Skip to main content

Catharine Kerlin Wilder papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SSC-MS-00709

Scope and Contents

The collection includes correspondence, photographs, scapbooks, childhood memorabilia, drafts of memoirs, and essays written by Wilder. Especially well documented are her years in Geneva (1929- 1934) when she worked at the League of Nations. Her childhood, especially her summer camp experiences, are also well represented. Also of interest is the American women's suffrage campaign material, amassed by Wilder's mother, including correspondence, pamphlets, speeches, and memorabilia. Finally, this collection includes papers of Wilder's friend Hope Sewell French during her years (1930s) working for the League of Nations in Geneva, including correspondence, photographs, scrapbook, and articles, written by French and others.

Dates of Materials

  • 1813-2000

Creator

Language of Materials

English, French

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

Amos Tappan Wilder and Catharine Wilder Guiles retain copyright to unpublished works created by Catharine Kerlin Wilder. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify all copyright holders.

Biographical / Historical

Catharine Kerlin was born in Camden, New Jersey the daughter of Ward Dix Kerlin, co-owner of the Camden Forge, and Sarah Jenney Gilbert Kerlin, a women's suffrage activist on the state level and then, after 1920, active in the League of Women Voters. Theirs was a fairly prosperous family and the Kerlin children, Catharine and her two brothers, attended private schools, mostly those run by Quakers, and spent their summers at camps in northern New Hampshire. Catharine Kerlin graduated from Smith College in 1929 with a degree in history; her honors thesis, directed by the eminent historian Merle Curti, focused on the Anti-Imperialist League in 1900. After graduation, she travelled in Europe for a few months before settling down in Geneva to work for the American Committee to the League of Nations which was sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Such private funding was necessary, of course, because the US had never signed the Treaty of Versailles nor joined the organization that grew out of that treaty, the League of Nations. Nonethless, the international peace movement in the interwar years was a vibrant, active community, one in which Catherine Kerlin was a very much a part of.

However, unlike her friend, Hope Sewell French, who made such work her life's career, Kerlin chose a more conventional path. She had first met Amos Niven Wilder, a theologian and poet (and brother of the novelist/playwright, Thornton Wilder), in 1929, shortly after she arrived in Europe. But it was when they met again in the summer of 1934 that a romance began and a year later, the couple married in August, 1935. In the year before she married, Catharine Kerlin Wilder taught history at the Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York; she had previously taught history as well as English at the International School of Geneva. Thereafter, it was Amos Niven Wilder's career which directed the family's life. When the couple first married, Amos Wilder was a professor of the New Testament at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts. By the time he accepted a position at the Chicago Theological School in 1943, Catharine Kerlin Wilder had given birth to Catharine Dix Wilder ("Dixie") in 1937 and Amos Tappan Wilder ("Tappy") in 1940. In 1954, Wilder was named Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School and the family then moved back east, settling in Cambridge, spending summers in their second home in South Blue Hill, Maine.

Throughout these years, Catharine Kerlin Wilder, as one obituary put it, "played a prominent role as a faculty spouse." She was also active in clubs, joining the prestigious Saturday Morning Club in Boston in 1961, and engaged in charitable work for the public library and the Kneisel Hall School of Music, both in Blue Hill. After his retirement in 1963, the Wilders travelled around the world extensively for the next few decades. A few years after her husband died in 1993, Catharine Kerlin Wilder moved to a nursing home in Brunswick, Maine, closer to her daughter. In 2000, she published her memoir entitled Milestones in My Life. Three month shy of her 100th birthday, Catharine Kerlin Wilder died in Maine and is buried next to her husband in Mount Carmel Burial Ground, Hamden, Connecticut.

Extent

7 boxes (7 linear feet)

Abstract

Peace activist; teacher. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, childhood memorabilia, drafts of memoirs, and essays written by Wilder. Especially well documented are her years in Geneva (1929-1934) when she worked at the League of Nations as well as papers of Wilder's friend Hope Sewell French during her years (1930s) working for the League of Nations in Geneva, including correspondence, photographs, scrapbook, and articles, written by French and others. Also of interest is the American women's suffrage campaign material, amassed by Wilder's mother, including correspondence, pamphlets, speeches, and memorabilia. [NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed listing of what is included in this collection is available in this downloadable document: inventory to the Catharine Kerlin Wilder papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Catharine Kerlin Wilder Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by her son Amos Tappan Wilder in 2012.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter, May 2013

Title
Catharine Kerlin Wilder papers
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Date
2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:22-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

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

Contact:
Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063