Skip to main content

Margaret Wooster Curti papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00038

Scope and Contents

The Margaret Wooster Curti Papers consist of 2 linear feet and primarily contain biographical material and correspondence, dating from 1900 to 1961. Types of material include school records; artwork; correspondence; photographs; and published and unpublished monographs and journal articles. The correspondence is extensive and contains letters between Margaret Wooster Curti and her husband, Merle Curti, as well as letters between Curti and her parents and siblings. The photograph album depicts the Wooster and Curti families and their lives in Nebraska and in Northampton, Massachusetts; the scrapbook created by Curti's grandmother depicts the kinds of newspaper clippings that were of interest to an early-nineteenth century girl. Some of Curti's writings about intelligence testing of black and white children may be of interest to scholars, as might a M.S. thesis by Wendy Spotts, titled "Illegitimacy as it Relates to the Physical, Intellectual, and Personality Development of Lower-Class Negro Jamaican Children."

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1898-1963


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of Margaret Wooster Curti. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

NB: Mother Felicitas requests that scholars respect "the privacy of persons still living."

Biographical / Historical

Margaret Wooster Curti was born in Silver Spring, Nebraska on 18 February 1891, the daughter of Lillie Margaret (Todd) Wooster and Charles Wooster. After graduating from Lincoln (Nebraska) High School in 1908, she attended the University of Nebraska, earning an A.B. in 1913 (Phi Beta Kappa) and an M.A. in psychology in 1915. She went on to the University of Chicago, where she obtained her Ph.D. in 1920.

Curti taught briefly at Mesa High School in Mesa, Arizona and then at Beloit College prior to her appointment in 1922 as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Smith College. While at Beloit, she met historian Merle Eugene Curti; they married in Paris in 1925 while he was studying under a fellowship at The Sorbonne. The couple had two daughters, Nancy Alice, born 3 March 1927, and Martha, born 7 January 1932.

Curti taught at Smith until 1937, during which time she was promoted to Associate Professor. She went on to work as Research Associate in the Teachers' College at Columbia University from 1937 to 1942, and lectured at the University of Wisconsin during the 1943-44 academic year. In 1930, Curti published the book Child Psychology, which was a widely used college textbook for many years. She also wrote for professional journals and lectured at national conferences. Liberal in her politics, Curti was a member of the national Socialist Party and of the Hampshire County Progressive Club in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was also involved in The People's Institute in Northampton and in 1935, in response to the needs of the city's working mothers, she created a successful pre-school program for two- to five-year-olds at the People's Institute, which quickly evolved into a lab for Smith College's child psychology classes as well.

Margaret Wooster Curti died of breast cancer in Madison, Wisconsin on 18 September 1961.


3.855 linear feet (7 containers)


Professor and psychologist. Creator of a successful pre-school program at the Peoples' Institute in Northampton, Massachusetts, which evolved into a laboratory for Smith College's child psychology classes. Papers also depict family life in Nebraska and Northampton. Materials include correspondence, research, writings, photographs, scrapbooks, and artwork.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Writings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Margaret Wooster Curti Papers were donated in 1978 by her daughter, Martha Curti, now Mother Felicitas Curti, OSB.

Related Material

There is related material in the Nebraska Historical Society, notably correspondence between Margaret Wooster Curti and her father, Charles Wooster. Additional professional papers of Margaret Wooster Curti are located at the Archives of the History of American Psychology, the University of Akron, Ohio. Material pertaining to Curti's years on the Smith College faculty are located in the Smith College Archives. The Merle Eugene Curti Papers are located at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Archives Division, Madison, Wisconsin.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Burd Schlessinger, 2001.

Margaret Wooster Curti papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
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: mnsss9 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.
  • 2022-03-04: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063