Skip to main content

Thomas correspondence

Identifier: MS 0594

Scope and Contents

The Belle Thomas Correspondence consist of letters that she wrote to her husband, Walter S. Thomas while he was serving in the United States Navy on the Mississippi River during the United States Civil War. The letters date from July 1864-January 1865 and they reflect the perceptions and experiences of one of the few married women to attend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary during the nineteenth century. In sixteen letters written from her home in Fairport, New York she discusses her activities, particularly her preparations to attend Mount Holyoke, and her anxiety about passing entrance and placement examinations. The remaining twenty-nine letters in the collection describe aspects of her life at Mount Holyoke. She often remarks on her dislike of the school's many regulations, telling her husband that they were "harder for me than for a 16-year old" (Thomas, at twenty-five years of age, was older that most of her classmates). She also mentions her studies and health, illness among students, her teachers, activities during a school vacation, and an expedition to Springfield and Chicopee, Massachusetts. Letters from November 1864 contain several references to Abraham Lincoln's re-election as U.S. President and to the political interests of students. Most of her letters also include frequent expressions of affection and concern for her husband and her hopes for their future. Typed transcripts of most of these letters are included in this collection.


  • Creation: 1864-1865

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Belle (Isabella) Collins was born on December 20, 1838, in Fairport, New York. She worked as a teacher before marrying Walter S. Thomas, a lawyer, in 1863. In 1864-1865 she was a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She had four children. She died on August 13, 1920 in Troy, Ohio at the age of eighty-one.


1 boxes (x1868)

Language of Materials



Thomas, Belle (Isabella) Collins, 1838-1918; student and housewife. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary student, 1864-1865. Papers consist of letters to her husband, Walter S. Thomas, a soldier in the United States Civil War. Primarily describing her preparations to attend Mount Holyoke and her experience as a student.



Thomas correspondence, 1864-1865.
Finding Aid
Edited Full Draft
© 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