Mary Morris Lawrence, Pioneering AP Photog, Dies

By: Mary Morris Lawrence, one of the first female photographers at The Associated Press, has died. She was 95.

She died Aug. 12 at her home in Oakland, Calif., her husband, Harold Lawrence, said Wednesday. She was suffering from heart problems.

The Chicago native joined the AP in New York on November 16, 1936 and worked as a features photographer.

Morris described herself as a "groundbreaker" in an interview with The Oakland Tribune in 2007 and recalled male colleagues at the AP joking that they would no longer be able to change their pants in the darkroom.

"I never thought of myself as a feminist," she said during the interview, noting that there were few women at the AP back then. "The guys were very nice to me. They probably made a lot of jokes behind my back."

Lawrence, the former general manager of the London Symphony Orchestra, said his wife was a photographer for the AP at Yankee Stadium, where she was once greeted with an ovation by the crowd when she walked on the field in a skirt. He also recalled she worked on stories about child labor in Pennsylvania.

"She's a pioneer," he said of his wife. "She prided herself in her interviews of being able to get a person's life story in ten minutes."

Morris worked at AP for three-and-a-half years before leaving in 1940. She went on to work for the New York tabloid PM. Her work also appeared in magazines such as Look, Life and Mademoiselle.

"I was good in the newspaper business because I had this way of wanting to get the dope..." she recalled in the 2007 interview with The Oakland Tribune. "I had an aggressive nature, a creative spirit."

Morris was born in Chicago, Ill. on March 27, 1914. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1936

She made a name for herself photographing Hollywood stars, including Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. Those photos and hundreds of others she took line the walls of her home in Oakland, where she moved in 1978, Lawrence said.

Her goddaughter, Libby Schaff, described Lawrence as "brave" and able to "talk her way into any scene."

"That journalist's mind never left her even after she stopped taking pictures professionally," Schaff said. "She was always digging for information, always trying to connect people with each other."


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