Biographies > Oberlin College
Margaret Portia Mickey was born November 1, 1889, in Shelby, Ohio. She grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and entered Oberlin College in 1908. She graduated with an A.B. in mathematics in 1912. On an alumni information blank in the 1920s, she reported that Oberlin's emphasis on service "led me to maintain that as my own ideal of life." Following her graduation, she worked as secretary to Oberlin College Presidential Assistant W. F. Bohn from 1912 to 1914.
As an ABCFM missionary at the North China Mission from 1914-20, Mickey taught mathematics and served as secretary to Luella Miner (1861-1936) at North China Woman's Union College in Beijing. While on furlough in 1920, she was forced to resign from her ABCFM position to care for her ailing parents. During the 1920s she held secretarial positions in Detroit, Michigan, at the Psychopathic Clinic, Recorder's Court, and at the Investment Research Corporation.
Mickey returned to Oberlin College in 1931 to work as secretary to Head Librarian Julian Fowler. She left this post in 1935 in order to go back to Asia as a voluntary worker at the ABCFM North China Mission, 1935-36, later moving to Kyoto, Japan, to teach English at Doshisha University, 1936-37.
After pursuing studies in anthropology, Chinese, and Japanese at Columbia University and the University of Michigan, Mickey returned to China for a third time. From 1939 to 1944, she conducted independent anthropological research among the Guizhou (Kweichow) tribes of west China. She moved to India in 1944, to serve as Registrar of the Woodstock School in Mussoori, U.P. She remained on the school staff until 1946 when she left to study at Radcliffe College. While at Radcliffe, she continued her research on the Guizhou tribes and published The Cowrie Shell Miao of Kweichow as vol. 32, no. 1 of the Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1948.
From 1948 to 1950 Mickey did additional anthropological research among the west China tribes and also worked at the museum of West China Union University in Chengtu. During this period her work was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship (1948-49) and by an Adelia A. Field Johnston Fellowship from Oberlin College.
Before retiring, she worked from 1951 to 1954 in the editorial department of the G. & C. Merriam Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. Upon her retirement, Mickey relocated to Washington, D.C., where she studied symbolism in Chinese designs in the Division of Orientalia at the Library of Congress. She later moved to California where she resided at Pilgrim Place, Pomona, California. Margaret Portia Mickey died of heart failure in Pomona, California, on June 13, 1988.
For more information, see: Oberlin College Archives
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