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Alumnae biographical files

 Record Group
Identifier: RG 27

Scope and Contents

Alumnae Biographical Files document the lives Mount Holyoke alumnae from circa 1831 to the present. These files usually include biographical questionnaires completed by alumnae and correspondence relating to their employment and other activities. Most of these documents were sent to the Alumnae Association or the College office responsible for helping alumnae find employment (known as the Career Development Center since 1995; previously called the Appointment Committee, 1901-1928; Appointment Bureau, 1928-1963; Vocational Planning and Placement Office, 1963-1975; Career Services, 1975-1991; and Career Resource Center, 1991-1995). The materials often include information about each person's birthplace and birth date, dates of attendance and course of study at Mount Holyoke, employment and salary, marital status, and children. In addition some documents contain references to the individual's friends and extracurricular activities while at College as well as her graduate education, alumnae relatives, service during World War I or World War II, religious affiliation, publications, membership in organizations, volunteer work, honors, hobbies, reading interests, and travels. Some forms also ask for feedback about the current state of the College and the value of a Mount Holyoke education. Alumnae correspondence with staff of the employment office (particularly with Helen M. Voorhees, Director of the Appointment Bureau from 1928-1958) often discusses difficulties with finding positions in male-dominated fields, the low salaries offered to women, and the challenges presented by combining marriage and motherhood with employment. The files may also include notices about each alumna from issues of the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, applications for graduate fellowships and other funding, resumes, articles and other publications, press releases, biographical and genealogical notes and sketches, obituaries, and tributes.

Many Alumnae Biographical Files also contain letters to relatives and friends, diaries, journals, notebooks, account books, and commonplace books, compositions, recollections, certificates, post cards, greeting cards, drawings and paintings, memorabilia, photograph albums, photographs, and portraits. These materials often date from each person's time at the College. The following list identifies some of these items (the class affiliation of each alumna is given in parentheses after her name with an "x" identifying non-graduates):

Blanchard, Charlotte (x1838). Letter, 1838 March 18 to Rachel Blanchard discussing classmates, teachers, domestic work, religious life and her activities. 4 pages

Leach, Martha A. (1839). Letter 1839 December 13 to Mary Lyon describing her work as a teacher in Petersburg, Virginia and commenting on social and educational conditions in the South. 4 pages

Everett, Nancy S. (x1839). Correspondence, 1836-1882. Chiefly letters to Everett from family members, friends, and classmates. Also includes letters written by Everett as a student, 1837-1838 and to her husband and children, 1862-1882. The letters include references to her studies; the domestic work, food, regulations, the Seminary Building, her courtship by and marriage to John Dwight, health and travels. With typed transcripts and summaries of the correspondence. 1 box (0.17 linear ft.)

Gillett, Mary A. (x1839). Letter, 1832 July 21 to Sarah Rowland. Describes her life as a student at Ipswich Female Seminary, presently under Mary Lyon's leadership, and mentions an outbreak of cholera near Boston. 4 pages

Stone, Lucy (x1839). Letter, 1891 November 10 to Elizabeth Storrs Mead. Noted suffragist expresses regret to Mount Holyoke's President that all of the speakers at the College's first Founder's Day celebration were men. 2 pages

Leach, Catharine S. (1840). Compositions, circa 1837-1838 and letter, 1849 March 30. The ompositions describe the Seminary Building and Washing-day at the school and the letter gives an account of Mary Lyon's final illness and death. 3 items

Smith, Mary C. (x1840). Letter 1840 August to Mrs. Elvira P. Smith describing the public examinations, callisthenics, and other events at a Commencement celebration. Typed transcript. 6 pages

Spaulding, Abigail N. (x1840). Letter, 1838 December 3 to Samuel North which includes descriptions of Mary Lyon and a Thanksgiving Day celebration. 3 pages

Wheeler, Harriet (x1840). Letter, 1837 December 28 to Mrs. Mehitable Wheeler. Discusses her arrival in South Hadley, studies, domestic work, examinations, the food, and Mary Lyon. 4 pages

Chenery, Zillah D. (1841). Comonplace book and drawings, 1840-circa 1841. The commonplace book contains quotations and notes on various people and subjects and two theorem painting drawings (hand colored) are of sea shells. 1 box (0.17 linear ft.)

