Skip to main content

Garrison family papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00060

Scope and Contents

The Garrison Family papers consist of thousands of primary sources that document three families' involvement in most of the major reform movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection spans the years 1694 to 2005, but the bulk of the material dates from 1830 to 1950. Types of material include correspondence, diaries, writings, speeches, legal documents, photographs, journal and newspaper articles, memorabilia, and a wide variety of printed sources.

Included are the papers of two families who married into the Garrisons: the Wrights (Ellen Wright married William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909)) and the Stephensons (Edith Stephenson married William Lloyd Garrison (1874 -1964)). The Wright family includes the Coffins (Ellen's mother was Martha Coffin Wright) and the Mott family (Ellen's aunt, Martha's elder sister, was Lucretia Coffin Mott) and their descendents. These papers trace the activities of the Garrison, Wright and Stephenson families and their friends and associates in England, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York, among other places.

Although there is unique correspondence, biographical material, printed material, and memorabilia related to William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), the largest part of the collection relates to his son William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909) and WLG's (1838-1909) wife, Ellen Wright Garrison, and their descendents. The influence of patriarch William Lloyd Garrison (1805) can be seen as each generation took its place in the reform movements of its time. These include abolition, anti-imperialism, anti-vaccination, conservation, free trade and tariff reform, immigration reform, pacifism, race, single tax, and temperance. The papers are an especially important source for the suffrage and women's rights movements because they include the correspondence of Martha Coffin Wright and Lucretia Coffin Mott with other leaders of the movement; as well as correspondence, printed material and ephemera of Eleanor Garrison, who was an organizer for the Empire State suffrage campaign under Carrie Chapman Catt. Major correspondents on abolition, women's rights, and other reforms include Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Henry B. Blackwell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucy Conant, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Henry George, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, Parker Pillsbury, Louis Prang, Caroline Severance, Anna Howard Shaw, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Dwight Weld, Frances E. Willard, and Marie Zakrzewska.

Because the Garrisons were a close-knit family, in addition to a wide view of reform, the papers offer a look at two centuries of intimate family life, inter-generational dynamics, and social history. There is extensive correspondence between parents and children, siblings, husbands and wives, cousins, aunts and uncles. They also had a wide circle of friends and associates and an extensive social network, especially in and around Boston.

For the purposes of this project, Garrison family members have been defined as original Garrisons and their direct descendants and anyone who married into the family. In order to differentiate between the various William Lloyd Garrisons, they have been identified by initials and birth dates: i.e. WLG (1805); WLG(1838); WLG (1874), and WLG(1902). It is not always clear which WLG some of the material relates to. The same holds true for the three generations which contain a Benjamin Turner Stephenson in the Stephenson family. Married women are located under their married names.

Since the Garrisons and Wrights were involved in so many reform movements, their letters are full of references to noted people and related activities. Although incomplete, there are two ways this information can be accessed. One is via the card catalog in the Sophia Smith Collection, a second via letter indexes. Approximately one-half of the Garrison Family Papers were indexed by subject for inclusion in the card catalog. Although the box numbers are now outdated, the information contained on the cards is a valuable tool. Over the years, family members, especially Frank Wright Garrison, indexed large portions of the Garrison and Wright family correspondence. These indexes are filed separately at the end of the collection. They are arranged by author and then somewhat randomly by date and consist of detailed notations on the contents of each letter. Although they are somewhat difficult to use, these indexes represent an extraordinary body of information.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1694 - 2010


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

To the extent that they own copyright, the Garrison Family has assigned to Smith College all intellectual property rights in these materials; 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. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by the Garrison Family, 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

The Garrison Family Papers include five generations of the Garrison family, four generations of the Wright family and five generations of the Stephenson family. There are detailed biographical sketches in standard reference works as well as biographies of members of the Garrison and Wright families. These include Dictionary of American Biography (DAB), Notable American Women (NAW). William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879; The story of his life told by his children, All On Fire, William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery by Henry Mayer, Growing Up Abolitionist, The Story of the Garrison Children by Harriet Alonso, and James and Lucretia Mott: Life and Letters by Anna Davis Hallowell. Please consult also the Family Trees in the Sophia Smith Collection (note: the Garrison Family Tree is also online:

