Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943

Memorials: Pauline Maier

Pauline Maier served on the Council of the Omohundro Institute from 1981 to 1984.

Pauline Maier

Photograph courtesy of Andrea Maier.

Remembering Pauline Maier

Pauline Maier was one of the most generous people, let alone scholars, I have ever known. One fall at a conference, at a dinner with a dozen or more people, she and I were talking about mentors and mentoring and I was lamenting the recent death of my own, Lance Banning. As I described all the ways I missed Lance and his guidance, Pauline leaned across the table to say, “I’ll be your Lance. Let me help.” I was floored by her kindness and her sympathy and by the spontaneous offer to mentor.

True to her word, Pauline became my Lance. From then on, she read and critiqued my work, wrote letters of recommendation, advised me on professional matters. We had long email strings of conversation about the ratification debate, about the profession, about publishing, and about much else. But there was more. Just as Lance had done, she held my work to high standards, never failing to point out where my arguments were soft or my writing opaque or my interpretations dubious. But she did all this in a kind and thoughtful way, just as a mentor would. Pauline always insisted on doing history in the best, truest way possible and on doing it that way all the time, no matter how much hard work it entailed.

Having already lost one irreplaceable mentor in Lance, I have now lost another one in Pauline. But far more important is Pauline’s loss to the profession as a whole, for her death has diminished us all. May the rest of us always emulate her professionalism and carry on her generosity of spirit toward our own students and colleagues.

Todd Estes
Oakland University