Born Margaret Tucker in 1882 in Newton, she attended the local schools and was a Vassar Girl, graduating in 1905. She went on to graduate work at Columbia, Cornell, and Harvard.
Margaret then taught high school in Deep River and Stamford, CT, and for a short time in Springfield. She was director of the Children’s Museum of Boston in 1918 and later became a director of the Children’s Museum in Cambridge, remaining there until her marriage to Professor Frederick Saunders in 1925. She also served as a laboratory assistant at Mount Holyoke College during the 1914-15 school year.
Prof. Saunders was Chairman of the Physics Department at Harvard University. They were both interested in environmental affairs, being influential in acquiring wetlands and meadows which today are part of the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. He was a director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
The couple had visited South Hadley, and being naturalists and authorities on bird watching, they chose to move here when Frederick retired in 1941 because of the natural surroundings, conservation, and bird migration routes. They first lived on Woodbridge Terrace and then on Silverwood Terrace. They took summer vacations at Holderness, New Hampshire. Frederick died in 1963 at age 87.
Margaret served on many town committees and had a deep conviction that citizens should take active interest in the democratic process. She founded Know Your Town (KYT) in 1945 with the assistance of other civic-minded women in South Hadley for the purpose of informing residents about important issues.
In 1948 Know Your Town published a voters primer to promote understanding of the town’s problems and to provide information on the mechanics of town government and how to give town officers help and intelligent cooperation. It had been found that many in town did not vote and those who did often were not informed on the issues.
In a March 1949 Holyoke Transcript article, Margaret deplored the fact that many registered voters all over town did not know when the next election was or who the candidates were. She said that there was too much guesswork in voting.
On her 92nd birthday, the past Town Meeting member and KTY president was named Citizen of the Year by the Lions Club for her founding of the KYT group and the many civic and government services she had performed for the town over the years. A proclamation by KYT stated that the 24th day of May 1962 was hereby named Margaret Saunders Day. It was read at the Lord Jeffery Inn at the KYT Annual Meeting.
Margaret Saunders died on May 2, 1975 at the age of 93.
Published in the Town Reminder, January 25, 2014
By John J. Zwisler, South Hadley Historical Society
Community Voices Guest Columnist