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Biography collection

Identifier: SSC-MS-00393

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of biographical material related to both well-known and unknown women and men whose lives spanned the years from 1771-1970s. Notable individuals represented include Mary McLeod Bethune, Bernard Baruch, Lizzie Borden, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby (The Ladies of Llangollen), Tennessee Claflin Cook, Grace Coolidge, Angela Davis, Mary Daly, Hannah Dustin, Dorothy Gish, Julia Ward Howe, Anne Hutchinson, Mother Jones, Helen Keller, Florynce Kennedy, Joan Little, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Florence Luscomb, Rosa Luxemburg, Marie Antoinette, Margaret Mead, Pauli Murray, Anna Lord Strauss, Rose Pastor Stokes, Annie Sullivan Macy, and Victoria Woodhull.

For the most part, there is only a small amount of material on each individual. Files are organized alphabetically by name. Materials typically include published and unpublished biographical sketches, books, correspondence, diaries, genealogies, newspaper clippings, photographs, and published and unpublished writings. The files of individuals such as Lizzie Borden and Angela Davis also include legal documents. Davis' file (the largest in the collection) also contains memoranda, postcards, political buttons, leaflets, petitions, newsletters, trial bulletins, press releases, and political cartoons which document the movement organized to agitate for a fair trial and freedom for Davis and other political prisoners.

Some lesser-known individuals include interesting and significant material as well, such as Ferdinanda Wesselhoeft's personal letters in German detailing daily life in the United States during the period 1842-1886; the letters and journals of Anna Green Winslow and Mary Hutchinson Parmele dating from the 1770s and 1780s; and correspondence to Ethel Clyde from such famous individuals as Pearl Buck, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Pauli Murray, Norman Thomas, Mary van Kleeck, Margaret Sanger, and A.J. Muste. Finally the collection contains a small number of collected biographies including those that document the lives of women associated with Princeton University, White House brides, "women who wanted to be men," and living daughters of presidents.

Dates of Materials

  • 1771-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1970

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections ( at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection may be protected by copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy all copyright holders. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.


6.25 linear feet (17 boxes, 10 volumes)


This collection consists of biographical material on both famous and lesser-known women and men. For the most part, there is only a small amount of material on each individual. Materials typically include published and unpublished biographical sketches, books, correspondence, diaries, genealogies, photographs, and published and unpublished writings.


This collection is organizedas follows:


Files arranged alphabetically by name.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in this subject collection were either purchased or given to the Sophia Smith Collection by various donors.

Additions to the Collection

Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Related Material

Note that many of these individuals are also represented in other collections in the Sophia Smith Collection.

Processing Information

Finding aid revised in 2002 by Jessica Lawson, intern. Introductory text by Kate Weigand. Recent additions may not be reflected in the finding aid.
Biography collection
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by mnsss.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss82 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-04-24: Made paper FA pencil edit changes.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063