Women of Letters: Selections from the Papers of Women Writers at Georgetown University

Howard W. Gunlocke Rare Book and Special Collections Room


The following exhibition features the papers (correspondence and manuscripts) of women writers at the Special Collections Division of Georgetown University Library. The catalog and exhibits are arranged alphabetically by author name, with a separate display of letters by nineteenth-century women writers. It should be noted that material relating to the writers may be located in more than one collection.


Katherine Biddle

The papers of poet Katherine Garrison Chapin Biddle (1890-1977) comprise part of the Biddle Family Papers which include those of her husband Francis Biddle (a former U.S. attorney general). The collection houses manuscripts and correspondence relating to most of her published works including Outside of the World (1930), Bright Mariner (1933), Time Has No Shadow (1936), Lament for the Stolen (1938), Plain Chant for America (1942), The Other Journey (1959), as well as an unpublished play about African-American reformer Sojourner Truth (1948).

 Some of the poems were set to music by Harl Macdonald for Lament for the Stolen performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1938; and by William Grant Still for And They Lynched Him from a Tree, performed by the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in 1940, and for Plain Chant for America.

As a poet, Katherine Biddle has been noted by B.A. Robie, for her "quiet, unpretentious verse...openly concerned with universal experience and emotions, with the marvels of nature, effects of time, love, birth, and the joy of childhood..." (Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 5).

Biddle Family Papers
Gift of the Biddle Family

Items exhibited:

Katherine Biddle. Bright Mariner. New York: Duffield and Green (1933). Offprint. Illustrated with woodcuts by Wharton Esherick. The poem was dedicated to the memory of Biddle’s young son, Garrison Chapin Biddle (1923-1930).

Katherine Biddle. Lament for the Stolen. Typed manuscript.

Katherine Biddle. Lament for the Stolen. Philadelphia: The Centaur Press (1938).

Katherine Biddle. Lament for the Stolen. Music score. Autograph manuscript signed by the composer Harl MacDonald, dated July-August 1938.

Katherine Biddle. Outside of the World. New York: Duffield and Company (1931). A collection featuring the title poem. With a printed dedication, "To My Godmother Charlotte Mason these fragmentary aspects of our world." Includes autograph manuscripts for Bright Mariner and Maya Sculpture copied by Biddle onto the rear flyleaves.

Katherine Biddle. Plain Chant for America. New York: Harper and Brothers (1942). Dust jacket for the book.

Katherine Biddle. Plain Chant for America. Typed manuscript for a published collection of poetry by Biddle featuring the title poem. Includes an essay, "The Quality of Poetry."

Katherine Biddle. Plain Chant for America. New York: J. Fischer & Bro. (1941). Music score. With autograph inscription on title page by Biddle to Charlotte Mason: "For Godmother this first copy off the press with gratitude for the inspiration of her great American life -- with lasting love from Katherine. Oct. 1941."

Katherine Biddle. Sojourner Truth. Typed manuscript for a play in two acts. Dated 1944. With autograph annotations by Walter Kerr.

Anna M. Brady

Journalist Anna Brady (1901- ), was a veteran correspondent on Vatican affairs. Based in Rome for 29 years, she covered the conclaves that elected Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, as well as all sessions of Vatican II and the early subsequent synods. During her Vatican II years, she was dubbed "dean" of the Vatican Press Corps and was a welcomed member of the daily press corps briefings at each session. Brady was the only woman to accompany Pope Paul VI on his first five pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Bombay, Fatima, the United Nations in New York, and Istanbul. She was also the only woman to travel on the papal plane on the trips to New York and Turkey. In 1928, Brady entered the Catholic Church and became the first American woman to speak on Catholic doctrine as an Evidence Guild member on street corners in Baltimore and New York City.

Through Catherine De Hueck, Brady met Father Felix Morlion, O.P., a Belgian Dominican and founder of the Pro Deo Movement in Europe. Together, Fr. Morlion and Brady founded the American Center Pro Deo, which sponsored seminars and courses concerned with the clarification of spiritual and religious issues in current events. They also established the Catholic International Press (CIP), a news service that circulated the newsletter, CIP Correspondence, dedicated to these issues. Brady served as editor from 1942 through 1950.

In 1943, Brady became acting director of the International Pro Deo Movement with which all CIP Centers were affiliated. During the war the Movement was also responsible for transmission of underground news via CIP Correspondence and other news services. In 1945, Brady attended the opening of the International Institute Pro Deo in Rome, which in 1948 became the International University for Social Studies Pro Deo. From 1952 to 1956, Brady served as vice president and treasurer for the university.

From 1957 until her retirement in 1981, Brady worked as Rome correspondent for the Baltimore Sun and the Long Island Catholic.

The collection includes correspondence and manuscripts relating to Brady’s work during Vatican II and with the Catholic International Press. Eight scrapbooks feature clippings of articles she wrote for the Baltimore Sun and Long Island Catholic.

Anna M. Brady Papers
Gift of Anna M. Brady

Items Exhibited:

Anna M. Brady. Scrapbook. Clippings of articles written for the Long Island Catholic (1963-65).

