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Isabel Miller papers

 Collection
Identifier: SSC-MS-00572

Scope and Contents

The Isabel Miller papers include diaries (beginning when she was in her early teens), correspondence offering rich documentation of her personal life, from her years as a member of WAVES during World War II and as wife and mother of four daughters in a heterosexual marriage, to her coming out as a lesbian and her life thereafter. According to her partner Julie Weber, Routsong deliberately made sure that her handwriting was difficult to read so that her diaries wouldn't be accessible to others; she later created typed, transcribed copies.

Research and manuscript materials document the evolution of her profession as an author of lesbian fiction, the best known of which is Patience and Sarah.

The collection also offers a personal record of the lesbian communities of New York City and the mid-Hudson Valley region, from the 1960s to 90s and includes transcripts of a lesbian consciousness raising group, extensive personal correspondence, and documentation of Miller's spiritual interests, including her numerous astrological charts of women. Correspondents include Sidney Abbott, Dorothy Baker, Noel Phyllis Birkby, Barbara Love, Dolores Alexander, Joan Casamo, Linda Clarke, Kate Millett, Diane Stevenson, Mildred Stewart, and May Swenson. The collection also includes books by Miller (some in foreign languages); books from Miller's library; photographs; transparencies of Miller's family, friends and travels; memorabilia; artwork; and articles, clippings and printed materials. A small amount of material generated by Miller's partner, Julie Weber, is also included.

Dates of Materials

  • 1937-2009

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access: Diaries written after 1978 are closed until January 1, 2030, per the wishes of Miller/Routsong's partner, Julie Weber.

Conditions Governing Use

Julie Weber owns copyright of the published books A Gradual Joy, Round Shape, Side by Side, A Dooryard Full of Flowers, and Laura. Upon Weber's death, copyright to these works will go to Miller's four daughters. Isabel Miller's daughters and her former partner, Elizabeth Deran, jointly own the literary rights to Patience and Sarah (originally A Place for Us) and The Love of Good Women. Copyright to the remainder of Isabel Miller's papers, published and unpublished, is the property of Julie Weber and will pass to Smith College upon her death. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Isabel Miller, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Alma Routsong (pseudonym Isabel Miller) was born in 1924 in Traverse City, Michigan, the daughter of a nurse and a police officer. She interrupted her college studies to join the WAVES. While serving in the armed forces she met Bruce Brodie, whom she married in 1947. She completed her undergraduate degree in 1949 having taken advantage, along with her husband, of the postwar GI Bill. Miller gave birth to four daughters (Natalie, Joyce, Charlotte, and Louise) before divorcing Brodie in 1962. She was the author of nine books, many concerning lesbian feminist themes: Gradual Joy (1953), Round Shape (1959), A Place for Us (1969), Patience and Sarah (1972, 1994), Love of Good Women (1986), Side By Side (1990), Dooryard Full of Flowers (1993), and Laurel (1996). Isabel joined the Gay Liberation movement in 1970 and was active in the lesbian communities of New York City and mid-Hudson Valley region of New York. She spent time at Kate Millett's Artist Colony and was an officer of the Daughters of Bilitis. She lived in Poughkeepsie New York with her partner Julie Weber. Isabel Miller died of ovarian cancer in 1996.

Extent

42.066 linear feet (42 containers)

0.177 Gigabytes

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Alma Routsong (pseudonym Isabel Miller) was born in 1924 in Traverse City, Michigan, the daughter of a nurse and a police officer. She was the author of nine books, many concerning lesbian feminist themes. The collection includes diaries, correspondence, research and manuscript materials, astrological charts of women, books by Miller (some in foreign languages); books from Miller's library; photographs; transparencies of Miller's family, friends and travels; memorabilia; artwork; and articles, clippings and printed materials.

Arrangement

This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time. Note that in most cases, container numbers start over at 1 with each new accession.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Julie Weber, 2007-2009.

Related Materials

Related collections include the records of other "Birkby Babes", including Phyllis Birkby, Sidney Abbott, Dolores Alexander, Barbara Love, and Kate Millett's Artist Colony/The Farm.

Processing Information

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Processing Information

Starting in September 2022, Smith College Special Collections will be renumbering many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Title
Finding aid to the Isabel Miller papers
Status
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-12-18: Finding aid updated to current standards and published
  • 2020-04-28: Added accessions 07S-39 and 09S-33
  • 2020-06-17: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

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

Contact:
Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063