The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

Seeking good home(s) for Follett background materials

Hello Network Members,

Since 1989, when I first "met" Mary Parker Follett, I've been conducting informal research on both her life and ideas. Part of my drive was to learn more about her as there was little in print at that time.

By 1995 Pauline Graham's wonderful book, Mary Parker Follett: Prophet of Management (A celebration of writings from the 1920s) was published by the Harvard Business School.

In 2003, Joan Tonn's "tome," Mary P. Follett: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management, was issued by Yale University Press, giving us the first biography of Follett, shedding light, as Follett might say, on her life while embedding her thinking and contributions in a rich intellectual history.

These two books, along with others where authors who appreciated Follett wrote about her contributions, have made a good foundation for further study.

I am now in the process of downsizing my possessions, and I'd like to see some of the information I've gathered about Follett and her friends and colleagues go to a good home or several good homes. As a consequence of my own research, I have an extensive "collection" of Follett-related materials.

I anyone wants to talk about possibilities, I'd love to hear from you.

Albie Davis (Thomaston, Maine, USA)

Views: 310

Comment by Nathan Harter on July 12, 2009 at 4:45pm
Question: is it about time for a new collection of critical essays on her work?
Comment by Albie M. Davis on July 12, 2009 at 7:58pm
I say yes, Nathan.

I've been thinking a great deal of late of what she had to say about opponents or "enemies." My enemy is my co-creator, for he has something I have not. (paraphrased.) One line that jumped out at me from the New State was "I always feel intimate with my enemies." Here's the context for her observation:

(NS, p. 212) We must remember that most people are not for or against anything: the first object of getting people together is to make them respond somehow, to overcome inertia. To disagree, as well as to agree, with people brings you closer to them I always feel intimate with my enemies.

But, the concept of intimacy with ones enemies seems to have deeper psychological importance. I think there is a great deal yet to be mined in what Follett has to say, and, of course, areas where we can disagree with her, so my response to your query is "yes." I'm a big fan of Vamik Volkan's work about the sources of ethnic conflict and would love to hear what he has to say about Follett's thinking.

However, right now I'm eager to hear your thoughts on your own question. Thanks, Albie Davis
Comment by Suzanne Stigler Martin on July 13, 2009 at 12:32pm

What did you have in mind? I would love to discuss how I might provide a home/holding space for those documents. I read Tonn's biography, it came out in the middle of writing my dissertation and added so much to my understanding.

I have two goals, one is collecting all of her available writings and publications and finding a public home for them. I want the world to know about her. I think she has some "answers" that we are just now ready to live into.

The other is to write a text that is friendly and useful to both "scholars"/students of leadership and practitioners. As you know her writings can be dense and in some ways, difficult to digest. I don't want to simplify her thinking, but organize some of her writings into a text that might point to her contribution to the field of organizational leadership and our indebtedness to her, as present her primary constructs as they relate to leadership.

I have read the article you wrote on Follett (I believe it was liquid leadership?) from a journal that no longer exists.

Comment by Albie M. Davis on July 13, 2009 at 2:09pm
Hi Suzanne,

I think we may be on the same page about what several concepts--collecting Follett's available writings and finding a public home, and perhaps "pruning" her work so it can bloom again. (OK, I'm hopeless about this, but here's yet another one of her concepts I love, from The New State, page 8:

The measure of our progress is never what we give up, but what we add. It may be necessary to prune the garden, but we do not make a pile of the dead branches and take our guests to see them as evidence of the flourishing state of the garden.

I offer that as evidence that Follett understood the value of pruning things that may have become overgrown, and would not object to folks in our era doing the same to some of her works. I'm sure some would quarrel with me, but, hey, that's the idea of such a forum.

At one point in my own "meeting" with Follett, I felt I was becoming overly complicated about what she had to offer. In jest, but with a strong dose of the truth, I said to some friends who knew that I collected pop-up books, mostly children's, "I think I should just make a pop up book of ten of Follett's most profound concepts, in her words, and in a way that everyone can understand."

So, Suzanne, please do email me at: I really do want to reduce the physical nature of my involvement with Follett--downsize books, papers, etc. Perhaps we could share information about her writings and what we have and how to get more of them into your hands.

I'm not sure how this blog, forum, network, set up my Matthew Shapiro (thanks, Matt) works yet, but I suspect that not everyone will be interested in the concreteness of our conversation.

Warmly, Albie Davis (Thomaston, Maine)
Comment by Byron Murray on July 13, 2009 at 5:44pm
Dear Suzanne and Albie

From a leadership perspective I would love to review some of your material and perhaps house some of it. I was introduced to MPF by a friend and colleague. Both of us are helping healthcare executives with future leaders and their development. MPF's views on leadership are critical to what we are helping executives to understand.


