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Photograph of Mary C. Bromage on her wedding day (1928)
Mary Cogan Bromage (1906 – 1995) was an award-winning American author, academic, newspaper reporter, and teacher. She was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Edith Ives, (born near London), and James Cogan (born in Co. Cork and emigrated from the port of Queenstown [Cobh] during the 1880s). James was a Wesleyan University graduate and an Episcopalian minister who preached pacifism during World War I. Mary was educated at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, the all-female counterpart to Harvard University and married Arthur Watson Bromage (1904 – 1979) in 1928. Four years later Mary graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan, where Arthur was on the faculty, having written her masters thesis on medieval Irish history.
Mary and Arthur travelled widely and between 1936 and 1939 lived in Merrion Square, Dublin for periods of time during which together their little daughter Susanna was enrolled at the Loreto Convent, St. Stephen’s Green. The visits came about when Connecticut-born Arthur, a graduate of Wesleyan and Harvard Universities and a political scientist of renown at the University of Michigan, was researching the fledgling Irish State’s proportional representation election model and policies on social housing and local government administration. Mary and Arthur quickly built up a network of friends among them the city’s Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne, Fine Gael founder William T. Cosgrave, and notably, Éamon and Sinéad de Valera, with whom Mary and Arthur shared afternoon teas and conversation. In September 1939 the threat of impending war in Europe cut the Bromage’s Irish sojourn that year short and they and Susanna crossed the Atlantic en route for Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In the decades that followed Mary maintained her contacts to Ireland corresponding with the De Valeras and others including Frank Gallagher, former editor of The Irish Press, deputy director of Radio Éireann and later, director of the Government Information Bureau, who challenged the British Government's account of the conditions and treatment of Irish prisoners in Frongoch internment camp. Mary's conversations with Éamon de Valera inspired her to publish a biographical account of his role in the Rising, Civil War and establishment of the Irish Free State. Entitled De Valera and the March of a Nation (1956) the book was very successful with four reprint runs in Britain and the United States. Mary continued publishing on Irish subjects throughout her long academic career as did Arthur who was stationed in Munich for a time following the cessation of World War II and was an influential contributor to the field of American municipal government studies.
In later life, accompanied by one of her five granddaughters, Mary revisited Dublin and the west coast of Ireland recalling earlier friendships and her encounters with the Yeats sisters, Lilly and Lolly, whose Dun Emer (later Cuala) Press prints she bought. In 2012 serendipity reconnected the extended Bromage family to Ireland when Mary and Arthur’s great-grandson met, and subsequently married, a Dublin woman whose grandmother coincidentally was also a pupil at Loreto on the Green when Susanna Bromage attended in the 1930s. The newlywed couple and two of Mary and Arthur’s six grandchildren and their families attended the Inspiring Ireland New York Collection Day on April 17, 2016 to share the Bromage family story and have their memorabilia digitised.