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Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Dorothy Dushkin Papers occupy nine linear feet of shelf space and consist of correspondence; diaries and other writings; scrapbooks; photographs; memorabilia; scores; tape and disc recordings; and miscellaneous papers. The material documents Dorothy's life from the time she began her diary at age 15. David Dushkin's papers are primarily related to his post-marriage life.

While the bulk of these papers belong to Dorothy Smith Dushkin, a substantial portion were generated by David Dushkin, and especially in Series V, "Professional Activities," their papers are somewhat intertwined, as were their professional lives. Series I through IV contain largely personal papers, but to the extent that the Dushkins' professional and personal lives overlapped, this distinction is somewhat artificial. For instance, Dorothy's diaries are a highly personal account of her emotional life in which she writes of her dual identities as composer and family caretaker. The diaries, kept faithfully from age 15 to 84, are exceptionally introspective and reflect a lifelong tension between these identities. They reveal a passionate woman coping with, among other things, the worry and strain of many commitments, the untimely death of a daughter from cancer, and the health challenges of aging. The carefree girl of 1919 becomes a sometimes frustrated woman trying simultaneously to satisfy her creative urges and maintain her many responsibilities.

The personal correspondence is indicative of the ways in which music was a large part of each of the Dushkins' lives. The bulk of the family correspondence consists of letters received by Dorothy and David, though a significant number were written by them. Of special interest is the correspondence between David and his brother, Alex, and sister, Eva Kassan, living in Israel during the 1960s and 1970s. These letters and a number of others were apparently selected by Dorothy from "masses of family correspondence [from which she] saved just a random pile to represent extended family." Correspondence with friends and associates includes many of Dorothy's Smith College friends and professors, notably Jessie Lloyd O'Connor '25, Caroline Bedell Thomas '25, Ross Lee Finney, and Werner Josten. The most famous Dushkin correspondent was Nadia Boulanger, who wrote 14 letters and notes between 1926 and 1976. The family memorabilia and photograph collection is extensive, providing especially thorough documentation of the Dushkin children's activities. The discs, which recorded family events from baby noises to musical performances, are the equivalent of home movies. The scrapbooks also contain material related to the Dushkins' early teaching careers and activities at the Winnetka school.

The bulk of professional papers relate to Dorothy's composing. She kept much of her correspondence with publishers and a special file of programs, clippings and correspondence related to performances of her work. This material reflects her unstinting efforts to get her work the attention it deserved, sometimes successfully, but often with discouraging results. The scores of orchestral, chamber, solo, and other works constitute Dorothy Dushkin's major output as a composer. Most of the tape recordings are of performances of her work, many of which took place at Kinhaven Music School. Both Dushkins were interested in recorder manufacture and repertory, but the correspondence reflects David's more active involvement in this aspect of their professional lives. Dorothy and David participated equally in the founding and running of the two music schools, though it appears from the papers that David's role was more prominent while Dorothy did more work behind-the-scenes.

The general correspondence concerns miscellaneous professional activities of both Dushkins, such as their early teaching careers and the wide-ranging musical interests they shared with former colleagues, students, and parents of students. Throughout the correspondence there is evidence of the influence of the Dushkins' innovative educational theories on many of the people who came in contact with them professionally. There is also a substantial amount of Dorothy's correspondence negotiating potential performances of her work.

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063