Marianne Moore: Poetry

February 17, 2018

Fanny “Aunt Ann” Bordon

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 9:04 pm


The Vassar Yearbook

Fanny Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1877. She graduated from Vassar in 1898, having served as editor of the Vassarian. In 1901, she received a Bachelor’s of Library Science from the New York State Library School in Albany and became an assistant librarian at Bryn Mawr. There, she roomed with Mary Norcross, Marianne Moore’s mother’s closest friend and the person who prepped Marianne for entry to Bryn Mawr in 1905. After a brief stint at Smith College, Fanny joined the staff of the Vassar Library in 1908, from which she retired in 1945. Moore wrote at the time of Borden’s death in 1954, “She was for many years good to Warner & me—parting with college text-books for us when we were in college and couldn’t buy many books” (Letter to Mary Shoemaker, SL 510). The Moore family always referred to Borden as “Aunt Ann.”

Enter Elizabeth Bishop, Vassar, 1934. Bishop recalls asking Borden why there was no copy of Observations on the library shelves and that Borden loaned her her own copy (which she apparently thought not good enough for the library). Borden explained that she had known Marianne since she was a little girl and suggested that if Bishop would like to meet the poet, Miss Borden would write a letter of introduction (Elizabeth Bishop, “Marianne Moore:  Efforts of Affection,” Vanity Fair’s Writers on Writers, ed. Graydon Carter, NY: Penguin, 2016, pp. 36-38).

We all know how that story ends: a visit to New York City, a trip to the circus, a lifelong friendship. Bishop’s memory piece goes on to say that she thought the famous incident of Fanny’s aunt, Lizzie Borden, who was tried and acquitted of the axe murders of her father and step-mother in Fall River in 1892, when Fanny would have been in high school, had the effect of making Fanny shy with a nearly inaudible voice.

Fanny Borden retired as Vassar’s head librarian. At the time, President McCracken said: “Miss   Borden is a genius in securing unusual books and in assisting professors in their research. Her greatest service has been her indefatigable aid to the faculty in their research” (Vassar Chronicle, Volume II, Number 35, 2, June 1945, p. 3). The world of American poetry may agree that she had an even more important role.

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