Mary Therese McCarthy (June 21, 1912 – October 25, 1989) was an American author, critic and political activist.

Born in Seattle, Washington, to Roy Winfield McCarthy and his wife, the former Therese Preston, McCarthy was orphaned at the age of six when both her parents died in the great flu epidemic of 1918. She and her brothers, Kevin, Preston, and Sheridan were raised in very unhappy circumstances by her Catholic father's parents in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the direct care of an uncle and aunt she remembered for harsh treatment and abuse.

When the situation became intolerable, she was taken in by her maternal grandparents in Seattle. Her maternal grandmother, Augusta Morganstern, was Jewish, and her maternal grandfather, Harold Preston, was a prominent attorney and co-founder of the law firm Preston Gates & Ellis, and was a Presbyterian. (Her brothers were sent to boarding school.) McCarthy credited her grandfather, who helped draft one of the nation's first Workmen's Compensation Acts, with helping form her liberal views. McCarthy explores the complex events of her early life in Minneapolis and her coming of age in Seattle in her memoir, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. Her brother, actor Kevin McCarthy, went on to star in such movies as Death of a Salesman (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

Under the guardianship of the Prestons, McCarthy studied at the Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Seattle, and went on to graduate from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1933.


Mary McCarthy Poems

Road Hazard

The trouble with driving
was I didn't want to learn.
I never believed... more »

Never Learned to Ride

Because one summer afternoon
the peace was broken
by a crash... more »

Mary McCarthy Quotes

Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. Speech, 1952. "The Contagion of Ideas," published in On the Contrary (1961).
Bureacracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (Oct. 18, 1958).
There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing. A truth is something that everybody can be shown to know and to have known, as people say, all along.
Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), U.S. author, critic. repr. In On the Contrary (1961). "The Vita Activa," New Yorker (Oct. 18, 1958).

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