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Edna Rees Williams Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00116

Scope and Contents

The great majority of the materials in the Edna Rees Williams Papers, 1937 -1992, concern her work with foreign students at Smith College. There are also some items relating to her personal life, published work, and the Smith community in general. Types of materials include correspondence, photographs, books, articles, awards, clippings, typescripts, slides, and an audio recording.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1937 - 1992


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; 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 Smith College, 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

Edna Rees Williams was born on June 25, 1899 to Arthur and Rose (Longmire) Williams. Edna grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and attended Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University), where she received her B.A. in 1920. She later received both her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English from Yale University in 1929 and 1936 respectively.

In 1930 Williams joined the Smith College English Department as Instructor. In addition to teaching general courses, she gave courses in the field of medieval literature, such as Old English (Beowulf), Chaucer, and the History of the English Language. At various points she taught classes at Mount Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of London. She rose through the ranks of the department steadily and was appointed Professor of English in 1959. In the academic year 1960-61 she was awarded a grant as a Fulbright Lecturer in English to teach at Japan Women's University in Tokyo. In many ways this was the culmination of Williams' longtime interest in foreign education. In addition to acting as a guide and mentor to the many foreign students who studied at Smith each year, she had also served for several years as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Students at Smith. She often formed close relationships with these students and it was common for her to keep in touch with them for years after their graduation. In 1964, Williams officially retired and was named Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature by the Trustees, but continued to teach a reduced class load. In 1982-83 Williams was named a Sophia Smith Fellow.

Williams' major published work is The Conflict of Homonyms in English, a development of her Ph.D. thesis, published in 1944. She also authored several articles for scholarly journals and a few short reviews.

Williams died on May 28, 1992, at the age of 92 in Tallahassee. She had lived in Northampton until 1991.


4.792 linear feet (8 containers)

Language of Materials



English Professor, Smith College. The majority of the Williams papers concerns her work with foreign students at Smith College. In her capacity as Chair of the Committee on Foreign Students, Williams acted as a mentor and guide to many foreign students who studied at Smith. Additional material relates to her personal life, published work, and the Smith community in general. Types of material includes correspondence, photographs, books, articles, awards, slides, and an audio recording.


This collection is organized into six series:

  1. I. Biography
  2. II. Writings
  3. III. Foreign Students
  4. IV. Correspondence
  5. V. Photographs
  6. VI. Audio-Visual Material

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Edna Rees Williams Papers were donated by Edna Williams and others between 1986 and 1991.

Processing Information

Processed by Christina Lehman, '03.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Edna Rees Williams Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Christina Lehman '03
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: manosca116 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-13: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063