The Garrison Family

Generation 1: Abijah Garrison and Frances ("Fanny") Lloyd Garrison

The Garrison Family Papers begin with Abijah Garrison (1773 - ?) and Frances ("Fanny") Lloyd Garrison (1776-1823). Abijah was born in an isolated farming community in New Brunswick, Canada. By the 1790s he had become a seaman based in St. John. He married Frances Lloyd in 1798 and they settled on the Jemseg River in New Brunswick. They moved to St. John in 1801. They had two daughters (Mary Ann and Caroline Eliza) and a son (James Holley). Mary Ann died in infancy and in 1805 the family moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts. In December of that year a fourth child, William Lloyd, was born, followed by Elizabeth Knowlton in 1808. A man of intemperate habits, Abijah abandoned his wife and family shortly after Elizabeth's birth. He was never heard from again.

Generation 2: William Lloyd Garrison and Helen Benson Garrison

Frances Lloyd Garrison, abandoned with small children to care for, placed her son William Lloyd (1805-1879) (see DAB) in the care of Deacon Ezekiel Bartlett. He received little schooling, and was apprenticed in 1818 to Ephraim Allen of the Newburyport Herald. In 1826 he became editor of the Free Press. When the press failed he became a journeyman printer and in 1828 he joined with Nathaniel White in editing the temperance newspaper National Philanthropist. Influenced by Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker, he became interested in the abolition movement, a cause he championed for the next thirty years. He founded the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, in 1831 which he published until 1865. In 1834 he married Helen Benson, daughter of a retired merchant and member of an abolitionist family. They had seven children: George Thompson (1836-1904) , William Lloyd (1838-1909), Wendell Phillips (1840-1907), Charles Follen (1842-1849), Helen Frances ("Fanny") (1844-1928) , Elizabeth Pease (1846-1848), and Francis Jackson (1848-1916). Although there are papers generated by all of the surviving children, those of William Lloyd are most complete.

Generation 3: Children of William Lloyd Garrison and Helen Benson Garrison

There are seven descendents in Generation 3 of the Garrison family. All of the children of William Lloyd and Helen Benson Garrison, with the exception of George, followed in their father's reform footsteps. Wendell, via his editorship at The Nation, was involved in abolition, freedman's relief, and racial and sexual equality. Fanny, following the death of her husband, Henry Villard, became involved in the suffrage movement and pacifism. Francis in addition to his position as editor at Houghton Mifflin, championed racial and sexual equality. A detailed description of all of the children in Generation 3 can be found in Harriet Alonso's Growing Up Abolitionist, the Story of the Garrison Children. The primary persons in this generation represented in the Papers are William Lloyd Garrison and Ellen Wright Garrison.

William Lloyd Garrison left school at the age of eighteen to begin a business career. In 1855 he became associated with abolitionist James Buffum and lived with the Buffum family for seven years where he became involved in various reform movements. He held clerical and banking positions and in 1864 he went into the wool business. In addition, he established one of the earliest electric light stations in Brockton, Massachusetts, and also dealt in bonds, retiring from business in 1902. He was, however, a reformer at heart and up until his death in 1909 was involved in abolition, women's rights and suffrage, immigration reform, Armenian and Russian relief, Irish home rule, anti-imperialism, pacifism, temperance, and free trade. He was also an avid single taxer and president of the Massachusetts Single Tax league. In 1864 he married Ellen Wright, daughter of Martha Coffin and David Wright (See Wright Family).

Ellen Wright was born in 1842 and grew up in a Quaker abolitionist community. She was educated at abolitionist Theodore Weld's Eagleswood School in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Sharon Female Seminary in Darby, Pennsylvania, and Mrs. Sedgwick's Young Ladies School in Lenox, Massachusetts. Influenced by her mother's activism, a life long friendship with Susan B. Anthony, and the reform movements of her husband, Ellen was an active life member in the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Generation 4: Children of William Lloyd Garrison and Ellen Wright Garrison

There are eighteen descendents in Generation 4 of the Garrison family. William Lloyd and Ellen had five children: Agnes (1866-1950), Charles (1868-1951), Frank Wright (1871-1961), William Lloyd (1874-1964), and Eleanor (1880-1974). Although there is material on all of the children as well as other family members, William, Eleanor and Agnes are the most well represented in these papers.

