Lucy Walker Mallary devoted twenty years of her life to befriending and aiding the foreign born population of Springfield. She was born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1861 and married Dr. R. Dewitt Mallary, a Congregational minister. Her husband was appointed president of American International College in Springfield in 1908. His position put the Mallarys in direct contact with many foreign students because of the College’s unique mission, which was the education and Americanization of foreign-born students, with the hope that they would become teachers to their own people. Recognizing that the challenges of assimilating to life in America were not unique to their students, the Mallarys extended their assistance beyond the campus to Springfield’s burgeoning immigrant population, many newly arrived from Italy, Greece, Armenia, and Turkey. Dr. Mallary died suddenly in 1911. Instead of returning to the Berkshires, Lucy stayed at their Buckingham Street home to continue her social work with the city’s foreign community.
On November 17, 1912, Lucy Mallary was formally appointed Missionary at Large by the Congregational Union, a group of Springfield’s Congregational churches. The Union recognized that many in the immigrant community needed an intermediary to provide guidance and practical assistance in starting their new lives in America. Lucy’s role was non-denominational in spirit and she was given a completely free hand to befriend and assist immigrants in any way she saw fit.
From 1912 until her death in 1932 “Mother Mallary”, as she came to be known, maintained an exhausting schedule of service to thousands of foreign born residents of Springfield. By extending the hand of friendship, she became a trusted advisor to newcomers on matters ranging from health care to citizenship. Her daily roster of activities was entirely “hands-on” and included making home visits, delivering food and clothing, helping to find jobs, assisting at home births, arranging for the sick to be taken to hospital, and working with the court system to help immigrants in legal trouble. Mrs. Mallary was also in demand as a public speaker, educating the community at large about the challenges faced by immigrants as they attempted to assimilate into American life.
In recognition of her humanitarian service Lucy Walker Mallary was given the Pynchon Award in 1928, only the second woman to receive this prestigious honor. In 1942, Springfield’s first public housing project, Lucy Mallary Village, built by the Federal Government to house defense workers during WWII, was named in her honor.