Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
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Runnette Papers, 1849-1988.
7 boxes (3.3 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0767 (LD 7096.6 1909 Runnette)

Abstract:
Runnette, Helen Virginia, 1886-1988; Administrator and teacher. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1910. Papers consist of correspondence, photographs, school information, artwork, Runnette family collection of correspondence, and memorabilia. Primarily documenting her personal and professional life, with an emphasis on her work at the Tower School for children.

Terms of Access and Use:

Access restricted to Tower School student records.

Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Helen Virginia Runnette was born January 29, 1886 to Joseph H. and Virginia Anderson Runnette. She was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania along with sisters Elizabeth Kerr Runnette, a member of the Mount Holyoke College class of 1912, and Ethel Anderson Runnette Ramsey, class of 1906. Runnette graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1910, but chose to affiliate herself socially with the class of 1909. After graduating, she taught at Briarcliffe Manor in New York, 1910-1911, and at the Lakewood School for Girls in New Jersey, 1912-1913. She took a position with Miss Tower's School for Children in Salem, Massachusetts in 1913. She attended Boston's New School of Design and Harvard's School of Education sporadically while working at Tower.Runnette had joined Miss Tower's School for Children (later Tower School) shortly after its establishment in 1912. In 1917, she became the Headmistress of the progressive children's school and changed its name to Tower School. When the school was incorporated in 1937, her title changed to Director, and she moved the school from Salem to Marblehead in 1941. Instruction at Tower stressed the development of language and writing skills and taught history through art and drama. Both boys and girls studied home economics and industrial arts together. The school's literary magazine, "The Turret", was highly regarded and was part of the collection at Harvard's Widener Library. Some issues are still held in the Mount Holyoke College library. During World War II, Runnette offered scholarships to seven British children and was honored for this with life membership to the Kinsmen of Britain. She was also a member of the Marblehead Historic Society, the Marblehead Arts Association, Mount Holyoke College Friends of Art, the Independent Artist's Group of Boston, and the North Shore Mount Holyoke Alumnae Club. In 1950, she served as a member of the White House Conference on Children and Youth and was listed in Who's Who in the East. Runnette was known as an accomplished artist and playwright with her children's plays frequently produced at Tower and published in "Plays Inc". of Boston. Many summers were spent at the Berskire Summer School for Art in Monterey, Massachusetts, and throughout her life, she designed bookplates, posters, Christmas cards, and magazine covers. She also exhibited her work in Boston and its suburbs. Runnette retired from teaching in 1956, along with longtime friend and colleague Miriam Luscomb. She had remained with Tower School for forty-four years. She died January 12, 1988 in her Marblehead, Massachusetts home at the age of 101.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Helen Virginia Runnette Papers document her personal and professional life and contain records related to the administration of Tower School and papers of the Runnette family. The collection contains material that spans the years 1849 - 1988, with the bulk of material created from 1940 - 1980. The Runnette Family Papers, a series within this collection, contains undated correspondence that may have been written prior to 1849 and photographs from the mid-nineteenth century.The most significant parts of this collection consist of Tower School Records and Runnette's correspondence. These document the administration of a small country day school from 1917 to 1956, through the great changes in the nation's social and political climates. Included are lists of school trustees, official correspondence, teaching and evaluation materials, enrollment and tuition information, and publications including applications, brochures, and the school literary magazine, "The Turret". Runnette's philosophies of education and the methods she used to realize these are reflected in the Director's notes. These are undated notebooks and loose papers upon which she wrote notes for her own use in facilitating meetings, developing curricular materials, and drafting correspondence. Of particular social and historical significance are letters written during World War II about the British children being educated at Tower while parents remained in Great Britain. Student compositions are included in this collection along with some material evaluating specific students. Diaries cover the years 1924 - 1979 and contain political, personal, and educational reflections as well as information on her health, travels, and the weather. In several instances, diary entries also overlap in date. Runnette's correspondence contains letters from family, friends, parents of students, former students, and other educators. Many letters relate to her retirement and to the death of a close friend whom she mourned greatly. Runnette's artwork consists of charcoal sketches, pencil sketches, bookplates, and other drawings.The Runnette Family Papers contained in this collection consist of correspondence, memorabilia, clippings, a Bible that contains genealogical information, and many photographs of family members including tintypes, gelatin silver prints, and more recent photographic forms. Biographical information about Elizabeth Kerr Runnette, and a letter written to her, is also contained in this collection. Further information about Elizabeth Kerr Runnette and Ethel Anderson Runnette Ramsey can be found in their collections in the Mount Holyoke College Archives.


