Mary Elizabeth Harvey was one of the most dynamic and effective leaders Saginaw has ever known; her charitable and cultural accomplishments are still part of the Saginaw scene.
Mary Elizabeth Chadwick was born in Newberry, Vermont, in 1853. She came to Saginaw to visit her sister, Harriott (Mrs. Farnum) Stone in 1875. That “visit” lasted for 56 years. Mary Elizabeth fell in love with Saginaw and then fell in love with Thomas Alvaro Harvey. He was born in Massilon, Ohio, and came to Saginaw to go into business with the Morley Brothers. They were married in 1879.
Mary Elizabeth quickly became an important part of her adopted city. Her first interest was the Home for the Friendless, which had opened in 1870 as a temporary home for young women looking for work in Saginaw. When those women didn’t have family or friends in the area, all too often they had to turn to prostitution.
She was a long-time board member and one of the first incorporators of the organization and threw herself in every aspect of the Home’s existence. Her interest continued when the Home evolved into the Children’s Home and she did everything from hiring personnel to making sure that the youngsters were warmly dressed and well-fed.
Rummage sales at the old Armory were a major way of raising money for charitable causes and she was an enthusiastic worker. One of their rummage sales even had a new carriage for sale and customers came from miles around. Today, the Home has evolved into Child and Family Services. Mrs. Harvey’s example led her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Wickes Harvey, to lead the organization for many years. Two further generations of Harveys—Thomas Chadwick Harvey, Elizabeth Hamilton “Hammie” Harvey Davis and Katharine “Kaki” Harvey Almirall—have served on the board.
Harriott Stone was the first board president of the Saginaw Hospital, the first and much-needed hospital in what was then Saginaw City. Mary Elizabeth shared her sister’s interest and, throughout her life, was concerned with the growth and development of the hospital. She was a long-time board president, guiding the hospital through a major expansion in 1922.
While planning the hospital expansion, she became convinced that Saginaw needed an annual city-wide fund-raiser to benefit many causes, rather than have individual charities vie with one another for donations. With Arthur Eddy and Arnold Boutell, she was a founder of the Saginaw Welfare League in 1919, one of the very first United Fund organizations in the United States. Saginaw Hospital has become a part of Covenant Hospital.
On a lighter note, she was delighted when David Ward, “the carnation king” named a beautiful new variety of carnation “Mrs. Thomas Harvey” in her honor.
For years, she kept extensive scrapbooks which provide a valuable picture of Saginaw in its early years.
Mary Elizabeth was devoted to her husband, their son Albert—who became president of U. S. Graphite—and their three grandchildren, Elizabeth Hamilton Harvey Davis, Thomas Chadwick Harvey and Albert Sargent Harvey. Thomas A. Harvey died in 1910. Mrs. Harvey wore black for the rest of her life.
A patron of the arts, she was a member of the Euterpean League, forerunner of the Tuesday Musicale and the Enterpean Club which brought distinguished artists to Saginaw, sponsored musical events and productions and was the forerunner of Saginaw Community Concerts.
An elegant and gracious hostess, Mary Elizabeth entertained a wide circle of friends and set a memorable table. Several of her recipes were featured in a cookbook published as a fundraiser for the Women’s Hospital Auxiliary. That cookbook makes today’s gourmet restaurants look like fast food. Women’s Hospital exists today as another part of Covenant Hospital.
Mary Elizabeth Harvey died on New Year’s Eve of 1931. The Victorians reserved their highest compliment for someone with the character and accomplishments of a Mary Elizabeth Harvey. She was indeed “a noble woman.”
Copyright © 2018 Saginaw County Hall of Fame - All Rights Reserved.