Anna M. Brady. TWA in-flight menu and guest list for the Journey of Peace by Pope Paul VI from the Vatican to the United Nations, October 4, 1965.

Anna M. Brady. Photograph of Brady with Pope John Paul II

Anna M. Brady. Photograph of Brady with Pope John Paul II following Mass in his private chapel, February 3, 1988.

Sophie Burnham

Ms. Burnham is the author of several books about angels and paranormal experience, including the bestsellers, A Book of Angels (1990) and Angel Letters (1991). Her personal association with angelic phenomena occurred at the age of twenty-eight when an angel saved her life. Since then, so many inexplicable forces and coincidences have affected her life that she decided to write about them. Her research into such phenomena has gained her enormous attention from a reading public that hastens to acknowledge and share its own experience with the paranormal. This unique collection consists of correspondence received by Ms. Burnham from people from all over the United states, as well as England and South Africa, who have read her books. Almost every letter includes an account of some first-hand experience with the paranormal. The collection includes the complete manuscript, drafts, and copious research notes for A Book of Angels.

Sophy Burnham Papers
Gift of Sophy Burnham

Items Exhibited:

Sophy Burnham. A Book of Angels. Typed manuscript (c.1990).

Sophy Burnham. A Book of Angels. New York: Ballantine Books (1990). First edition. Inscribed.

Elizabeth Jennings

It was at Oxford that Jennings found her artistic niche. After her university years she settled permanently in the area for there she "found the most congenial kind of atmosphere in which a poet can write - friends who were themselves poets and who also seemed to be as interested in my work as they were in their own. I received ruthless criticism, certainly, but I always felt that the people who criticized my work really wanted me to write better, really believed in and cared about me..." (Dictionary of Literary Biography, 27). These friendships were the beginning of what J.D. Scott, in an article in The Spectator (October 1, 1954), would term "The Movement."

The "angry young men" usually referred to as comprising The Movement, were Kinglsey Amis, Robert Conquest, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, Thom Gunn, John Holloway, Philip Larkin, John Wain, and Elizabeth Jennings. Having already been published in Oxford Poetry 1948, Jennings found that her work suited the taste of the new editors for 1949, namely Amis and James Michie, who called for toughness and modernity. Blake Morrison, now the main source of information on The Movement, notes that "Jennings’ part in The Movement has sometimes been disputed..." (ibid.). However, Robert Conquest recalls that "someone once described her association with us as comparable to that of a schoolmistress in a non-corridor train with a bunch of drunk marines -- slight slander on both sides..." (ibid.)

The collection includes correspondence and manuscript notebooks of Jenning’s prolific writings dating from 1972 to 1983.

Elizabeth Jennings Papers
Acquired from Elizabeth Jennings.

Items exhibited:

Elizabeth Jennings. Autograph manuscripts. Notebook, January 1978.

[Note: The Elizabeth Jennings Papers include letters from other important women writers such as Margaret Drabble, Laurie Lee, Ruth Pitter, Anne Ridler, Enid Starkie, and historian Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgewood.]

Julie Kernan

The papers of Julie Kernan (1901-1988), contain correspondence and manuscripts relating to her work as an editor and author. She was editorial secretary for the French Book Club from 1931 to 1935, and resided in Paris for a year from 1934 to 1935. When she returned to the U.S. she took a variety of editorial and managerial positions with publishers in New York, including Longmans, Green & Company (1935-50); David McKay & Co. (1950-53); and P.J. Kenedy & Sons (1953-66).

One of Kernan’s most notable works is her reminiscence of her long friendship with Jacques and Raissa Maritain in her book, Our Friend Jacques Maritain (1975). Kernan’s papers include some 20 letters and cards written to her and her brother Thomas from Jacques and Raissa Maritain. There is also a typed manuscript of Kernan’s translation of Raissa Maritain’s work, The Divine Ways: A Little Work of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Julie and Thomas Kernan Papers
Gift of Julie Kernan

Items exhibited:

Emmet Lavery. Typed letter signed to Julie Kernan, dated April 14, 1975. Reference to Kernan’s book on Jacques Maritain.

Jacques Maritain. Autograph letter signed to Julie Kernan, dated February 10, 1945. Maritain expresses regret that he must decline an invitation to write the preface to the French edition of a book by Thomas Kernan, Now with the Morning Star, published as Etoile du Matin, translated into French by Simone Maurois (Editions de la Maison Francaise, Inc., 1945; R. Juliard, 1946).

Julie Kernan. Our Friend Jacques Maritain. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (1975). Typed manuscript.

[The Julie and Thomas Kernan Papers include letters from writers Helen Iswolsky and Marie Belloc Lowndes.]

Mary O'Hara

The papers of the beloved children’s author of My Friend Flicka, include complete manuscripts for an autobiography, Flicka’s Friend, and a musical, The Catch Colt. Mary O’Hara was a gifted pianist and composer as well as an author, and her musical was performed in 1961 at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., as well as at the Lincoln Theatre in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1963, the musical was leased out by the Dramatists Play Service of New York, and was published in 1964. Her great love for the piano inspired Mary O’Hara to compose many pieces for that instrument including, Esperan (1943), Green Grass of Wyoming (1946), May God Keep You (1946), and Wind Harp (1954).

