Marie Whittaker
1922 - 2016
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Marie Olesen Urbanski Whittaker

March 12, 1922 - October 24, 2016


Marie Whittaker, 94, feminist, scholar and liberal activist, passed away on Oct. 24 at her daughter's home in Raleigh. Her death was the latest in a series of uncommon successes, a final testament to her mental powers and indomitable will. She decided years ago that she would live to age 94. On Oct. 15, she announced that she was failing and would be dead in a month's time. Her daughters mistakenly believed she would live to see the election of our first female president. published a blog about her last wish. (

Marie was born March 12, 1922 in Pittsburgh, PA, the middle daughter of Charles William Olesen, and Esther Mitchell Olesen, from Oxford, NC. She graduated from the University of Texas in 1944 and got her Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Kentucky in 1973. A professor at University of Maine at Orono for over 20 years, Marie's scholarship focused on the contributions of Margaret Fuller, 19th century feminist and visionary. She later developed a close friendship with Fuller's great nephew, Buckminster Fuller. Marie published several books and many articles, including one of her favorites, about her feminist journey: "From Glamour Girl to Social Pariah."

She was married twice: to Dr. Edmund S. Urbanski and Joseph Boyd Whittaker. She is survived by her daughters,

Wanda Urbanska of Raleigh and Jane U. Robbins (Ed) of Great Falls, VA; two grandsons, Henry U. Levering of Los Angeles and Erik Robbins of Houston, TX, and nephews and niece, Scott Kelley, Charles Corbin, Peter Corbin, Mark Corbin & Carolyn Kelley.

A memorial service is planned for Nov. 20 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Mount Airy, NC. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Planned Parenthood, 100 S. Boylan Ave., Raleigh 27603, or the National Women's Hall of Fame, 76 Fall St, Seneca Falls, NY 13148.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The News and Observer on Oct. 30, 2016.
Memorial service
Trinity Episcopal Church
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11 entries
January 8, 2017
An animated activist has passed from the earth. With strong opinions and vibrancy,she made her way through life as a pioneer role model for her daughters. With no shortage of charisma, and as a champion of women's rights, she let her intellect and enthusiasm carry her into university life and beyond. I shall remember her frankness and wit, from a group in which we were both involved. While advanced in age and hard of hearing, she made it clear that SHE was in charge and would be no shrinking violet. She would take no backseat to her daughter, the appointed leader of the group. May Marie be fitted with hummingbird wings in heaven...
Martha Lamb
November 4, 2016
Memories abound in the thoughts and events of those now harvesting the fruits sown by Marie. She did prove herself predictable and, in many arenas, that can mean faithful. Psalms 62:11,12.
November 1, 2016
So very sad to hear of Marie's passing. She was always a hoot, and I loved how she kept me in line. I'll miss her colorful character and quick wit. Sending love for Wanda and Jane and all of the rest of those that loved her.
Machelle McCann
October 31, 2016
We are so very sorry about the loss of your dear mother. Both she and HRC have our votes. Dick and Suzy Everhart
Suzanne Everhart
October 31, 2016
So sorry to hear of your Mom's passing. She was a remarkable woman!
My Deepest Sympathy,
Janet Patterson
October 31, 2016
Sorry about your mom. We voted for HRC yesterday as well both my mom (gone last year almost 94) and yours wanted to see her win. Working towards that goal.
Linda Kunicki
October 31, 2016
In commemoration of our Aunt, who unfortunately we had never met, we think that not the years of her life, but her life in these years were decisive!

Maria Biniasz, Bremen, Germany
Edmund Ursen, Hamburg, Germany
Edmund Ursen
October 30, 2016
Thanks for the Glamour article. Sorry about your mother passing, but votes only count if you are alive on election day. I will be sure to let the local supervisor of elections in her area know of her passing, so that her ballot can be discarded. #KeepingTheElectionHonest
J Gilham
October 30, 2016
Wanda, Jane and family - We are sorry to hear of your mother's passing. Yet we are also happy to hear she did so on her own terms. You have given a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman.
Warmly, Karen Kemp and Jeff Zimmer
Karen Kemp
October 28, 2016
Doing my best, to make your mommas last hope come true . My prayers for your family during this time of great loss.
jacquelyn macknight
October 27, 2016
Wanda Urbanska
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