Leavitt—Marjorie Elkinton James Leavitt, 95, on January 3, 2020, peacefully, at home in Santa Cruz, Calif. Marge was born on August 2, 1924, in Berkeley, Calif., to Anna and William James, Quaker parents who had come west in the 1910s from Philadelphia, Pa. Marge described herself as a “tomboy who loved dolls,” and demonstrated this by building the dolls a tree house. She enjoyed biking through urban neighborhoods and riding a horse through the surrounding hills. There were many opportunities to become attached to Quakerism because her parents welcomed into their home visiting Friends from around the world. Her father helped organize the Pacific Coast Association of Friends, the predecessor of Pacific Yearly Meeting, which included unprogrammed meetings in California, Oregon, and Washington. Like her parents, brothers, and two of her children, Marge attended Westtown School near West Chester, Pa., although somewhat reluctantly, because as she recalled later, she had already decided that she would not marry an Easterner. She wrote her address on her letters home as “Westtown Prison, cell # ___.” She nevertheless appreciated the visits to Westtown of well-known Quakers such as Thomas Kelly, Rufus Jones, and Henry Cadbury, and graduated in 1942.
During World War II, she helped her parents place Japanese college students in schools east of Colorado to avoid their internment in California. She also took nurse’s training and worked at Whittier College, from which she graduated in 1946. This brought her into contact with conscientious objectors (COs) in nearby Civilian Public Service camps. One of the COs was George Leavitt. Marge and George married under the care of Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting in 1946. After earning a doctorate in social psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, George began teaching at Fresno State College, and their family remained in Fresno while their four children were growing up. Marge helped organize Fresno (Calif.) Meeting and found many opportunities for service locally. She worked with American Friends Service Committee’s Farm Labor Committee and Self-help Housing Project, served on the Fresno County Grand Jury and the Planning Commission, and was a longtime volunteer with the League of Women Voters. She assisted in arranging for the Fresno chapter of Planned Parenthood.
When her children were all away at college, she worked for pay at Clovis Hospital and volunteered on election campaigns for the city council and for Senator Alan Cranston. Visiting a friend who had bought a house in Santa Cruz led to her and George doing the same in 1983. For the next seven years they spent about one-third of each year in Santa Cruz, finally moving there permanently in 1990. Marge began working with the local League of Women Voters, for whom she attended bi-weekly Santa Cruz City Council meetings for eight years. She and George enjoyed traveling overseas with other university faculty couples, visiting China and the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, she began a six-year term on the board of Ben Lomond Quaker Center, continuing to work with Santa Cruz Meeting and enjoying walks with friends, especially the YWCA hiking group.
George died in 2006 after 60 years of marriage. Marge is survived by four children, Karl Leavitt, Paul Leavitt, Jim Leavitt, Sandra Leavitt Geeslin; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.