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Dorothy Foster correspondence, 1914-1923.
1 box (0.42 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0538 (LD 7092.8 Foster)

Foster, Dorothy, 1883-1968; College teacher. Mount Holyoke College faculty member, 1908-1948. Papers consist of correspondence, writings, biographical information, and photographs. Primarily containing correspondence regarding her views on World War I and her work.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Dorothy Foster was born on July 1, 1883, in Salem, Massachusetts. She received an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College in 1904 and an A.M. from Radcliffe College in 1908. Shortly thereafter, she became an instructor at Mount Holyoke College in the English Department. She retired in 1948, after publishing many articles. Dorothy Foster died on January 27, 1968, in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Dorothy Foster papers are made up of correspondence, writings, biographical material and photographs. Correspondence includes letters to her father, James M. Foster, written during research trips to England in 1914-1915, Scotland in 1921 and Germany in 1922. They are handwritten and provide detailed descriptions during and after WWI and reflect her particular interest in the theater. Writings consist of Foster's book, "The Earliest Precursor of Our Present-Day Monthly Miscellanies"; articles written for newspapers, some pertaining to Sir George Etherege; and notes about the Mount Holyoke Dramatic Club's affairs. The biographical material includes copies of newspaper articles, magazine clippings, and a retirement fundraiser bulletin chronicling Foster's life. Also, copies of articles pertaining to a cousin, Richard Cooley's China Shop and a notice of offering of the Dorothy Foster property by Mount Holyoke College.

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Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Dorothy Foster Correspondence, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence

Dorothy Foster came to Mount Holyoke as a Reader in the Department of English Literature immediately after receiving her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr. She spent some years as Instructor and then while on leave worked on her research in England during 1914-1915. During the second semester of 1920-21, when she was Associate Professor in the Department, she returned to work this time on Sir George Etherege, a Seventeenth Century dramatist. She was in London again for the Summers of 1922 and 1923. During these visits she wrote regularly to her father in Boston. The dates for these letters are:

  • October 12, 1914 - August 24, 1915
  • February 8 - September 8, 1921
  • June 18 - August 22, 1922
  • June 29 - September 5, 1923

Dorothy's field of interest was drama, especially Shakespeare.

The 1914 trip was her first visit to England and was made possible, evidently, by a legacy from her mother who had died the previous January. All the letters reflect her excitement at seeing so many places about which she had read and studied. She reported in detail on all the literary sites and all the museums she visited; every Sunday she attended a different church, each one carefully described. England was at war and almost every letter comments on wartime London and the news in the British newspapers. She was a frequent theatre goer and sent back long explanations of plot along with critical comments on the performances. She attended poetry readings and lectures, including one by George Bernard Shaw in 1922 (letter of June 22).

She found a residential hotel in Russell Square, the Whitehall, near the British Museum where she worked. Charges were 30 shillings a week for room and board. She thought the "table better than Peterson Lodge" at Mount Holyoke (October 26, 1914). Lunch was out at some restaurant where she might get a vegetable dish, roll, tart and cocoa for $0.14. London houses and buildings were cold and she never could understand why in all kinds of weather "everyone lives with windows open" (March 8, 1921). In the spring from May to July she worked at the Bodleian at Oxford, after spending a week in Stratford where she marched in the Shakespeare birthday procession and attended Shakespeare performances. At Romeo and Juliet she was the only one seated in the first gallery who was not in evening dress (May 2, 1915). While at Oxford she gloried in the boating and swimming on the river and long walks through English lanes and meadows full of wildflowers.

When she returned in 1921 she again stayed at the Whitehall although she found London a far grimmer place than in wartime. Unemployment was acute, the coal strike serious. Toast was not available in restaurants because of the fuel shortage (May 16, 1921). Her first letter after arriving in England dated February 25, 1921 mentions Genevieve Schmich, Mount Holyoke 1920, a rising star in the Benson Theatre Company and all the letters after this time make frequent references to her. Dorothy accompanied the Benson group to Scotland when they went on tour in April. She was even invited to join in a Julius Caesar mob scene but decided it was "too much nuisance" to get made up. In June she and Genevieve rented a Rover roadster and drove through southern England. She sent a description of their trip to the Boston Transcript where it was published on September 28, 1921 (copy in Folio of Genevieve Schmich LD 7096.6 V.I). During the Summer of 1922 she visited Germany seeking material on Etherege and wrote of conditions there and the bitterness toward foreigners.

