September 21, 2010

Virginia Smith's Partner Speaks (And Other New Details On Her Life And Death)

In a new obituary in The Seattle Times, new details about former Vassar president Virginia B. Smith's life and death come to light.

For example, Smith was the fifth of six children in a family that struggled to make ends meet. The article quotes Smith's 94-year-old sister as saying, "We were very, very poor." Smith's father took a job as a custodian while her mother worked as a cook.

Another fact is that Smith was known to some as "Ginny."

There is also mention of Smith's relationship with Dr. Florence Oaks, her partner of 57 years, who speaks about Smith's passing publicly for the first time. The two met at the Institute of Industrial Relations. According to the article: "The women were in their 20s when they met in the 1940s and clicked almost instantly, Oaks said, but they kept their relationship secret. 'It wasn't a matter of hiding anything,' Oaks said. 'But it was a very different time. People weren't really talking about (being gay).'"

The exact details of Smith's death are also revealed for the first time. "Eight years ago, she developed heart problems, and in mid-August, the woman who never seemed to stop going got a terminal diagnosis from the doctors. She died a week later," the article states, quoting Oaks as saying, "Her heart just gave out."

Smith, who passed away in August at the age of 87, had wished that no services would be held.