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Sophie Hutchinson Drinker papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00051

Scope and Contents

The Sophie Hutchinson Drinker papers are primarily related to her books Brahms and His Women's Choruses and Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music. Types of materials include correspondence, research notes, songbooks, addresses, journal articles, newspaper clippings, transcripts of oral history interviews, and memorabilia.

The bulk of the papers date from 1935 to 1966. Notable parts of the first series are the transcripts of oral history interviews conducted by Smith College Professor Ruth A. Solie with two of Drinker's daughters, Ernesta Drinker Ballard and Cecilia Drinker Saltonstall. These provide a glimpse into the life of Sophie Drinker and her family.

WRITINGS is the largest series and much of it consists of research materials, notes, and correspondence relating to Drinker's book Brahms and His Women's Choruses. Of particular interest are the individual music notebooks, or stimmenhefte, that the chorus women copied from Brahms' manuscripts. Drinker obtained stimmenhefte from four women or their families in either their original book form or as photostatic copies. The photostatic copies are in many cases the only remaining copies as the originals were destroyed during World War II or otherwise lost. The stimmenhefte are all written in German. Except for the Völckers sisters' materials, there is a folder of correspondence associated with each woman's stimmenhefte that explain how the Drinkers acquired the material or the status of the songbooks. The search for the original choir members and their stimmenhefte began in the 1930s when the Drinkers contacted Dr. Hans Albrecht. Dr. Albrecht contacted many of the families of former choir members on behalf of the Drinkers and facilitated the acquisition or the copying of the stimmenhefte. A fuller account of the acquisitions can be found in the correspondence folders mentioned previously, or in Drinker's book Brahms and His Women's Choruses.

The Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft Hamburgischer Kunstfreunde, 1902 [translation: Yearbook of the Hamburg Society of Friends of the Arts] contains a piece written in German by Franzisca Lentz about the women's chorus directed by Brahms. "Photographs and illustrations" includes images of Brahms, some of the chorus women, and other musical figures involved with the chorus. The "Writings by Brahms" folder contains a photostat of a few lines of music most likely written by Brahms.

The subseries on Drinker's book Music and Women largely consists of bound volumes of her notes. The first volume (Part I: "Introduction/Prehistoric") contains a list of contents for the books; however, the titles on the outsides of the books sometimes do not exactly match the formal title or description Drinker gave them in the contents listing. The books are arranged according to Drinker's order in the first volume.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1859-1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1935-1966


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections. Due to their fragility, bound materials in the collection may not be photocopied.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. 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. 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

Sophie (Lewis) Hutchinson Drinker was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, on August 24, 1888 to Sydney Pemberton Hutchinson and Amy Lewis. She attended boarding school at St. Timothy's School in Catonsville, Maryland, and graduated in 1906. Although she was then admitted to Bryn Mawr, she declined to attend college.

She married Henry Drinker, a lawyer and musicologist, in 1911. They had five children: Sophie, Henry S., Jr., Cecilia, Ernesta, and Pemberton. The Drinkers were well known in the Philadelphia area for their invitation-only singing parties. Group songs and music, often with the accompaniment of invited musicians, including some from the Philadelphia Orchestra or the Curtis Institute, preceded and followed dinner prepared by the Drinker household staff.

Sophie Drinker spent a significant portion of her life researching and writing about the history of women and music, as well as promoting choral singing by women. In 1930 she joined the Montgomery Singers, a women's chorus, and many years later she served as the group's president. In her scholarly work Drinker was greatly influenced by Mary Beard, pioneer women's historian, and the democratic, economically oriented history of the "progressive" school to which Beard subscribed. She worked with Beard on her abortive project to establish the World Center for Women's Archives.

Drinker's book, Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music, was published in 1948. It was widely reviewed by the historical community but did not receive much attention from the musical community until the late twentieth century. She is also the author of Brahms and His Women's Choruses (1952) and articles on women and music. In her later works, Drinker moved away from the topic of music and began to focus more on women in colonial America. Her later works include the books Hannah Penn and the Proprietorship of Pennsylvania (1958) and The American Woman in Colonial and Revolutionary Times, 1565-1800 (jointly authored with Eugenie Andruss Leonard and Miriam Young Holden; 1962), and articles entitled, "Patriarchal Values in Women's Education" (1954), "Women and the Ideal Democracy" (1960), "Women Attorneys of Colonial Times" (1961), and "The Two Elizabeth Carterets" (1961).

Cited for her "service in the cause of Music whereby she had brought together and made available much that, but for her, would have lain forgotten," Drinker received an honorary degree from Smith College in 1949. She served for a time as a guest lecturer at Pennsylvania Medical College for Women, from which she received an honorary degree in 1967. Throughout her life Drinker was involved in a number of philanthropic, civic, and women's groups, including the Marriage Council of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Society of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, the Lucy Stone League, the Community Chest, and the League of Women Voters. Because of her work with, and writings on, women, Betty Friedan wanted Drinker to join the first elected board of the National Organization of Women. However, Drinker's health was failing at this point, so her daughter Ernesta volunteered in her place and won election to the board. Drinker died of cancer a few months later in September 1967. The Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, Germany, is named after her.

Additional biographical sketches of Drinker written by Ruth A. Solie can be found in American National Biography and in the afterword of the 1995 edition of Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music.


8.25 linear feet (12 containers)

Language of Materials



Sophie Drinker was a historian and musicologist. Papers primarily relate to Drinker's work on the history of women and music, and her promotion of choral singing by women. Types of materials include correspondence, research, and writings for her books Brahms and His Women's Choruses (1952), and Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music (1948). Of particular interest are the songbooks, or stimmenhefte, which chorus women copied from Johannes Brahms' manuscripts. There are also 16 volumes of bound notes for Music and Women on women and music around the world from prehistoric times to the 20th century.


This collection is organized into three series:


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Sophie Drinker donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1948 and 1965. Professor Ruth Solie donated the oral history transcripts in 1991 and Harriet Gratwick donated some correspondence with Drinker in 1983 and two articles in 1989.

Additional materials were donated by Joanne Seitter in 2004.

Related Material

Additional correspondence with Drinker can be found in the Marie Munk Papers at the Sophia Smith Collection and in her donor file in the Smith College Archives. The College Archives also has photographs of Drinker and the full citation for her honorary degree from Smith College. Additional papers of Drinker are housed at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute; and the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania. Henry and Sophie Drinker's music collection is at the Drinker Choral Library, Free Library of Philadelphia.

Finding aid to the Sophie Hutchinson Drinker papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Sarah E. Keen
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: mnsss181 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 and updated finding aid.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063