The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > September 2011 > A Woman of Her Time
A Woman of Her Time

Mary Marvin Breckinridge Patterson was a woman of many talents –photojournalist, cinematographer and philanthropist. Known personally and professionally as “Marvin,” she began her career making the 1930 silent film “The Forgotten Frontier,” about a Kentucky nursery/midwifery health service founded by her cousin, Mary Breckinridge. She went on to travel extensively and publish photos in Life, Vogue, Look and National Geographic.

Marvin Breckinridge. c. 1940. Courtesy of Marvin Breckinridge Patterson. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction. Junior Fellow Summer Interns from the Science, Technology and Business Division display items from copyright and Library special collections. 2011. Library of Congress. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Patterson took the first pictures of a London air-raid shelter. In describing a war scene so vividly to friend Edward R. Murrow, whom she met while at Vassar, he hired her immediately as the first female news broadcaster for the CBS Radio Network. She reported 50 times, from seven European countries, including reports from Berlin.

Her broadcasting career ended in 1940, when she married diplomat Jefferson Patterson. She attempted to pick back up her original career in photojournalism but was barred by the State Department, who claimed she’d compromise her husband’s work in Berlin. Frustrated in her efforts to pursue a separate career, Patterson devoted her energies to the role of diplomatic spouse.

When her husband died in 1977, she devoted her life to service and philanthropy, including serving on the Library’s Madison Council. She died in 2002 but her generosity lives on through the Library’s Junior Fellows summer intern program.

Her career is highlighted in the online exhibition “Women Come to the Front.”

Searching for the term “junior fellows” in the Library’s general search field available on the homepage delivers a variety of resources on the program, including several articles and a webcast.

The Library of Congress Junior Fellows Summer Intern program (10 weeks) provides a competitive selection of undergraduate and graduate students’ insights into the environment, culture, and collections of the world's largest and most comprehensive repository of human knowledge. The interns inventory, catalog, arrange, preserve and research a backlog of copyright or special collections in many different formats in various divisions.