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

Access restricted to Tower School student records.

Preferred Citation

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

Helen Virginia Runnette Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.

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: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/forms/areq.htm
URL: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contents List
1893-1987.

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and content:

This series, containing letters from Runnette's childhood through retirement, documents her relationships with friends, family, colleagues, students, and students' parents. Letters concerning British children educated at Tower School during World War II can be found in the correspondence of the early 1940s. Additionally, friends of Runnette living in England wrote of their experiences of war and their relief after it had ended. Affectionate letters of congratulations and wishes upon Runnette's retirement are contained that evidence the impact her teaching had on former students and their parents. A letter from Mary E. Woolley, dated April 24, 1934, mentions a visit by Woolley to Tower School. The majority of letters are dated from the 1940s and 1950s.

1924-1979

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and content:

Runnette's diaries span the years 1924 to 1979 with the bulk of diaries created in the 1960s and 1970s. Some diaries overlap in dates and give slightly different perceptions of the same days. Notes found in the diaries have been left as found though some of the diaries written in loose-leaf binders have been removed from the metal bindings for preservation purposes. While many of the entries contain little more than a recount of weather, daily activities, and health, many detail her thoughts on people and events in her life as well as education.

ca. 1913-1956

Arrangement:

Arranged in 7 sub-series by record type: 1. Administrative Records. 2. Correspondence. 3. Notes. 4. Teaching and Evaluation MAterials. 5. Publications. 6. Memorabilia. 7. Clippings.

Restrictions on access:

Access restricted to student records.

Scope and content:

The series contains records related to the administration of Tower School from 1917 to 1956. Administrative records include the history and bylaws of the school, information regarding its trustees, financial and enrollment information and information regarding fundraising for the "new building" built when the school was moved from Salem to Marblehead in 1941. Correspondence primarily relates to the school interactions with area businesses and correspondence to the trustees. Also contained are administrative announcements, alumni news, and letters regarding Runnette's retirement dinner. Three folders of Director's Notes show Runnette's ideas about how to manage and inspire teachers, how to educate students, how to run effective meetings, and how to maintain her own enthusiasm in the face of difficulties. These display the transformation of ideas about education into teaching practice. Teaching and evaluation materials include guidelines by which students were to be evaluated and blank evaluation forms, a 1958 summer reading list, and excerpts from school plays. Reports on two specific students, one being a transcript from another school, are also included. The product of students' labor is captured in several editions of "The Turret" and loose student compositions. Additional issues of "The Turret" are held in the Mount Holyoke College Library periodical collection. Further publications include applications and brochures for Tower School that advertise its educational philosophy and offer scenes from the school.Financial and enrollment information includes budget reports as well as one chart comparing Tower School with other area schools in the areas of grades offered, tuition, and "extras."

ca. 1849-1988

Arrangement:

Arranged by record type.

