Collection SR 6502 - Oral history interview with Marjorie McDonald, by Edna Kovacs

Oral history interview with Marjorie McDonald, by Edna Kovacs [Sound Recording 01] Oral history interview with Marjorie McDonald, by Edna Kovacs [Sound Recording 02]

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SR 6502

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Oral history interview with Marjorie McDonald, by Edna Kovacs


  • 1989-10-21 (Creation)


online resource (2 audio files (1 hr., 34 min., 30 sec.)

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Biographical history

Marjorie McDonald, nee Campbell (1898-1995) was an extraordinary woman of the 20th century. When she died at 96 in March 1995, she left a legacy in her artwork.

After childhood in Indiana, high school and college in Oregon (where she was an interscholastic tennis champion), and steelhead fishing with her husband, John, she became a teacher. She taught at a Portland, Oregon high school and evening courses to Russians who were in Portland during World War II. She went to England to study Russian, returning to Portland to become the first high school teacher of Russian in the United States. She believed that teaching American students the Russian language would be a positive effort in easing the strained American-Russian relations of that time, and she visited the Soviet Union on three occasions before she retired in 1963.

After Marjorie retired from teaching, she took up painting as a way to distract herself from terrible headaches which had plagued her throughout her life. In 1970, she turned to collage, developing her own technique of mixing paint with turpentine and using it to color rice paper. Her subjects varied from wonderfully expressive faces, to magical landscapes, to still life. The titles she gave her collages expressed her personal sense of humor. She began to teach her collage technique to patients at a local hospital where she volunteered and in so doing was discovered by the art world.

Until the last few weeks of her life, Marjorie was producing art, sitting at a tiny table in her retirement home - alert, curious, amazed that her work had become known nationwide, and taking pleasure in the many friends who came to see her. In swift succession a fall which broke her hip and a stroke brought her to the end of her life. After she had lost her only child in childbirth and her husband had died when she was still in her 40s , Marjorie never remarried. She accomplished so much in the remaining 50 years of her life, only beginning to express herself with art in her 70s.

She was an intelligent, educated, curious, forthright, daring, irascible, and indomitable woman - a woman to inspire other women (and men). She left an important body of work for us to appreciate and she left those who knew her and knew about her a sense that we never need be too old to stop creating our lives.

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McDonald discusses her family background and early life in Indiana and Portland, Oregon, her poetry, learning and teaching Russian, living in London for a year,and her collage artwork.

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Creative Commons - Attribution, Non-Commercial, ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA)

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  • English

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Oral history interview with Marjorie McDonald, by Edna Kovacs, 1989 October 21, SR 6502, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

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Digitization funded by the James F. Miller Endowment.

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