Mary O’Hara Papers
Gift of Colonel and Mrs. Kent Kane Parrot

Items exhibited:

Mary O’Hara. Flicka’s Friend. Typed manuscript (1978). Originally entitled, "Prodigal Daughter."

Alfred Newman. My Friend Flicka. Facsimile of music score

Alfred Newman. My Friend Flicka. Facsimile of music score composed by Alfred Newman for the soundtrack to the 1942 motion picture of My Friend Flicka. Inscription from Newman’s son, Tim (on front flyleaf): "To Mary O’Hara, whose filly gave me such joy. Now I have "Flicka" and the music that Pappy wrote for Flicka and me. Tim Newman. Beverly Hills, Cal., Aug. 6, 1943."

Lisa Sergio

Lisa Sergio (1905-1989) accepted an invitation, in 1932, from Mussolini to become a news commentator for 2RO Radio in Rome. She did so at the urging of an old family friend, Count Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless, and became the first woman broadcaster in Europe. Known as the "Golden Voice of Rome," Sergio was instrumental in establishing short-wave radio programs in 21 languages. In addition to her work as translator of Mussolini’s speeches and government bulletins her programs included Italian lessons broadcast to England via the BBC.

On March 10, 1937, Mussolini signed an order for Sergio’s dismissal. In the five years of her broadcasting service she had grown increasingly critical of the government and the dispatches she was required to air. Sergio began to tamper with certain official bulletins and her anti-Fascist friendships with newsmen and intellectuals drew the attention of the authorities. With the advice and assistance of Marconi, Sergio left Italy days before a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Sergio arrived in New York on July 1937. Her English and French broadcasts and several appearances on "The Magic Key" program of WJZ radio, had made her well-known to American radio men. David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America, invited her to serve as guest commentator for NBC. She hosted the NBC programs "Let’s Talk it Over," and "Tales of Great Rivers" (1937-39); she was news commentator for WQXR radio (New York City) (1940-47), hosting a popular program, "Column of Air"; and was news commentator for ABC radio (1942-47). In the early sixties Sergio hosted "Frontiers of Faith" for NBC-TV, and "New Nations of Africa" for ABC-TV. She continued to host popular radio programs such as "Prayers through the Ages" on WMAL radio (Washington, D.C.) from 1962 until her death.

The Lisa Sergio Papers form an important holding on women in radio journalism, spanning the career of a remarkable woman (1937 to 1988), and including correspondence, manuscripts of her articles and books, lectures and radio broadcasts.

Lisa Sergio Papers
Bequest of Lisa Sergio

Items exhibited:

Edna St. Vincent Millay. Christmas card to Lisa Sergio, dated 1930. Inscribed by Millay: "Happy New Year! Edna." Includes inscription possibly by her husband Eugene Jan Boissevain: "Merry Christmas to you [signature illegible]."

Eleanor Roosevelt. 2 typed letters signed to Lisa Sergio, dated February 2, 1956 and April 20, 1960.

Lisa Sergio. "Art Talks All Languages." Typescript for address given at the Western Arts Association Convention, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 8, 1948.

Lisa Sergio. "Women -- the Power We Are Not Using." Typescript of a memoranda dated August 1961.

Lisa Sergio

Lisa Sergio. Photograph. Autograph caption in scrapbook containing the original reads: "Second broadcast from NBC, July 20, 1937, 11 p.m." (see above)

Edith Sitwell

Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), was one of the more charismatic figures in the British literary world. For almost fifty years, Sitwell and her siblings Sir Osbert and Sir Sacheverell were regarded as the first family of British literature and leaders of the avant-garde during the twenties when they were known as the "stormy petrels" of the London scene. Sitwell was a prolific poet with many published collected works. She was described in The Times (London) as a writer who: "... writes for the sake of sound, of colour, and from an awareness of God and regard for man..." (Contemporary Authors). She was outspoken and rebelled against accepted modes of behavior. Her famous work, Facade (1923), a combination of musical and poetic styles, was criticized and derided when first performed in London. Sitwell recalled hiding behind a curtain because "...an old lady was waiting to beat me with her umbrella..." (ibid.). Sitwell refused to learn the typewriter claiming that she was able to write only in bed. She maintained that, "Every woman, no matter what the circumstances, should have a day a week in bed..." (ibid.).

The Sitwell-Searle Collection consists of 30 letters (1949-61) from Sitwell to composer Humphrey Searle (1915-1982) whose works include ballets, operas, symphonies and film/television scores. He collaborated with Sitwell on several of her works, including, Gold Coast Customs (1949), The Shadow of Cain (1952), and The Canticle of the Rose (1965).

Acquired from H. Wohlmuth bookseller, London.

The Sitwell-Cohen Collection consists of 13 letters (1950-52) from Sitwell to John M. Cohen, critic and translator. The correspondence reveals Sitwell’s growing respect for Cohen’s criticism. The collection includes the manuscripts for her work, The Road to Thebes, which she must have sent for Cohen’s perusal and review.

