Mary Lee Ware.
Harvard University Herbaria and Botany Libraries, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Lee Ware


Mary Lee Ware (1858–1937): independently wealthy Bostonian, farmer, and philanthropist; and student of botany (a member of the New Hampshire Horticultural Society) – she was the foremost sponsor of the exquisite collection of Glass Flowers (originally the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants) donated to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. She also helped to fund the field work of the pioneering anthropologist Frederic Ward Putnam, of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. In addition, from at least 1906 to 1913 she was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Ware was the daughter of Dr Charles Eliot Ware, a naturalist and professor at Harvard Medical School, and his wife Elizabeth C. Ware – who was descended from the wealthy Salem Cabots, a merchant family of the early 1700s. She expertly managed the family farm at West Rindge, New Hampshire, which extended to a total of 450 acres split between pasture and cultivated land – where she spent the summers – and she had also inherited a large, elegant townhouse at 41 Brimmer Street, Back Bay, Boston (it had been purchased by her parents in about 1870), which became her winter residence. Ware, a lifelong spinster, was in her early forties when she inherited both properties from her parents. At her death she left assets worth $1,000,000, of which $600,000 was bequeathed to charitable and educational causes.

Emily Hale called Ware ‘my old friend’ (letter to Ruth George, 6 Dec. 1935), and often lodged with the generous, loyal woman at 41 Brimmer Street. She was to be remembered in Ware’s will.