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Marjorie Hope Nicolson Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00049

Scope and Contents

The Marjorie Hope Nicolson Papers document the career of Nicolson as educator, dean of Smith College, and writer. The materials range from biographical information and correspondence, to published and unpublished writings, and cover her work at Smith College as well as Columbia University.

Dates of Materials

  • 1880 - 1981


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

The scholar and author Marjorie Hope Nicolson was born on February 18, 1894 in Yonkers, New York. She went on to study and teach at some of the United States' most prestigious institutions before returning to New York City, where she died at the age of 87, on March 9, 1981.

She first began to teach high school students in 1914, while working in Saginaw, Michigan and later Detroit. Her love of teaching lead her to receive her both her B.A. with Phi Beta honors in 1914 and her M.A. in 1918, from the University of Michigan. She continued her pursuit of higher education with her Ph.D. from Yale in 1920. At Yale, she was the first woman to receive the John Addison Porter prize. Marjorie Nicolson taught first at the University of Michigan and was granted an assistant professorship before continuing her graduate study at Johns Hopkins College from 1923-1926. While at Johns Hopkins, Nicolson continued to teach at Goucher College. In 1926, she left for England to study as one of the early Guggenheim fellows.

After her studies in Europe, Marjorie Nicolson returned to the United States to continue her research and to teach at Smith College. She was first an associate professor from 1926-1929, before becoming a professor of English literature and Dean from 1929 until 1941. During her time at Smith College, Nicolson was a strong ally of President Neilson and defender of women's right to have a real academic education. She left Smith College for Columbia, in order to become the first woman to hold a full professorship at a prestigious graduate school. She became the chair of the English and Comparative literature department. Nicolson, or Miss Nicky ,as she was intimately know by a few special students, became a much admired professor and scholar, who inspired many doctoral candidates while at Columbia. She was awarded the Columbia Bicentennial Silver Medallion in 1954. She left Columbia in 1962 as the Peter Field Trent Professor Emeritus, but still did not retire from the academic arena.

In 1963, she spent one year as the Francis Bacon chair at Claremont Graduate school. Following this year, she traveled to Princeton where she became the visiting scholar at the National Institute for Advanced Study. Throughout her busy career in academia, Marjorie Nicolson found time to publish many short essays and books. She wrote throughout her life, and was awarded the British Academy Crawshay prize in 1947, for one of her early works, Newton Demands the Muse. She also wrote noted works like A World in the Moon, The Microscope and the English Imagination, and Voyages to the Moon.

Beyond even Nicolson's active life as a writer, she was also honored in her many other fields of interest. She became president of the Modern Language Society of America, an active member of the American Philosophical Society, consulting editor of the publication the "American Scholar", and the first person to serve multiple terms as the president of the National Phi Beta Kappa association. Before the end of Miss Nicky's career spanning over fifty years, she garnered accolades and honorary degrees from over 17 colleges.


5.667 linear feet (11 containers)

Language of Materials



Professor, English, writer. Contains biographical material, correspondence, published and unpublished writings.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Professional Life
  3. III. Speeches
  4. IV. Writings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the Marjorie Hope Nicolson papers were donated by Nicolson during the 1960s and 1970s. She supplemented the original donations over the years, until her death in 1981. Additional materials were donated by Dorothy Johnson in 1980 and Eberhart LeShin in 1991.

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 Marjorie Hope Nicolson Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
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: manosca49 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-12: 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