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Memorial Minute: Polly Doughty

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Mary (Polly) French Doughty, born in Philadelphia on October 11, 1930, was raised on a farm near Collegeville, PA. She got a degree in Biology from Ursinus College in that city and it was there that she met her future husband, Paul.   Upon graduation they got married and moved to Philadelphia where she was a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.  Paul, who had gone to a Quaker School in Poughkeepsie, NY chose alternative service with the American Friends Service Committee in Mexico and El Salvador instead of fighting in the Korean War. 

When they returned from Mexico, Paul continued his graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and Polly became a blood researcher. When Paul transferred to Cornell University to work on his Ph.D. in anthropology, Polly continued her career in Cornell’s Canine Research Laboratory. Here she joined the Ithaca Meeting and became active in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, acquiring skills that were transferred to the anti-war movements in Bloomington and Gainesville Meetings.

 When Paul’s research took him to Peru, she once again quit her job to accompany him to South America. There she helped with the research for his dissertation, assisted in evaluating the Peace Corp Program. Working in the Peruvian Highlands on and off for over five years was a life changing event for them and that country remained the center of their interest and concern for the rest of Polly’s life. Their daughter Carol was born in Lima and they returned again and again to remain part of  life in the Andean town of Huaylas.

Returning to the United States, Paul taught at Indiana University in Bloomington where their son Thomas was born and where they became active in the Friends Meeting.   In 1971, when Paul became Chair of the UF Anthropology Department, the family transferred their membership to the Gainesville Monthly Meeting.  The Doughty houses, both in Gainesville and at Crescent Beach, were always available for meetings and fundraisers for good causes. With a strong belief that a few devoted people, with a noble cause, could join together and change the world, Polly soon became an “executive volunteer”.   She helped create bonds between the community and worthwhile organizations.  The Gainesville Rotary Club selected her for the Volunteer of the Year Award, the Florida Museum of Natural History made her their Board President and the Baha’i congregation gave her their Human Rights Award.

When not busy with her fine needlepoint work, jewelry making or stamp collecting, Polly had a book in her hand.  She read broadly, both fiction and serious works on national and international issues. This deep understanding of the world led to her support of good government.  She served on the Executive Committee of the Alachua County Democratic Party, was President of Florida Common Cause and President of the Alachua County League of Women Voters. She was part of a campaign to establish The Alachua County Library System and has remained a member of the Library Foundation Board ever since.  Her leadership as an advocate of civic responsibility was evidenced by her graduation from the Leadership Gainesville Class IV (1979). Far beyond Gainesville she helped Found the Gainesville Chapter of the U.S. United Nations Association, where she became the State of Florida President and was a member of the National Board. 

She never became a “career woman”, instead devoting her time to family and community.  However, Polly was a feminist.  She was a strong supporter of girls and women’s rights and served as President of both the Alachua County and the State of Florida Commission of the Status of Women. She received the Friends of Susan B. Anthony Award, was President of the UF Women’s Studies Program, from which she received the “Uppity Woman’s Award” and was the recipient of the Santa Fe College Women of Distinction Award. The Alachua County Girl’s Club honored her with its “Board Member of the Year Award”; the Girl Scouts honored her with the “Women Who Make a Difference Award and Girl’s Place gave her the “Heart of Girl’s Place Award” for serving on its Foundation Board. In 1990 she was part of the United Nations IV International Women’s Conference in Beijing where she delivered a presentation on women’s issues.

Arriving in Gainesville while many of the Jim Crowe laws were still discriminating against people of color, she joined the local NAACP, supported the Martin Luther King Day observations and served on the Board of the Gainesville Cotton Club Museum, which preserves the history of black culture. Her work garnered an award from the Gainesville Chapter of Links. 

Polly was always concerned about people in her community who needed special care and attention.  She forestalled many a utility “shut off” and prepared boxes of food for empty pantries at the end of a month. Through Altrusa International she played a major role in creating the Altrusa House, a care center where people could receive day care while family members were at work. She received the Altrusa-Easter Seal Award for her work in this area. When the YMCA needed help she was there, serving on its board and becoming a Century Club member. 

Her lasting legacy will be felt in the Latin American community for years to come. She, and two other anthropology wives, formed Las Tres Viejas, where they brought back native art and crafts from across South America and introduced them in our local marketplace.  Polly was a strong supporter of the Latina Women’s League, the Gainesville-Matagalpa Sister City Program with its Maternal House program, and the Chijnaya Foundation in the Andes