William graduated from Harvard in 1897 and attended Harvard Law School. He became an investment banker and in 1908 became a partner in the firm of Perry, Coffin & Burr. When that partnership was dissolved, he became president of a new firm of Coffin & Burr. According to family members, in hard times he was known to have reimbursed clients from his own pocket if they lost money from his investments. He retired in 1933. A reformer at heart his causes included anti-vaccination, anti-imperialism, free trade, pacifism and racial and sexual equality. In 1901 he married Edith Alice Stephenson (see also Stephenson Family).

Edith was born in 1878, the third of seven children of Benjamin Turner and Luda Grant Stephenson. She was trained as a concert pianist. In addition to raising their six children, she was active in the suffrage movement and was president of the Newton Equal Suffrage League.

Eleanor graduated from Smith College in 1904 and received a Master of Arts degree from Radcliffe in 1906. When she graduated, the suffrage movement was at its peak and she worked avidly for the vote until 1919. In 1912 she became an organizer for Carrie Chapman Catt who headed the New York State campaign for women's suffrage headquartered in New York City. When the campaign ended she became interested in photography which she worked at for 10 years. In the 1940s she moved to California to care for her sister Agnes, remaining there with her brother Frank after Agnes' death.

Generation 5: The children of William Lloyd Garrison and Edith Stephenson Garrison

There are twenty-nine descendents in Generation 5 of the Garrison family. The papers primarily concern the children of William Lloyd and Edith Stephenson: William Lloyd (1902-1988 ) Claire ("Tita") (1903-1985), David Lloyd (1906- 2001), John Bright (1909-1988) Faith (1910- 1981) and Edith Lloyd ("Yoy") (1913-1993). The largest portion of the papers concern David.

David Lloyd Garrison graduated from Harvard in 1928 with a degree in fine arts. He taught for several years and then joined J.H. Emerson Co., manufacturers of breathing equipment. He was an avid birder, and just prior to World War II he was curator of birds at New England Museum of Natural History and the editor of the Bulletin of New England Bird Life. He published a number of papers on birds. He relinquished his conscientious objector status and served as a non-combatant medical technician during World War II. He married Alice ("Pat) O'Reilly (his superior officer) in 1945. After the war he resumed his work for the J. H. Emerson Company. He was also an amateur artist and was active in peace activism, land conservation and civic and church affairs.

The papers do not go beyond Generation 5 of the Garrison family, but there are 60 Garrison descendents in Generation 6.

The Wright family

There are four generations of the Wright family represent in the Garrison family papers. Material in these papers primarily represent Martha Coffin Wright, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Marianna Pelham Mott, and Eliza Wright Osborne.

Martha Coffin Wright (see NAW) was the eighth child of Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger Coffin. She was born in 1806 and in 1824, after three years of boarding school, she married army captain Peter Pelham. They had a daughter Marianna. Pelham died in 1826. In 1829 Martha married lawyer David Wright with whom she had six children: Eliza (1830), Matthew Tallman (1832), Ellen (1840), William Pelham (1842), Frank (1844), and Charles (1848). In 1848 she joined with her sister Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock in planning the first woman's right convention at Seneca Falls, New York. She continued to be active throughout her life in the cause for women's rights and suffrage. She was elected to the presidency of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1874.

Lucretia Coffin Mott (see NAW) was the second child of Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger Coffin. Born in 1793 on Nantucket, Massachusetts, in a Quaker household, she was educated in a Friends boarding school near Poughkeepsie, New York, where she later taught. In 1811 she married James Mott, a fellow teacher, who shared her causes and feminist leanings. She was an avid abolitionist and pacifist, and along with her sister Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock, planned the first woman's right convention at Seneca Falls, New York. She was president of the American Equal Rights Association from 1866 until the organization split into the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. The Motts had five children: Anna, Maria, Thomas, Elizabeth, and Martha. Thomas Mott married Marianna Pelham, the eldest daughter of Martha Coffin Wright.