Acquired from Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London

Items exhibited:

Edith Sitwell. Autograph letter signed from Sitwell to Humphrey Searle, dated February 24, 1949 with envelope. Reference to an upcoming performance of Searle’s composition for Gold Coast Customs, and to lunch at the Sesame Club to discuss the work.
Sitwell-Searle Collection.

Edith Sitwell. Autograph letter signed from Sitwell to John M. Cohen, dated May 26, 1950, with envelope. Sitwell expresses her pleasure in a proposed broadcast by Cohen about her poetry, and writes: "...I am indeed deeply grateful to you. It is a great moment in the life of a poet, when ones motives are understood with such completeness. This is one of those very rare occasions, and I thank you..." She goes on to propose lunch: "I have long wanted to meet you - ever since reading what you had to say about Arthur Waley’s "Chinese Poems" - it gave me as much pleasure as it gave him, and that is saying a very great deal. There are only a small handful of people, now, who understand poetry. But you go to the very roots and springs from which poetry begins...It would be a great pleasure to me if you could come and lunch with me..."
Sitwell-Cohen Collection.

Edith Sitwell. Autograph manuscript signed. "The Road to Thebes." Sitwell-Cohen Collection.

Barbara Ward (Baroness Jackson)

Barbara Ward (1914-81) was a leading economist and dedicated humanitarian whose tireless efforts to foster a system of international cooperation for solving worldwide economic and environmental problems were aided by her powerful and persuasive books. She was an editor, later becoming foreign editor, for The Economist (1938-50). In 1950 she married Sir Robert Gillman Jackson, an Australian working for the United Nations, and moved with him to the Gold Coast (Ghana). Ward was appointed president of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in 1973, a position that afforded her an active role in almost every UN conference on global issues in the 1970s.

Ward was presented the title of Dame Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire (D.B.E.) in 1974, and was named a Life Peer, receiving the title Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth, in 1976. The latter entitled Ward to a seat in the House of Lords, thus expanding her impressive political influence as an informal advisor to eminent world figures including Willy Brandt, Indira Gandhi, and Pierre Trudeau, as well as U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.

The collection consists of correspondence and manuscripts for principal works by Ward, including, Only One Earth (1972), The Home of Man (1976), and Progress for a Small Planet (1979).

Barbara Ward Papers

Gift of Hon. Robert Jackson

Indira Gandhi. Typed letter signed to Barbara Ward, dated March 20, 1975. Reference to Ward’s proposal to nominate Mother Teresa for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Barbara Ward. The Home of Man (1976). Autograph and typed manuscripts.


Nineteenth-Century Letters

Catharine and Sarah Cram

Some 56 autograph letters dating between 1851 and 1856 were written by two sisters, Catharine and Sarah Cram, to their childhood friend and distant relative Franklin B. Sanborn (1831-1917), journalist, and social reformer, best known for his association with the prominent literary inhabitants of his hometown of Concord, New Hampshire, including William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. The letters provide fascinating insight into the intellectual life of these young, educated nineteenth-century New England women.

Catharine Cram ran a school with her husband about which she reports frequently in her correspondence. Both sisters enthusiastically describe their attendance at lectures by George William Curtis, Emerson, and Theodore Parker. They mention reading works by such contemporary authors as Dickens, Emerson, Longfellow, Tennyson, and Thackeray. In addition they write about membership in literary societies and sewing circles, along with social news of family, friends, and local events. Reference is made to issues of the day including abolition and the free states, both of which were of passionate concern to Sanborn who narrowly escaped arrest for his participation in the Harper’s Ferry conspiracy (1859) with John Brown. The letters are also testimony to the often precarious health of the women who suffered various debilitating illnesses from minor eye strain to the terminal illnesses of both Ariana ("Anna") Walker, Sanborn’s young wife, and Sarah Cram. The progress of the latter is charted almost letter by letter from 1855 to 1856 by her sister. Much of the correspondence refers to the death of Ariana Walker, who was a close friend of the sisters’ and who had been introduced by them to Sanborn.

Franklin B. Sanborn Papers
Acquired from David Holmes Autographs

Catharine Cram. Autograph letter signed to Franklin B. Sanborn, dated January 16, 1853, with envelope. On the subject of the paranormal, a popular interest of the times, Catharine Cram reports on local efforts to contact the spirit world, and that she had borrowed a pamphlet from her uncle on "Spiritual Manifestations," commenting that, "...I think I could sit one more evening trying to have the table tip..."

Catharine Cram. Autograph letter signed to Franklin B. Sanborn, dated October 7, 1855, with envelope. Reports on the condition of her sister Sarah: "...She cannot leave home this autumn and our only aim now is to make her as comfortable as we can here. The Doctor has told us that the inflammation has extended from the stomach to the lower part of the right lung and it is that irritation which occasions her cough which is rapidly wasting her strength. When I think how she was a fortnight ago yesterday when Susie was here - or even a week or less than that how her face has changed since then, how thin she grows every day - it seems Frank as if I cannot bear it. To whom could I say this who would understand the sinking of heart..better than you. I told her this morn what the Dr. thought - she was surprised for we have been thinking the difficulty lay near the throat. She occupies the parlor now - the couch which Anna did so long...She coughs...a good deal and suffers much..."

