Five College Archives and Manuscript
Mount Holyoke College seal
Papers, ca. 1905-1983.
9 boxes (3.9 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0573 (LD 7092.8 Cogswell)

Meyer, Harriet Marie Cogswell, 1900-1983; Teacher. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1922. Mount Holyoke College staff member, 1924-1926. Papers contain correspondence, writings, memorabilia, biographical information and photographs; documenting her teaching career in China and the family and social matters of a diplomat's wife in Asia and South America.

Terms of Access and Use:


Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Harriet Marie Cogswell was born on May 29, 1900 in Ellington, Connecticut. She graduated from Rockville Public High School in 1918 and from Mount Holyoke College in 1922. She taught at two high schools and worked as a secretary at the YWCA for Mount Holyoke College before going to China in 1926. There she taught English at Ginling College in Nanking until 1931, taking a two-year furlogh from 1927-1929. On July 6, 1931 she married Paul Walter Meyer, a diplomatic secretary. They had a son, John, in 1935. They returned to the United States in 1941, but went back to China in 1946 as part of the American Consular Service. Meyer later taught in the Tolland School System. Harriet Cogswell Meyer died on June 2, 1983 in Tolland, Connecticut.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Harriet Cogswell Meyer Papers consist of correspondence, writings, biographical information, and photographs. The material primarily relates to Meyer's time in China, where she worked as a teacher at Ginling College in Nanking and lived as the wife of Paul W. Meyer, an American Diplomat in Peiping. Throughout her time in China, she corresponded with her sister, Kay, and several other friends and family members relating her experiences. She discusses the visit of Mount Holyoke College Dean Florence Purington and Registrar Caroline Greene to Ginling College. She also gives significant attention to the escalating political tensions in different regions of China during the 1920s and between Japan and China prior to the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945. Her letters also reflect her relationships with people in China and the progression of her pregnancy in 1935. After leaving China in 1941, Meyer continued her correspondence from Ecuador, Argentina, and Taiwan, where her husband was working. A number of invitations to special dinners, teas, and cocktails for people in the Chinese and American governments during the 1950s are also included in the correspondence. Letters from Meyer's son, John Cogswell Meyer, daughter-in-law, and grandsons comprise a significant portion of the later letters, along with friendly letters from other family members and friends. The letters from John Meyer are of particular interest because they reflect some tension between the Meyers and their son, who frequently requested financial support throughout his young adult life. A substantial amount of sympathy cards and letters addressed to Paul Meyer following his wife's death in 1983 are included. Throughout her life, Meyer wrote poems and stories, and kept a journal while in China. Many of her writings, 1925-1983, are included in the collection, along with notes for a lecture given at Ginling College. The biographical information primarily reflects the professional lives of the Meyers and includes a biographical note (1926), a number of newspaper clippings, certificates, a personal address book, and an obituary (1983). A significant portion of the collection contains an extensive array of photographs documenting Meyer's life from 1918-1983. The photographs from Mount Holyoke College depict college traditions, dramatic productions, and student life. Photographs of note are of Mountain Day and Meyer as the May Queen in 1922. The bulk of the photographs were taken in China during the 1930s and 1940s. Represented most closely is the daily life of citizens in a variety of regions in China and the Meyer family's time in Peiping. Later photographs predominantly consist of snapshots of Meyer's family members and friends. A number of the photographs are contained in albums kept by Meyer and by her son.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:


Preferred Citation

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

Harriet Cogswell Meyer Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

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

Email Reference Form:
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.

  • Meyer, Harriet C. (Harriet Cogswell), 1900-1983.
  • Meyer, Paul W. (Paul Walter)
  • Argentina.
  • China - Politics and government - 1912-1949 - Sources.
  • China - Social conditions - 1912-1949 - Sources.
  • Diplomats - United States - History - Sources.
  • Diplomats' spouses - United States - Correspondence.
  • Equador.
  • Family relationships.
  • Ginling College - History - Sources.
  • Marriage - United States - History - Sources.
  • Mount Holyoke College - Alumnae - Teachers.
  • Taiwan.
  • Teachers - United States - Correspondence.
  • Transportation and travel.
  • Women teachers - United States - Correspondence.

Genre terms
  • Letters

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