Marianna Pelham was the daughter of Martha Coffin Wright by her first husband, Peter Pelham. In 1845 she married her cousin, Thomas Mott, son of Lucretia Coffin Mott and James Mott. They had three children: Isabel (1846), Emily (1848) and Maria (1853).

Eliza was the eldest of six children of Martha Coffin and David Wright. In 1851 she married David Munson Osborne. They had four children, Florence (1856), Emily (1853), Thomas Mott (1859) and Helen (1884).

Stephenson Family

There are five generations of the Stephenson family represented in the Garrison Family Papers. The first generation includes Bryant Parrot (1784-1841) and Abigail Gilbert Balkam (1784-1857) Stephenson. There is further documentation of the subsequent generations up to the nieces and nephews of Edith Stephenson Garrison. Edith's papers are included with the Garrison Family, and the Stephensons are primarily represented by Benjamin Turner and Lucinda (Luda) Grant Stephenson, the parents of Edith Alice Stephenson.


171.341 linear feet (331 containers)

Language of Materials



The Garrison Family Papers contain thousands of primary sources that document the family's involvement in politics, business, art, literature, religion, education, and most of the major reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These include abolition, anti-imperialism, anti-vaccination, conservation, free trade and tariff reform, immigration reform, pacifism, race, single tax, and temperance. Extensive correspondence, diaries, clippings, articles, speeches, photographs, memorabilia, and a wide variety of printed sources trace the activities of the Garrison, Coffin, Mott, and Wright families and their friends and associates in England, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York, among other places. Although there are letters and other documents relating to abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), the largest part of the material relates to his son, William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909), Ellen Wright Garrison, and their descendents.


The papers are arranged as follows:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Diaries
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Writings and Speeches
  5. V. Financial Materials
  6. VI. Subject Files
  7. VII. Photographs
  8. VIII. Memorabilia
  9. IX. Wright Family
  10. X. Stephenson Family
  11. XI. Scrapbooks
  12. XII. Artifacts
  13. Indexes
  14. Transcriptions and Notes
  15. Restricted Materials
  16. Books on Shelf


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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Garrison Family Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Eleanor Garrison (Smith 1904) beginning in 1948, and continued by Frank Wright Garrison. The major growth of the collection can be traced in the Friends of the Smith College Library Reports, 1948-1965. Since then additional donations were made through 1998 by various friends and family members: Mrs. Hendon Chubb, James Gould, Lucretia Wells, Otelia Cromwell, Lucia Norton Valentine, Edna Stantial, Agnes Garrison, and William Lloyd and Edith Stephenson Garrison.

Latter donations were made by Edith Garrison Griffin (2001-2004), Lucretia Wells (2004), Jim and Anne Gould (2005), and Daphne Harwood (2007).

Additions to the Collection

Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Additional Formats

The Garrison Family Papers are also available on microfilm and a copy is included in the collection.

Related Material

Material on three Smith graduates: Katherine Garrison Norton 1895, Fanny Garrison 1901 and Eleanor Garrison 1904 can be found in the Smith College Archives. Additional papers of Garrison family members are located at the American Antiquarian Society, New York Public Library, Houghton Library at Harvard University, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston Public Library, and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Lucretia Coffin Mott's papers are located at the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.

Additional research on William Lloyd Garrison can be found on the following websites:

Processing Information

Reprocessed in 2003 by Susan L. Boone, Sarah Keen, Kara McClurken, Jessica Petocz, and Meredith Van Dyke. Processing funded by the Bodman Foundation.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. The following changes were made in this collection: Accession 2007-S-0081, Box 1 renumbered as Box 317


Finding Aid to the Garrison family papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Susan L. Boone, Sarah Keen, Kara McClurken, Jessica Petocz, and Meredith Van Dyke
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: mnsss175 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:12-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-03-26: Made paper FA pencil edit changes to finding aid.
  • 2020-07-16: Added 9+ flat files, updated dates
  • 2021-07-01: Content description added from accession inventories
  • 2022-03-02: 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