Sarah Cram. Autograph letter signed to Franklin B. Sanborn, dated February 28, 1855, with envelope. Describes her thoughts on visiting the grave of Ariana Walker: "...that place so sacred and hallowed to me...sometimes it seems strange that this should be so - merely the resting place of the body - but as the least thing connected with Anna is dear to us so must the form which her spirit animated be especially so..." and her belief in life after death, "...the departed having a form similar to that they had with us - not earthly but spiritual..."

Sarah Cram. Autograph letter signed to Franklin B. Sanborn, dated April 3, 1856, with envelope, expressing her views on the marriage of a young acquaintance: "...I think she is very unwise to be married so young - she is a pleasing young lady with a pretty face and considerable intelligence - but she needs to have a few more years of maidenhood before assuming the responsibilities of a wife..."

Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

Mrs. Dahlgren was born Sarah Madeleine Vinton in Gallipolis, Ohio, on July 13, 1825. Her father was Samuel Finley Vinton (1792-1862), a congressman and leading figure in the national Whig party. In 1846, she married Daniel Convers Goddard, a lawyer from Zanesville, Ohio. He died only five years later leaving his wife, son, and daughter. In 1865, she married Admiral John Adolph Dahlgren (1809-1870), the famous naval officer and inventor of the Dahlgren gun.

Always interested in writing, Mrs. Dahlgren took to authorship as a means of livelihood after her first husband’s death. She contributed many poems and short stories to the New York Tablet and other newspapers. A collection of her writings was eventually published under the pseudonym, "Corinne," entitled, Idealities (Lippincott, 1859). Well versed in modern languages, Mrs. Dahlgren was also an adept translator. Many of her works testify to her authority on social etiquette. Mrs. Dahlgren was often cited in newspapers as "social queen," and frequently published on matters concerning marriage.

She was also an adamant anti-suffragist. In January 1878, she and Ellen Ewing Sherman (wife of William T. Sherman) among others, went before the U.S. Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections to lead an argument against a delegation proposing a sixteenth amendment to the constitution that would allow women to vote. Many articles preserved in the scrapbooks comprising this collection publish the heated correspondence between Mrs. Dahlgren and the notable advocates of women’s suffrage of the time, including Isabella Beecher Hooker and Virginia Louisa Minor.

Mrs. Dahlgren was a prolific novelist. Reviews and announcements of many of her books are included in her scrapbooks. A complete listing of her published works can be found in the National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints. In 1873, Mrs. Dahlgren founded the Washington Literary Society, for which she acted as vice-president. She died in 1889 and is buried on South Mountain in Maryland.

Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren Papers
Gift of the Dahlgren Family
Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren.
Scrapbooks (circa.1877-88).
Includes tipped-in autograph manuscripts of verse by Mrs. Dahlgren.

Lydia Maria Child

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), abolitionist and author. Autograph note signed to George Kimball (circa February 1836), with reference to a prospective expedition to Tamaulipas, Mexico, with her husband David Lee Child to settle a colony. In a preceding autograph letter signed (on the same sheet), dated February 29, 1836, the latter also refers to plans for sugar growing in the new colony and invites Kimball to join the enterprise.

Notable works by Lydia Maria Child include: An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans (1833), which made her many enemies and cost her book sales as well as her magazine, Juvenile Miscellany; and a pamphlet, Correspondence Between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. Wise and Mrs. Mason of Virginia (1860), arising from her appeal for permission to nurse John Brown after his wounding at Harper’s Ferry and which sold 300,000 copies. Child was also editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard (1841-49).

Louise Imogen Guiney autograph letter

Louise Imogen Guiney

Louise Imogen Guiney (1861-1920), American poet and essayist. Autograph letter signed to Rev. Henry Shandelle, S.J., dated September 24, 1906. Judging from the letter, she writes with reference to an invitation from Shandelle to co-author an encyclopedia, possibly on Catholic history: "...If ever there was a non-encyclopaedic mind, it would appear to be mine. I would not trust it around the corner, although it has a strong turn for accuracy, because it is so perversely opinionated!...You want me to be ‘practical,’...but is it practical to mistake one’s own fixed, narrow capacities, and accept a task which could never be done as the cause deserves it should be done? I cannot truly think of a single subject on which I could write in brief, but from a fairly full mind, unless it were, perhaps, the Oxford Movement: I look upon that, root and branch, as a Catholic affair, an extraneous grace of the Holy Spirit making for the re-establishment of the faith in the English and Anglicizing world. (Lo! I have but just confessed that I was too opinionated for an encyclopaedia: there’s an instance of it, caught red-handed!)..."