These letters which are long and well written are of special interest because of the descriptions of sites associated with English literary history and the descriptions of wartime and post-war London.

Of note:

Oct. 19Fruit in stateroom from J.M. and M.E.W. Ship and war news.
Oct. 20London - signs of war. Shown how to use British Museum.
Oct. 26Boycott of Vienna Cafe. Police search for Germans. War news. Belgians everywhere. Hyde Park orators.
Nov. 18Sunday church at All-Hallows-on-London-Wall; no heat; 10 in congregation. Because of crowds missed Lord Mayor's Show. Lodging houses doing poorly.
Nov. 273 Belgian refugees at House. German atrocities. Making Belgian flags to raise funds.
Dec. 9Would like Amer. paper - getting only English version of news. English criticism of U.S. Surprised at how England girdles the globe - British enterprises everywhere. Long description of Westminster Abbey.
Dec. 20War news. Shelling. London dark. Belgian play and players - much weeping among players, including men. Poetry reading.
Jan. 3Christmas. Boxing Day. See many horses still.
Jan. 14War news. Talk on Hamlet. All the things you can get for a penny. Likes English food.
Jan. 243-inch snowfall. Airship over Museum. Everyone knitting, including waitresses. Stone hot water jug in bed.
Jan. 31Man with "lady friend" evicted from house; roomed next door and "I had 'em turned out." Page in house steals 5 Pounds. Saw play David Copperfield - long description - program had synopsis in French for benefit of Belgians.
Feb. 8German blockade. Prices up. Fruit and flowers plentiful. Dulwich - Foundlin Hospital where children dressed in style of founding date - 18th C. caps, etc. English fatalistic about German raids. Comment on German Amer. in U.S.
Feb. 16Tales of Hoffman. Hillaire Belloc lecture on war. Germany must be thoroughly subdued. English are "very travelled". German fleet.
Feb. 23Bombing. Home defense drilling. English business day.
Mar. 2Hampstead Heath - St. Albans.
Mar. 8Accounts of airmen coping with weather. Blockade, strike. Signs of mutilation everywhere. English maritime experience - spreading civilization by peaceful means. English colonizing - "what is best for your race."
Mar. 23Regents Park flowers. Shaw play. Dock strike.
Apr. 3Tenebrae service at Westminster Cathedral. German submarines. Closing of public houses unlikely - "English bitterly resent any interference with their private lives." Drink the curse of London. Billeting problems Barracks in Chelsea park. First woman lecturer at St. Andrews at dinner.
Apr. 9Cheap seat at Belloc lecture meant objectionable crowd nearby.
Apr. 15Arrangements for Stratford visit. Board with meals at $1.60 day. Tea with Miss May, MH instructor in Dept. Army drills. Pontoon bridge practice. War experience of Scottish family.
May 2Stratford. Objected to cutting in plays. Benson popular idol. Swan encounter while canoeing. Shakespeare birthday procession.
May 14Oxford. Asphixiating gases. Lusitania sunk. Rioting against German citizens. Somerville College a hospital. May Day.
May 20Advice to father on clothing for tramping/walking. "People don't go off nowadays in their cast-offs - they go in outing regalia." English cooking tasteless. Meal hours. Political scene and war news.
June 6Government changes. "Very free and easy courting manners on the river... and they don"t mind being stared at."
June 16Heat - many swimming. Paddling through lock. Wounded Tommies about town.
June 27Oxford vs. Bryn Mawr.
July 7Bodleian librarian criticizes new Widener "in every respect."
July 18England in "most muddled state of mind" "Many women are now doing men's work ... but when the war is over it will be as bad as ever." Parallels with newspaper reports of 1696 she is working on.
July 25Cameo stick-pin of German spy. Beds/bedding from student rooms in colleges sent to hospitals. Back to London where house changed - servant trouble a/c enlistments and squabbling guests. Neilson in London - is working night shift at Victoria Station buffet for troops.
Aug. 2Question of what to do with cash in case "I go down" during crossing. Call for women in war work. Loss of Warsaw. Spies on Canadian transport.
