How Woody Guthrie's second wife changed modern dance and mental healthcare

About a Girl is a podcast about women from history who have largely overshadowed by the more famous musicians in their life. I had the privilege of scripting the latest episode, which tells the story of Marjorie Mazia, who was the second wife of Woody Guthrie (and arguably his true love, since she was his primary caretaker in the end of his life, even after he remarried). When she wasn't keeping Woody on task — editing his books, tracking his concerts and travel schedule, even reminding him to bathe on at least a weekly basis — Marjorie worked as a protege and personal assistant to Martha Graham, matriarch of the modern dance movement. While Woody was off doing his thing, Marjorie was performing in Pulitzer Prize-winning dance pieces across the country, and later opened the first dance school officially sanctioned to teach Martha Graham's methods.

After Woody succumbed to Huntington's Chorea, Marjorie committed herself to finding a cure to the disease. She became a full-time advocate, joining the National Committee for Research in Neurologic and Communicative Disorders and even founding the World Federation of Neurology's Research Commission. In her spare time, she also helped to establish the largest archive of Yiddish poetry in America. The woman was an absolute badass — or, as Woody himself once said, "she had more hopes in a day than fascism could tear down in a century."

Most of my research for this episode came from Joe Klein's comprehensive biography Woody Guthrie: A Life. But I also had the honor of chatting with Marjorie and Woody's granddaughter, Anna, who was able to tell me more about Marjorie as a person, which was pretty cool.

You can listen to About a Girl on whatever podcast platform you prefer — Apple, Google, Stitcher, Spotify, et cetera.

Marjorie Guthrie: Woody Guthrie, Martha Graham, Loss and True Love [Thom Dunn / About a Girl]