Scope and content:

This series contains family correspondence, memorabilia and genealogical information, clippings, and a family Bible containing further genealogical information. Notes found within the Bible have been left in place. More extensive information on the Runnette lineage is contained in the form of a report from Mabel Mann Runnette written in 1952. A eulogy for Elizabeth Kerr Runnette delivered on August 21, 1920 at Sandstone Camp, Green Lake Wisconsin, is also contained, paying tribute to her character and mourning her death to appendicitis at age 29. Many clippings refer to a slogan contest won by Virginia Anderson Runnette in 1926, and two refer to Fredric Ramsey Jr. (Runnette's nephew) and his career as a jazz scholar. Family correspondence spans 1849 - 1984 and contains letter to many different family members.

ca. 1886-1988

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and content:

This series contains biographical information about Helen Virginia Runnette, including clippings from Boston area newspapers and obituaries.


Arrangement:

Arranged by record type.

Scope and content:

Artwork contained in the Runnette Papers consists of charcoal sketches, pencil sketches, a sketchbook, bookplates, other drawings, and some art produced presumably in conjunction with courses taken at the New School of Design in Boston. Artwork housed in folio includes a painting of Runnette's father that bears the inscription "for Charlie."

ca. 1940-1965
1 folder

Arrangement:

Arranged by record type.

Scope and content:

Memorabilia in the Helen Virginia Runnette papers consist primarily of travel itineraries. Much of the memorabilia in the collection refers to family members or Tower School and is arranged accordingly. Many items were also returned to the donor. Memorabilia housed in folio includes a scrapbook of letters written to Runnette from Tower School students upon her retirement.

ca. 1850-1988
1 box

Arrangement:

Arranged by subject.

Scope and content:

This series contains approximately eighty photographs of family members, friends, Tower School activities, and places visited on vacations. Included are photographs of Runnette's friend Miriam Luscomb visiting Mount Holyoke College. Many photographs of Runnette and her sisters capture their childhood Pittsburgh. Individuals depicted include Helen Virginia Runnette, sister Elizabeth Kerr Runnette, sister Ethel Anderson Runnette, father Joseph H. Runnette, mother Virginia Anderson Runnette, grandmother Elizabeth Virginia Elliot Anderson, aand aunt Mary Zeller Anderson. Photographs housed in folio include individual images of Helen Virginia Runnette, her mother, and her father.

Contents List
Correspondence,
1893-1987.

Correspondence,
1893-1929

Box 1: folder 2
Correspondence,
1930-1939

Box 1: folder 3
Correspondence,
1940-1943

Box 1: folder 4
Correspondence,
1944

Box 1: folder 5
Correspondence,
1945

Box 1: folder 6
Correspondence,
1946

Box 1: folder 7
Correspondence,
1947

Box 1: folder 8
Correspondence,
1948

Box 1: folder 9
Correspondence,
1949

Box 1: folder 10
Correspondence,
1950

Box 2: folder 1
Correspondence,
1951

Box 2: folder 2
Correspondence,
1952

Box 2: folder 3
Correspondence,
1953

Box 2: folder 4
Correspondence,
1954

Box 2: folder 5
Correspondence,
1955

Box 2: folder 6
Correspondence,
1956

Box 2: folder 7
Correspondence,
1957-1959

Box 2: folder 8
Correspondence,
1960-1969

Box 2: folder 9
Correspondence,
170-1987

Box 2: folder 10
Undated correspondence


Box 2: folder 11
Undated correspondence


Box 2: folder 12
Diaries,
1924-1979

Diaries,
1924, 1946

Box 3: folder 1
Diaries,
1949-1953,1954

Box 3: folder 2
Diaries,
1955, 1957-1961

Box 3: folder 3
Diaries,
1962, 1963, Jun. 16, 1964-Aug. 16, 1964

Box 3: folder 4
Diaries,
Jan. 7, 1964-Dec. 27, 1964, May 10, 1966-Aug. 5, 1966

Box 3: folder 5
Diaries,
Apr. 24, 1968-Oct. 23, 1968, Apr. 23, 1968-Jun. 7, 1969

Box 3: folder 6
Diaries,
Jun. 18, 1969-Feb. 21, 1970, Feb. 2, 1970-Jun. 10, 1970

Box 4: folder 1
Diaries,
Jun. 14, 1970-Nov. 15, 1970, Nov. 16, 1970-Dec. 31, 1970

