An obituary in Wednesday's editions of The Washington Post about Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer, 80, who died Dec. 12, gave an incorrect name for a former U.S. ambasssador to Saudi Arabia who helped introduce her to the Middle East. The correct name is George Wadsworth.
Mary Van Rensselaer (Molly) Thayer, 80, the author of two books on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a free-lance writer, a society columnist for The Washington Post, and a world traveler who at various times cut a figure from the Boston-New York-Washington axis to the Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia and India, died of pneumonia Dec. 12 at her home in Washington.
In a review in The Post of "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years," which appeared in 1971, Anne Chamberlain observed that Mrs. Thayer had "known Jacqueline Kennedy for years, and has probably walked on as many Aubusson rugs."
She added that Mrs. Thayer "is an intrepid and indomitable woman in her own right. She hobnobs with Middle Eastern potentates, and if she bumps her head it's not from forgetting to duck on the way down cellar, but from falling off a camel saddle at the Moroccan Embassy."
Mrs. Thayer was known as "Molly" to her friends in Washington and as "Miss Molly" to her admirers in the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere. In the 1930s, she was a society columnist for the Hearst newspapers in New York and there she was known as "Madame Flutterby." She also was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves, the first woman to ride in an Air Force jet trainer, and one of the few western correspondents reporting from Eastern Europe immediately after World War II.
Mrs. Thayer was born in New York City and graduated from Barnard College. She got her start in journalism as a result of trips to the Soviet Union in 1929 and 1930 and the articles she wrote about them. Hearst hired her as a columnist.
She moved to Washington during World War II and worked for Nelson Rockefeller, then the coordinator for Inter-American Affairs at the State Department. In 1945, she was accredited to the Potsdam conference and remained in Eastern Europe after the war.
She joined The Post in 1948 and was a regular member of the staff until 1950. She was the Washington representative of the Magnum picture agency until she retired in the early 1970s. Through these years she continued to write.
She covered Jacqueline Kennedy's visit to India and Pakistan in 1962 and the marriage of the former Hope Cooke of New York to the ruler of Sikkim. In 1962, she wrote a series of articles that appeared in The Post about striptease entertainers in Washington. Magazines to which she contributed included The Reader's Digest, Holiday and This Week.
Her first book on Jacqueline Kennedy was an account of her life before becoming the First Lady. For the second book, Mrs. Onassis made available her private memos and other documents.
Mrs. Thayer gained a wide acquaintance in the Middle East through her friendship with James Wadsworth, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia. She received a gift of pearls from the late King Ibn-Saud and a gift of land from a former ruler of Abu Dhabi. Other journeys took her to Afghanistan, Iraq and Lapland.
For all the evident glitter of her life, Mrs. Thayer was known as a hard worker. "After all," she said in an interview in 1956, "I'm a widow and I have a daughter and three mortgages."
Her husband, Sigourney Thayer, died in 1944.
Survivors include her daughter, Eugenie Rahim of Vienna, Austria, and three grandchildren.