Harold C. Jaquith and Mary Harin Jaquith met through Near East Relief in Constantinople. Their life together was an adventure in humanitarian work and education that spanned countries and decades.
Harold C. Jaquith was born in Nashua, NH. Like many of the first Near East Relief workers, he was highly educated and active in the church. Jaquith received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctor of divinity from Union Theological Seminary.
Jaquith began his career as the assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1912. Five years later he was named assistant secretary of the committee that would become Near East Relief. He toured the Near East in 1919 as leader of the Sunday School Commission and made a preliminary assessment of needs.
The Road to Constantinople
Jaquith and Near East Relief Medical Director, Dr. William W. Peet, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland in 1920. They lobbied the League of Nations to create an Armenian Republic in the wake of World War I. From Geneva, Jaquith traveled to Constantinople for what was meant to be a temporary assignment. He worked alongside Dr. Peet and Near East Relief Managing Director, Col. J.P. Coombs.
When Col. Coombs retired from Near East Relief in April 1921, Jaquith became Managing Director of Near East Relief in Constantinople. Jaquith oversaw operations for 180,000 orphans and refugees in the Constantinople area. Jaquith’s impassioned cablegrams from the field painted a horrific picture of the ongoing refugee situation in and around Constantinople. Jaquith received the Order of Hamediah from Turkey in 1921.
Relief After Smyrna
Jaquith’s accounts of the plight of refugees after the burning of Smyrna in September 1922 were particularly chilling. Jaquith wrote that the Turkish Nationalist army was taking advantage of the chaos to conduct additional deportations. He publicly criticized the Allies for their failure to use military ships in the Smyrna harbor to transport refugees to safety. His eloquent articles and pleas for aid were frequently published in the New Near East magazine and other news outlets.
Immediately following the burning of Smyrna, Jaquith made an emergency tour of the region. He estimated that there were 400,000 refugees in 12 refugee centers. Jaquith reignited America’s interest in the people of Near East with vivid descriptions of refugee living conditions. This launched a new wave of essential contributions from America. Jaquith insured that thousands of refugees received food, clothing, and medical care through Near East Relief. In accordance with the tradition of the organization, Jaquith made sure that aid was given without regard to religious or ethnic background.
In 1923, Jaquith was appointed to help oversee the resettlement of approximately 400,000 ethnic Turks from Greece. The resettlement was part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey brought on by the Smyrna disaster. It was an intense and taxing assignment. Greece made him a Commander of the Order of King George I in 1923 in recognition of his work. Jaquith also received the Greek Croix de Guerre in 1924 and the Greek Red Cross medal in 1925.
Jaquith and the "Russian Princess"
Jaquith’s 1925 marriage garnered international attention. The New York Times celebrated his new wife, the glamorous Marie Harin, as a “Russian princess” and “Romanoff exile.”
Marie Harin was born to a family of prosperous landowners in Yalta, Russia in 1898. She grew up speaking Russian, French, and English. The Harin family left Yalta in 1920 in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution.
When Marie’s family moved on to Yugoslavia, she chose to remain in Constantinople. She took the name Mary and worked as an interpreter for Near East Relief. She met her future husband while working in the Constantinople office. The Jaquiths were married in Yugoslavia in November 1925 and made their home in Constantinople.
A New Life in the U.S.
H.C. Jaquith became the Associate General Secretary of Near East Relief in 1927. He was instrumental in overseeing the transition from Near East Relief to the Near East Foundation over the course of several years.
The Jaquiths moved to New York City in 1929. Harold served as an executive officer with NEF from 1930 to 1933, as well as a trustee of Athens College. He oversaw the organization’s programs in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Palestine. Mary earned a degree in Education Science from Columbia University.
Jaquith left NEF in 1933 to pursue a career in higher education administration. He served as President of Illinois College until 1938 and then joined his alma mater, Trinity College, as Provost and Dean of Freshman. The Jaquiths and several other former Near East Relief workers pooled their resources to purchase a farm in Kent, CT. The group built cabins to supplement the farmhouse and working barn. The farm served as a retreat for returned relief workers: a place to relax, socialize, and reminisce about their experiences in the field.
Jaquith took a leave of absence from Trinity College to serve on the Office of Price Administration during World War II. H.C. Jaquith died in April 1943 at the age of 54. The NEF archives contain a collection of H.C. Jaquith’s photographs and glass-plate negatives, many of which were probably taken in Armenia in 1919. Jaquith’s daughter Betty donated these photographs, as well as some of her father’s correspondence, to the NEF archives. These fragile materials have not yet been catalogued. They will probably require significant conservation before we can publish them here on the Digital Museum.
Mary Jaquith had a groundbreaking career of her own. She spent the War years working for the FBI in New Haven, CT, where her language skills were put to good use. Mary Jaquith was the first teacher of high school-level Russian in the U.S; she also taught French to high school and college students.
In 1946, Mary became one of the United Nations’ first simultaneous interpreters. She retired from full-time interpreting at the age of 60 but continued to work on a freelance basis until age 82. Mary Jaquith died in June 1985 at the age of 87.