nwhp logo
info title
UNR link Home page About NWHP NV 1st Ladies Biographies Letters from NV daughters Public Disclosure Calendar Informative Links
Nevada's First Ladies


MARJORIE ANN (GUILD) RUSSELL* (1916 – 1997)

*3rd First Lady Born in Nevada (Yerington)
Governor Charles H. Russell (1951 – 1959)


The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources.  If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.russell

At a glance:

Born: 4 Apr 1916 (Yerington NV)
Died: 3 Mar 1997 (Carson City NV)
Burial: Dayton NV
Maiden Name:
Guild
Race/nationality/ethnic background: Caucasian
Married: 19 Mar 1939 (Carson City NV)
Children: Clark J., Virginia E., C. David, Craig J., J. Todd
Primary city and county of residence and work:  Carson City NV
Major fields of work:  First Lady, Nevada State Museum Board Member
Other role identities: Wife, Mother, Teacher

 

 


divider

Marjorie Ann Guild was born in Yerington, Nevada, on April 16, 1916.  She came from a long line of native Nevadans dating back to the 1860’s.  Her paternal grandfather, Lucius A. (Brad) Guild traveled from western New York State to Dayton in the 1860’s and settled in the area.  Her father, Clark J. Guild, was one of eleven children born to Lucius and his English immigrant wife, Maria Varley Wheatley.  Clark J. later moved to Yerington where he practiced law, became a judge, and met and married Virginia Carroll.  Virginia (“Virgie”) was known for her beauty and also her love of music.  She was a very accomplished musician.

Virgie’s maternal grandfather was J. S. Craig, a pioneer Nevadan who was one of the founders of a community near Yerington called Greenfield.  He later became Justice of the Peace there.  Marjorie named one of her twin sons Craig in honor of his memory.

At the age of fourteen, Marjorie’s life changed dramatically.  Her mother, who had been ill for several months, died.  She and her brother Clark Jr. briefly spent some time at the Guild family ranch in Yerington where her mother’s sisters often stopped by to help out.  Her father decided to send Marjorie to the Castilleja School for Girls in Palo Alto, California, to finish high school.  She graduated from there and was accepted to Mills College.  At Mills, she majored in Speech and Dramatic Art.  She became an accomplished pianist and performed in many of Mills’ drama productions including the opera version of Hansel and Gretel.  Many of her lifelong friends were those she met at Mills College.  During that time her father had relocated to Carson City where he held the position of District Court Judge.  Upon graduation she obtained a teaching job in the nearby community of Silver City.  The Nevada State Legislature went into session in Carson City that year and Marjorie was introduced to a highly sought-after and dashing White Pine County State Assemblyman by the name of Charles Russell.

Charles was editor of the Ely Record and much involved in local politics.  Marjorie took a teaching job in Ruth, Nevada, near Ely, and the romance blossomed.  They were married in 1939.  Clark was born in Ely in 1940, followed by Virginia in 1942.  After winning a White Pine State Senate seat in 1944, Charles went on to claim Nevada’s U. S. Congressional position (1946-1949).  Twins Craig and David were born in Reno in 1945 and James Todd was born in Washington, D.C. in 1947.

After his congressional term, Charles accepted a position that took him overseas in assisting in the implementation of the Marshall Plan.  This was a major United States aid program designed to assist in the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.  He traveled throughout Europe while Marjorie remained in Washington with their five children.  Mildred and Lucy Novich, who were friends of hers from McGill, came to Washington to help her with the children while he was away.  Charles returned from Europe and, in 1949, the family moved back to Carson City where they temporarily resided with Judge Guild.  While Marjorie set about enrolling the children into school, Charles reentered Nevada politics by running against incumbent Governor Vail Pittman.

Charles was elected Governor of Nevada in 1950 and re-elected to that position in 1954.  During those years the Mansion did not resemble the beautiful structure that exists today.  The Mansion’s roof leaked.  There was a lack of furniture and Marjorie found herself on a tight budget with no resources to purchase new furniture.  She had to resort to borrowing furniture from local churches in order to hold some state functions.  Her official role was to entertain and attend the many state functions,  be available for interviews, preside over teas and charities, and to travel throughout the state’s seventeen counties representing her office as First Lady of the State.  In addition to those duties, she was also expected to keep the Governor’s Mansion open for public tours. All of this was in addition to her role of wife and mother to five young children in whose many activities she participated in or supervised. 

The Mansion became a real home for the Russell family.  Football was played on the front lawn; neighborhood basketball games were an ongoing activity in the back driveway; and cardboard boxes were flattened to use to slide down the Mansion’s grand staircase.  There was almost always an extra child or multiple children at the dinner table.  There were Scout meetings, slumber parties, and other family activities being held continuously.  The Mansion may have been a state house, but “Marge” and “Charlie” made it a home for their family.

