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Eleanor Shipley Duckett Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00057

Scope and Contents

The majority of the Eleanor Shipley Duckett Papers is related to Duckett's professional life and her research, but there is also biographical information and some personal correspondence. The College Archives also holds a number of Duckett's published works. An alphabetical list of these is included at the end of this finding aid.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1904 - 1979


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

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. 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

Eleanor Shipley Duckett was a noted philologist and historian, and taught courses on classical languages and literature at Smith College for nearly thirty years. She was best known for her work on the history of Europe during the Early Middle Ages.

Duckett was born November 7, 1880, in Somerset, England. Encouraged by her father to study the classical texts, she worked through her preparatory education in order to attend college. She was accepted at the University of London, receiving her B.A in 1903, her M.A. in 1904, and a Diploma in Pedagogy in 1905. She used these degrees to teach the classics at Sutton High School in Surrey until 1907, but then left to resume her own education with a scholarship to Girton College, the first women's college at Cambridge University. In 1911 she passed the Classical Tripos examination, and left Europe on another scholarship for Ph.D. work at Bryn Mawr. She received her doctorate in 1914, and became an instructor at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. She taught Latin and Greek there until 1916 when she became a Latin instructor at Smith College. In 1928 she was named the John M. Greene Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at Smith, and remained in that position until her retirement in 1949. In 1952, Cambridge University awarded Duckett a Doctor of Letters degree for her work in medieval Latin literature, but she never received a degree for her initial studies at Cambridge. Women were not awarded either full degrees or the benefits of membership at Cambridge until 1948. For more on women and the degree system at Cambridge, see Rita McWilliams-Tullberg, "Women and Degrees at Cambridge University, 1862-1897," in A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women, edited by Martha Vicinus (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), 117-145.

Duckett also received a number of academic honors and awards. From 1926-1928 she held the Ottilie Hancock fellowship at Girton College. She accepted honorary degrees from the University of London (1920), Smith College (1949) and St. Dunstan's University (1969). The Pen & Brush Club, an organization devoted to the arts, celebrated her Anglo-Saxon Saints and Scholars as the most distinguished work of non-fiction of 1947. She also obtained an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa (1954), an honorary fellowship at Girton College (1958), and two Sophia Smith Fellowships for continuing research by Smith College emeriti (1963 and 1966). In 1964 she gave the Katharine Asher Engel Memorial Lecture at Smith, which was published the following year as Women and Their Letters in the Early Middle Ages.

While at Smith, Duckett not only taught, but lectured widely, wrote continuously, and was active in the Special Honors program. After retirement, Duckett remained an active voice in the history of the Early Middle Ages, and retained a prominent position on campus as an emeritus professor. She kept her office in Neilson Library at Smith, and also spent extended periods researching and lecturing at Cambridge. She traveled the world to lecture, research, and receive honors for her work. In fact, several of her most important publications were written after retirement. She was also very active in St. John's Episcopal Church in Northampton. She lectured there on the saints and the Church Councils, translated hymns, and organized readings of the Epistles.

In 1926, Duckett met Mary Ellen Chase, Smith professor of English and renowned author. Soon after, they moved into a home next-door to the Smith College president on Paradise Road. They traveled together frequently, to England and to "Windswept," a house on the coast of Maine whose name and location inspired Chase's best-selling novel. They shared their lives until Chase's death in 1973. Duckett died on November 23, 1976, and was laid to rest next to Chase in a cemetery in Blue Hill, not far from the Chase family homestead.

Eleanor Duckett's academic legacy is her body of work-seventeen full-length volumes, as well as many contributions to scholarly journals and two major encyclopedias. Another legacy stands on the grounds of Smith College. Duckett House is one of two residence buildings added to the campus in 1968. The second building, Chase House, adjoins Duckett, and as its companion honors the contributions of both women to the history of the institution.


2.417 linear feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



Professor of Latin, noted philologist and historian. The majority of the Eleanor Shipley Duckett Papers is related to Duckett's professional life and her research, but there is also biographical information and some personal correspondence.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. I. Biography
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Writings

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 majority of the Eleanor Shipley Duckett Papers came from Duckett, some in 1969 and 1972, then from her estate in 1976. Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Pence McKibben donated additional correspondence from Duckett in 1996. The Callahan correspondence was probably added at some point in the 1990s. There are also additional biographical materials, such as news clippings and book reviews, which have been added by the College Archives staff.

Related Material

  1. 12. Special Honors Committee
  2. 32.Office of the President Herbert Davis Files
  3. 42.Mary Ellen Chase Papers
  4. 52. Department of Classics Records


Studies in Ennius. Ph.D. dissertation, Bryn Mawr College, 1915.
Hellenistic Influence on the Aeneid. Smith College Classical Studies, no.1. Northampton, MA: Smith College, 1920.
Catullus in English Poetry. Smith College Classical Studies, no.6. Northampton, MA: Smith College, 1925.
Latin Writers of the Fifth Century. New York: H. Holt, 1930.
The Book of Hugh and Nancy, with Eric Milner-White, illustrated by Raymond Lufkin. New York: Macmillan, 1938.
The Gateway to the Middle Ages. New York: Macmillan, 1938. Reprinted as three volumes: France and Britain, Italy, and Monasticism (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1961).
Anglo-Saxon Saints and Scholars. New York: Macmillan, 1947.
Alcuin, Friend of Charlemagne, His World and His Work. New York: Macmillan, 1951.
Saint Dunstan of Canterbury: A Study of Monastic Reform in the Tenth Century. London: Collins; New York: Norton, 1955.
Alfred the Great. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; London: Collins, 1956, 1957.
The Wandering Saints of the Early Middle Ages. New York: Norton; London: Collins, 1959.
Carolingian Portraits: A Study in the Ninth Century. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1962.
Women and Their Letters in the Early Middle Ages. Northampton, MA: Smith College, 1965.
Death and Life in the Tenth Century. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1967.
Medieval Portraits from East and West. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press; London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972.
"The Influence of Alexandrian Poetry Upon the Aeneid." Classical Journal 11 (1915/1916), 333-348.
"Latin Prose and Modern Learning." Classical Journal 17 (1921/1922), 430.
"Some English Echoes of Catullus." Classical Weekly 15 (Oct-May 1921-1922), 177-180.
"Special Honors System as Carried on in Smith College." Education 46 (March 1926), 420-422.
"The Saint of Tours." Commonweal 10 (July 10, 1929), 275-276.
"St. Joseph." Commonweal 11 (Dec. 25, 1929), 230.
"The Institutes and Conferences of Cassian." American Church Monthly (August 1929), 120-131.
"New Glass in an Old Setting." American Church Monthly (April 1931), 267-273.
"A Cambridge Cloister." American Church Monthly (Jan. 1931), 17-21.
"The Classics." In Roads to Knowledge, edited by William Allan Neilson. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.,1932.
"The Bible in the Roman World of the Fifth Century." In The Bible and its Literary Associations, edited by Margaret B. Crook. New York: Abingdon Press, 1937.
"The World of Alfred's Boyhood, 849-865." In English Then and Now edited by Alan M. Markham and Erwin R. Steinberg. New York: Random House, 1970. First published in Alfred the Great (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956), Chapter Two.
"[Mary Ellen Chase:] A Portrait." Colby Library Quarterly 6:1 (Mar. 1962), 1.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Finkel.

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 Eleanor Shipley Duckett Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Laura Finkel
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: manosca57 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-05: 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