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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.