James Todd Russell wrote of his mother’s patience in meeting unexpected challenges in fulfilling her “First Lady” duties:

“I recall that a man from Florida came into Dad’s office with an alligator on a leash and then presented him with a small baby alligator.  This alligator was named Demon Dan.  Craig was particularly fond of him but Mom wanted him gone.  He lived in the downstairs basement in a large metal tub.  Mom had a gown hanging in the basement that she needed for an event.  During a Little League game down the street, he got out.  They had to come and get Craig to put him back into the tub.  Dad gave him to the Marines at Pickle Meadows as a mascot.  That was the last we ever saw of him.” (1)

Daughter Virginia Russell Sakal added, “I can just see her descending the basement stairs and seeing the tub empty …worried about her gown…”

Marjorie handled those years as the lady that she always was, with grace and dignity.  (On September 13th, 1989, Marjorie and Charles Russell celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at their former home, the Governor’s Mansion.)

In 1960 Charles was offered the post of Director of the United States Operations Mission, now called the A.I.D. Mission, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The entire family relocated to Asuncion, Paraguay.  Marjorie continued her role as mother and public servant in her new position as U.S.O.M. Director’s wife.  She traveled with Charles throughout South America and into the interior of Paraguay.  She entertained ambassadors and diplomats, belonged to an American Wives Club, studied Spanish, and became an accomplished golfer.  The Russell family flourished in their new environment. Marjorie set an example for her children by thriving in each new experience and encouraging her children to do the same.  This included shopping at open-air markets and tolerating strange animals.  Charles often brought home such animals as a carpanico, a large rodent, and an armadillo from the Chaco, located in the interior of Paraguay.

Moving back to Carson City in 1963 brought new challenges.  Charles took a position with the University of Nevada.  After the purchase of their first house in Carson City, the family settled into a more traditional routine.  Marjorie became a very active member of the Nevada State Museum’s Board of Trustees.  Her father, Clark Guild, founded the State Museum in 1941.  She remained an active board member for twenty-two years (1977-1992).  When Marjorie finally decided to retire from this position, then Governor Bob Miller showed his refusal to accept her resignation by tearing up the resignation letter at a luncheon held for her in honor of her many years of dedicated service work.

Her love of Nevada’s history, and her personal passion for historical textiles and clothes, led her to assist in the creation of a new branch of the State Museum.  The Nevada State Museum’s Marjorie Russell Clothing and Textile Research Center was established and named in her honor.  Many donations of historical importance have been made to this state facility because of her.  Today, this museum preserves and houses thousands of items that  were important and illustrative of Nevada’s textile history.  With the realization of the new museum branch, her passion became a reality.

In later years Marjorie’s love of needlepoint became a way of using her creative talent, although this skill was made increasingly more difficult by the rheumatoid arthritis that she endured.  Many of her beautiful needlepoint pieces are now in the homes of her children.  Her unique needlepoint of the State Seal of Nevada resides on the wall of attorney son David’s law office.

The phrase used to describe Marjorie again and again is that she was “a lady full of grace and style”.  She liked roses in the garden, fresh flowers on her coffee-table and the ever-present dish of lemon drops.  She had thirteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  Marjorie died on March 3, 1997.  She is buried in Dayton, Nevada beside her beloved husband Charles and generations of family members. 

Perhaps Governor Michael O’Callaghan’s tribute spoke to Marjorie Russell’s contributions to the state best when he described her as:

“a lady who has been a shining light for the Silver State.  She has given thousands of fellow Nevadans the pleasure of enjoying her as First Lady, wife and mother, and dedicated worker for the historical preservation for all aspects of life in the Silver State.”  (2)

Written and researched by Virginia Russell Sakal.  Posted to NWHP Web site June 2009.

divider

Bibliography:

