Marjorie Guthrie

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Teal and gray poster with red-orange and lavender lettering and highlights, announcing lecture, April 1985. Also lists speaker, sponsors, date, time, and location. Speaker was Joseph B. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School. Largest feature of poster is computer-generated image of human head and torso. Smaller, clearer image of two brain scans, bounded by lavender, is superimposed on human figure
Poster of Recent studies of Huntington's disease Marjorie Guthrie lecture in genetics; 1985

Marjorie Mazia Guthrie (October 6, 1917 – March 13, 1983) was a dancer of the Martha Graham Company, a dance teacher, and, for a time, the wife of folk musician Woody Guthrie. She is the mother of folk musician Arlo Guthrie and Woody Guthrie archivist Nora Guthrie.

Life and work[edit]

She was born Marjorie Greenblatt (Yiddish: חנה גרינבלאַט‎) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States, to Aliza Waitzman and Izadore Greenblatt.[1] She had three brothers- David, Herbert and Ben and a sister Gertrude. She became a dancer for Martha Graham in 1935, later she became a teacher for Graham and opened her own dance school in the late '40s.

She married Woody Guthrie, with whom she shared an interest in folk art and left wing politics, in 1945. They had four children together, the oldest of whom, Cathy, died in a fire when she was just four years old. Following the death of her ex-husband from Huntington's Disease in 1967, she founded the Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease. This eventually became the Huntington's Disease Society of America.[2]

She met Guthrie in 1940 as a Martha Graham Dancer trained in Modern Dance, while she was adapting some of Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads to a routine. Though she was Guthrie's second wife (of three) they maintained a close relationship throughout his life and she provided constant care to Guthrie until his death. She also founded the Marjorie Mazia School of Dance on Sheepshead Bay Road in Brooklyn, New York, which trained young dancers in Modern Dance and Ballet in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. In 1950, Mazia recorded, Dance Along on Folkways Records, a dance album for children.[3] She is extensively cited in the book, Outwitting History by National Yiddish Book Center founder/director Aaron Lansky.

Joe Klein's 1980 biography, Woody Guthrie: A Life is based extensively on Marjorie Guthrie's recollections and collected papers, and contains substantial details of her life up through Woody Guthrie's passing in 1967. Publication info.: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

Mrs. Guthrie was instrumental in creating the World Federation of Neurology's Research Commission on Huntington's Chorea. She headed a Federal commission for control of the disease in 1976 and 1977, and lectured to medical students about the illness and how it affects the patient and the patient's family. She also headed the public and governmental information committee of the National Committee for Research in Neurologic and Communicative Disorders, was a member of the New York State Commission on Health Education and Illness Prevention and of the state's Genetic Advisory Committee, and was a lay member of the advisory council of the National Institute of General Medical Science. (Quoted from NY Times obituary: MARJORIE GUTHRIE, SINGER'S WIDOW, 65, March 14, 1983)

In 1975, Mrs. Guthrie married Martin B. Stein, who was vice president of the Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease. She died of cancer on March 13, 1983, outliving her fifth husband. (Source: ibid.)