in Brunswick,
Maine, West Newton, Massachusetts, Denton, Texas, Albany, New
York, Eynsham, Oxfordshire, England (Sabbatical year at Oxford
TRAVEL: British Isles,
Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy,
- British Isles, France,
Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Andorra, 1969.
- British Isles, France,
Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Crete, 1985.
- British Isles, France,
1986-66, four trips.
- Switzerland, Israel, Turkey,
- Switzerland, India, Ladakh,
- Japan, Thailand, India,
- England, Germany, Israel,
Japan, Maui, California, visiting schools and school people around
the world, 1998.
- England and France,
- THERAPY/TRAINING IN VARIOUS
- 6 months Freudian
psychiatric counseling, Dallas Texas, 1953.
- 5 years individual and group
Freudian psychiatric therapy, 1962-67.
- Bioenergetic Reichian body
work, London, England, 8 months 1968-9.
- Marital counseling,
Satir-trained therapist, 1970-3.
- Orgonomic Reichian Body
work, Philadelphia, 1972-5.
Analysis/Gestalt individual and group therapy,
- EST training,
- Option (Barry Kaufman),
individual and group 1984-5.
- Past Lives Therapy training,
Roger Woolger, Oxford University, Jung Institute, Zurich, 6
- Marital counseling,
Elizabeth Doyle, 1970-72.
- Counseling, Deborah Fine,
family therapist, 1999-2003, 2008-9.
- PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
- Tutoring bedridden children,
Brunswick, Maine Public Schools, 1948-9.
- Evening duty
obstetrical/pediatric nurse, Newton-Wellesley Hospital,
- Teacher, Latin, French,
History, administrator of testing program, Denton Preparatory
School (now Selwyn School), Denton, Texas, 1955-8.
- Religious Education teacher,
Denton Unitarian Fellowship, 1956-8.
- Religious Education
Director, DUF, 1958-9.
- Religious Education teacher,
First Unitarian Church, Albany, New York, 1965-6.
- Founder, The Free School,
- Co-director, The Free
- Therapist, Reichian,
marital, parenting, women, individual and group, 1974-1998. Past
- Pediatric and Public Health
- Teacher, French, Sex
Education, History, History of Religions, The Free School,
- Founder, Pregnancy and
Childbirth Support Group, 1978.
- Founder and Co-coordinator,
Family Life Center, 1979.
- Labor coach, childbirth
educator, pregnancy/fertility consultant, midwifery teacher
- Member, National Coalition
of Alternative Community Schools
- Member, Board of Directors,
National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools,
- Managing editor/publisher,
SKOLE, the Journal of Alternative Education
- Founder, Down-to-Earth
Books, 1984, the Lorax Bookstore/Mail Order Service,
- Co-founder and
co-coordinator, MATRIX, a primal birthing center,
co-editor/publisher, the Journal of Family Life, 1994,
runner-up Utne Reader awards for new innovative periodicals,
- Associate Fellow of the
Center for the Arts and Humanities, State University of New York
at Albany, NY, 1990-1996.