Born in Chicago, Illinois into a WASP family of considerable wealth, Mary Jayne Gold was educated at the Master's School at Dobbs Ferry, New York and a finishing school in Italy. In the 1930s, her money allowed her to enjoy the vibrant social scene in London and Paris, France. Piloting her own airplane, she travelled around Europe, spending her time at luxury hotels, skiing at the best resorts in the Alps, and socializing with the elite of the day.
The beautiful young lady was living in her chic Paris apartment and enjoying the nightlife with an endless supply of handsome suitors when France fell to the onslaught of the German army in 1940. Gold fled to the Mediterranean seaport of Marseille in southern France which, although not Nazi occupied, was under the control of the collaborationist Vichy regime. In Marseille she met Miriam Davenport, an American art student, and Varian Fry, an American journalist and intellect. Fry had come to France on a personal mission to help members of Europe’s intellectual and artistic community escape the Nazi threat. In the armistice agreement between Germany and defeated France, France had agreed to "surrender on demand" refugees to the Nazis.
Instead of returning to the safety of the United States, Mary Jayne Gold chose to remain and joined Davenport and Fry along with other volunteers in sheltering refugees and organizing their escape through the mountains to Spain or by smuggling them aboard freighters sailing to either North Africa or ports in North or South America.
Mary Jayne Gold helped subsidize the operation which is credited with participating in the rescue of some 2,000 refugees, Among the escapees were notables such as the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, artist Marc Chagall, writer Hannah Arendt and Nobel Prize winner, Otto Meyerhof.
In fall 1941, Mary Jayne Gold returned to the U.S. After the war, she divided her time between her apartment in New York City and a house she had built in the village of Gassin, Var, not far from St. Tropez, on the French Riviera. In 1980, she wrote about her wartime experiences in the memoir "Crossroads Marseilles 1940," published by Doubleday in 1980, and republished in France in 2001 by Mary Jayne Gold's literary heir Pierre Sauvage.
Mary Jayne Gold never married and had no children. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1997 at her villa in Gassin.