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By Albert Louis Zambone
The Groves of Academe
She was, when I met her two years before her death, much as others had described her decades before. I remember, when I knocked at her back door, the bright eye that peered at me over an easy chair, and the clear voice that bid me come inside. That voice was often a little breathless, as if she was having a hard time making her words catch up with her thoughts; but then, she had much to say. She was able to get around with a walker, and she insisted on coming into her little kitchen to supervise my brewing of the ritual tea. She admitted that I made a very good job of it, and not just by American standards. I remember it as one of the first times that an Oxford academic had offered me tea rather than coffee. But then, she was then 96 years old, and represented a very different generation.
Marjorie Reeves was born in the north of Wiltshire, and grew up amongst the barrows, tumuli, and other traces of a mysterious Neolithic civilization. Her family was Baptist, and had been since the 17th century (she would later join the Church of England). They had always been concerned, as she would later proudly write, for the education of their young women. In her generation this would have earned a woman the dismissive title of "bluestocking." She went up to Oxford, where she studied at St. Hugh's, one of the first colleges for women in the university. From there, she went on to the University of London for doctoral studies; Oxford was at the time not fond of doctorates, let alone women who presumed to earn them. Finishing her doctoral work, she taught school and taught teachers. She had been active in the Student Christian Movement, and in the '30s she was involved with Christian students in Germany who opposed the Nazi regime. During the war she became, as she put it to me in conversation, "a very junior member"
of the Moot, a group of intellectuals brought together from time to time in Oxford to plan the shape of a "new Christendom" that would rise from the wreckage of Europe. ...