Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage: Miser’s widow gave away vast fortune
In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish," Standish, a soldier arriving in Plymouth on the Mayflower, tries to woo Priscilla through his friend, a scribe with a golden pen. Priscilla, however, falls in love with the scribe, leaving the less attractive Standish on the wayside. The real Standish married another woman, and his progeny did quite well. One of his descendants, Margaret Olivia Slocum, became one of America's great philanthropists. Olivia, her preferred name, was born in 1828. The Slocums were a wealthy family; her father was a successful merchant who prospered until the Panic of 1837 decimated his business. The Slocums raised Olivia as if she were an heir to an aristocratic fortune, imbuing her with the notion that she had royal blood pulsating through her veins. There were exclusive private schools and tutors, but she was subjected to the taunts and teasing of her classmates because, as Russell Sage biographer Paul Sarnoff described her, she had "lumpy, irregular features and a vapid, stricken look in her lackluster eyes, which bulged as a result of a thyroid condition."