1 hr 12 min

Mary Helen Stanley Voices of Oklahoma

    • Society & Culture

In the late 1930s, women basically had four career choices – nurse, secretary, hairdresser, or teacher. Mary Helen Stanley decided to follow in her aunt’s footsteps to become a teacher. She began her career as a high school speech and English teacher and later joined the faculty at the University of Tulsa, where she taught speech and organized the university’s first debate team.

After taking more than a decade off to get married and devote her time to being a wife, homemaker, and mother of three, Stanley was forced to re-enter the workforce when her husband, Bob Stanley, died in 1959 of lung cancer.

Bob’s family-owned Stanley Funeral home in Tulsa. Mary Helen obtained her funeral service license and became a funeral director, becoming the oldest woman funeral director in Oklahoma when still working at the age of 85.

Stanley co-founded Oklahoma Parents Without Partners. In the early 1970s, she started the first grief counseling class at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa.She is a member of the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association and was named Oklahoma Funeral Director of the Year in 2002.

She was 101 at the time of this oral history recording on October 13, 2022.

In the late 1930s, women basically had four career choices – nurse, secretary, hairdresser, or teacher. Mary Helen Stanley decided to follow in her aunt’s footsteps to become a teacher. She began her career as a high school speech and English teacher and later joined the faculty at the University of Tulsa, where she taught speech and organized the university’s first debate team.

After taking more than a decade off to get married and devote her time to being a wife, homemaker, and mother of three, Stanley was forced to re-enter the workforce when her husband, Bob Stanley, died in 1959 of lung cancer.

Bob’s family-owned Stanley Funeral home in Tulsa. Mary Helen obtained her funeral service license and became a funeral director, becoming the oldest woman funeral director in Oklahoma when still working at the age of 85.

Stanley co-founded Oklahoma Parents Without Partners. In the early 1970s, she started the first grief counseling class at Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa.She is a member of the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association and was named Oklahoma Funeral Director of the Year in 2002.

She was 101 at the time of this oral history recording on October 13, 2022.

1 hr 12 min

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