Skip to main content

Barbara Gilson papers

Identifier: MS 0805

Scope and Contents

The Barbara Gilson Papers consist of course records, correspondence, an account book, a diary, calendars, hazing material, memorabilia, biographical information and photographs. Most of this material relates to her academic and social activities as a student at Mount Holyoke College, 1942-1945. Course records consists of notes, examinations, papers, projects, and other documents for classes in art, chemistry, economics, English, French, geography, history, music, political science, religion and Spanish. Many of her examinations and papers include comments by Norma Adams, Viola Florence Barnes, Frederick H. Cramer, Constance Meadnis Saintonge, Nellie E. Sanchez Arce, Judith B. Welles and other professors. Her letters, chiefly addressed to her parents, discuss clothes, motion pictures, dating, food, course work, her daily schedule, visiting preachers in chapel, sports, and traditions such as hazing, Mountain Day, Faculty Show and Junior Show. She often refers to College President Roswell Gray Ham and to her professors, including Alzada Comstock and Henry Rox. Her letters also describe farm work at Mount Holyoke, members of the Women's Naval Reserve (WAVES) training on campus, restrictions on food and train travel, and other aspects of life during World War II. Her letters frequently mention her friends Lora Spaulding, Class of 1946, and Mary Ellen Padin, Class of 1947, and the collection includes a postcard from Padin, circa 1946, as well as two letters from another friend, Jean Bond (February 7 and March 17, 1945) which describe her life in London during World War II. Gilson's account book for 1942-1946 provides a detailed record of her income and expenses and includes titles of motion pictures that she saw and accounts for her purchase of cosmetics. The diary for September-October 1942 and calendars for 1943 and 1944 mention her daily activities and contain references to motion pictures, appointments, and food. Freshman hazing material includes a list of activities, the sign and three cornered hat Gilson wore, and her notes on the essays, poems and drawings she presented to the seniors. Other material in these papers consists of memorabilia such as a copy of the Porter Hall song from 1942, theatre programs from her trip to New York City with Lora Spaulding in October 1944, and newspapers from 1942-1947 which mention the 150th birthday of Mary Lyon and the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Also included in the memorabilia is a newspaper photograph of Gilson doing farm work at Mount Holyoke and two postcards written to her mother Ruth Caddell Gilson in 1912 from Edith W. Mank, Mount Holyoke Class of 1913. Rounding out the collection is a newspaper article from 1945 mentioning Gilson's graduation from Mount Holyoke and a photograph of her taken during her senior year.


  • Creation: 1912 - 1947
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1942 - 1945

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Barbara Gilson was born in Lexington, Massachusetts on February 8, 1925 to Royal Gilson, a bank examiner, and Ruth Caddell Gilson. She attended Lexington High School and entered Mount Holyoke College in 1942. She received her B.A. in 1945 with a major in history. She was one of the members of the Class of 1946 who accelerated her course of study to graduate a year early. She attended Radcliffe Secretarial School in 1953. She worked for the Boston Public Library from 1942-1953, as a secretary at Standish, Ayer & Myer, Inc. in Boston from 1953-1954 and at Vectron, Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts from 1954-1955, and as an administrative assistant for The Terrell Corporation in Wilmington, Massachusetts from 1955-1965. She then worked as administrative secretary for Symmes Hospital in Arlington, Massachusetts. In 1969 she was working as executive secretary at Waltham Hospital (Waltham, Massachusetts).


5 boxes (Class of 1945 or 1946)

Language of Materials



Gilson, Barbara, b. 1925; student. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1945. Papers consist of course records, correspondence, an account book, a brief diary, calendars, freshman hazing material, memorabilia, biographical information and a photograph; pertaining principally to her daily activities and academic studies at Mount Holyoke. Also included are documents describing conditions in Massachusetts and London, England during World War II.


Arranged in 9 series. Series 1. Course Records. Series 2. Correspondence. Series 3. Account Book. Series 4. Diary. Series 5. Calendars. Series 6. Hazing Material. Series 7. Memorabilia. Series 8. Biographical Information. Series 9. Photograph.

Genre / Form


Gilson papers, 1912, 1942-1947 (bulk 1942-1945)
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