Marion Osborne was the first African‑American woman to graduate from Colby College in 1900, 25 years after the first woman and 13 years after the first African-­American man. Marion was the daughter of Sam Osborne, the janitor of Colby for 37 years, and Maria Osborne.

Marion was born on September 24, 1878. She was born and raised in Waterville, Maine in a little house at 5 Ash Street, which is now a parking lot. She enrolled at Colby in 1896, with probable influence from her father, after graduating from Waterville High School. She was the second person in her family to attend Colby College, her older brother Edward Samuel being the first with the class of 1897, but he never graduated.

There were twenty-three women in her class, only 13 of whom would ultimately graduate.

At Colby, Marion struggled in some of her classes but overall received decent marks, excelling in Greek, elocution, and gymnastics. Marion was also the secretary of the women of her class during her senior year. She also joined the Ode Committee during her junior year and served as its treasurer during her senior year.

After graduating from Colby, Marion found love and married Duncan G. Matheson on April 8, 1917. She later moved to Brooklyn, New York with him where she became a teacher and bookkeeper. In New York, she was a member of the Bridge Street Methodist Episcopal Church. She also became a matron of the Eastern Star in Brooklyn.

When her husband died, Marion returned to Waterville to live with her brother and sisters. There she joined the Pleasant Street Methodist Church on December 7, 1930 where she became very active. She sang in the church’s choir and became deeply involved with the Women’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist Church. She served as the organization’s president of the Central District.

Marion passed away on June 6, 1954. She left no children, only her brother and sisters.  She is buried with her parents, Sam and Maria Osborne, and her siblings, in the Grove Street Cemetery.


See also Colby College Students, Faculty, and Staff of Color: 1845-1972