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Molly Malone Cook papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00595

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of photographic prints by professional photographers Molly Malone Cook, Ken Heyman, Berenice Abbott, Louis H. Draper, Rollie McKenna, Barbara Morgan, and unidentified photographers. Subject of the photographs include some well known artists and authors (Walter Evans, Lorraine Hansberry, Henry Geldzahler, Norman Mailer, Edna St. Vincent Millay, W. Eugene Smith, and others), as well as city and nature scenes, and images of ordinary people in the U.S. and abroad. There are also two books, including Our world: photographs by Molly Malone Cook; text by Mary Oliver (2007). More recent additions to the collection include: Two albums of black and white photographs by Lawrence Shustak titled Black Jews; photographs, negatives and transparencies by Cook of New York City, Provincetown, and Europe; and casual portraits and street shots of people, including some of note (Eleanor Roosevelt, Romany Marie, Edward Steichen, and Norman Mailer, among others); materials pertaining to Cook's VII Photographers Gallery in Provincetown, which include correspondence with Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Arnold Newman, Aaron Siskind, Eugene Smith, and Minor White. Documents and photographs relating to Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister, Norma, and to Millay's house in Austerlitz, NY, are also included, as are files re: Lorraine Hansberry, playwright and author of A Raisin in the Sun.

Dates of Materials

  • 1954-1976


Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Mary Oliver has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators.

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. However, Mary Oliver has requested that any reproductions of the papers be accompanied by the phrase, "Reproduced with the permission of Mary Oliver."

For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Mary Oliver, 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

Molly Malone Cook was born in San Francisco; she had a twin sister who died at age three months, and a brother who was thirty years her junior, born after their parents reunited following a long separation. Cook spent her early twenties travelling in Europe, where she worked for the US government in Heidelberg and began to be interested in photography. In New York, she worked as a photographer for the newly established Village Voice, but soon followed a well-worn path to Provincetown, MA where she set up her ground-breaking photographic gallery, the VII Photographers'Studio, which represented the work of Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott and Eugene Atget, among others, in an era when photography was yet to be rated as an art in itself. The gallery was well patronised, but did not pay the rent so Cook diversified with her idiosyncratic East End Bookshop. She continued to work as a professional photographer, making portraits of such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Walker Evans, Robert Motherwell and Adlai Stevenson, but her career was cut short by the breathing problems which were later to curtail her life: her lungs were unable to cope with the chemicals of the darkroom. Meanwhile, her relationship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry ended with Hansberry's early death from cancer, aged 34, in 1965. Cook had met the poet Mary Oliver in 1958, and in the mid-1960s the two women moved in together into a Provincetown boathouse; they remained life partners until Cook's death in 2005. In the 1970s, Cook worked as assistant to friend and near neighbor, Norman Mailer; the relationship was difficult, and ended on less than positive terms. She went on to establish her own literary agency, representing Mary Oliver and other writers. Molly Malone Cook died at home in Provincetown of complications from lung cancer.


18.542 linear feet (16 containers)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of photographic prints by professional photographers Molly Malone Cook, Ken Heyman, Berenice Abbott, Louis H. Draper, Rollie McKenna, Barbara Morgan, and unidentified photographers.


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.

Other Finding Aids

One or more content listings to individual accessions in this collection are available for download. Links can be found in the description of the individual accessions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers were gifted to the Sophia Smith Collection by Mary Oliver in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

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.

Finding aid to the Molly Malone Cook papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Madison White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-10-15: Updated to conform to DACS

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063