Five College Archives and Manuscript
Mount Holyoke College seal
Collins papers, 1856-1859.
1 box (2.5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0780 (LD 7096.6 x1860 Collins)

Collins, Mary Jane, 1840-1859; student. Attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, 1856-1858. Papers contain correspondence, a notebook, a memorial sermon, a photograph, and a portrait concerning primarily her life as a Mount Holyoke student. Includes references to her health, expenses, clothing, and study of music.

Terms of Access and Use:


Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Mary Jane Collins was born on February 16, 1840 in Somers, Connecticut to Noah Chapin Collins and Elvira Billings Collins. She attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary from 1856-1858, but suspended her studies when she contracted typhoid fever in the summer of 1857. She developed "lung fever" (probably tuberculosis) in January 1859 and died on September 18, 1859 at the age of nineteen in Somers, Connecticut.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mary Jane Collins Papers consist of correspondence, a notebook, a memorial sermon, a photograph, and a portrait. Most of this material relates to her years as a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, 1856-1858. In four letters to her parents, 1857-1858, she describes her clothing, expenses, and study of music, which included piano lessons. She also describes her poor health, including throat ailments, neuralgia, and problems with her teeth, and asks for food from home. The notebook dates from 1857-1858 and includes original poetry by Mount Holyoke Female Seminary students that were part of writings at the school known as "Seminary Literature." The notebook includes poetry about a child of Paul A. Chadbourne, a popular visiting lecturer at Mount Holyoke. The memorial sermon by the Reverend George Oviatt, delivered on September 18, 1859 and published in 1860, describes Collin's childhood, her personality, her religious faith, her studies at Mount Holyoke, and her declining health and death. The collection also includes a photograph of Collins and a framed oil on paperboard color portrait of her (29 x 39 inches) by an unidentified artist.

This collection is organized into four series:

  • Correspondence
  • Notebook
  • Memorial Sermon
  • Photograph and Portrait

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


Preferred Citation

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

Mary Jane Collins Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence

There are four letters of Mary Collins in this collection, dating from December 12, 1857 to November 13, 1858, one addressed to her father and dated Saturday morning, and another without any date.

Although Mary reported to her father in December 1857 that she was very healthy despite a lot of scarlet fever in town, she did have throat problems and her later letters told of serious troubles with her teeth (the dentist said they were badly decay ed), and she suffered from neuralgia, chiefly in her side and neck, which was treated with mustard plasters and laudanum.

The letters tell little about Seminary life, although she does write of her study of music. In December 1857 she reported that a series of piano practice ran for six weeks, one-half hour, $.50 an "enormous price to pay". Most of the letters concern her wardrobe which was sparse and she feared her father,might not be willing to pay for things she needed. Music bills, doctor's bills, oil - all taxed her meager resources. On her eighteenth birthday (February 16, 1858) she wrote her mother for chicken and mince pies, cream pies and cake, and loaf sugar and coffee, if they could be spared. She never had a box from home (usually filled with food) although almost all the girls had received them.

These are very personal and touching letters from a young woman who died very young - less than a year after leaving the Seminary.

CR Ludwig

October 2001

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.

  • Chadbourne, Paul A. (Paul Ansel), 1823-1883.
  • Collins, Mary Jane, 1840-1859.
  • Clothing and dress.
  • College students - Massachusetts.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Student expenses - 1857-1858.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Student life - 1857-1858.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Student notebooks - 1857-1858.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Students.
  • Music - Instruction and study - Massachusetts.
  • Student activities - Massachusetts - South Hadley.
  • Women - Health and hygiene - United States - History - 19th century - Sources.
  • Women college students - Health and hygiene.
  • Women college students - Massachusetts.

Genre terms
  • Letters.
  • Oil paintings.
  • Photographs.

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