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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 539

Papers of Marietta Tree, 1917-1995


Papers of Marietta Tree, member of the Peabody family of Massachusetts, who served as a Special Ambassador to the United Nations and also worked as a city planner.


  • Creation: 1917-1995

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except that individual items throughout the collection are closed as noted to protect personal privacy. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Marietta Tree is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library, except that during the lifetimes of Frances FitzGerald and Penelope Tree, Harvard College will authorize publication only of brief quotations (250 words or fewer in any one work), while longer quotations will require the written permission of the donors. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


21.73 linear feet ((47 + 1/2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 4 oversize folders, 5 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph box, 1 audiotape, 1 motion picture)

The collection documents Tree's private and professional life. The bulk consists of correspondence, including substantive exchanges of letters with her parents, second husband, and close friend Adlai E. Stevenson, and more social correspondence with a vast range of notable figures, including politicians, members of the aristocracy, writers, and movie stars. The more prominent correspondents are listed in the folder descriptions; the listings are not comprehensive. Tree's political activities and work as an urban planner and for a number of committees and boards is also documented. The bulk of the folder titles was created by Tree; those created by the processor appear in square brackets. A significant number of receipts, financial statements, and generic letters requesting charitable donations were weeded from the collection, as was material which did not directly relate to Tree's life and work, or to her family. Items pertaining to Malcolm and Mary Peabody, with no direct connection to Tree, have been transferred to the Mary Peabody papers.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1917-1995, n.d. (#1.1-14.3), is arranged in six subseries.

Subseries A, Biographical and personal, 1917-1995, n.d. (#1.1-4.16), consists of items providing biographical information about Tree, such as newspaper articles (including articles by John Huston and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.) and copies of her birth certificate and will. Also included are drafts and segments of an autobiography; an interview and several oral histories (one of which is heavily edited) revealing details of Tree's life, including her work at the United Nations, and her association with Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy; material related to the maintenance of Tree's house in Barbados and her apartment in New York; condolence letters on Tree's death; obituaries; and materials related to her funeral and the settlement of her estate. Of particular note is The Mother's Record, in which Mary Peabody recorded her observations about Tree's development from birth to the age of 14.

Subseries B, Schoolwork, 1927-1939, 1994 n.d. (#5.1-5.12), includes essays Tree wrote for school and college, as well as grade and conduct reports, her acceptance letter to the University of Pennsylvania, and two school yearbooks. Letters regarding Tree's receipt of her bachelor's degree are also included.

Subseries C, Appointment books and diaries, 1930, 1935-1991 (#6.1-8.8), provides a vivid look at both Tree's active social life and her frequent travel on United Nations and State Department business. Particularly notable are the calendars for 1935 and 1936, on which almost every day is filled with activities. The 1965 appointment book has the poignant entry for July 14, "Adlai is dead. We were together." The subseries also includes a detailed diary Tree kept during a trip to Europe in 1930 and travel diaries for her 1966 State Department-sponsored trip to Asia and for a later trip to India. Also included are diaries for the year 1978, which reveal details of Tree's relationship with, and feelings for, Richard Llewelyn-Davies (referred to in the diaries as "LLD.")

Subseries D, Social engagements, 1934-1991, n.d. (#8.9-11.9), reflects Tree's active social life and includes invitations to debutante parties, weddings, and other social events. Material on events hosted by Tree, several of which were fund-raisers, is also included.

Subseries E, Writings and speeches, 1959-1987, n.d. (#11.10-12.1), provides a revealing look at Tree's life. Her writings describe her experiences during World War II, working at Life magazine, and later filming a scene for the movie The Misfits. The essay "Barbados" describes her life with Ronald Tree in that country and also includes descriptions of guests such as Winston Churchill's widow, Clementine, and brief commentary on the childhoods and adult lives of her two daughters. Also included here are descriptions of trips to China (on behalf of Pan Am) and Istanbul, essays describing encounters with Winston Churchill, speeches, and correspondence regarding speaking engagements. The writings are arranged alphabetically, followed by the speeches.

Subseries F, Financial 1956-1991, n.d. (#12.2-14.3), consists largely of tax records and correspondence relating to the considerable charitable contributions made by Tree, including donations of dresses and suits to museums.

Series II, FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS, 1918-1994 (scattered), n.d. (#14.4-22.3), consists primarily of correspondence with Tree's parents, siblings, and second husband, Ronald Tree, and is arranged in three subseries.

