Women’s History Month Features: Margaret Hamilton

Hayden Cobbs, Staff Writer

Margret Hamilton was an American actress and educator best known for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.  

Hamilton was born on December 9th, 1902 in Cleveland Ohio to Walter and Jennie Hamilton. Her first debut was in a program of ‘heart rending songs’ in the Cleveland Play House and she fell in love with acting. Her parents however insisted that she attend college before pursuing an acting career, so she attended Wheelock College in Boston and graduated with a teaching degree. 

Margret made her first major debut in the MGM film Another Language (1933) and then went on to appear in These Three (1936), Saratoga, You Only Live Once, When’s Your Birthday?, Nothing Sacred (all 1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) and many, many more. 

Then in 1939, Hamilton was cast as The Wicked Witch of the West creating her most memorable role. Hamilton took the job after it was rejected by Gale Songaard, who, after hearing the witch would be unattractive, rejected the offer. Margret, however, had no issue with this and gladly accepted the role. 

On December 23, 1938, Hamilton suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns when a trap door malfunctioned during her escape from Munchkinland. She spent 6 weeks recovering in the hospital and at home but returned to set once fully healed, her only demand being no more pyrotechnics. She also requested some of the scarier scenes pertaining to the witch be cut as she was worried it would scare younger children, such as her son, and warp their perception of the actress herself. 


It’s not subtle or restrained. It’s not any of the things you like to think apply to your acting.

— Margaret Hamilton

Margret married Paul Merserve on June 13, 1931, and a year later made her debut on the New York City stage. Sadly as her career grew, her marriage began to fail and the couple divorced in 1938, leaving Margaret to raise her son, Hamilton Meserve, by herself. Hamilton never remarried or had more children. 

Towards the end of her acting career, Margaret got more involved with the educational side of her expertise. She served on the Beverly Hills Board of Education from 1948-1951, a Sunday school teacher in the 1950s, and in 1979 she was a guest speaker at the University of Connecticut children’s literature class. She lived in Manhattan for most of her adult life before moving down to Millbrook, New York. She developed Alzheimers and died of a heart attack in her sleep on May 16, 1985 at age 82 in Salisbury, Connecticut.