Marge Leavitt was born in Berkeley, California to Anna and William James, Quaker parents who had come West in the 1910s from Philadelphia. Recalling her childhood, Marge described herself as a “tomboy who loved dolls”, for whom she built a treehouse. She enjoyed biking through urban neighborhoods and riding a horse through the surrounding hills.
There were many opportunities to become attached to Quakerism because her parents welcomed into their home visiting Friends from around the world. Her father helped organize the Pacific Coast Association of Friends, the predecessor of Pacific Yearly Meeting, which included unprogrammed Meetings in California, Oregon and Washington.
Like her parents, brothers and two of her children, Marge attended Westtown Friends School near Philadelphia, although somewhat reluctantly because, as she recalled later, she had already decided that she would not marry an Easterner. She remembered writing her address on her letters home as “Westtown Prison, cell # ___.” She nevertheless appreciated the visits to Westtown of well-known Quakers such as Thomas Kelly, Rufus Jones and Henry Cadbury, and did stay there until she graduated in 1942.
During World War II, Marge helped her parents place Japanese college students in schools east of Colorado to avoid their internment in California. At this time she also took nurse’s training and worked at Whittier College, from which she graduated in 1946. This brought her into contact with conscientious objectors in nearby Civilian Public Service camps. One of the COs was her future husband, George Leavitt.
Marge and George were married under the care of Berkeley Friends Meeting in August 1946. After earning his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from UC Berkeley, George accepted a position at Fresno State University, and their family remained in Fresno while their four children were growing up. Marge helped organize the Fresno Monthly Meeting and found many opportunities for service locally. She worked with the AFSC Farm Labor Project and Self-help Housing. She served on the Fresno County Grand Jury and the Planning Commission, and was a long-time volunteer with the League of Women Voters. She assisted in arranging for the Fresno chapter of Planned Parenthood. When her children were all away at college, she worked for pay at Clovis Hospital and volunteered on election campaigns for the city council and for Senator Alan Cranston.
Visiting a friend who had bought a house in Santa Cruz led to Marge and George doing the same in 1983. For the next seven years they spent about one-third of each year in Santa Cruz, finally moving there permanently in 1990. It didn’t take Marge long before she began working with the local League of Women Voters, for whom she attended bi-weekly Santa Cruz City Council meetings for eight years. Marge and George enjoyed traveling overseas with other university faculty couples, visiting China and the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In the early 90s, Marge began a six-year term on the Board of Ben Lomond Quaker Center.
George died in 2006 after 60 years of marriage. Marge continued work with the Friends Meeting and enjoyed walks with friends, especially the YWCA hiking group. Marge passed away peacefully at home at the age of 95, and is survived by her four children Karl Leavitt, Paul Leavitt, Jim Leavitt, Sandra (Leavitt) Geeslin, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.