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Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00393

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, diaries, journals, news clippings, photographs and publications documenting the life of Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence (Clarke), Class of 1883. Later materials were created by her daughter Elizabeth Clarke, Class of 1916, in partnership with her mother. Correspondence and journals dating past 1939 describe life during World War II, both in the United States and also abroad in Surrey, England.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1840 - 2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1880 - 1945


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Copyright to materials created by other individuals 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. Permission must be obtained from the Smith College Archives to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

As the first Smith alumna after whom a college dormitory was named (Lawrence House), Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence excelled in accomplishments while at Smith, and continued to be a leader in Alumnae communications after graduation.

Born November 11, 1861, Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence lived with her brothers George and Ned and her father, Amos Edward Lawrence. A Congregational minister, her father retired to Newton Center where he lived with his family; Elizabeth graduated from Newton High School in 1879. Though the reasons remain unclear, Lawrence joined Smith as a sophomore in 1880 and experienced quite a bit of homesickness her first month. On the top of one letter from her stepmother Lucy Watson Davis she wrote "1st letter after they left me at college. They had spent a week at Round Hills (Northampton), rather a mistake for me I think as I spent all my spare time with them instead of making friends- and then others were all settled when folks left me".

However, further correspondences are more reassuring. A letter from "Papa" as early as September 24th (1880) reads "Dear 'Tip'", a nod to Lawrence's college-given nickname. A particularly amusing letter from her brother Ned from Keene State arrived in early October, and reveals a fully adjusted undergraduate: "I am sorry to hear that your college life is getting so terribly dissipating-going to the theatre with Amherst students-going to masquerades-balls-and living on chocolate creams. I fear that you will set a very bad example to such model young ladies as are supposed to inhabit Northampton".

While in college at Smith, Lawrence lived in Number 23 Hubbard House and frequently attended shows at the nearby Opera House, recitals of music students, and outings to other college towns. Her older brother George attended Amherst College, which also made for an easier transition from home to college as they were able to connect quite easily. Though the students in Lawrence's day had less of a variety of classes to choose from than those of today, the students nonetheless had electives and took classes spanning the disciplines in the liberal arts tradition. According to the schedules meticulously saved in the pages of her scrapbook, Lawrence took classes in such diverse subjects as physics, German, French, Greek, Shakespeare, psychology, the Bible, geometry, and political economics. Also quite an accomplished athlete, she has the distinction of placing first in Smith College's first ever tennis tournament in the fall of 1882.

After graduating in 1883, Lawrence spent a year abroad travelling in such places as England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Austria, and Italy. She returned to Smith for a Masters degree in 1889 and continued to support her alma mater. She advised the school on physical education, and Lawrence House, the dormitory in her name, was so named "to recognize Elizabeth's skill in raising $100,000 to match an offer from John D. Rockefeller Sr.". From 1901 to 1912 she served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Association of College Alumnae (American Association of University Women), and was President of the Alumnae Association from 1909-1911. Because of her incredible involvement both as a student and as an active alumna, Smith President L. Clarke Seelye drafted her help in 1915 for the student life section in his Early History of Smith College.

For a time, Elizabeth lived in Williamstown, MA with her husband, Samuel F. Clarke, a professor at Williams College. Their daughter Beth graduated from Smith as a member of the class of 1916. Detailed accounts of attendance at Commencement reveal that, among the 70 commencements between 1879 and 1948, Elizabeth Lawrence was present at 56 of them, and gives full reasons for each of the 14 other absences. Indeed, a 1948 article in the Berkshire County Eagle reveals her to be the last surviving member at her 65th reunion.

Between the years of 1926 and 1931, Lawrence began wintering in Sarasota, Florida, finally making the move permanent in 1949. While in residence there, she founded the Smith College Club of Sarasota, Florida (1947), held an office in the American Association of University Women, and was secretary-treasurer of the Naples (Italy) table, which was an organization formed to aid scientific research for women. When not working, if the "charming, active, Mrs. Clarke is not working puzzles or keeping up with her reading, she can be seen during the big league training season, attending the baseball games over in Payne Park…and rooting for the Red Sox…'my home state boys'".

Before passing away in 1951 at the age of 89, Elizabeth Lawrence Clarke donated her portrait to the Smith College Art Museum in an attempt to clean out her Massachusetts home. The likeness now hangs in the Lawrence House living room to honor her memory and valuable influence on the early days of Smith College.


3.188 linear feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



Alumna. President of the Alumnae Association. Contains correspondence, diaries, journals, news clippings, photographs and publications documenting the life of Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence (Clarke), Class of 1883.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown.

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 Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Carron.
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 (
  • 2018-11-01: Updated to conform to DACS

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063