Henry Shandelle, S.J., Papers

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop (1851-1926), philanthropist, writer. "Of My Life." Autograph manuscript, undated. She was the youngest daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1894, she co-authored, with her husband George Parsons Lathrop, a history of the Georgetown Visitation Convent, entitled, A Story of Courage. She was also author of a small volume of poetry, Along the Shore (1888), and a series of reminiscences of her father, Memories of Hawthorne, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and was later published as a volume in 1897.

Lathrop founded a home for victims of incurable cancer in 1896, and formed a religious sisterhood known as the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, taking the name of Sister Alphonsa. Her work was initially established at the Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York, in 1901, expanding to a second location at St. Rose’s in New York City in 1912.

Theodore Maynard Papers

E.D.E.N. Southworth

E.D.E.N. Southworth (1819-1899). Born Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth. American author of an enormous number of popular domestic and sentimental romances.

Autograph letter signed, dated October 1, 1888. Addressed "To His Honor the Mayor of Georgetown," regarding the destructive effects on her house from grading work on Prospect Street. Crawford Family Papers.


Other Collections

From the Biddle Family Papers

Gift of the Biddle Family

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79), poet. Typed letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated January 13, 1950. Bishop is writing as Chair of Poetry concerning activities of the Fellows of the Library of Congress in American Letters. Mentions a reading by Robert Penn Warren at the Institute of Contemporary Arts to which all Fellows are invited.

Kay Boyle (1902-92), poet, writer. Autograph letter signed to Francis Biddle, dated December 25, 1953, complimenting the latter for a recent article/review in the New Republic.

Marguerite Caetani (1880-1963), patron of the arts and well-known in the literary world as editor of Botteghe Oscure, a biannual review publishing original poetry and fiction from England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the U.S. in the original language. Andre Malraux, Albert Camus, Paul Valery, Ignazio Silone, Robert Graves, Archibald MacLeish, E.E. Cummings and Marianne Moore are a few of the many writers whose works appeared in the journal. Born Marguerite Van Auken, she was half-sister to Katherine Biddle, marrying Roffredo Caetani, 17th Duke of Sermoneta and Prince di Bassiano in 1911.

Marguerite Caetani. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated March 24 [1947], with reference to "Iris" [Origo], and to the beauty of the season at Ninfa, a ruined medieval town, abandoned centuries ago, which Princess Caetani transformed into a garden of roses and rare flowers.

Marguerite Caetani. Botteghe Oscure. Publication notice for the second volume (1948).

Agnes de Mille (1905-93), American dancer, choreographer, and author of articles and books about dance. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, with envelope postmarked February 8, 1961. Thanking the latter for an enjoyable visit.

Babette Deutsch (1895-1982), poet. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated January 6, 1957. With reference to the latter’s review of Exil by St. John Perse (Alexis Leger) which Deutsch feels is "one of the most illuminating..."

Isabella Gardner (1915-81), poet. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated April 1, 1960, with thanks for an enjoyable dinner party and mention of meeting Gardner’s husband Allen Tate and poet Robert Lowell for a stroll around Dumbarton Oaks. Refers also to a visit to "Katherine Anne [Porter]...[who] was effulgent and indulgent and disarming in all her pinkness! Long pink skirt, pink sash, pink blouse, pink ears, pink house..."

Clare Boothe Luce (1903-87), editor, writer, U.S. ambassador. Autograph letter signed to Francis Biddle, dated February 6, 1944, regarding the death of her daughter, Ann Clare Brokaw.

Marion Merrell (pseud. "Clinch Calkins")(1895-1968), poet. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated December 5, 1931. With reference to her own work and to reading two of the latter’s poems, "The Honeymooners," and "To a Little Boy at Dancing Class," about which she comments: "...I don’t remember where I saw them but they made a deep impression on me when I did see then, and I used to watch for your name..."

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), Chilean poet and winner of the 1945 Nobel Poetry Award. Autograph letter signed, undated (in Spanish).

Nancy Mitford (1904-73), writer. Autograph letter signed to Francis Biddle, dated November 27, 1954.

Kathleen Raine (1908- ), poet. Autograph letter signed to Katherine Biddle, dated January 20, [1967]. With reference to introducing a friend and poet Peter Russell, also personally acquainted with Ezra Pound "...who has been a friend...for years and years." The letter also mentions plans by the literary journal Adam to publish a number on Marguerite Caetani, editor of the Italian literary review Botteghe Oscure.

[Other notable women writers included in the Biddle Family Papers: Rachel Crothers, Angna Enters, Katherine Anne Porter, Louise Bogan, Catherine Drinker Bowen, Anna Hempstead Branch, Dorothy Leger, Kathleen Louchheim, Mary Owings Miller, Louise Townsend Nicholl, Dorothy Norman, Iris Origo, Vittoria Ocampo, May Swenson, and Louise Varese.]

From the John L. Brown Papers

Gift of John L. Brown.

Sylvia Beach (1887-1962), writer, editor. Typed letter signed to John Brown, dated January 20, 1958. With reference to preparing a talk on the publication by Shakespeare and Company of James Joyce’s Ulysses and writing about Joyce in her memoirs.