Bull, Elizabeth G. (x1841). Letter, 1837 November 10-30 to Mary Bull. Contains descriptions of her classmates, domestic work, daily schedule; the religious life, mail delivery, and first Thanksgiving Day celebration at the school, and a diagram of her room and its furnishings. With typed transcript. 7 pages

Haven, Elizabeth B. (x1841). Correspondence, 1839-1840. Tells her brother about her journey to South Hadley, schedule, domestic work, the food, teachers, the Seminary building, and Mary Lyon. Typed transcript. 2 items

Hollister, Harriet B. (x1841). Letter, 1837 December 24-25 to Ann Maria Hollister. Tells her sister about her schedule, domestic work and studies, the older students at the school, a requirement that students read current newspapers and periodicals, and Mary Lyon. Includes a note about her expenses in 1837 and a printed copy of the letter. 3 items

Richardson, Sarah W. (x1841). Letter, 1839 March 12 and commonplace book, 1850. The letter to Diana Richardson mentions the religious life at the school, asks for money from home, and refers to her plan to teach after gaining a good knowledge of Botany. The commonplace book contains copies of poems, hymns, essays, along with a composition written as a student in 1839. 2 items

Burr, Mary (1842). Papers, 1831-1858. Primarily letters, account books, and a composition dating from her years as a student (1837/1838, 1839/1840, 1841/1842) and her periods of employment as a teacher. The letters include references to her domestic work clothing, classmates, teachers, the Seminary Building and library, religious life, and Thanksgiving Day and Commencement celebrations. A letter from August 1842 describes her work as a teacher in Leverett, Massachusetts and people and activities in that community. The papers also include a portion of a journal kept as a child, July-August, 1831. 2 folders

Hyde, Julia (1842). Correspondence, 1837-1850. Letters to family members, classmate Lucy T. Goodale, and members of the Goodale family. Include descriptions of he religious life, domestic work, health, a Mountain Day celebration, and Mary Lyon. With summary. 32 items

Savage, Maria (1842). Correspondence, 1840, 1842. Letters to Rhoda Roys commenting on the Mount Holyoke's reputation, religious life, Mary Lyon, and the Seminary Building. With summary. 3 items

Jones, Elizabeth W. (x1842). Account book, 1839-1847, chiefly recording her income and expenses as a student 1839-1841. 26 pages

Thomas, Susan A. (x1842). Letter, 1842 April 16-19 to Mary Thomas. Contains detailed descriptions of her schedule, studies, expenses, and domestic work and the food, religious life, and Seminary Building. Typed transcript. 13 pages

Boies, Jane L. (x1843). Letter, 1842 July 29 to Hannah Ely. Urges her aunt to attend the upcoming Commencement celebration at Mount Holyoke where Lowell Mason and Lydia Sigourney will be among the guests, and asks for money to pay her debts. With typed transcript 3 pages

Coan, Martha D. (x1843). Correspondence, 1840-1842. Mentions Christmas and Thanksgiving Day celebrations, visitors, and students' political opinions and asks for money for her expenses. One letter is incomplete. With summary. 4 items

Crowell, Mary L. (x1843). Letter, 1840 December 31 to Elizabeth P. Dodge. Discusses her studies, domestic work, Mary Lyon, the Seminary Building, and religion. 4 pages

Daniels, Frances (x1843). Letter, 1841 November 2, to Edward Daniels. Tells her brother about her social calls, examinations, schedule, domestic work, religious life, the Seminary Building, rules, and the financial affairs of the school. With transcript. 4 pages

Fiske, Sarah S. (x1843). Compositions, 1841-1842. 4 items

Hyde, Adeline (x1843). Correspondence, 1842. Letters to her fiance, James Farrar discussing religion, family illnesses, and Mary Lyon. 2 items

Clark, Elizabeth P. (1844). Correspondence, 1851-1853. Letters to a former Mount Holyoke classmate, Marie C. Brigham, describing her life as a wife, mother, and teacher in Marietta, Ohio and Buffalo, Virginia. Includes discussions of her family life, reading, schools in Ohio and Virginia, and slavery. With transcripts. 3 items

Hubbell, Eliza Antoinette (1844). Commonplace book, 1840-1850 and letter, 1841 March 8. The commonplace book contains notes on Mary Lyon's remarks and extracts from or copies of essays, poems, and letters. The letter to Caroline E. Coles discusses Hubbell's religious life, schedule, and studies. 2 items

Brigham, Cornelia A. (x1844). Reminiscences, circa 1896. Provide detailed descriptions of Mary Lyon and life at the school between about 1837-1842. Typed transcript with manuscript additions. 3 pages

Burnham, Sarah J. (x1844). Letter, 1842 February 20 to Elizabeth P. Dodge. Describes her studies (including music), religious life, domestic work, schedule, and Mary Lyon. 3 pages

Flint, Lucy N. (x1844). Compositions, 1842. 9 items

Moore, Elizabeth P. (x1844). Diary 1843 January 1-May 28. Contains brief descriptions of her social activities, housework, health, readings, church attendance, and the weather. Prefaced with a description of her year at Mount Holyoke, 1841-1842 (the Convent of St. Lion's or Yankee Nunnery). Typed transcript. With summary. 11 pages

