Marjorie G. Gilbert, a retired certified public accountant who co-owned a Baltimore County jewelry business, died of pneumonia complications Feb. 13 at Sinai Hospital. She was 88 and lived in Owings Mills.
Born Marjorie Gross in Newark, N.J., she was a 1939 Weequahic High School graduate. In a interview she gave to her employer, she recalled aspiring to be a scientist. Her father suggested she pursue business. After two years at the College of William and Mary she transferred to Penn State University, where she thought the social life would be better, and earned an economics degree.
She recalled taking 7 a.m. classes during World War II so male students could drill. She also remembered being allowed to wear trouser slacks at the university in the early morning during periods of cold weather, at a time when women were required to wear dresses or skirts only.
About five years ago, she was interviewed by her old employer, New Jersey's J.H. Cohn accounting firm.
"In fact, one of Marjorie's accounting course professors was notoriously negative toward female students," said the life story published in a company magazine. "Her friends discouraged her from even taking the class, but Marjorie — the only woman in the class —disregarded the professor's bias and earned an A in the course."
"My employment as the first female accountant was described as an 'experiment,'" she said in the history she collaborated on with the accounting business.
She initially made $25 a week and worked with clients such as Hatfield wire and the Krueger brewery.
In 1946, she married Leonard "Lenny" Gilbert, a Mido, Walthan and Benrus watch salesman. They moved to Old Pimlico Road a decade later.
"In the 1950s and 1960s, Dad's work often had him leaving home Monday mornings not to return until Friday," said her son, Alan Gilbert, a photographer. "This meant that Marge did the parenting while he was away.
"I remember clearly one morning she surprised us, saying the Yankees were in town and we were going to see Mickey Mantle. She got us seats in back of the visitors dugout and we saw No. 7 up close, along with Yogi [Berra] and Casey Stengel. It was the first time I remember thinking she was not just a parent, but kind of a friend, too."
Her son said that in the late 1970s, she joined her husband and son Gene to establish a jewelry store in Valley Village in Owings Mills.
"The store was known for its unusual selection of gold and diamond jewelry," said Alan Gilbert, who lives in Owings Mills. "Marge was a skilled buyer, especially of pearls, which she loved dearly. Marge brought an honesty and enthusiasm to any customer's transaction."
He said his mother took pride in displaying her pearls at the shop. She often displayed them using conch shells she had brought back from trips to Mexico. She arranged antique and estate jewelry around the French Santone dolls she collected on trips overseas. She also brought back menus from French restaurants.
"She also was a fastidious bookkeeper who would spend hours searching for a single penny to balance the corporate checkbook," her son Alan said.
He said that in her last years, she was a keen political observer and never shied from making her liberal views known to anyone.
Family members said that she had been active in the League of Women Voters. She encouraged women to register to vote and let their voices be heard.
"From Adlai Stevenson to JFK to Barack Obama, Marge followed politics closely and actively supported equality and opportunity for all," said her son, Gene Gilbert of Pikesville. "She was especially dismayed by the Tea Party's agenda."
Mrs. Gilbert was a member of a fundraising committee for the Brandeis University library.
"She was dedicated and tenacious and was elected national president of the Brandeis National Committee," her son Alan said.
He said that after he entered graduate school in photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, his mother became interested in the history of photography. In the early 1970s, she visited New York galleries and bought the works of female photographers, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Margaret Bourke White, Imogen Cunningham and Diane Arbus.
She also enjoyed gardening and flower arranging.
In addition to her two sons, survivors include two grandchildren. Her husband of 63 years died in 2009.
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