Angna Enters (1907-89), writer, artist, mime-dancer. Typed letter signed to John Brown, dated November 2, 1963, with reference to Kay Boyle, Lewis Mumford and Katherine Anne Porter.

Angna Enters. Self-portrait

Angna Enters. Self-portrait. Ink and water-color drawing, signed, dated 1963.

Carson McCullers (1917-67), novelist, playwright. Autograph letter signed to John and Simone Brown [circa November 1949]. With reference to her new play, The Member of the Wedding and plans for a forthcoming production.

Marianne Moore (1887-1972), poet. Autograph letter signed to Simone Brown, dated August 25, 1962, concerning her visit to Rome.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980), writer. Autograph letter signed to John Brown, dated May 4, 1964, with envelope, concerning her plans to visit Mexico and remarking that "...Meantime I am looking for a house, or flat, trying to work and missing deadlines and today is not only the first sunny day practically since I saw you, but Hot as mole sauce..."

Katherine Anne Porter. Photograph, inscribed: "Easter in Rome 1963. K.A.P."

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), writer and friend of Gertrude Stein. Autograph letter signed to John Brown

Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967), writer and friend of Gertrude Stein. Autograph letter signed to John Brown, dated February 19, 1956. With reference to The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (1954) and to her work in progress on Memories of the Rue de Fleurus (later entitled, What is Remembered, c.1963).

Alice B. Toklas. Autograph letter signed to John Brown, dated April 3, 1956. With reference to Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gertrude Stein and the latter’s opinion of Louis Bromfield’s work.

[The John L. Brown Papers include letters from other notable women writers and artists: Josephine Baker, singer; Kay Boyle; Gilberte Brassai, artist and wife of the famous photographer Gyula Halasz Brassai; Marguerite Caetani; Julia Child, culinary author; Mina Curtiss; Anne Fremantle; Clare Goll; Elsa Gress; Dorothy Norman; and Irene Rice Pereira, artist.]

From the Michael Richey Papers

Gift of Michael Richey.

Shirley Hazzard (1931- ), writer. Typed letter signed to Michael Richey, dated November 16, 1992. Hazzard reminisces about her time in Capri and impressions of Graham Greene whom she first saw there talking to Richey about Catherine Walston in a cafe where Hazzard habitually sat "doing the crossword in The Times."

From the Ward-McNeer Papers

Gift of May McNeer and Lynd Ward.

May McNeer, noted children’s author and wife of artist Lynd Ward (1905-85). Autograph letter signed to Lynd Ward, undated, describing a visit to Sandersville, Georgia, presumably to research her family genealogy.

Gallery of Living Catholic Authors

Gift of Webster College.

The collection includes many Catholic women writers (with some exhibited here): Dorothy Day, Anne Fremantle, Helen Iswolsky, Elizabeth Jordan, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Clare Boothe Luce, Raissa Maritain, Sister Miriam Gallagher, Kathleen Norris, Mary O’Hara, Julie Kernan, Barbara Ward, Alma Savage, Nicolete M. Stack, Anne Tansey, and Maria Augusta Von Trapp. For a complete listing, refer to the index to the collection.

The Gallery of Living Catholic Authors was founded by Sister Mary Joseph [Scherer], S.L., professor of English (from 1921), and librarian (1929-37) at Webster College in Webster Groves, Missouri. Her aim was to create a literary hall of fame for contemporary Catholic authors, and to foster an appreciation of Catholic letters by building a Catholic reading public. In May 1932, Sr. Mary Joseph invited 100 carefully selected Catholic writers to become members of the gallery. In 1954, membership numbered 775. By this time, the board of governors had created an academy of the gallery’s greatest authors, in the same tradition as the French Academy. Election to the academy was by a combined electoral and popular vote with vacancies decided by the board. Rev. Francis X. Talbot, S.J., chairman of the board and editor of America magazine, headed a national plebiscite in 1936. Ultimately, 31 places were filled: 11 American authors and 20 non-American. G.K. Chesterton was elected to the academy but died before the formal opening. Realization of a building went so far as a commission for designs from the great architect Ralph Adams Cram. Unfortunately, construction of the building never took place due to a lack of funding. (The collection includes a set of original blueprints by Cram.)

[Note: All exhibits immediately following are from the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors unless otherwise indicated.]

Dorothy Day (1897-80), writer and founding editor of The Catholic Worker. Typed letter signed to Sister Mary Joseph, dated July 24, 1935, with reference to her recent election to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors: "...Much as I am complimented and overwhelmed by your invitation to join...I do really feel that I have no place there...I am a journalist and would prefer not to have people think of me as an author..."

