Mary Haskell, author, art patron, and school principal celebrates a Birthday Today

“People are always longing for someone to help them realize their best selves,” – Mary Haskell

(portrait drawn by artist Kahlil Gibran)

Today is writer, art patron (b. in South Carolina, 1873) Boston school principal, Mary Haskell’s birthday…that is, the big 149 yrs! Can you handle it?

(This is probably the most biased birthday greeting I’ve written, upon reading back…😅 all in good cheer✔️.)

…It is interesting that this time of year brings together many of the authors I had featured on the blog in this little ongoing unfolding of the past, a historical story to present day, a meditation on their lives and my own, and also a good way to summarize these authors I’ve learned about…

(—Okay, I guess someone is smoking now for Mary Haskell; I smell the marijuana scent coming through my wardrobe closet…not a Jane…but a Mary is it?! I am not smoking anything either…💕

It began when I was looking for a female poet from the Middle East having read the poet Rumi for so many years, and I found May Ziadeh pretty quickly. I connected with her words and poetry right away and found her beautiful and a companion even beyond her literature…You know the rest, or if you are curious, in the Archive at the bottom of the page: the month of May (coincidentally :), May 10, 2021: Then on tells of “my own story with May.” (to reference a book title about May and Ameen Rihani, an author and lawyer, colleague of hers I’d written of recently.)

When famous artist and writer, Kahlil Gibran who was from Lebanon, like Miss Ziadeh was in touch with her through letter for her to review his first novel Broken Wings, after May met writer and intellectual, Ameen Rihani at a certain author celebratory event in the Middle East for Gibran, May was a regular writer and poet for the local newspapers in Egypt in the Middle East, while Gibran had emigrated to New York City.

May was intrigued with this man and also wonderfully honest with her critique. She would review it, she’d liked it, and also said that she’d disagreed with a major point of it (and would be a little bit more moderate in her viewpoint on relationships and commitment than Gibran who some would say was not always so considerate), yet May was always up for debate and discussion, and that was part of her role as a very accepting and modest literary host.

May quickly fell in love with Gibran, who was already in love with Mary Haskell (whom he had met about 4 yrs earlier at his art show in 1904), and it’s important to note too, that the fact that May’s name was Mary at birth (she shortened it to May, pron. Mayy when she started her writing career), some more casual biographers today may not realize which letters were to May Ziadeh from artist, poet, novelist Kahlil Gibran, and which were actually written from him to Mary Haskell, later known as Mini (similar name again), whose birthday it is today. A good clue though is that he’s written to May Z in his native Arabic and had written most likely to Mary H in English.

May wanted to marry Gibran, she communicated her dedication clearly, but Gibran seemed happy with Mary Haskell and would always keep hoping for more even expressing this so in his artwork of her, and she was his art patron and benefactress.

He enjoyed portrait art of this woman he’d loved and he had called her his “Angel.” It is a nice thing on its own.

And toward the end of Gibran’s life in 1926, Mary Haskell would marry Jacob Minis, whose wife had just died. It’s suggestive that Mary Haskell and Gibran were not marrying because Mary’s parents frowned upon the age difference of about 10 yrs—(none of Mary’s writings or books I could find today, she seemed to be a highly nurturing person to Kahlil Gibran, who was like an orphan, losing his mom and his dear sister Mariana very young when they’d first migrated to Boston in the early 20th century.)

Mary Haskell was also deeply proud and would announce that “…this amazing artist, Kahlil Gibran, is in love…in love with me!” whether or not we receive an understanding of her feelings toward Gibran.

And Gibran would say, “Mary, I don’t know if my writing is good, I don’t think my English is good enough to publish books, and I don’t know if I am a true artist.” It is said Gibran had not mastered English the way his elder friend, Ameen Rihani had, it was both their second languages; Gibran was also an incredible painter and visual artist, was a deep thinker.

And Mary would reply, “Your writing is perfect. It is just perfect, Gibran. There is nothing to change about you, or your writing…” And when he would complain that he felt lazy and did not know if he should work more but maybe wasn’t feeling up to it, she would say “Your silence is just as important as your words. Rest as much as you want to rest. Work as much as you want to work. Whatever you happen to do, Gibran, whether it be work or relaxation, is art.” It was good, encouraging advice; she spoke English as her native language, so she could fix up Gibran’s grammar and edit his books to become international best sellers. So at Blush of Dawn, we wish Mary Haskell a happy birthday.

3 responses to “Mary Haskell, author, art patron, and school principal celebrates a Birthday Today”

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