Subseries A, Peabody family correspondence, 1918-1991 (scattered), n.d. (#14.4-16.22), consists primarily of Tree's correspondence with her parents, though some correspondence with other members of the Peabody family (e.g., brothers Samuel, George, Malcolm Jr, and Endicott) is included. Some correspondence with Tree's daughters Frances FitzGerald and Penelope Tree, her son-in-law Rick Fataar, granddaughter Paloma Tree Fataar, and stepson Michael Tree is also located here. Tree describes her experiences at boarding and finishing school and during her married life, including travel, social engagements, political work, and encounters with notable figures. Letters from 1946 to 1947 reflect the collapse of her first marriage and the beginning of her second, including her adjustment to life at Ditchley Park. Her family's letters from this time period reflect their reaction to the divorce. Edited and excerpted versions of several of Tree's letters, possibly intended for inclusion in an autobiography, are included. The subseries is arranged with Tree's correspondence with her parents appearing first, followed by correspondence with other family members.

Subseries B, Peabody family papers, 1932-1994, n.d. (#16.23-18.8), includes letters from family friends to Malcolm Peabody describing Tree's behavior at various times in her life, as well as Peabody's precepts for good behavior, and condolence letters related to his death and to that of Mary Peabody. Also included are interviews and clippings regarding Mary Peabody and Frances FitzGerald and an inventory of FitzGerald's papers at Boston University. Of particular note is a travel diary FitzGerald kept during a 1957 trip to Africa with a group including her mother and Adlai Stevenson, during which she met Albert Schweitzer. Some genealogical material on the Peabody, Parker (relatives of Tree on her mother's side), and Parkman families is also included. The subseries is arranged with the Malcolm Peabody documents first, followed by Mary Peabody and Frances FitzGerald, with the genealogical material appearing last.

Subseries C, Ronald Tree, 1946-1984, n.d. (#18.9-22.3), consists largely of Tree's correspondence with Ronald Tree, beginning when she was still married to Desmond FitzGerald, and condolence letters upon his death. Some correspondence regarding Ronald Tree's books, A History of Barbados and When the Moon was High, is included, as well as documents regarding the establishment of the Ronald Tree House, which serves as headquarters for the Barbados National Trust. The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1933-1991, n.d. (#22.4-39.2), consists of four subseries, as originally grouped by Tree; the processor has maintained this arrangement. Subseries A contains the Tree family's correspondence with Adlai Stevenson; Subseries B-D contain correspondence in several distinct groups: incoming letters (arranged both alphabetically and chronologically); alphabetical correspondence (including both incoming and outgoing letters); and general correspondence (including both incoming and outgoing letters, arranged chronologically). Several correspondents appear in more than one subseries.

Subseries A, Adlai E. Stevenson, 1951-1985, n.d. (#22.4-22.20), consists of correspondence with and about Stevenson. The letters between Stevenson and Tree, in which they frequently use the pet names "Mr. and Mrs. Johnson" and "Mr. and Mrs. Richardson," provide a look at their close personal relationship, as well as illustrating Stevenson's political activities and hopes and Tree's admiration and support of his political goals. Typed excerpts and copies of some letters are included. The subseries also includes some letters from Stevenson to Ronald and Penelope Tree, a letter from Arthur Schlesinger Jr., urging Tree to invite Stevenson to Barbados, correspondence regarding biographies of Stevenson, and a disassembled scrapbook featuring the Stevenson memorial stamp.

Subseries B, Incoming, 1945-1990, n.d. (#23.1-27.6), is arranged in two sections; correspondents overlap within this subseries, as well as with Subseries C and D. The first section consists of alphabetically arranged letters to Tree from politicians, publishers, writers, actors, members of the British aristocracy, and other public figures. Letters cover a variety of topics, from political issues to social events and more personal matters. A 1961 letter from Charles Bolté refers to Tree's bit part in Huston's film The Misfits and several letters from John Huston, one written while filming a movie in Durango, are also included. Letters from less well-known individuals, including Tree's maid Alice Butler, can also be found here. (The letters in this section were kept in accordion files labeled "A-B," etc., with respondents listed on each label. Copies of these lists have been placed in the first folder of each letter of the alphabet; however, the lists include a few names, such as e.e. cummings, for whom no letters appear to exist. The files also included some letters which could not be identified; these were placed in the folders "Unidentified letters from folder marked "D-G,"" "Unidentified letters from folder marked "I-L,"" and "Unidentified letters from folder marked "M-R."") The subseries also includes chronologically arranged letters; among these are letters Tree received at La Petite Ecole Florentine and at college, and letters from public figures, many of them thanking Tree for hospitality in New York and Barbados, with a thank you note from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. taking the form of a poem. Letters of a more personal nature are also included. Among these is a poignant letter from Jacqueline Kennedy, dated December 31, 1963, in which she thanks Tree for an invitation to Barbados and notes that "for some strange reason it frightens me to go away."

