Mary Jane Coartney Memorial Creative Writing Scholarship

Mary Jane Coartney Memorial Creative Writing Scholarship

May Jane Coartney Biography
Mary Jane Coartney, 1913-2009, was witness to much of the 19th Century and shared what she saw – what she lived – through her poetry, paintings, a daily journal, family newsletter, and weekly newspaper columns. In her writing, she told stories of attending a one-room school; her family’s first car (a 1917 Chevrolet touring car equipped with side curtains to keep out bad weather); helping her husband on the farm and raising their five children in “pre-Band Aid” days.
Coartney also shared what she knew about education, technology, and politics. She repeated stories passed down by family members about the pioneer days when her ancestors first came to Coles County in 1825, "sharing the land with the few Indians who hadn’t migrated further west. “The Indian artifacts found in the area are treasured reminders of those early residents.” she wrote. “We walk where so many other feet have walked before us and where others will follow. I hope we leave stories worth remembering.”
Born June 20, 1913, in rural Ashmore to Paul Wells and Mary Gertrude (Brooks) Wright, she was one of three children. She married Wayne Coartney on December 31, 1931, and the couple set up housekeeping around 5 miles south of Ashmore. As their family grew, the old home was demolished and a new took its place. Coartney still resided on “the home place” at the time of her death. The Coartneys were married for 47 years before his death.
She was a popular columnist for 10 years for the Times-Courier/Journal Gazette newspapers and was still writing columns at the time of her death on February 22, 2009, at age 95. She left four childrent (one daughter is deceased); 17 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren. A long-time member and Sunday School teacher at Enon Baptist Church near Ashmore, Coartney developed close relationships with her fellow members, neighbors, and extended family. She continued to write her monthly newsletter, “The Coartney Chronicle,” – circulation over 100 in 18 state- until her death.
An inveterate reader, Coartney liked the connections that she had with people and with history and wrote about both her trademark good humor. "My cousin told me that Grandpa said he sat on Lincoln’s lap when he was a little boy. This was a story I had never heard, "she wrote in one of her later columns. “I tell people that if they doubt some of the things that I say, there is no one left to prove that I’m wrong.”

This scholarship is to award a full-time Junior rank student majoring English, History, Journalism, or Theatre Arts.


Initially, EIU wasn’t my first choice for a college. I was torn between three other schools and was struggling to make a final decision. Then, my adviser, noticing that I hadn’t yet visited EIU despite it being in an affordable option available to me, encouraged me to come visit eastern. So, I did. As soon as I arrived on campus, I was struck by EIU’s beauty. I liked how pretty the buildings and nature was, and as I took a tour of the school and learned more about it, I became determined to go here. By the end of the tour, I knew I was choosing Eastern.
I am very proud that I was able to receive this scholarship. It serves as a reminder to me that I can succeed. In the short term, I will use it to help pay for my college tuition, but in the long term, I will remember it as being a reward that demonstrated my ability to achieve academically and write creatively .
I want to say thank you to this donor for creating this scholarship. I am happy that they want to acknowledge, and aid creative writers like me. I really appreciate the assistance this scholarship will provide me, and I’m grateful that I was chosen to receive this award. I promise not to let it go to waste. Thank you again.

Mariah Smith
English Major