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John Stokes and Mary's Gardens collection

 Collection
Identifier: ML-034

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the personal papers of John S. Stokes, Jr., and the records of his organization, Mary's Gardens. Materials in the collection date primarily from 1952 through 1990. The collection includes Stokes' manuscripts, correspondence, research materials, articles, photographs, audio recordings and ephemera related to his interests in Catholicism, the Blessed Virgin Mary, gardening, names and symbolism of plants and flowers associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mary's Gardens movement, social justice, ecumenism and other related themes. The collection also contains records of Stokes' organization, Mary's Gardens including press releases, newsletters, marketing materials, articles, garden plans, and other promotional materials. Additionally, some materials deal with Stokes' website, also called Mary's Gardens (mgardens.org).

Stokes' manuscripts document published and unpublished works on topics including Marian symbolism of flowers and herbs, Catholic mysticism, medieval gardens, and the Mary's Gardens movement. The collection includes over fifty years of Stokes' personal and organizational correspondence, primarily related to his interests on Mary and flowers, Catholicism, gardening, and the Mary's Gardens movement. He corresponded extensively with a few individuals, primarily Bonnie Roberson and Brother Sean MacNamara. Some materials document Stokes' activities as a member or general interest in over eighteen Catholic and/or social justice organizations. These include, for example, the Catholic Interracial Council of Philadelphia and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. The collection also contains pamphlets, subject files, and other ephemera relating to Stokes' broad research interests in gardening, flowers, plants, herbs, the environment, Catholicism, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marian art and stamps, social justice, and civil rights.

Organizational records in the collection document the history and activities of Mary's Gardens, founded by John Stokes and Edward McTague in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1951. Additionally, materials in the collection document Stokes' activities in promoting the Mary's Gardens movement including planning devotional gardens at parishes and schools, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region and North America.

Photographs, slides, and negatives in the collection document Mary's Gardens, Marian plants and flowers, exhibits, events, groups, and individuals associated with Stokes' Mary Garden in Philadelphia and the Mary's Gardens movement.

The collection also contains the papers of Stokes' friend and Mary's Gardens affiliate, Bonnie Roberson. Roberson owned and operated Garden of Memories, a Mary Garden based in Hagerman, Idaho. She corresponded extensively with Stokes, primarily during the early 1980s before her death in 1983. Her papers also document her interest in Mary's Gardens for the blind and dish gardens, as well as her interest and involvement with Catholic and gardening organizations including, for example, the American Rose Society, the Herb Society of America, and the Idaho Council of Catholic Women.

Dates

  • 1938-2007

Creator

Access

This collection is open and available to the public for research in the Marian Library reading room. The materials are non-circulating.

Copyright Notice

The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to locate and obtain permission from the copyright owner or his or her heirs for any other use, such as reproduction and publication.

Biography of John S. Stokes Jr.

John Stogdell Stokes, Jr., was born on October 21, 1920 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. In 1942, Mr. Stokes earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University. During the 1940s, he was employed by Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio and registered as a conscientious objector to World War II.

Mr. Stokes was raised as a Quaker and converted to Catholicism in 1946. The following year he moved to the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and married Helen Patricia Schriever, with whom he had five children.

Stokes developed an interest in medieval religious names, symbolisms and uses of flowers, particularly those associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Inspired by an article on a devotional garden planted in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Mr. Stokes cofounded "Mary's Gardens" with Philadelphia based partner Edward McTague in 1951.

Stokes publicized Mary's Gardens through articles in Catholic publications, newsletters, and mail-order distribution of seed packets that promoted plants and flowers honoring the Virgin Mary. He focused efforts both on his garden as well as fostering a broader Mary's Gardens movement. Bonnie Roberson of Hagerman, Idaho later joined the movement and corresponded extensively with Stokes on this topic. While promoting Mary's Gardens, Stokes also became active in civil rights and social justice movements and served as the director of the Wellsprings Ecumenical Center in Philadelphia. During the 1960s, he taught interfaith courses at churches and synagogues throughout the city. During this time, he met Marion Metelits, whom he would later marry in 1973.

Continuing to promote his garden and the Mary's Gardens movement, Mr. Stokes launched a website, mgardens.org, in 1995. Through his site, Mr. Stokes devoted the later years of his life to sharing his collection of flower photographs and extensive research on the Marian dimension of plants and flowers. According to his family, the site has helped to foster devotional gardens around the world, and Mr. Stokes is considered by many to be the founder of the Mary's Gardens movement.

Mr. Stokes passed away in Philadelphia on November 14, 2007 at the age of 87.

Extent

58.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This collection contains the personal papers of John S. Stokes, Jr., and the records of his organization, Mary's Gardens. Materials in the collection date primarily from 1952 through 1990. The collection includes Stokes' manuscripts, correspondence, research materials, articles, photographs, audio recordings and ephemera related to his interests in Catholicism, the Blessed Virgin Mary, gardening, names and symbolism of plants and flowers associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mary's Gardens movement, social justice, civil rights, ecumenism and other related themes. Mary's Gardens records include press releases, newsletters, marketing materials, articles, garden plans, and ephemera on Stokes' organization (cofounded in 1951 with Edward McTague) based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, some materials deal with Stokes' website, also called Mary's Gardens (mgardens.org).

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in twelve series:

  1. Manuscripts and research
  2. Correspondence
  3. Articles and press
  4. Mary's Gardens records
  5. Mary's Gardens movement
  6. Catholic organizations and memberships
  7. Catholic pamphlets
  8. Gardening literature and ephemera
  9. Subject files
  10. Bonnie Roberson's papers
  11. Photographs, slides, and artifacts
  12. Audiovisual materials

Acquisition

This collection was donated to the Marian Library by John S. Stokes, Jr., in 2007 and transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013.

In addition to his archives, Mr. Stokes donated his website (mgardens.org), garden statues and statue molds, and personal library of literature on gardening, plants and flowers, Catholicism, and religion to the Marian Library.
Title
Guide to the John Stokes and Mary's Gardens collection, circa 1940-2007
Status
Completed
Author
Jillian Slater
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English
Sponsor
Marian Library

Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

Contact:
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Dayton Ohio 45469-1360