Subseries C, Alphabetical correspondence, 1945-1991, n.d. (#27.7-35.12), includes letters to Tree and typed copies of her replies. Topics include speaking engagements, matters pertaining to committees and boards to which Tree belonged and invitations to join additional organizations, and travel. (Folders such as "Australia" and "Italy" deal with Tree's visits to those countries.) Also included is correspondence with Tree's close friend Susan Mary Alsop. Alsop wrote the book To Marietta from Paris 1945-1960, which consisted of letters she wrote Tree while living in Paris with her first husband, William Patten, an attaché to the American Embassy in Paris. Tree planned to write a corresponding book, but never achieved this goal. (This subseries includes copies of her letters to Alsop, many of which are annotated, presumably for use in the intended book.) The subseries also includes letters sent to the Trees after a farewell ball they gave in 1949, prior to selling their English estate, Ditchley. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret attended the ball and their letters are included here. The folder "Last letters" contains letters sent to Tree in the last year of her life; another folder includes notes sent to Tree while she was in the hospital.

Subseries D, General, 1933-1991, n.d. (#35.13-39.2), includes correspondence with typed copies of Tree's replies; topics range from efforts to find a tutor for Penelope Tree, to invitations for speaking and social engagements, to financial, business and personal matters and political issues. (A 1979 exchange of letters refers to the dessert "Strawberries Marietta" which was created in Tree's honor by Lord & Taylor.) The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, PROFESSIONAL, 1947-1991, n.d. (#39.3-47.4), documents Tree's political work, as well as her involvement with Llewelyn-Davies Associates and numerous boards.

Subseries A, Political work, 1947-1989 (#39.3-40.1), documents Tree's involvement with the United Nations and the United States State Department. The subseries includes a report detailing her work for the United Nations between September 1962 and May 1963, during which period she made approximately 50 speeches; speeches given by Tree, including some describing her experiences at the United Nations; talking points, some of which address the issue of the United States's involvement in Vietnam, itineraries and schedules for her 1966 trip to Asia; and notes she kept during the New York State Constitutional Convention, at which she served on the committees on Education, and the Bill of Rights and Suffrage, and during the 1968 African American Dialogues conference in Kenya.

Subseries B, Llewelyn-Davies Associates, 1967-1989, n.d. (#40.2-41.13), documents Tree's involvement with Richard Llewelyn-Davies and his urban planning companies, including Llewelyn-Davies Associates and Llewelyn-Davies Sahni. Both personal and business material is included. The former includes love letters from Llewelyn-Davies to Tree, condolence letters sent to Tree upon his death and a copy of his memorial service program, and correspondence regarding a lectureship set up in his honor. The business material consists of correspondence related to buildings the company constructed in Iran; correspondence concerning Llewelyn-Davies Associates' sometimes troubled financial situation and other business operations; partnership agreements; reports of executive group meetings at which prospective projects were discussed; documents concerning the liquidation of Llewelyn-Davies Associates; promotional material consisting of copies of letters from Tree to figures such as Imelda Marcos; a trip report describing Tree's visit to the Philippines to assess the possibilities for building projects there; and correspondence regarding potential and actual projects of both Llewelyn-Davies Associates and Llewelyn-Davies Sahni.. The Llewelyn-Davies Weeks folder includes a history of the firm, which details the development of Llewelyn-Davies's various companies and the relationships between them. The subseries is arranged with the personal material appearing first, followed by material on each company.

Subseries C, Boards and committees, 1973-1991, n.d. (#42.1-47.4), consists of material related to the numerous boards and committees on which Tree served. The files for CBS, the Citizens' Committee for New York City, and Architectural Digest, are particularly detailed, with the Architectural Digest files including some draft articles by Tree. Also included is material documenting Tree's involvement with the Ditchley/American Ditchley Foundation (located at the former estate Ditchley Park), which was established by Sir David Wills to foster Anglo-American relations. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, AUDIOVISUAL, AND OVERSIZED1919, 1929-1988, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.5, T-336.1, MP-40.1, 48FB.1v-50FB.1v, FD.1, F+D1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.4), consists of the three subseries described below.

Subseries A, Photographs, ca.1940-1944, 1964, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.5, 48FB.1v), consists primarily of publicity shots of Tree. Some informal shots and a photograph album commemorating the inauguration of Chilean president Eduardo frei Montalva, which Tree attended in her capacity as Ambassador to the United Nations, are also included. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].