Sister Miriam Gallagher, R.S.M. (1886- ?). "Until the Tardy Dawn..."/"Where Love is Fed." Autograph and typed manuscript signed. Dated November 19, 1833, with autograph note: "..A first draft, 8:30 a.m. This was not even thought of before 6:30 a.m. and was finished as above at 7:30 a.m. before putting pen to paper..." ...Her contributions to magazines both in prose and verse, have been many, and she has edited two volumes of analecta from the writings of Canon Sheehan. Perhaps the most ambitious and valuable of her prose papers are the uncritical essay on "Richard Le Gallienne: Painter of Shadows," and the biographical and bibliographical article, ‘Theodore Maynard, Divine Adventurer," contributed to the Catholic Literary World, February 1941, and later reissued in pamphlet form. Her verse was published in a volume entitled, Woven of the Sky, with a preface by Odell Shepard. It is full of delicately felt emotions all expressed with great simplicity and economy. It attracted the attention of many non-Catholic readers... [including]...John Hall Wheelock...[who]...called it "beautiful poetry from the heart of a true poet..." (Catholic Authors, Contemporary Biographical Sketches 1930-47, 1957). Sister Miriam numbered among her friends H.L. Mencken, Odell Shepard, Robert P. Tristram Coffin, and Sir Granville Bantock who set five of her poems to music. She was elected to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors in 1932.

Helen Iswolsky (1896-1975), writer, journalist, translator. Autograph signed letter to Sister Mary Joseph, dated December 15, [1942?], accepting her election to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors.

Helen Iswolsky. "The House in Meudon." Typescript of a chapter from her book, Light Before Dusk, a Russian Catholic in France, 1923-1941 (New York & Toronto: Longmans, Green & Co., 1942).

Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868-1947), novelist and playwright. Elected to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors in 1934. "...Mrs. Belloc Lowndes was proud of the fact that she and her brother, Hilaire Belloc, were the only descendants in Europe of Joseph Priestley, famous English chemist of the eighteenth century, who settled in Northumberland, Pa. Although Mrs. Belloc Lowndes' first book was published after the death of Queen Victoria, there was much in her style and general background that savored of the Victorian era. She wrote with a quill pen, and it was sometimes said that she looked like Queen Victoria." (New York Times, November 15, 1947).

Marie Belloc Lowndes. Typed letter signed to Sister Mary Joseph, dated May 7, 1935 with reference to sending material to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors.

Marie Belloc Lowndes. Typescript for "Reward Against the Innocent"/ "And Call It Accident."

Marie Belloc Lowndes. Photograph, signed, undated.

Julie and Thomas Kernan Papers

Clare Boothe Luce (1903-87), a highly successful playwright and editor of Vanity Fair in the early 1930s. She served two terms in Congress as a representative from Connecticut (1942-46), and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Italy in 1953. Elected to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors in 1957.

Autograph letter signed to Sister Mary Joseph, dated March 18, 1947, declining an invitation to speak because of travel plans and pressure to finish a book.

Clare Boothe Luce. Autograph manuscript fragment of regarding an address about the U.S. Foreign Service. Undated.

Clare Boothe Luce. "Life, Liberty, Happiness - and Money." Typed manuscript signed, undated.

Fulton Oursler, Jr., Papers

Clare Boothe Luce. Address at Founder’s Day Convocation, Georgetown University

Clare Boothe Luce. Address at Founder’s Day Convocation, Georgetown University, March 25, 1955. Transcript. Georgetown University Archives

Raissa Maritain (1883-1960), poet and writer, wife of Jacques Maritain, philosopher and French ambassador to the Vatican (1945). Elected to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors in 1935.

Raissa Maritain. Autograph letter signed to Sister Mary Joseph, dated December 16, 1940 (in French), accepting the invitation to join the Gallery.

Raissa Maritain. "Pieta." Autograph manuscript signed, undated.

Maria Augusta Von Trapp (1905-87). Typed letter signed to Sister Mary Joseph, dated August 1, 1957, accepting her election to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors. Maria Von Trapp. Typed manuscript fragment from "Around the World with the Trapp Family," undated.

Other literary women’s collections of interest

These are not represented in the exhibition, however further information is available at our website.

- Theodore Maynard Papers, which include letters from his wife, writer Sarah Casey Maynard.

- Frederick and Maria Shrady Papers, which include letters by Anne Fremantle and Clare Boothe Luce.

- Christopher Sykes Papers, which include letters from his sister Angela, Countess of Antrim; and from Nancy Mitford.

- Teilhard de Chardin collections. Collections pertaining to women who were close friends of and authors of books about the great philosopher/theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, include those of Marie-Therese Cosme, Mme. R.J. Houdin, Mary and Ellen Lukas, Francoise Raphael, and Lucile Swan. These collections consist of years of correspondence from Teilhard de Chardin writing about his work, travels, thoughts, and offering practical and spiritual advice. The Lukas collection includes research material for the book by Mary and Ellen Lukas, Teilhard, a Biography (1977). The Lucile Swan Papers consist of 23 years of the original correspondence from Teilhard de Chardin to Swan, now published in The Letters of Teilhard de Chardin to Lucile Swan, edited by Thomas King, S.J., and Mary Wood Gilbert (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1993).

- Bernard and Barbara Wall Papers, which include letters by Kathleen Raine.

- Catherine Walston Papers, most notable for the three decades worth of love letters from famous British author Graham Greene.


Exhibition curated by Lisette Matano.
Georgetown University Library, Spring, 1998.