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Rosamund Purdy Bell papers

Identifier: MS 0830

Scope and Contents

The Rosamund Purdy Bell Papers span the years 1940-1950, with the bulk dating from 1940-1942 and include correspondence, newspaper articles, a marriage announcement, a film, and photographs. Most of the material in the collection consists of correspondence and newspaper clippings concerning a comment she made about students dating soldiers that was misquoted in newspaper articles, generating a controversy. At a Wellesley College conference on November 11, 1941 focusing on ways that students at women's colleges could best help the national defense effort, she suggested bringing groups of soldiers to the colleges for dances. She was misquoted in many United States newspapers as having said, "We see no reason why girls at Mount Holyoke should go out with soldiers, because they are of `short range' value. The girls are only wasting their time going out with them. They are not good matrimonial risks, so why dance with them they're here today and gone tomorrow." She received many outraged letters in response to her alleged statement. Some correspondents said that her remarks as quoted in the paper lowered the moral of servicemen and it did not make them feel very patriotic. She was also accused of not being a loyal American. Although most of the responses were negative, one soldier agreed with her. He complimented her on having high ideals and he was glad that women like her were so outspoken because it gave him hope of a good marriage and a better country. Most of the other material in these papers relates to the class activities while Bell was at Mount Holyoke, particularly dramatic productions. The Class of 1942 Junior Show in 1940 (in which she played a leading role) is documented by a program, a photograph of her as she appeared in the play and an 8 mm film of the production. The collection also includes other photographs of Bell and of Brigham Hall dormitory at Mount Holyoke.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1950
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1941 - 1942

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Rosamund Theresa Purdy, homemaker, librarian and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 11, 1920 to Steward W. Purdy and Louise T. Bruchholz Purdy. She graduated from New Trier High School in Winnelka, Illinois in 1938, and then entered Mount Holyoke College and majored in English language and literature. While at Mount Holyoke, she was involved in many student activities: she was a member of the choir, treasurer of the freshman class, president of the junior class and the lead in the junior show. She was also awarded the Merrill Prize for achievement in English and sophomore honors. A member of the Phi Beta Kappa, she earned a B.A. degree from Mount Holyoke in 1942. She served in the WAVES (Women's Reserve, Naval Reserve) from 1942-1945, receiving the rank of full lieutenant and acting as a personnel officer. On July 7, 1945 she married Lieutenant Frank Ellwood Bell of the United States Naval Reserve. They had three children. Bell worked as a teacher, an administrator and a librarian at Mercersburg Academy. She also wrote amateur musical productions for teenage children.


3 boxes

Language of Materials



Bell, Rosamund Theresa Purdy, 1920-: Personnel officer, teacher and librarian. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1942. Papers contain correspondence, newspaper articles, a marriage announcment, a film and photographs. Primarily documenting a comment that she made about students dating soldiers that was misquoted in newspaper articles, generating a controversy. Also includes programs and a 8mm film documenting dramatic productions at Mount Holyoke and photographs dating from her student years.

Rosamund Purdy Bell Papers, 1940-1945, 1950 1941-1942
Finding Aid
Edited Full Draft
© 2004
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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