Paige, Caroline L. (x1844). Letter, 1841 December 13-14 to Harriet N. Paige. Tells her sister about her studies, domestic work, religious life, schedule, and the regulations at the school. Typed transcript. 8 pages

Leach, Frances S. (1845). Notebook, 1845-1849. Contains a composition and poems (including copies of those written by other Mount Holyoke students) and an excerpt from a letter describing Mary Lyon's final illness and death. 14 pages

Perkins, Rhoda K. (1845). Letters, 1842-1843 and notebooks, 1843-1845. The letters to relatives and friends describe her studies, domestic work, the religious life, a Thanksgiving Day celebration, Mary Lyon, a scarlet fever outbreak, and the death of a student. The notebooks contain an account of her expenses and domestic work, a list of rules and regulations, and notes for lectures by Edward Hitchcock and for courses on botany, Bible Topics, Paradise Lost, and Ecclesiastical History. With summary of letters. 1 box (0.17 linear ft.)

Thompson, Mary P. (1845). Letter, 1844 November 25 to Harriet Atwood describing classmates and teachers and the arrangement of furnishings in her room. 3 pages.

Allen, Abby (x1845). Correspondence, 1842-1852. Letters by or to Allen and Samuel B. Fairbank, a missionary to India whom she married in 1846. Include two letters from 1842 describing her studies (including instruction in music and drawing), domestic work, schedule, the Seminary Building, regulations, and a doctor's care of students. Also include an extract from a letter (1845) discussing her work as a teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts (her students included Irish immigrants and African Americans) and a letter by Fairbank (1852) detailing his wife's ill health and death after giving birth to a child. 5 items

Babcock, Jerusha (x1845). Letter, 1844 March 14 describing a Missionary Meeting, Mary Lyon's appearance, the food, her studies, and domestic work. Typed transcript. 3 pages

Pomeroy, Lydia B. (x1845). Correspondence, 1842-1844. Includes discussion of domestic work, teachers and classmates, religious life, studies, expenses, recreational activities, the schedule, South Hadley events, her health and expenses, a Thanksgiving Day celebration (1842), a visit from Justin Perkins recruiting missionaries for Persia (1843), and Mary Lyon. With summary. 7 items

Torrey, Louisa M. (x1845). Correspondence, 1843-1844. Discusses her journey to South Hadley, appearance and impressions of Mary Lyon, domestic work, studies, the regulations, her clothing, and a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Typed transcripts. 5 items

Weaver, Mary C. (x1845). Letter, 1844 February 29-March discussing her studies, events at the school, and the support of missionaries by Mary Lyon and the teachers. 3 pages. With typed transcript. Shelved in FOLIO

Preston, Frances O. (1846). Composition, circa 1844 describing a visit to Holyoke during the year 1900. With typed transcript. 7 pages

Rice, Mary Susan (1846). Correspondence, 1846, 1849. Letters, 1846 October 29 expressing sympathy to friends upon the death of their sister and 1849 December 19 discussing the state of religion in Persia, where she was teaching at Fidelia Fiske's school. 2 items.

Whittemore, Harriet L. (1846). Letter, 1844 March 22 to Abby S. Wright describing her studies, schedule, callisthenics, and religious life. With typed transcript. 1 page

Wing, Electa (1846). Correspondence, 1842-1847. Letters to her aunt, Mary Lyon, discussing her family news, her finances, and her work as a teacher in Ohio. With summary. 6 items

Dunklee, Ruth C. (x1846). Letter, circa 1844 February-March to Sophia Elliott. Discusses writing compositions, lectures by Mary Lyon, and the lack of religious interest at the school. With typed transcript. 3 pages

Eaton, Elizabeth (x1846). PAutograph album, 1842-1845 and journal, 1844-1847. The autograph album contains signatures of friends and the journal discusses her studies, domestic work, religious life, and Mary Lyon. With summary and typed transcript of journal. 2 items

Lincoln, Sarah Ann B. (x1846). Letter, 1843 October 19 telling her mother about her study of algebra and other subjects, examinations, domestic work, health, and the requirement that students go on daily walks for exercise. Typed transcript. 2 pages

Ordway, Lucy Ann (x1846). Letter, 1844 January 20-24 to Hannah Ordway Cunningham. Tells her sister (Class of 1840) about changes to the Seminary Building, a Thanksgiving Day celebration, a visit to Amherst College, and the death of a student; also gives her opinions on marriage. 4 pages. Shelved in FOLIO