Subseries B, Audiovisual, 1965, 1969 (#T-336.1, MP-40.1), consists of an audiotape tribute to Adlai E. Stevenson and a German television documentary featuring Tree.

Subseries C, Oversized, 1919, 1929-1988, n.d. (#49FB.1v-50FB.1v, FD.1, F+D1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.4), includes scrapbooks providing detailed information about Tree's life and activities up until 1945. The scrapbooks contain valentines, invitations, photographs, school work, and clippings, both about Tree and about members of her family. Several articles about Tree's grandfather, Endicott Peabody, and the school he founded, Groton, are included, as are several letters from the office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs referring to Tree's volunteer and paid activities with the Office of Inter-American Affairs during World War II. Several clippings refer to her growing prominence in the New York social scene. Also included in one of the albums is a photograph of a CIO PAC luncheon chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, on which Tree sat on the dais with, among others, Frank Sinatra and Dorothy Parker. The subseries also includes a May 14, 1945, issue of Life magazine, inscribed to Marietta FitzGerald and containing notes thanking the Life staff for their work, certificates, and plans for the Ronald Tree House in Barbados.


Mary Endicott Tree, known as Marietta, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on April 12, 1917, the daughter of Malcolm and Mary (Parkman) Peabody. In 1925, her family moved to suburban Philadelphia, where her father served as rector of St. Paul's Church, and Tree went to Shady Hill Country Day School, followed by St. Timothy's, a boarding school in Maryland and a year at a finishing school in Italy. She then attended the University of Pennsylvania before marrying Desmond FitzGerald, a lawyer and conservative Republican, and moving with him to New York City in 1939. A daughter, Frances, was born in 1940. (In 1973, Frances FitzGerald won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam.) Desmond FitzGerald enlisted in the Army in 1942 and the war years, combined with her husband's absence, proved to be a formative time for Tree.

Deeply interested in politics and social issues, she volunteered with Nelson Rockefeller's Hospitality Committee for New York City's Office of Inter-American Affairs, and also worked with Dorothy Paley, William Paley's first wife, to establish a nursery school in Harlem and to found Sydenham Hospital, the first multi-racial hospital in the United States. Her paid jobs during this time included work as a researcher for the Inter-American Commercial Arbitration Association and, beginning in 1943, for Life magazine. At Life she shared an office with Earl Brown, an African American writer who spurred her interest in the civil rights movement; this interest lasted for the rest of her life. She also joined the Newspaper Guild, becoming a shop steward. Throughout this period, Tree met vast numbers of public figures, ranging from world leaders like Jan Masaryk to Hollywood figures such as John Huston, who wanted to marry her and who became a lifelong friend. (In 1960, Tree played a brief scene opposite Clark Gable in Huston's film The Misfits and she also had a small role in Huston's son Tony's film Mr. North.)

FitzGerald returned from the war in November 1945, and he and Tree soon found they had little left in common. She had become involved with John Huston and had also met Ronald Tree, a former Conservative member of the British Parliament, who would become her second husband. She and FitzGerald divorced in 1947 and she married Ronald Tree a few days after the divorce decree was finalized. They had a daughter, Penelope, in 1949. (In the 1960s, Penelope Tree had a brief but dramatic career as a model, rivaling Twiggy.) The Trees resided at Ronald Tree's estate, Ditchley Park, until 1949, when the estate was sold for financial reasons. They then maintained homes staffed with several servants in New York City and Barbados.

As time passed, they spent increasingly large portions of the year apart, with Ronald Tree primarily residing in Barbados, where he co-founded the Barbados National Trust, which preserves buildings and parks. In New York, Tree resumed political activities, joining the Lexington Democratic Club and the Democratic State Committee. She had met Adlai E. Stevenson through her husband and was deeply impressed by him; she was active in his presidential campaigns and they developed an intimate relationship. In 1961, President Kennedy, on Stevenson's recommendation, named Tree United States Representative to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Stevenson was United States Ambassador to the United Nations and in 1964 he promoted her to the post of United States Representative to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations; this gave her the title Ambassador and provided her with a diplomatic passport. Tree and Stevenson frequently traveled together on United Nations business and she was with him on July 14th, 1965, when he collapsed on a London street; he died en route to the hospital. In 1966 Tree was invited by the United States State Department to embark on a fact-finding tour of Asia, with particular emphasis on human rights and the status of women; the following year she served as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention and resigned from the United Nations.

