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Thomas correspondence, 1864-1865.
1 box (2.5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0594 (LD 7096.6 x1868 Thomas)

Thomas, Belle (Isabella) Collins, 1838-1918; student and housewife. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary student, 1864-1865. Papers consist of letters to her husband, Walter S. Thomas, a soldier in the United States Civil War. Primarily describing her preparations to attend Mount Holyoke and her experience as a student.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Belle (Isabella) Collins was born on December 20, 1838, in Fairport, New York. She worked as a teacher before marrying Walter S. Thomas, a lawyer, in 1863. In 1864-1865 she was a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She had four children. She died on August 13, 1920 in Troy, Ohio at the age of eighty-one.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Belle Thomas Correspondence consist of letters that she wrote to her husband, Walter S. Thomas while he was serving in the United States Navy on the Mississippi River during the United States Civil War. The letters date from July 1864-January 1865 and they reflect the perceptions and experiences of one of the few married women to attend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary during the nineteenth century. In sixteen letters written from her home in Fairport, New York she discusses her activities, particularly her preparations to attend Mount Holyoke, and her anxiety about passing entrance and placement examinations. The remaining twenty-nine letters in the collection describe aspects of her life at Mount Holyoke. She often remarks on her dislike of the school's many regulations, telling her husband that they were "harder for me than for a 16-year old" (Thomas, at twenty-five years of age, was older that most of her classmates). She also mentions her studies and health, illness among students, her teachers, activities during a school vacation, and an expedition to Springfield and Chicopee, Massachusetts. Letters from November 1864 contain several references to Abraham Lincoln's re-election as U.S. President and to the political interests of students. Most of her letters also include frequent expressions of affection and concern for her husband and her hopes for their future. Typed transcripts of most of these letters are included in this collection.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
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Preferred Citation

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

Belle Thomas Correspondence, 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.

  • Thomas, Belle, 1838-1920.
  • College students - Massachusetts - History - Sources.
  • Disease.
  • Marriage - United States - History - Sources.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Curricula.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Faculty.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Regulations.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Student life - 1864-1865.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Students - Political activity.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Students.
  • Nontraditional college students - Massachusetts - South Hadley.
  • Soldiers - United States - Family relationships - History - Sources.
  • United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • United States. - Navy - Military life - Sources.
  • Women - Health and hygiene - United States - History - Sources.
  • Women college students - Massachusetts - History - Sources.

  • Thomas, Walter S., d. 1918.

Genre terms
  • Letters

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