Lois Green Carr

Lois Green Carr was an economic and social historian who made detailed studies of St. Mary's County and Colonial Maryland's people and conditions.
Lois Green Carr was an economic and social historian who made detailed studies of St. Mary's County and Colonial Maryland's people and conditions. (Baltimore Sun)

Lois Green Carr, an economic and social historian of old Maryland and the principal historian of St. Mary's City, died of dementia complications June 28 at Baywoods in Annapolis. The former Eastport resident was 93.

A specialist in Southern Maryland history, she created a 47,000-card file detailing of lives of St. Mary's County inhabitants. Friends joked she knew every name, address and telephone number of its 17th-century residents. With Lorena Walsh, she wrote a 1977 article, "The Planter's Wife," which was praised for its insights into gender and the harsh conditions of the Maryland colony.


"She was likely the smartest woman I have ever known," said Danielle Cruttenden, an Annapolis attorney. "She also had a good laugh and a really good sense of humor."

Born in Holyoke, Mass., she was the daughter of Donald Ross Green, a textile manufacturer, and Constance McLaughlin Green, who won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize in history for "Washington, Village and Capital." Her grandfather had won the a 1936 Pulitzer Prize for his history of the Constitution.


She earned a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College, a master's from Radcliffe College and a doctorate in history from Harvard University. In a memoir, she recalled walking into Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s office as a young graduate student and being instantly recognized by the Harvard historian.

"I was born with connections and had to live up to the expectations that resulted," she wrote.

She moved to Annapolis in 1954 and joined the Hall of Records, now Maryland State Archives, as a junior archivist two years later. In 1967 she was named historian for Historic St. Mary's City and held the post for 45 years.

In 1963 she married Jack Ladd Carr, an Annapolis city planner. The couple entertained in their Eastport home and she often served dishes made from vegetables and berries she grew.

She founded a research program at St. Mary's City and worked in the development of its museum exhibits. She worked in 17th-century reconstructions, and provided the key historical evidence for identifying the Calvert family members buried in lead coffins discovered under the 1660s Brick Chapel.

St. Mary's City was Maryland's capital from 1634 to 1695, until the government moved to Annapolis. By 1725, the early settlement disappeared, Mrs. Carr wrote. Its site was undisturbed and it became a boon to archaeologists and researchers.

Friends said her intellectual creativity and enthusiasm attracted others to study Maryland's Colonial history. Dr. Carr was the godmother of the group, who called themselves the Maryland Mafia.

Her colleagues said she was a pioneer in using court probate records to help disclose previously unknown aspects of Colonial society. She integrated archival history with archaeology and architecture.

Dr. Carr served as a senior adjunct scholar at the archives from 1988 until 2005. In 1989 she became a senior historian of the Maryland Historic Trust. She retired in 2005.

"Lois was always good on advice, and free with useful criticism. ... She set high standards of scholarship for herself and those who sought her help," said Maryland Archivist Emeritus Edward Papenfuse. "Few could match her work ethic, and she found it difficult to understand why the archives could not be open in a blizzard, especially when she had no difficulty in getting there herself — by walking the mile or two from home. Until late in her career, Lois always walked to and from work, even after once being mugged and once having an inattentive driver run over her foot."

She was an adjunct professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1982 until her retirement, and was a visiting professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland in 1971.

She wrote that for all her education, she never had a tenured university position.


"I enjoy teaching through a museum much more," she wrote in her memoir.

She also wrote, "I was born into a relatively privileged life and have had far fewer difficulties to overcome than most people. I can only hope that my work in research and writing of early American history and my efforts to teach its meaning through a museum program represent at least a partial repayment for the opportunities that have been handed me."

Dr. Carr was the author of "Robert Cole's World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland;" "Maryland's Revolution of Government 1689-1692;" and Colonial Chesapeake Society. She also contributed to "Maryland: A New guide to the Old Line State."

In 1992, a conference in her honor was held at the University of Maryland at College Park. The Historic St. Mary's City Commission awarded Dr. Carr its highest award, the cross bottony, in 1995. In 2001 she received an honorary degree from St. Mary's College of Maryland.

She was the 1996 recipient of the Eisenberg Prize for Excellence in the Humanities. In 2000 she was named to the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

A life celebration will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Brick Chapel at St. Mary's City. A second memorial will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis.

Survivors include a son, Andrew R. Clark of Baltimore. Her husband of 47 years died in 2010. Her 1946 marriage to Allen R. Clark ended in divorce.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun