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Brown papers, 1892-1948 (Bulk: 1917-1948)
12 boxes (4.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0679 (LD 7096.6 1892 Brown)

Brown, Annie Louise "Nancy," 1870-1942; Teacher and columnist. Mount Holyoke Seminary and College graduate, 1892. Papers contain writings, information on the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon, correspondence, biographical information, and photographs. Primarily focusing on her work as a columnist and her work on the Peace Carillon project.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Annie Louise Brown was born in Perry, Maine on December 11, 1870 (some sources say 1869) to Levi Prescott Brown, a Civil War veteran, and Annie R. Lincoln Brown. She attended high school in Middleborough, Massachusetts before entering Mount Holyoke College in 1888. After her graduation in 1892, she taught school in White River Junction, Vermont; Rockville, Connecticut and Mount Clemens, Michigan. In 1904 Brown married James Edward Leslie, a Sunday editor and drama critic for the "Pittsburgh Dispatch" in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Leslie died in 1917. Brown succeeded her husband at the "Pittsburgh Dispatch" for a short time before beginning work at the "Detroit News" in Michigan. Brown launched her advice column, "Experience," on April 19, 1919. She wrote under the pseudonym Nancy Brown and as Mrs. J.E. Leslie. In 1929 Brown's readers (the "Experience Column Family") raised money for the reforestation of 560 acres in Michigan. In 1930 Brown hosted a party for her readers at the Detroit Institute of the Arts attended by more than 30,000 people. In 1934 Brown's column hosted its first annual sunrise service on Belle Isle, a park in the Detroit River. In the following years, the column readers raised money to build a monument to Brown on Belle Isle. The Nancy Brown Peace Carillon was dedicated in 1940. Brown retired in 1942 and died in Detroit on October 7, 1948 at age seventy-seven.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Annie Louise "Nancy" Brown Papers consist of writings, the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon material, correspondence, biographical information, and photographs. The most significant parts of this collection are the articles reflecting Brown's work as an advice columnist and journalist for the "Detroit News." Brown was one of the first advice columnists in the United States and, unlike others, she was middle-aged and did not treat readers' problems lightly. Brown's "Experience" column began on April 19, 1919 and was written under the pseudonym Nancy Brown and her married name, Mrs. J. E. Leslie. Brown's readers also wrote to her under pseudonyms. The writings date from 1917 to 1942 and contain clippings, eight published collections, and twenty-two scrapbooks with copies of Brown's editorials and "Experience" columns. Readers asked for advice about marital problems, financial worries and unemployment, coping with grief and death, and other matters, and these columns thus concern a variety of social issues and problems in the United States. Readers from all over the world also submitted their life stories. Brown wanted to help improve the lives of her readers, and her columns were known for their sincerity. She supported community projects and encouraged her readers to familiarize themselves with modern art, especially by visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts. One series of articles, dating from January 24-29, 1924, describes a visit to Mount Holyoke College. Another series, dating from October 1-13, 1928, describes a train trip through Minneapolis, Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada, and the Pacific coast. The Nancy Brown Peace Carillon was a tower dedicated to peace in Brown's honor. Constructed on Belle Isle, a park in the Detroit River, the tower was supported by Brown and funded by contributions from her readers. The Nancy Brown Peace Carillon material, dating from 1934 to 1941, consists of newspaper and magazine clippings, a brochure, and a postcard. The material documents the Peace Carillon project from its conception after the start of the annual sunrise services on Belle Isle in 1934 through the fundraising efforts and completion of construction in 1940. The correspondence contains two letters. The first is a short letter, dated June 2, 1937, from the Queen of Great Britain's Treasurer acknowledging the receipt of a page from the "Detroit News." The other letter, written on a Christmas card in 1945 to Mount Holyoke classmate Sarah French Lee, describes her retirement. The biographical information, dating from 1917 to 1948, consists of a biographical note, newspaper clippings, obituaries, and a "Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly" article by Brown's Mount Holyoke roommate Bertha E. Blakely. The clippings document Brown's work on the "Experience" column and her retirement. The obituaries are for both Brown and her husband, James E. Leslie. The photographs series contains two formal portraits of Brown as a younger woman. The first is Brown's senior portrait from Mount Holyoke, circa 1892, and another was taken when she was older. There are six photographs of the Peace Carillon, and there is one photograph of Brown breaking ground on the tower. These photographs are from 1939-circa 1940. The last photograph is of Brown at her fiftieth Mount Holyoke class reunion in 1942.

This collection is organized into five series:

  • Writings
  • Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Material
  • Correspondence
  • Biographical Information
  • Photographs

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Preferred Citation

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

Nancy Brown Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

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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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