Filippini Sister Margherita Marchione, a renowned scholar and professor emerita in Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, once again has been widely recognized. This time she was honored not for what she has given, but for what she has given up.[[In-content Ad]]
A significant chapter in Sister Margherita’s life has been her scholarly research of Filippo Mazzei, an “Unknown Patriot” of the American Revolution. No one has researched and no one owns the valuable collections that Sister Margherita has acquired through the years, obtained especially at the time of the bi-centennial. Sister Margherita has been recognized multiple times for unearthing Filippo Mazzei’s name and his accomplishments. If it were not for Sister Margherita’s passionate efforts, few people would have learned about Filippo Mazzei, a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson. His Italian influence and personal philosophy shaped much of Thomas Jefferson’s life and the writing of our Declaration of Independence.
Sister Margherita, at age 91, recently relinquished her entire Mazzei collection to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Monticello, Va., for the establishment of a Filippo Mazzei Archive.The donation included facsimiles of nearly 2,500 manuscripts written to and from Mazzei, extensive research notes, works of art and her published books and articles that have spearheaded the recognition of Filippo Mazzei both in Italy and the United States as the Italian-American Founding Father. The materials will be cataloged into a dedicated section of the library’s special collections and made available to researchers.
On May 14, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, under the direction of Jack Robertson, Foundation Librarian, honored the scholarship of Sister Margherita and celebrated the memory of Filippo Mazzei. Sister Margherita was the keynote speaker at the event. Her reminiscences of Filippo Mazzei and her retelling of her involvement in the research elicited applause and laughter from the 133 people in attendance. There was no question that this aged nun captured the hearts and attention of her audience.
Barbara Oberg , an 18th century historian and an apprentice to Sister Margherita for this project, paid tribute to Sister Margherita, noting, “Filippo Mazzei has always been a part of Monticello and it is right and fitting that the archives of the Mazzei Center in Morristown, New Jersey are in a sense returning to their home in Monticello.” Olberg also stated, “It is likewise right and fitting to salute Sister Margherita who brought to light a figure who for too long remained in the shadows of the narrative of the revolutionary and early national periods.”