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Cynthia Propper Seton papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00142

Scope and Contents

The Cynthia Propper Seton Papers consist of 1 linear foot of material dating from 1946 to 1982, with the majority dating from the later 1960's to the end of Seton's life. The collection consists mainly of Seton's writings, including drafts and finished typescripts of her columns, essays, and novels. Personal papers are less extensive, and are primarily Seton's detailed correspondence to her longtime friend and confidante Frances Richardson, whom Seton met in 1951 while their husbands were both at Yale Medical School. These discuss Seton's views on women's rights, writing, travels, her children, and her later battle with Hodgkin's disease. Seton's search for what it means to live a fulfilling life runs heavily throughout the correspondence, a theme she also discusses at length in her writings.

The collection also contains several photographs and some biographical information, mostly articles featuring Seton's politics and experience as an older feminist and mother, but also obituaries and other materials relating to her death. Major themes addressed in the papers are the social movements of the 1960s (especially the women's movement); the impact of feminism on middle-aged women; Smith College; the city of Northampton; and the writing process.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1946 - 1982


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access: At the direction of the donor, materials received as Accession 1997-S-0042 are closed until January 2038.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright ownership of Cynthia Seton's unpublished works is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Cynthia Seton may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. 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

Cynthia Propper was born October 11, 1926, in New York City to Charlotte Jansen and Karl Propper. She graduated from the Fieldston School in Riverdale, New York and earned her B.A. from Smith College in 1948. She was married to Paul Seton, the Smith College physician and psychiatrist; the two had five children: Anthony, Julia, Margaret, Jennifer, and Nora. After living in Natick and Stockbridge, Massachusetts the family moved in 1957 to Northampton, where they remained for the rest of Seton's life. Starting in 1956 Seton worked as a journalist, serving for 12 years as a writer for the Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where she wrote a column on modern motherhood called "Skirting the Issue." Her column was also printed in the Washington Post for a year, from 1959-60. She published three essay collections and five novels. Additionally, Seton wrote articles for magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, and McCall's, and regularly contributed book reviews to several publications. Many critics praised Seton's work, calling her "a latter-day Jane Austen, writing a comedy of manners." Her third novel, A Fine Romance, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1976. In addition to writing, Seton lectured on literary and feminist topics and taught at the Indiana University Writer's Conference. After a decade-long battle with Hodgkin's disease and leukemia, Seton died in Northampton on October 23, 1982.


3.272 linear feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



Author. Papers consist primarily of typescripts of Seton's columns, essays, and novels; biographical material; detailed correspondence; and a few photographs. Major themes addressed in the papers are Smith College; the city of Northampton; the social movements of the 1960s (especially the women's movement); the impact of feminism on middle-aged women; and writing.

Organization of the Collection

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

The Cynthia Propper Seton Papers were first donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Cynthia Seton in 1969. Her publisher George Brockway and her friend Frances Richardson donated additional materials in the 1990s. Additional materials were donated by Margaret Seton in 2013.

Related Material

Additional materials include a typescript of Seton's book A Private Life in the Mortimer Rare Book Collection. Seven of Seton's other books are available in Neilson Library. The Smith College Archives also hold material relating to Cynthia Seton and her husband Paul in the Smith Centennial Study Oral History Project, the Class of 1948 records, and the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, among other sources.

Processing Information

Processed by Joanna Johnson, 2011

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. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.



Cynthia Propper Seton papers
Finding Aid
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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 (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:15-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2021-07-02: Content description added from accession inventory

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063