  • Sakal, Virginia (Russell). “Biographies. “Marjorie (Guild) Russell.  Nevada Women’s History Project, 8 June 2009. Web. 11 July 2010.  http://nevadawomen.org.
  • “Miss Marjorie Guild to Enter Mills College.” Nevada State Journal. [Reno] 13 Aug 1933, sec. Social and Club Events: 5. Print.
  • “Marjorie Guild Honored at Mills.” Reno Evening Gazette 15 April 1935:2. Print.
  • “Piper Rehearsal at Mills Indicate Stage Success.” Oakland Tribune.  20 Mar 1936:27. Print.
  • “Hansel and Gretel Will be staged by Mills Girls.” Oakland Tribune. 3 March 1937:23. Print.
  • “Marjorie Guild Graduates from Mills College.” Reno Evening Gazette 15 June 1937:10. Print.
  • Carson Social Notes: The Carson Valley branch of the American Association of University women…” Reno Evening Gazette 7 Dec. 1937, sec. Carson Social Notes: 10. Print.
  • “Carson City Social Notes: The Carson City branch of the American Association of University women…” Reno Evening Gazette 12 Dec. 1937:10. Print. 
  • “Comstock PTA Plans Session.” Reno Evening Gazette 6 Sept. 1938:10. Print. 
  • “Prenuptial Parties Given.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 14 March 1939:5. Print.
  • “Society News: In Carson City last night Miss Marjorie Guild, daughter of Judge Clark J. Guild became the bride...” Reno Evening Gazette 20 Mar 1939:10. Print. 
  • MARJORIE RUSSELL: notes for speech entitled “Household Problems in the Mansion.” Marjorie Ann Guild Russell Papers 1914-1994, undated. (94-14/2); Special Collections and University Archives Department, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada. July 20, 2010.
  • “Colorful Nevada Admission Day Celebration” Reno Evening Gazette 24 Oct. 1959:16. Print.
  • “The Governor’s Lady Goes to Work-At Home: Some Funds, An Artist’s Touch Family Belongings Change Governor’s Mansion into Modern Day Showplace of History.” Reno Evening Gazette 18 June 1954:10. Print.
  • Myles, Myrtle Tate.Charles Hinton Russell.” Nevada’s Governors: From Territorial Days to the present 1871-1971. Sparks, NV: Western Printing & Publishing Company, 1972. 118-120. Print.
  • “Governors Gather: Chief Executives, Wives Agree on Major Issues Facing Nevada.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 7 Jan 1979, sec. A-Nevada Life: 12.Print.
  • Powers, Lenita. “All the Governor’s Wives: Marjorie Russell. “ Nevada State Journal [Reno] 29 Nov. 1981, Sec. E: 1, 3. Print.
  • ”Former first lady, Marjorie Russell receives honors.” Nevada Appeal 27 June 1993:A6. Print.
  • “Russell remembers days he was governor.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 16 Jan. 1989, sec. A: 3. Print.
  • “Former Nevada first lady, Marjorie Russell, receives honors.” Nevada Appeal Carson City]
  • 27 June 1993:A6. Print.
  • “Clothing and textile museum to open in CC.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 27 June 1993:A6. Print.
  • Division of Museums and History.” Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, Nevada Division of Museums and history-Marjorie Russell Clothing and Textile Research, n .d. Web. 11 July 2010. http://nevadaculture.org/museums.
  • Senators. “Motion, Resolutions and Notices #51.” Nevada Legislature-Sixty-Ninth Session, 1997. Senate Daily Journal 69th Session. June 16-The One Hundredth and Forty-Eight Day (1997): Undetermined Pg. Print.
  • “Former Nevada First Lady Dies at 83.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 4 Mar 1997, sec. A: 1. Print. Lasvegassun.com. Las Vegas Sun, 5 Mar. 1997. Web.
  • “Marjorie Ann Russell.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 4 Mar.  1997, sec. A: 4. Print.
  • Ryan, Cy. “Former first lady Russell dies at 80.”
  • “Former Nevada first lady Marjorie Russell remembered.” Reno Gazette Journal 4 Mar. 1997, sec. D: 5. Print.
  • “Governors’ Kids roll call.” Reno Gazette Journal 2 Nov. 1997, sec. B: 2. Print.
  • Sawyer, Bette. “Nevada’s 100 Years of First Ladies.” Nevada Centennial Magazine. 1964: p. 129. Print.
  • Nylen, Robert A., and Guy Louis Rocha. “Bette (Hoge) Sawyer.” State of Nevada: The historical Governor’s Mansion. Carson City, Nevada: Dema Guinn, the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Nevada Magazine, and the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, 2005.41. Print.
  • Harpster, Jack. “Nevada Joins the World Stage: Governor Charles Russell.” 100 Years in the Nevada Governor’s Mansion. Las Vegas, NV: Stephens Press, LLC, 2009. 72-87. Print.
  • “Miss Marjorie Ann Guild of Yerington.” Reno Evening Gazette. April 15, 1935, p.
  • “Bride to Be Honored.”  Nevada State Journal.  March 17, 1939, p. 5.
  • “Nevada’s First Ladies.”  Reno Gazette/Journal.  November 29, 1981, p. 2-3.
  • Loverin, Janet I., & Robert A. Nylen, “To Clothe Nevada Women 1860-1920.”   Nevada Museum Popular Series No 10, Nevada State Museum, 1990.
  • Correspondence.  James Todd Russell.  Multiple dates.
  • Correspondence.  Patti Bernard.  Multiple dates.
  • Correspondence.  Craig Russell.  Multiple dates.
  • Correspondence.  David Russell.  Multiple dates.
  • United States Census, Federal Census 1930.
  • Ibid.  1920. 

 

 

bottom image
   
Nevada Women's Fund Link UNR Link NWHP email