Mary Davenport was a committed spiritual seeker who devoted her life to service in the truth. She was born in 1917 in Utica, New York. Her father served and died in WWI, which precipitated a move to California and her mother’s conversion to Mary Semple McPherson’s Pentecostal movement.
Mary’s childhood involved many moves between Northern and Southern California. She even went with her mother for seven years to India at the age of 11 , while her mother worked to establish a mission in Komar and Mary attended a British boarding school.
Her childhood was enriched by the friendship of “Auntie” Lovey, a secretary at the YWCA in the Bay area, who looked after her and remained a loyal friend. When the family returned from India, Auntie Lovey arranged for Mary to attend La Verne college. She studied sciences, enrolled in a pre-med course, joined a school chorus and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She did well at the college and entered Claremont Graduate School where she took plant taxonomy and comparative anatomy. Unfortunately, her funding ran out when she turned twenty-one.
Mary returned to Lovey’s home in Piedmont to look for work. She enrolled in Merritt College to follow a secretarial course, and eventually found work in medical records. She began attending the Congregational Church in Oakland, where she met Jerry Davenport, the man who was to be her husband and the father of her child. They bought a home, but the marriage soon failed, and Mary found herself alone, raising a baby girl.
Her spiritual quest led her to move to Los Angeles, where she was able to find work, a good school for her daughter, Glenda, and study depth psychology. When Lovie died in 1954, Mary was able to buy a home in Berkeley, where she met the Jorgensens and the Stephensons, who introduced her to Friends Meeting. Soon after this she refused to pay her war taxes, and was pursued by the IRS. She sold her house, gave the money to the American Friends Service Committee and Friends Committee on Legislation, and moved to a small back yard house.
At various crisis periods, Mary experienced the presence of a guiding spirit which provided strength and peace. At these crucial moments, she also had a sense of the way opening as she moved toward a life committed to peace and devoted to service. After becoming a member of Berkeley Friends Meeting, she began praying for a teacher. Eknath Easwaran spoke at Meeting, and she was drawn to his message. She attended his classes, became a vegetarian and began using her skills and to help Easwaran establish an ashram in the United States. This required more moves, including a short two-year stint in Vancouver, where Mary started a newsletter with writings by Easwaran. He was able to return to the United States in 1965, and eventually established his ashram at Blue Mountain in Tomales, California.
Mary spent the last part of her life working to launch the meditation center and publishing company founded by Easwaran, and she moved into the Amagiri Ashram in 1970. She never lost contact with Friends, however, who shared a universalist message and a commitment to peace with Easwaran. She was an exceptional recording clerk at Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in the 1970’s, and was known for quoting extended passages from Meister Eckhart or the Scriptures during Meeting for Worship.
Mary died on August 7, 2017. Elspeth Benton wrote: “Her vigor and health were a testament to the beliefs by which she lived. Her dreams of medical school, and later of becoming a counselor, expanded into a broader kind of healing, and her contributions to her community were ... huge”.