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Marian Scanlan: An Independent Woman

PL Icon #33, Goodell Collection, Record #4544, Collection M980004.

> Call Number/Title: Platteville Mss D, Peter L. Scanlan Papers
> Citation: Peter L. Scanlan Papers, Area Research Center, Southwest Wisconsin Room, Elton S. Karrmann Library, University of  Wisconsin Platteville, Wisconsin


Collection Summary

The real name of this collection is the Peter L. Scanlan Papers because all of the papers in it belonged to him. Scanlan was a member of the State Historical Society and became a curator and vice-president for the society. His daughter, Marian Scanlan, is the focus of this finding aid. Marian was Peter’s only daughter. She was well educated and attended multiple schools including the University of Wisconsin, which was very rare for women during the 1910s.

She volunteered in Washington D.C. during World War I, then became an English teacher. Marian started teaching in 1918 and worked until her death in 1943. She worked at a few smaller schools before she took a position as an English teacher at Washington High School in Milwaukee. During her summers off she went on many trips. She was also an author who published some of her poetry and her own book about Prairie Du Chien. Marian was a religious person and a lot of her views and beliefs can be seen through her poetry.

This finding aid will look at her biographies, various trips, works of poetry, and the praise she received from colleagues and friends. By looking at this information you will see that Marian lived a full and eventful life, was a successful writer, a dedicated teacher, and an independent woman.


Collection Description

The whole Peter Scanlan Papers collection contains eleven boxes, but his FFA focuses on just box 11, folder 3. Once in the archives ask for the Peter L. Scanlan Papers, box 11. To make the archives staff’s search easier, tell them the call number too (Platteville Mss D). Once you receive this box look for folder 3 which is titled, “Marian Scanlan: Correspondence, biography, poetry.” All the documents in this finding aid will be found in this folder. The “titles” of the documents listed below are actually the first line, the date (if given), or the real title of the work. The folder will look intimidating at first, but you don’t have to read all of it! If you follow the list of documents below you will only have to read a few to discover an independent woman.



Read these documents to get a sense of Scanlan’s life and personality.

“My father is two men…” (first line)

This document is 5 pages long and should be stapled together. It is a biography of Peter Scanlan written by Marian. Read this biography to get a sense of how Marian sees herself as a part of her father’s life.

“Marian Diner’s [Driver’s] School” 1934-5 (real title)

This document gives a detailed history of Marian’s life. It includes the schools she attended and when. Throughout she also writes about different details of her life. For example, in the beginning she writes about her best friend Margaret. Read this document to see her successes, leadership skills, and kindness as a person.

“Just at the height of her usefulness…”(first line)

This is a 10-page biography written by somebody else about Marian’s life. Read all of this if you would like, but if you want to know more about her character and successes focus on just the first four pages. Pay close attention to the sections about her travels.



Marian owned her own car and took many trips out west when “highways” were not fully paved. She took many trips with family and friends. Read below to discover more!

“TRIPS” (real title)

This document lists all the trips Marian went on in chronological order. Pay attention to the time of year that she went. How do you think her job as a teacher affected her travel calendar?

“In vacation 1922” (first line)

This document also lists Marian’s trips, but it also lists who she went with. It shows that her trips were big life events. Pay attention to the places she goes, and notice who she goes with.
For more details about these trips look at the document that starts with “Just at the height of her usefulness…”. This document goes through specific things she does on many of the trips listed above.



Throughout this folder are various notes of praise for Marian. In the biographies you will discover she was an author. A lot of the notes in this folder are to congratulate her on her book.

July 16, 1943 (date)

This document is praise from her colleges and friends. Read it to get a better look at how people saw her, felt about her, and what her public image was like. As you read keep track of how often the words brilliant and devoted appear!

“Potter Plaque” (real title)

This document was written after Marian’s death. Take note of the praise and kind words written by her colleagues and students.


Notable poems

Throughout the folder are various pieces of poetry written by Marian. Many poems have a focus on religious ideas but, there is also a focus on nature and the natural beauty of things. Below are a few poems that are notable.

“The newest styles are often old,” (first line)

This is an untitled poem about different fashion trends through different eras. This poem considers Egypt, Greece, Rome, and more!

“Goodbye” (real title)

This one considers using goodbye instead of goodnight. Read to discover why.

“Orphan” (real title)

To get a real understanding of Marian’s feelings toward her mother’s death, read this poem and the biographies from the biography section of this FFA.


Reviewed by: Emily Johnson