Also in 1967, Tree met Richard Llewelyn-Davies, an urban planner, and in 1968 became his business partner in Llewelyn-Davies Associates. (She and Llewelyn-Davies developed an intimate relationship which lasted until his death in 1981.) Beginning in the 1970s, Tree was an active (and sometimes the only female) member of many committees and boards, including the Citizens Committee for New York, which she chaired, and Central Broadcasting Station (CBS), to which she was appointed by William Paley, in response to pressure to hire a woman. She also worked as a consulting editor and scout for Architectural Digest, drawing upon her extensive circle of acquaintances to find subjects for the magazine. Ronald Tree died in 1976 and Tree did not remarry. She died of cancer in 1991.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1917-1995, n.d. (#1.1-14.3)
  2. ___Subseries A. Biographical and personal, 1917-1995, n.d. (#1.1-4.16)
  3. ___Subseries B. Schoolwork, 1927-1939, 1994, n.d. (#5.1-5.12)
  4. ___Subseries C. Appointment books and diaries, 1930, 1935-1991 (#6.1-8.8)
  5. ___Subseries D. Social engagements, 1934-1991, n.d. (#8.9-11.9)
  6. ___Subseries E. Writings and speeches, 1959-1987, n.d. (#11.10-12.1)
  7. ___Subseries F. Financial, 1956-1991, n.d. (#12.2-14.3)
  8. Series II. Family correspondence and papers, 1918-1994, n.d. (#14.4-22.3)
  9. ___Subseries A. Peabody family correspondence, 1918-1990, n.d. (#14.4-16.22)
  10. ___Subseries B. Peabody family papers, 1932-1994, n.d. (#16.23-18.8)
  11. ___Subseries C. Ronald Tree, 1946-1984, n.d. (#18.9-22.3)
  12. Series III. Correspondence, 1933-1991, n.d. (#22.4-39.2)
  13. ___Subseries A. Adlai E. Stevenson, 1951-1985, n.d. (#22.4-22.20)
  14. ___Subseries B. Incoming, 1945-1990, n.d. (#23.1-27.6)
  15. ___Subseries C. Alphabetical correspondence, 1945-1991, n.d. (#27.7-35.12)
  16. ___Subseries D. General, 1933-1991 (#35.13-39.2)
  17. Series IV. Professional, 1947-1991, n.d. (#39.3-47.4)
  18. ___Subseries A. Political work, 1947-1989 (#39.3- 40.1)
  19. ___Subseries B. Llewellyn-Davies Associates, 1967-1989, n.d. (#40.2-41.13)
  20. ___Subseries C. Boards and committees, 1973-1991, n.d. (#42.1-47.4)
  21. Series V. Photographs, audiovisual and oversized, 1919, 1929-1988, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.5, T-336.1, MP-40.1, 48FB.1v-50FB.1v, FD.1, F+D1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.3)
  22. ___Subseries A. Photographs, ca.1940-1944, 1964, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.5, 48FB.1v)
  23. ___Subseries B. Audiovisual, 1965, 1969 (#T-336.1, MP-40.1)
  24. ___Subseries C. Oversized 1919, 1929-1988, n.d. (#49FB.1v-50FB.1v, FD.1, F+D1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.4)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 92-M67, 97-M162, 2001-M57, 2001-M159

The papers of Marietta Tree were given to the Schlesinger Library by Frances FitzGerald and Penelope Tree between May 1992 and September 2001.


Donors: Frances FitzGerald and Penelope Tree

Accession number: 97-M162

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the papers of Mary (Parkman) Peabody:

  1. Centennial History of St. Paul's Church, Chestnut Hill, Penn., with segment on Malcolm Peabody, 1956
  2. Malcolm Peabody quotations, 1959, n.d.
  3. Malcolm Peabody autobiography: "The Story of my Life," 1970
  4. Program: Malcolm Peabody funeral, 1974
  5. Malcolm Peabody obituary and remarks in tribute to Malcolm and Mary Peabody, 1974
  6. Malcolm Peabody will, 1967, 1974, n.d.
  7. Mary Peabody guest book
  8. Interview with Mary Peabody
  9. Mary Peabody travel diary: trip to England, 1924
  10. Mary Peabody diary, 1912-1916
  11. Photograph album: mother's [Mary Peabody] 80th birthday party, n.d.

The following item was transferred to the Schlesinger Library Menu Collection.

  1. Menu for Cooper-Hewitt Museum benefit

Processing Information

Processed: May 2007

By: Susan Earle

Tree, Marietta, 1917-1991. Papers of Marietta Tree, 1917-1995: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Edward, Frances and Shirley B. Daniels Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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