A Mighty Fortress

Mary Hegeler Carus

Mary, c. 1930

Gravesite of Mary Hegeler Carus

Grave site of Mary and sons

Early in 1936 Mary took to her room feeling ill. In June her condition became serious and she passed away on Saturday, the 27th. Her obituary writer attributes her death to a “weakening of the heart and a general breakdown of health.” Mary was buried less than a mile from her home at Oakwood Cemetery. During the small and private funeral, a quartet sang—in German—Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Mary’s close friend Reverend Paul Brauns delivered the eulogy. He praised her “generous heart,” “life dedicated to doing things for her fellow-humans,” and “vigorous intellect.” He also spoke of her life as “gathering volume and value through all the years” and of the way her legacy lives on in the memory of those who had the fortune to know her.

One major aspect of her legacy concerns the family business. Mary’s oversight of M&H after the death of her father helped extend the life of the business through the Great Depression. After she died her son Herman took over the company, which remained successful for decades until eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1978. Meanwhile, her son Edward—with whom she bonded on business and scientific interests—ran the Carus Chemical Company until his death in 1975. The company was then passed on to Edward’s son Milton Blouke Carus, an engineer himself like his father and grandmother (Mary) before him. Today the company is known as the Carus Group, Inc., and Blouke currently serves on its board of directors alongside other family members.

Mary’s work with the Open Court also left an imprint on the future. Her term as president of the Open Court furthered the tireless efforts of her husband, and, despite a temporary suspension of the company’s publishing activities at the time of her death, they were resumed under the leadership of her daughter Elisabeth. The company still exists today as a major academic book publisher. The journal The Monist was also suspended at the time of Mary’s death, but it was revived in 1962 and remains a preeminent journal of philosophy. Likewise, Mary’s special projects, The Carus Mathematical Monographs and Paul Carus Lecture Series, have been sustained since their inception. The former recently published the work of the mathematician Mark S. Gockenbach as volume 32 in the monograph series, and the latter is honoring philosopher Nancy Cartwright in April 2017 at the APA meeting in Seattle. Alongside the Open Court under the greater aegis of Carus Publishing is Cricket Magazine Group. It publishes 15 different children magazines, including the well-known Cricket. The publishing enterprise was established by Mary’s granddaughter-in-law, Marianne Carus (Blouke’s wife). Its magazines aim to provide advanced literary content to a variety of age groups from 3 years of age to mid-teens. In this sense it shares in the general spirit of Mary’s interests to promote education and provide intellectual content to a broad audience.

In addition to the influence of these different long-standing institutions, Mary’s personality as an exceptional and powerful woman in an era fraught with challenging gender barriers has captivated the attention of later generations. For example, her great granddaughter Kate Carus found in Mary a role model that motivated her to become an engineer while taking for granted that women could even be engineers in the first place. Likewise, the small staff at the Hegeler Carus Mansion in La Salle, now a National Historic Landmark, diligently works to preserve Mary’s former home and find in her a major source of inspiration. In time these efforts and others are bound to further increase the “volume and value” of Mary’s life into the future.

<em><em>Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott</em> </em>[<em><em>A Mighty Fortress is Our God</em></em>]

Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"