Mary Olcott

Mary Louisa Beatrice Olcott (1864–1962), US suffragette, world traveller and author,[1] and pupil of F. M. Alexander.


Mary Olcott was born in Brooklyn, New York. She received her education at private schools and under the guidance of tutors. She was of a colonial family which had settled in the US in the 17th century. She wrote a genealogical history of her family, tracing it back to 16th century England. In 1902 she published a book of poems,[2] and she also wrote articles on gardening. She was a member of more than 20 associations, societies and clubs, mainly historical and genealogical –among them, the National Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars; the Daughters of the American Revolution; and The Sovereign Colonial Society, Americans of Royal Descent.[3]

Connection with Alexander

Mary Olcott started having lessons with Alexander at the beginning of 1922.[4] Olcott was one of several people who helped Alexander with his manuscripts; she proof-read CCC, UoS and parts of UCL. She helped Alexander move his school to Massachusetts at the outbreak of WWII, and sponsored four of the schoolchildren for entry into the US. She writes of herself in her 1956 genealogical history of her family (referring to herself in the third person):

In later years, Miss Olcott became interested in the discovery by F. Matthias Alexander, of London, of the primary control of the human being and of the need for the substitution of a conscious instead of an instinctive direction in the use of the self. She not only was of aid in helping him to establish his Training School in London, where a new technique in education was taught, based on Mr Alexander’s work and principle, but she also undertook, with the kind assistance of Miss Edith Lawson, the revision of the proofs of two of Mr. Alexander’s books: Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, The Use of the Self, and a part of The Universal Constant in Living. In 1940, when London was bombed and there was need of sending England’s children to safety, Miss Olcott was among those who enabled Mr Alexander to establish his school in the United States, and she also sponsored four of the English children he brought from England to Canada for entry into the United States as pupils of his school at the Whitney Homestead, Stow, Massachusetts.[5]

It is therefore likely that Olcott was ‘the far-seeing lady’[6] mentioned by F. M. Alexander in his ‘A thanks offering’ in UCL whose generous gift to the Trust Fund made possible the carrying on of the Little School in the US.

Olcott is mentioned in the Little School’s The Alexander Times, indicating that she visited the Little School more than once.[7]

Mary Olcott. Photo courtesy of ‘BArnold’.[8]

Mary Louisa Beatrice Olcott *24 Jun 1864 – †22 May 1962


[1] Obituary in The New York Times, 24 May 1962, p. 35.
[2] Poems by Mary Olcott (John Lane: The Bodley Head, 1902).
[3] The Olcotts and Their Kindred by Mary L. B. Olcott (National Americana Publications, 1956), pp. 228–29.
[4] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), p. 173.
[5] The Olcotts and Their Kindred by Mary L. B. Olcott (National Americana Publications, 1956), p. 228.
[6] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), p. xviii.
[7] The Alexander Time no. 2 Christmas 1929, in The Alexander Times Vol. 1: 1929-1932 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2017), p. 38.