Tole, Nancy A. (x1846). Letter, 1843 October 29 to Sophia Elliott describing her studies, schedule, religious life, the rules, and ill health. With typed transcript. 4 pages

Van Vechten, Katharine (x1846). Correspondence, 1844. Tells her mother about her studies, domestic work, a recent illness, the food, regulations, religious life, Mary Lyon, and a Thanksgiving Day celebration. With typed transcripts. 2 items

Wolcott, Elizabeth E. (x1846). Letter, 1843 October 19 to George Wolcott. Tells her brother about her examinations, domestic work, schedule, the food, rules, room furnishings, Sabbath arrangements, laundry day, and the walking requirement for students. 4 pages


  • Creation: 1931 - 2005

Conditions Governing Access

Unrestricted except for student records and other materials in confidential files.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of the collection is governed by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S.C.)

Historical Note

Mount Holyoke Female Seminary on November 8, 1837 with one hundred and sixteen students. The first graduating class of three students received diplomas on August 23, 1838. During much of the nineteenth century, each entering student took placement examinations to determine her placement in a particular class. Students were initially organized into three classes (Junior, Middle, and Senior) and until the late 1880s all students followed a set curriculum which focused on the mastery of specific textbooks and laboratory work in the sciences. In the fall of 1861, the curriculum expanded to a four-year program with students organized in Junior, Junior Middle, Senior Middle, and Senior classes. These class designations underwent some changes throughout the years until the s terms Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior were adopted in 1890. In the fall of 1989, Freshmen became known as First Year students.

In response to competition from degree-granting women's colleges established in the 1860s-1870s, Mount Holyoke's administrators petitioned the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a change in the school's charter. A new charter granted on March 8, 1888 changed the name of the institution to Mount Holyoke Seminary and College and allowed the school to award Bachelor's degrees, the first of which were presented at Commencement in 1889. With an additional charter change on January 31, 1893 the name of the school became Mount Holyoke College. From 1889-1902, Mount Holyoke presented Bachelor of Literature and Bachelor of Science degrees as well as Bachelor of Arts degrees. From 1889/1890-1898/1899, students followed a Classical, Literary, or Scientific course of study. There was also a Seminary program from 1888/89-1892/1893 which enabled students who had enrolled before 1888 to receive a diploma for their work. In 1889/1900, students began pursuing major work in specific disciplines and elective courses were introduced into the curriculum.

Mount Holyoke has also offered a wide variety of other programs for students. The option for pursuing graduate study became available in 1880/1881 when an Advanced Course for Mount Holyoke graduates was first offered and by 1923/1924 a program of graduate study for all qualified women was well-established. A course of study leading to a Master of Arts began in 1893/1894 and expanded in 1935/1936 to include a Master of Arts in Teaching program which was offered through 1975/1976. Helen C. Flint, Class of 1891 received the first M.A. degree awarded by the College in 1895. In 1966/1967, the graduate program was open to men as well as women and in 1968 Thomas Kelley became the first man to receive a degree (Master of Arts in Teaching) from the College. The Frances Perkins Program for women of non-traditional age who wish to complete the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts degree was established in 1980. Other special programs have included those for teachers wishing to improve their mastery of specific disciplines or for students from other countries who are interested in spending time at a college in the United States. Students enrolled in graduate or special programs have often received scholarships or fellowship from the College and worked as teaching assistants, interns, or residence hall staff while pursuing their studies.


3038 items (2331 full Hollinger, 361 half Hollinger, 30 record storage, and 263 specialty boxes; 38 volumes; 15 folders)

Language of Materials



Alumnae Biographical Files primarily contain biographical questionnaires, correspondence, articles and other publications, press releases, and notes documenting the lives of Mount Holyoke alumnae.. Also include diaries, letters, notebooks, and other personal materials for these individuals, often describing their experiences as students. Topics discussed by alumnae in these materials include their personal lives and employment in teaching, missionary work, and other fields. There is also extensive information about the curriculum, teachers and administrators (including Mary Lyon), regulations, schedules, expenses, domestic work system, books and reading, exercise and physical education program, religious life, traditions, Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, food, care of clothing, and buildings and grounds at Mount Holyoke.

Related Archvies Materials

Electronic records dating from 2011 for Pauline M. Twining, Class of 1854 have been processed and accessioned as An electronic record dating from 2012 for Anita E. Pennak, Class of 1968 has been processed and accessioned as An electronic record dating from 2013 for Jane Seaver, Class of 1941 has been processed and accessioned as

Processing Information

Processed by Patricia J. Albright, 2010

Genre / Form


Alumnae Biographical Files, circa 1831-present
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Patricia J. Albright.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

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