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Turner papers

Identifier: MS 0776

Scope and Contents

The Abby H. Turner Papers consist of writings, correspondence, research material, a grade book, biographical information, and photographs, dating from ca.1896-1960. Writings date from 1913-1958 and include laboratory manuals for physiology and zoology courses at Mount Holyoke College, articles from academic journals, her Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Respiratory and Circulatory Test of Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Women," and "Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly" articles relating to the history of Mount Holyoke. The journal articles focus primarily on women's vital capacity and circulation. Correspondence dates from ca.1901 and 1923-1938, and includes professional correspondence with colleagues at other institutions. One letter, dated August 10, 1925, is from Francis G. Benedict, Director of the Nutrition Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington; it requests collaboration in researching women's metabolism. There is also correspondence containing personal anecdotes about Louis Agassiz. The research material dates from 1931-ca.1937 and primarily consists of "vital capacity records" that Turner kept about individual Mount Holyoke students from 1931-1935. These records have data about height, weight, athletic activities, and diseases for each student. The research material also includes a drawing of an osmometer and data tables for the colloid osmotic pressure of the sera of marine telecosts dating from ca.1937. The grade book dates from 1899-1909 and consists of individual Mount Holyoke students' grades in botany, zoology, and physiology. Biographical information dates from 1920-1960. This information consists of biographical notes, a conference program, newspaper and "Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly" articles, and obituaries. The articles are primarily about lectures that Turner gave and awards she received. Photographs date from ca.1896-ca.1945 and include both formal and informal photographs of Turner as well as negatives of the photographs.

Material from this collection is available in an online digital format.


  • Creation: ca. 1896-1960

Conditions Governing Access

Unrestricted except for "vital capacity records" filed in Series 3 and the grade book filed in Series 4. These materials may be used by researchers who sign the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Restricted Records Statistical and Quantitative Research Contract.

Biographical Note

Abby (sometimes spelled Abbie) Howe Turner was born on February 21, 1875 in Nashua, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of George Turner and Emeline Cogswell Turner. She entered Mount Holyoke Seminary and College in 1892 and received her B.A. in 1896. For many years she alternated between pursuing graduate studies and working as a laboratory assistant or teacher of zoology and physiology. Turner spent a year at the University of Pennsylvania where she studied zoology, botany, and chemistry in 1899-1900. In 1901-1902 she studied zoology, botany, and physiology at the University of Chicago. From 1909-1911 she was registered at Radcliffe College and studied at Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe in 1926. Turner spent most of her career from 1896-1940 at Mount Holyoke as a laboratory assistant or teacher. She established the Department of Physiology at Mount Holyoke and became Department Chair in 1922. In 1902-1903 she taught zoology at Wellesley College. Turner retired from Mount Holyoke College in 1940 and acted as head of the Physiology Department at Wilson College in 1943-1944. Her research often focused on colloid osmotic pressure and circulatory reactions to gravity. She also conducted extensive studies on the physiology of Mount Holyoke College students. She died on November 26, 1957 in South Hadley, Massachusetts at the age of eighty-two.


1.46 Linear Feet (3 full Hollinger and 1 half Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



Turner, Abby Howe, 1875-1957; physiologist and teacher. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1896. Mount Holyoke College faculty member, 1896-1901 and 1904-1940. Papers contain writings, correspondence, research material, a grade book, biographical information, and photographs. Documenting primarily research on the health and metabolism of young women including the physical data about each student at Mount Holyoke between 1931 and 1935.


Arranged in 6 series: Series 1. Writings. Series 2. Correspondence. Series 3. Research Material. Series 4. Grade Book. Series 5. Biographical Information. Series 6. Photographs.

Turner papers, ca. 1896-1960.
Finding Aid
Edited Full Draft
#169; 2003
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA