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Madeleine L'Engle papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00801

Scope and Contents

Madeleine L'Engle's papers document her personal and professional life, from her birth until her death. Biographical records cover Madeleine's childhood, education (especially at Ashley Hall and at Smith College), her marriage and family, her church involvement, her friendships, and her death. Biographical material is divided into childhood and later materials. Professional records include materials related to L'Engle's early career in the theater as an actor and playwright, her writing drafts, publishing and public reception records, professional correspondence and fan mail, and speeches and public appearances.

In L'Engle's papers there are a few files that are of particular interest, including her writing drafts, her church papers, and her professional and personal correspondence. The collection contains early drafts of Wrinkle in Time, as well as other books, poetry, speeches, essays, and short stories. L'Engle's speeches and essays cover a variety of subjects, including her christian faith, children's literature writing and publishing, parenting, science fiction, and her own life.

L'Engle was a deeply religious person and was very involved in her local episcopal church. She corresponded with many clergy members, directed christmas pageants, managed her church library, and was ordained herself. Her religious life often flowed into her professional work, since she often wrote and spoke on religious subjects. She labelled many of her speeches as "Sermons." The collection contains her religious writing, correspondence, records of her churches, and introspective and prayer materials.

L’Engle was a prolific letter writer and saved much of that correspondence with family, friends, fans, and publishers, sometimes copying and saving letters she had written to them as well. L’Engle’s letters are often candid and self-reflective about parenting, her religious faith, and balancing career and family. Correspondents include theater stars of the 1940s-1950s, authors, and Smith College classmates.

The collection also contains significant papers from L'Engle's grandparents, Bion H Barnett and Caroline "Lina" L'Engle Barnett, parents, Charles Wadsworth Camp and Madeleine Barnett Camp, husband, Hugh Franklin, and granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis. There is a small amount of genealogy research and material from L'Engle's three children, Bion, Josephine, and Maria. Notable figures represented in these papers include Bion Barnett (a Florida banker), Charles Wadsworth Camp (author, war correspondent in WWI, soldier, and theater reviewer), and Caroline "Lina" L'Engle Barnett (pacifist and environmentalist). The papers of Charlotte Jones Voiklis includes her writings and research about her grandmother, as well as information about the management of Madeleine's estate and works after her death in 2007.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1788 - 2019
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900 - 2007


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access:

Information about the ordination of others to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church (as identified by the donor) will be restricted until January 1, 2050. The Donor’s copy of Joseph Duell’s diary will be restricted until January 1, 2050. In order to respect the privacy of L'Engle's family and friends, some records (particularly family correspondence and family records not created by L'Engle) have been identified by the donor as being restricted until 2050.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, Crosswicks Ltd. has retained copyright in Madeleine L'Engle's works donated to Smith. 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. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Madeleine L'Engle, 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 / Historical

Madeleine L’Engle, was an author of children’s stories, plays, poetry, fiction, religious tracts, autobiographies, and science fiction, best known for her children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in Manhattan on Nov. 29, 1918, the only child of Madeleine Hall Barnett and Charles Wadsworth Camp. Her mother was a pianist; her father was a World War I veteran who worked as a foreign correspondent. His lungs were so damaged by mustard gas that he quit his job after the war and began writing drama and music reviews for The New York Sun, short stories, movies, and plays.

L'Engle spent her early years with her parents and her English nanny, Mrs. O'Connell in Manhattan. Her early schooling was difficult, since she was unpopular with her peers and regarded as stupid by her teacher. Madeleine wrote her first story at 5 and retreated into writing. When she won a poetry contest in the fifth grade, her teacher accused her of plagiarizing and her mother had to intervened to prove her innocence. The following year, her parents sent her to a new school, Todhunter.

In 1930, Charles Camp developed pneumonia and his doctors encouraged him to leave New York. The family moved to Switzerland, and L'Engle was sent to Chatelard, a girls' boarding school in Montreaux, Switzerland. When L'Engle was 14, her grandmother, Dearma, became seriously ill and the Camps moved to Florida to be with her. That fall, L'Engle was sent to Ashley Hall Boarding School in Charleston, South Carolina. She was an active student, participating in plays and serving on the student council as president. In 1936, her father died. L'Engle graduated from Ashley Hall the following June. In the fall, she attended Smith College, majoring in English, where she graduated with her BA in 1941.

Returning to New York, L’Engle began to get small acting parts. Several plays she had written were produced. She published her first novel, The Small Rain, in 1945. She met the actor Hugh Franklin and they married in 1946. Their daughter Josephine was born the next year. The family moved to the small town of Goshen, where they lived in a 200-year-old country house called Crosswicks. Franklin continued to tour with acting companies, often being away most of the year. When L'Engle became pregnant again in 1951, however, Franklin decided to get a job near Crosswicks and the family moved there permanently. On March 24, 1952, their son, Bion, was born. The young family bought the Goshen General Store, and began handling both mail and groceries for the small town. In 1956, they adopted their daughter Maria.

When all the children were off at school, L'Engle began to write Meet the Austins, a book inspired by her own family. The work was to be one of the first of a successful series for L'Engle. Meet the Austins earned its place on the list of the American Library Association's Notable Children's books of 1960.

By 1959, the family was ready for a change. They sold the General Store and opted to again use Crosswicks as a summer home and return to New York for the winter months. During this time, L’Engle began writing her classic novel for young adults, A Wrinkle in Time. The book was rejected by 26 publishers before editors at Farrar, Straus & Giroux read it and enthusiastically accepted it. It proved to be her masterpiece, winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963, the American Library Association's Notable Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Runner-up Award. At the time of her death, the book had sold eight million copies. Wrinkle has been one of the most banned books in the United States, accused by religious conservatives of offering an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurturing in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy. L’Engle, who often wrote about her Christian faith, was taken aback by the attacks. Wrinkle is part of L’Engle’s Time series of children’s books, which includes A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters and An Acceptable Time.

Hugh Franklin began acting again soon after the sale of the store, eventually settling into the role of Dr. Charles Tyler on the television program All My Children. L'Engle continued to write and broadened her scope to nonfiction and religion. Franklin's death in 1986 inspired a book about her life with him, Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, published in 1988. Other works from around this period included Dragons in the Waters (1976) and A House like a Lotus (1984). L'Engle also wrote several collections of poetry and in 1982 she published a sequel to The Small Rain, called A Severed Wasp.

L'Engle served as writer in residence at Victoria magazine in 1995. She also served as writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where she had also been a librarian for over 30 years. L'Engle continued to write and to lecture, teaching writing workshops at universities and churches. Her works in the 1990s include The Glorious Impossible (1990), Certain Women (1992), Troubling a Star (1994), A Live Coal in the Sea (1996), and Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols (1996). L'Engle also wrote on religious topics, publishing such works as Sold into Egypt: Joseph's Journey into Human Being (1989), Anytime Prayers (1994), Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections (1996), and Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation (1997). L’Engle died in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 2007.

Bibliography Martin, D. (2007). Madeleine L’Engle - Obituary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019]. Gale Research Inc. (1998). Encyclopedia of world biography. Detroit: Gale Research.


43.904 linear feet (42 boxes)

288 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Madeleine L’Engle, was an author of children’s stories, plays, poetry, fiction, religious tracts, autobiographies, and science fiction, best known for her children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time. This collection includes her personal and professional papers, including manuscripts and drafts of her writings. The collection also includes the papers of Madeliene L'Engle's family members, including her parents and grandparets, the Barnetts and Camps, and her husband's family, the Franklins.


This collection is divided into five series.


  1. Childhood and Education
  2. Theater and Playwriting
  3. Biographical
  4. Writings and Professional records
  5. Camp, Franklin, and Barnett family papers

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

his collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Upon Madeleine L'Engle's death, her papers were given to Crosswicks Ltd. and were cared for by her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis. In 2019, Charlotte donated the collection on behalf of Crosswicks Ltd. to the Sophia Smith Collection. She determined which materials would be included in the collection and what material would be restricted.


In 2019, 4 linear feet of doctoral robes, duplicates, and news clipping and writings not by or about the family were removed from the collection.

Related Materials

During her lifetime, L'Engle gave a significant amount of materials to Wheaton College's archive, which makes up their Madeleine L’Engle papers. Additionally, the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern Missippi have book drafts, including drafts for Wrinkle in Time. The Cathedral of St John has some of L'Engle's sermons and other material related to her involvement in the church.

For correspondence from L’Engle, see Mina Kirstein Curtiss papers. In the College Archives, for information on L’Engle’s time at Smith see Classes of 1941-1950 records, and for material related to L’Engle as an alumnae see Smith College Medal Committee records.

Processing Information

In 2019, Madison White, Ellice Amanna, Scott Biddle, and student workers, Grace Hartley and Venice Teeter, processed the collection. The papers were split into five series: Childhood and Education, Theater and Playwriting, Writings and Professional records, Biographical, and the Camp, Franklin, Barnett family papers. 4 linear feet of doctoral robes, duplicates, and news clipping and writings not by or about the family were removed from the collection. While the papers were already in rough piles of related materials, we foldered these piles and reorganized to into series, subseries, etc. The new structure was then described in this finding aid.

A few weeks later, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L'Engle's granddaughter and the donor of the collection, came to the archive to identify photographs. She labelled photographs with help from her mother, Josephine Franklin Jones, and put them into an order. While here, she also, idetified some of the correspondents that the archivists could not find last names for, and she combed through the seperations. Some seperations were moved back into the collection, especially writings by L'Engle's friends and news clippings. Madison White took her identification work and added it to the finding aid. Labelled photos can now be found in series 3, 4, and 5.

The contents of all 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.

Finding aid to the Madeleine L'Engle papers
Enhanced Finding Aid (Completed)
Madison White, Ellice Amanna, Scott Biddle
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019-10-15: Published new finding aid
  • 2020-10-23: Description of digital content added

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063