Aug. 8Visit to Brighton where Pavilion given over to wounded Indian troops. Soldiers guard bridges and tunnels, etc.
Aug. 24En route to Epping Forest saw zepplin damage to Leyton. Report from English doctor re French hospital town.
Feb. 8N.Y. Fifth Avenue has "signal towers" where "signal man is stationed" to switch on red light for traffic.
Feb. 25At Whitehall in Russell Square. Parades of unemployed. Genevieve. Householders can't find cooks. Food and clothing more than in U.S. Hotel enlarged with lift and more w.c.'s No charge for bath. Cost $15 week w.o. lunch.
Mar. 22Joined Phoenix Dramatic Soc. to see Genevieve in private performances. London very doggy city. Variety of traffic. English great polishers.
Apr. 8Coal strike. Troops gathering. Govt. problems. Benson Theatre Co.
Apr. 14Scotland. Miners want nationalization. Harding and League.
Apr. 20Aberdeen. At lodging tormented with fleas.
May 16Train schedules greatly reduced - crowds. So glad not at MH for Fairy Queene production in MEW honor. Attitudes toward Germany.
May 25Little soot in London a/c coal shortage.
June 2Irish question - "shiftless south of Ireland."
June 7Cotton strike. Bacon house ruin.
June 22Southern England trip with Genevieve by roadster.
July 5English celebrate Napoleon's centenary and now U.S. Independence Day "queer nation." Coal, cotton, Irish Ques., drought, trade depressed but papers full of Derby, Henley regatta, golf, cricket. King Albert's arrival.
July 17Sees Genevieve off at Southampton with Benson Co. headed for So. Africa tour. Mary Hume '18 arrives - Warbekes arrive.
Aug. 14A. Comstock flies to Prague to study taxation. Too many Americans in London.
Aug. 24Margaret Waites (Latin Dept. MH) arrives. Florence Foss's party in Oxford.
Sep. 8En route home - Gertrude Knox '09 aboard returning from Near East relief work.
June 18Aboard Oropesa. Comments on passengers mostly Germans and Jews. "Such arguers". Few "scandals." People are drawback on 2d class.
June 22London. At 4 Tavistock Sq. [Has cut her hair] Shares table with A. Comsto who is writing articles for Wall St. Journal. Irish Ques.
July 3Donna Thompson (MR Econ. Dept) with broken leg.
July 11Every third female is "bobbed."
July 17Theatres. Life very social. Many French sympathizers among English.
July 23Planning German trip. Flying to Brussels.
Aug. 9From Regensburg, Germany. Many women workers in fields, loading, on RR beds. German currency.
Aug. 22Only talk here - of reparations. Japanese professor cannot understand what women are doing at Brit. Mus.
1923Huddersfield - staying with Genevieve and Benson Co. She surpasses Ellen.
June 29Terry as Portia. Will be one of the greatest actresses of our time. Wealthy mill owner funds school children's attendance.
July 9Huddersfield visit and history. Robin Hood country.
July 26Teas and excursions. Neilsons. Elizabeth Drew aims to earn $10,000 next year.
Aug. 14Renting car with Genevieve and taking day trips out of London. British press attacks France.
Aug. 25British press gives much space to U.S. news. Increasing unemployment.
Sept. 5Italy occupies Corfu. Germany "in great want" Comstock comments on France. Tokyo earthquake. Smell of beer brewing in Westminster Abbey.

CR Ludwig

July 1994

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

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Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Foster, Dorothy, 1883-1968.
  • College teachers - Massachusetts - Correspondence.
  • Germany - Description and travel.
  • Great Britain - Description and travel.
  • Great Britain - Social conditions - 20th century.
  • London (England) - Description and travel.
  • Mount Holyoke College - Faculty.
  • Oxford (England) - Description and travel.
  • Theater - England.
  • Voyages and travels.
  • Women - England - Social conditions - Sources.
  • Women college teachers - Massachusetts - Correspondence.
  • World War, 1914-1918 - Great Britain.

  • Foster, James M.

Genre terms
  • Letters.

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