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Elisabeth Rose Averill was born on April 6, 1909, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She attended Kemper Hall in Wisconsin, and graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1931. She received an M.F.A. from Yale University in 1934. On December 26, 1934 she married Wesley Elmore Jackson, a political scientist at Yale. Together they had two daughters, Karen and Gail, and Karen Jackson Williams graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1961. Elisabeth Averill Jackson died on October 19, 1991 in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
The Elisabeth R. Averill Jackson Papers consist of journals, writings, Aspen Playwrights Conference records, calendars, correspondence, biographical material, and photographs. The material primarily relates to her experiences as the wife of Elmore Jackson, who worked for the American Friends Service Committee, the United Nations, and the State Department. Her calendars contain a detailed record of day-to-day events, which span from 1949-1988. These events are further illustrated in the journals, 1955-1990, which reflect Jackson's emotions and responsibilities as a housewife and mother interspersed with her reflections on world politics and deeper philosophical questions. She frequently digresses from documenting her daily responsibilities to ponder the meaning of culture, the politics of the Middle East and South Asia and to make note of recipes and family finances. The journals follow Jackson through a number of states and countries, including Lebanon, where she lived with her family for nine months in 1958. Jackson's writings are stylistically similar to her journals, in that they are largely autobiographical and document her family history. Outside of a few stories, Jackson primarily highlights travel and the career of a homemaker in essays. The writings also contain a typescript of letters written by her father, Edward Averill, documenting his travels and experiences. Most of Jackson's writings were unpublished, with the exception of "The Eatables of Indiana in Edwardian Times" and "Lares and Penates," which were both published in the "Pennswood View." The majority of Jackson's correspondence, including a few notes from Jeannette Marks, consists of compliments and comments on her writing. From 1978 to 1984, Jackson was a reader for the Aspen Playwrights Conference. The collection includes her correspondence with the heads of the Conference, along with her evaluations of a number of original plays, which reveal her critical eye, attention to detail, and encouraging nature.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Elisabeth Averill Jackson Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts
In 1964-65 Karen Jackson lived in Moscow with her husband, David, while he was studying at the university in the field of journalism. The typewritten copies of her letters home written about every week begin in early September 1964 in Paris and end on July 5, 1965 when they were back in Paris en route home.
Details of everyday living were clearly of great interest to her family and Karen described in detail what it was like to live in student housing in Moscow. They were fortunate to have two rooms with bathroom facilities and use of a common kitchen "not too far away" (p. 3). There was room inspection every two weeks - "we get marked" Karen wrote (p. 69). Laundry was done via a bucket and agitator (p. 4).
Karen spent a good bit of time in food shopping and food preparation. They missed the variety of American foods even though they had access to university stores and to the embassy commissary.
Karen arranged to have Russian lessons in exchange for English lessons and became friendly with her English teacher who had a new spacious cooperative apartment (with ceiling cracks) where she was invited to dinner (p. 74). She spent much of her time reading, frequently in the library (where a cloakroom line awaited entrance until someone departed -p. 85) and in visits, sometimes with David, to museums, factories, schools, a hospital, and various monuments. Together at bargain prices they enjoyed the theatre, ballet, opera, and they were caught up in Red Square celebrations (p. 19, 31). They also managed several trips outside Moscow - to Central Asia, Kiev, Leningrad.
The weather was a regular source of comment, from early October when it was like New England in November through a long cold snowy winter.
These letters provide a good source of information about the experiences of young American graduate students in the USSR in the mid-sixties.
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
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