Skip to main content

Mary Woolley papers

Identifier: MS 0842


Woolley, Mary Emma, 1863-1947; college professor and administrator. President of Mount Holyoke College, 1901-1937. Papers contain correpondence; Woolley's published and unpublished speeches and other writings; her diaries, appointment books, and calendars; materials relating to conferences that she attended; scrapbooks; statistics about Mount Holyoke College; materials concerning her inauguration as Mount Holyoke's President; legal documents; honors and awards; memorabilia; books that she owned; biographical information; photographs; and indices. Primarily concern her work as an educator and advocate for world peace.


  • Creation: 1845 - 1947
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900 - 1947

Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical Note

Mary Emma Woolley, college professor and President of Mount Holyoke College from 1901-1937, was born on July 13, 1863 in South Norwalk, Connecticut to Joseph Judah Woolley, a Congregational minister, and Mary August Ferris Woolley, a schoolteacher. She attended Mrs. Fannie Augur's school in Meriden, Connecticut until her family moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1871, when she enrolled in Providence High School. In 1882 she began attending Wheaton Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1884 and serving as a faculty member there from 1885-1890. She entered Brown University in the fall of 1891 as the first woman to attend the university. She received her A.B. in 1894 and her A.M. in 1895. She served as an instructor, associate professor and professor at Wellesley College from 1895-1899, teaching for and acting as chairman of the Biblical History and Literature Department. During this period, Woolley formed what would be a life-long partnership with Jeannette Augusta Marks, then a student at Wellesley. In 1900, Woolley accepted the position as President of Mount Holyoke College and took office in May of 1901. Her achievements include hiring more faculty with advanced degrees, introducing honors work into the curriculum, expanding the graduate program, successfully raising funds for the College, establishing an academic honors program, eliminating secret societies (sororities), improving the health of students by increasing the physical education requirement, ending the domestic work system, and easing Mount Holyoke's religious exclusiveness. She was an active member of many organizations, serving as the first woman senator of Phi Beta Kappa (1907), chairman of the College Entrance Examination Board (1924-1927), President of the American Association of University Women (1927-1933), and moderator of the Congregational Churches of America (1937). She served as a member of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America Educational Commission to China, which studied Christian higher edu! cation i n that country (1921) and she participated in several major conferences, including the Institute of Pacific Relations conventions (1925 and 1927). In 1932, President Herbert Hoover appointed her to serve as the only woman delegate from the United States to the Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments held in Geneva, Switzerland. She retired as President of Mount Holyoke in 1937 after a divisive controversy over the selection of her successor. She lived in Jeannette Marks' home in Westport, New York and remained active, organizing the Committee on the Participation of Women in Post-War Policy during World War II, joining the National Woman's Party, and endorsing the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1944, Woolley suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that left her partially paralyzed. She died on September 5, 1947 in Westport at the age of eighty-four.


42.29 Linear Feet (91 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is organized into eighteen series:

  1. Correspondence (1873, 1875, 1894, 1900-1947, n.d.)
  2. Speeches and Articles (1899-1944, n.d.)
  3. Other Writings (1894-1944)
  4. Autobiographical Information (ca. 1939, n.d.)
  5. Diaries, Appointment Books, Calendars (1901-1945)
  6. Conference Materials (1921-1938)
  7. Scrapbooks (1901-1941, n.d.)
  8. Statistics about Mount Holyoke College (1903-1919)
  9. Inauguration Materials (1900-1901)
  10. Legal Documents (1921, 1922, 1932, 1947)
  11. Honors and Awards (ca. 1893-ca. 1947, n.d.)
  12. Memorabilia (1884-1946, n.d.)
  13. Books (1869-1942, n.d.)
  14. Biographical Information (1895-1947, n.d.)
  15. Sound Recordings (1920, 1937, n.d.)
  16. Photographs (ca. 1845-ca. 1947)
  17. Indices (1900-1947)
  18. Oversize (Folio) Material (1884-1943, n.d.)

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mary Emma Woolley Papers contain correspondence; speeches and other writings by her; autobiographical information; diaries, appointment books and other notebooks; materials relating to her inauguration at President of Mount Holyoke College in 1901 and her participation in numerous conferences; statistics about the College; scrapbooks; legal documents; honors and awards that she received; memorabilia; books that she owned; biographical information about her; sound recordings of two of her addresses; photographs, and a variety of indices. The collection primarily concerns her career as an educator and advocate for world peace. Correspondence (1873-1947, n.d.) chiefly dates from 1899-1947 and concerns her professional activities, particularly her many speaking engagements, her membership in various organizations, and her participation in the Institute of Pacific Relations Conferences (1925, 1927), the Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments (1932), and the International Federation of University Women's Council Meeting of 1938. Her writings (1894-1944) include the texts of speeches by her and copies of her published articles and essays. Autobiographical Information (circa1939) compiled by Woolley contains information about her family, education, and experiences. Her Diaries, Appointment Books, and Calendars (1901-1945) contain brief notes about her daily activities. Conference Materials (1921-1938) consists of notebooks, minutes, and other documents reflecting her involvement with several major conferences concerning education or world peace. Scrapbooks (1901-1941) contain newspaper and magazine articles and other materials documenting her professional life. Statistics About Mount Holyoke College (1903-1919) consists of surveys, questionnaires, and other materials relating to the College's personnel, students, curriculum, and facilities. Inauguration Materials (1900-1901) document the ceremony at which Woolley officially became President of Mount Holyoke. Legal Documents (1921-19! 47) incl ude copies of her birth certificate and will and a passport. Honors and Awards (circa 1893-circa 1947, n.d.) include correspondence, certificates, tributes, medals, and other items presented to Woolley during her career. Memorabilia (1884-1946) includes documents and postcards reflecting her participation in the Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments and information concerning her pet dogs. Books owned by her (1869-1942) include a copy of a large Bible presented to her father. Biographical Information (1895-1947, n.d.) consists of sketches, articles, essays, obituaries, and tributes describing her life and work. Sound Recordings (1920, 1937, n.d.) consist of copies (in various formats) of an address that she gave in 1920 on the topic of The Strength of Goodness, a recording from March 23, 1937 labeled Mt. Holyoke 1837-1937, and an undated recording of a address that Woolley gave to Mount Holyoke alumnae clubs. Photographs (circa 1845-1947) include formal portraits, snapshots and glass plate negatives showing Woolley alone or with others, photographs of people and scenes taken during a trip to China in 1921, and an album dating from circa 1945-circa 1870s that contains photographs of unidentified individuals (probably relatives). Indices (circa 1900-1947) consist of card files listing the names of correspondents represented by letters in the collection and the titles of Woolley's speeches and articles.

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

Processing Information

Processed by Patricia J. Albright and Autumn S. Winslow, 2007-2008. Jennifer A. Smith, Eleanor I. Rounds, Jeannie M. Jones, and Dorothy Vastine Eaton assisted with arranging and describing these papers between 1964-2005.

Mary Woolley Papers, circa 1845-1947 (bulk 1900-1947)
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Patricia J. Albright and Autumn S. Winslow.
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