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Harriet C. Meyer Papers

Identifier: MS 0573

Scope and Contents

The Harriet Cogswell Meyer Papers consist of correspondence, writings, biographical information, and photographs. The material primarily relates to Meyer's time in China, where she worked as a teacher at Ginling College in Nanking and lived as the wife of Paul W. Meyer, an American Diplomat in Peiping. Throughout her time in China, she corresponded with her sister, Kay, and several other friends and family members relating her experiences. She discusses the visit of Mount Holyoke College Dean Florence Purington and Registrar Caroline Greene to Ginling College. She also gives significant attention to the escalating political tensions in different regions of China during the 1920s and between Japan and China prior to the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945. Her letters also reflect her relationships with people in China and the progression of her pregnancy in 1935. After leaving China in 1941, Meyer continued her correspondence from Ecuador, Argentina, and Taiwan, where her husband was working. A number of invitations to special dinners, teas, and cocktails for people in the Chinese and American governments during the 1950s are also included in the correspondence. Letters from Meyer's son, John Cogswell Meyer, daughter-in-law, and grandsons comprise a significant portion of the later letters, along with friendly letters from other family members and friends. The letters from John Meyer are of particular interest because they reflect some tension between the Meyers and their son, who frequently requested financial support throughout his young adult life. A substantial amount of sympathy cards and letters addressed to Paul Meyer following his wife's death in 1983 are included. Throughout her life, Meyer wrote poems and stories, and kept a journal while in China. Many of her writings, 1925-1983, are included in the collection, along with notes for a lecture given at Ginling College. The biographical information primarily reflects the professional lives of the Meyers and includes a biographical note (1926), a number of newspaper clippings, certificates, a personal address book, and an obituary (1983). A significant portion of the collection contains an extensive array of photographs documenting Meyer's life from 1918-1983. The photographs from Mount Holyoke College depict college traditions, dramatic productions, and student life. Photographs of note are of Mountain Day and Meyer as the May Queen in 1922. The bulk of the photographs were taken in China during the 1930s and 1940s. Represented most closely is the daily life of citizens in a variety of regions in China and the Meyer family's time in Peiping. Later photographs predominantly consist of snapshots of Meyer's family members and friends. A number of the photographs are contained in albums kept by Meyer and by her son.


  • Creation: ca. 1905-1983

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Harriet Marie Cogswell was born on May 29, 1900 in Ellington, Connecticut. She graduated from Rockville Public High School in 1918 and from Mount Holyoke College in 1922. She taught at two high schools and worked as a secretary at the YWCA for Mount Holyoke College before going to China in 1926. There she taught English at Ginling College in Nanking until 1931, taking a two-year furlogh from 1927-1929. On July 6, 1931 she married Paul Walter Meyer, a diplomatic secretary. They had a son, John, in 1935. They returned to the United States in 1941, but went back to China in 1946 as part of the American Consular Service. Meyer later taught in the Tolland School System. Harriet Cogswell Meyer died on June 2, 1983 in Tolland, Connecticut.


3.9 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials



Meyer, Harriet Marie Cogswell, 1900-1983; Teacher. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1922. Mount Holyoke College staff member, 1924-1926. Papers contain correspondence, writings, memorabilia, biographical information and photographs; documenting her teaching career in China and the family and social matters of a diplomat's wife in Asia and South America.

Papers, ca. 1905-1983.
Finding Aid
Edited Full Draft
© 2003
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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