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Patrica Beck papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00014

Scope and Contents

The Patricia Beck Papers consist of 9.5 linear ft. and date from 1936 to 1986. Types of materials include diaries, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, art slides, and newspaper clippings.

The bulk of the papers dates from 1940 to 1978 and focuses on Beck's writings and her life as it was recorded in her diaries. SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS includes information about Beck's family, pictures of Beck and her family and friends, slides of her artwork, and her extensive group of diaries, dating from 1938 when she was 14 to her death in 1978. Researchers should note that some of the biographical sketches compiled by people other than Beck in the "Biographical and family information" folder contain some inaccurate information. The diaries are arranged chronologically though not all of the diaries are of the same nature. The Daily Reminder books and other one-year daily diaries usually contain brief recordings of a day's events and, except for the very early diaries, pictograms that illustrate her activities. The composition books and red and black bound journals contain longer narratives for fewer dates.

The diaries contain a wealth of information including the movies she saw, books she read, food she ate, letters she wrote and received, telephone calls she made and received, and her financial information. She recorded her daily moods and occasionally her dreams. Many diaries contain newspaper clippings, letters, notes, and other items that Beck inserted between the pages. Some of these items have been removed to a separate folder located after the corresponding diary. Because Beck based many of her writings on her own life and the Bennington area, some of her notes in SERIES III. WRITINGS also contain biographical information.

SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE is divided into two subseries, Personal and Professional. The Personal correspondence from family and friends includes such notables as: Frank Capra, Erich and Henny Fromm, Dorothy and Granville Hicks, Bernard and Ann Malamud, Karl Polanyi, and Allan and Barbara Seager. The correspondence provides further insight into Beck's personal relationships, revealing that those relationships that began on a professional basis often grew to become much more. The correspondence with Bernard Malamud includes only brief discussions of her writing and the correspondence with other notables pertains largely to Beck's friendships with them. Professional correspondence includes rejection letters, with which Beck had once lined her walls, and letters with the magazine Yankee and the Fox Chase Agency.

SERIES III. WRITINGS is divided into four subseries, Book manuscripts, Poetry, Short stories, and Notes. Beck wrote two semi-autobiographical novels, Like Gone and Under the Shadow of a War, but neither was published as was none of her poetry. Only a few of her short stories were ever published and these are listed first in Short stories. Her unpublished stories are listed alphabetically. Beck's loose notes for her writings are arranged chronologically and her notebooks are arranged by title or type of notes.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1918 - 1986
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-78


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections. The handwritten diaries were formerly closed at the direction of the donor until 1992.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Beck's writings. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Beck may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Patricia Beck was born on April 8, 1924, in "Hell's Kitchen," New York, New York, to Margaret and Fred "Whitey" Beck. Her father, a bookmaker on racing grounds, died in July of 1926 when Pat was two years old. Pat was the third of four children, though an older sister Peggy died at the age of one. Her older sister Vera was in the army and later became a lawyer. Her younger brother Fred was a musician.

In the early 1930s the Beck family lived in Great Neck, Long Island, and, in 1933, Pat's mother married Paul Swiderski, a boxer, who Pat called "Pops." From 1934 to 1938 Pat's family spent much of the time living in various locations in Europe, including Spain, England, and France. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the family decided to return to the United States and take up residence again in Great Neck, Long Island, and then Asbury Park, New Jersey. Beck worked at the Allenhurst (New Jersey) Beach Club as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and graduated from Asbury Park High School in 1943. In the fall of 1943 she began attending Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, where she studied writing, art, and psychology. From her sophomore year until his departure from the college, Beck's academic counselor was poet Theodore Roethke. She also studied with W. H. Auden and Allan Seager.

In the middle of Beck's first year at Bennington College, her mother died from cancer, two weeks before her divorce from Paul Swiderski would have become final. The death affected Beck greatly and depression forced her to leave school in 1946. From July to August, she resided in the psychiatric unit at Albany Hospital in Albany, New York, and underwent shock therapy for her depression. After her release she spent some time in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, and then went to live in Bennington again.

On June 28, 1952, Beck married Thomas Maulding, a blind pianist and entertainer. She moved to New York City to live with him but she and Tom often traveled back to Vermont to visit friends. In 1954 Beck and Maulding purchased a home on Pleasant Street in North Bennington, Vermont, which they named "Birdland." Pat and Tom did not have any children but by 1956 Beck became more insistent that they try to conceive. In September of 1958 she discovered that she was pregnant but she miscarried due to Tom's forcing her to have intercourse though her doctor had advised against it. Tom soon left and did not return to live in the home until December of that year. He eventually moved out in 1959 and Beck asked for a divorce in August 1959.

Beck remained at Birdland after the divorce and eventually resumed her studies at Bennington College in the early 1960s, studying writing with Bernard Malamud. She continued her writing and painting and eventually two of her short stories, "A Promise in the Wind" and "Come Down to the Willow," were published in the magazine Yankee in 1970. These were the only items that would be published during her lifetime. A volume of short stories entitled, A Gift of Kindling and Other Stories, was compiled and published posthumously by a group of her friends.

In 1974 Beck's brother Fred passed away suddenly. He was buried on Beck's property at Birdland. In 1976 Pat's right leg was amputated because of complications from diabetes, with which she had lived for much of her life. After the amputation she was dependent on crutches and a wheelchair in her regular activities but still swam to remain active.

In 1977 Pat's other leg was amputated, also due to complications from diabetes. On March 2, 1978 Pat Beck committed suicide by an insulin overdose. Her ashes are buried at Birdland near her brother Fred's grave.


11.272 linear feet (26 containers)


Author, poet. Papers include Beck's personal diaries, kept continuously from age 14 until her death in 1978; manuscripts of 59 short stories, 2 semi-autobiographical novels, and poems; correspondence; and photographs and slides of artwork. The diaries, used as basis for her writings, contain insight into her relationships, daily activities, books and movies, her dreams, travel descriptions (including time spent in Civil War Spain), and periodic depressive episodes (which led to brief hospitalizations and her eventual suicide). Manuscripts include criticisms by Bernard Malamud and Theodore Roethke. Notable orrespondents include Frank Capra, Erich and Henny Fromm, Dorothy and Granville Hicks, Bernard and Ann Malamud, Karl Polanyi, and Allan and Barbara Seager.


This collection is organized into three series:



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

Lucien and Jane Hanks, Patricia Beck's literary executors, donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1982.

An oil painting of Allan Seager by Beck was donated by Jane Hanks in 2004.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah E. Keen, 2005.

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 2004-S-0056, Box 1 renumbered as Box 25

Patrica Beck papers
Finding Aid
Sarah E. Keen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-10-12: mnsss183 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.
  • 2022-03-03: 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