Box 4: folder 2
Diaries,
Jan. 1, 1971-May 25, 1971

Box 4: folder 3
Diaries,
May 26, 1971-Sep. 12, 1971, Sep. 13, 1971-Nov. 30, 1971

Box 4: folder 4
Diaries,
Dec. 2, 1971-Feb. 21, 1972, Feb. 22, 1972-Mar. 21, 1973, Mar. 22, 1973-Jul. 15, 1974

Box 4: folder 5
Diaries,
Jul. 15, 1974-Nov. 24, 1974, Nov. 25, 1974-May 25, 1976

Box 4: folder 6
Diaries,
May 26, 1976-Dec. 31, 1976, 1977

Box 4: folder 7
Diaries,
Dec. 3, 1977-Dec. 31, 1978, Jan. 1, 1979-Sep. 8, 1979

Box 4: folder 8
Tower School Records,
ca. 1913-1956

Administrative Records,
history and bylaws

Box 5: folder 1
Administrative Records,
Board of Trustees

Box 5: folder 2
Administrative Records,
financial and enrollment information

Box 5: folder 3
Administrative Records,
New Building

Box 5: folder 4
Correspondence,
1929-1957, undated

Box 5: folder 5
Correspondence,
correspondence regarding Runnette's retirement dinner

Box 5: folder 6
Correspondence,
administrative announcements

Box 5: folder 7
Correspondence,
alumni news

Box 5: folder 8
Notes,
director's notes

Box 5: folder 9
Notes,
director's notes

Box 5: folder 10
Notes,
director's notes

Box 5: folder 11
Notes,
faculty notes

Box 5: folder 12
Teaching and Evaluation Materials,
curriculum materials

Box 5: folder 13
Teaching and Evaluation Materials,
student evaluation materials

Box 5: folder 14
Teaching and Evaluation Materials,
student work

Box 5: folder 15
Teaching and Evaluation Materials,
student work

Box 5: folder 16
Publications,
brochures and applications

Box 5: folder 17
Publications,
"The Turret"

Box 5: folder 18
Memorabilia


Box 5: folder 19
Clippings


Box 5: folder 20
Runnette Family Papers,
ca. 1849-1988

Family correspondence,
dated

Box 6: folder 1
Family correspondence,
undated

Box 6: folder 2
Elizabeth Kerr Runnette biographical information


Box 6: folder 3
Family memorabilia and genealogy


Box 6: folder 4
Family memorabilia and genealogy


Box 6: folder 5
Family clippings


Box 6: folder 6
Family Bible


Box 6: folder 7
Biographical Information,
ca. 1886-1988

Biographical Information


Box 6: folder 8
Artwork,

Artwork


Box 6: folder 9
Artwork


Box 6: folder 10
Memorabilia,
ca. 1940-1965
1 folder

Memorabilia


Box 9: folder 1
Photographs,
ca. 1850-1988
1 box

Photographs of Helen Virginia Runnette


Box 9: folder 2
Photographs of Helen Virginia Runnette


Box 9: folder 3
Photographs of Helen Virginia Runnette


Box 9: folder 4
Photographs of Elizabeth Kerr Runnette


Box 9: folder 5
Photographs of Ethel Anderson Runnette Ramsey


Box 9: folder 6
Photographs of Joseph H. Runnette


Box 9: folder 7
Photographs of Virginia Anderson Runnette


Box 9: folder 8
Photographs of Elizabeth Virginia Elliot Anderson


Box 9: folder 9
Photographs of Mary Zeller Anderson


Box 9: folder 10
Photographs of Miriam Luscomb


Box 9: folder 11
Tower School Photographs


Box 9: folder 12
Identified groups,
landscapes, and extended family

Box 9: folder 13
Unidentified individuals and places


Box 9: folder 14
Unidentified individuals and places


Box 9: folder 15

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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