Byron Murray
Eugene, Oregon
Comment by Albie M. Davis on July 13, 2009 at 8:07pm
Hi Byron, Suzanne and anyone else whose interested.

Wouldn't that be grand! A growing number of healthcare leaders with some of Follett's insights on leadership. My goal is to get my stuff out there where it will be used rather than sitting in boxes in my house, or worse yet, thrown away, as we have our house on the market. Of course, these days, that could be a long wait before it sells.

So, I don't want to get too complicated about this, but also would like to let people know what I have (and if any of those out there who did their PhDs or some other research and are ready to shed stuff want to weigh in, please do so).

One long-shot possibility is to have a small gathering in Maine in August. I could probably house five to six folks for two or three days, since we have a big house, and a great barn for meetings. People could pitch in for meals, help do dishes, etc. No cost for housing, but you gotta find a way to get here--Thomaston, Maine, about three and a half hours from Boston; 1.5 hours from Portland, ME.

I'd be glad to begin detailing what I have, and at some point, ship it out if folks can pay postage, but it might be fun to share thoughts in person about how stuff might be used. Then people could take stuff home--bring an extra suitcase!

Again, feel free to email at if you want to chat off line. Albie

Byron, for several years I did some conflict resolution training with the Harvard School of Public Health, Lenny Marcus and crew, Renegotiating Health Care, which you've probably read, a week-long annual event at Babson College. One time, I put on my Mary Parker Follett outfit, and joined them for a graduation dinner, speaking 95% directly from her words and taking questions. They "got it." They got her!
Comment by Matthew Shapiro on July 14, 2009 at 12:55am
I, too, have some items that I'd like to put somewhere they'd be useful - even if only of archival value. One of them is a copy of Creative Experience that has a written comment and autograph by Follett pasted inside. The other is an 1896 edition of The Speaker of the House of Representatives. That one is very, very rare, as far as I can tell. I was lucky enough to pick it up cheap on one of the used book websites years ago. I have never seen another for sale. I have seen one copy at the New York Public Library. It's fun "owning" such a thing, but it does little good sitting on my shelf. Then again, I don't know what good it does sitting on anyone else's shelf. It's just that if it could be with its archival brothers and sisters, it would at least be more ready to entertain visitors.
Comment by Albie M. Davis on July 14, 2009 at 5:38am
Hi Matthew.

Fabulous, an 1896 copy of Speaker. A real cornerstone for a collection.

About a year ago I came across a 1904 copy of the Speaker, around $10.00, so naturally I bought it, because I've never seen an affordable older copies come up on the book searches, certainly never a first edition, and, like you, since I have a reprint copy that I've marked in years ago, I'd like my 1904 copy to be with it's cousins. It has a State Library, Salem Oregon stamp and embossment.

Imagine Follett, who wrote this as a 28 year old woman, seeing reprints come out. I understand was President Johnson's favorite (some background info from Fran Cooper) As I look at it now, I am reminded it included an introduction by her favorite teacher at Radcliffe, Albert Bushnell Hart, a prolific historian.

And, I have a ten volume set of history books he wrote just about that same time. You can see what a pack rat I am. Around our house we say "Books breed at night while we sleep." We take our books to a library book sale and come home with two more boxes than we left off.

By the way, when I last looked in the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe, where Follett received her BA, they only had one copy of Dynamic Experience, so, although they weren't accepting background materials, certainly they should try for a complete set of her printed works. I could check that out.

And, while most of her first editions of the New State were going for big bucks, I found one in Florida for $10.00 which has "Miss S. E. White, Putney, Vt" written inside, and a stamp from the Putney Community Center, "the place where all are welcome" Putney, Vermont. She had some good friends named White in Putney.

My "old" Mac (all of four years!) is dying a Shakespearian death, but I did manage to pull off a photo of Follett's and Isobel Brigg's home they had built for themselves in Putney and I'm going to try to attach it to this blog. Wish me luck.

Comment by Suzanne Stigler Martin on July 14, 2009 at 10:03am

I would love to find a way to collect/house all of her materials in one home. I have discussed this possibility over the years with a colleague, Dr. Karin Klenke (who i have invited to join this network). There may be a way to collect/house all of her writings (including indexing, cataloguing) etc. at a university. More on that later.

Albie, do we want to explore a date in August?

I would love to come to Vermont. I am going to email you Albie about some of the ideas that I have had.
Comment by patrick j below on July 18, 2009 at 9:03am
Saturday, 18 July


I am thoroughly enjoying all your communication with "fellow Follett fans!"

Also, thank you for the picture of Mary Parket and Isobel's home in Vermont. Thanks to you, I did drive up and view their home...but someone was inside and did not appreciate me snooping around.

Your friend,



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