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Florence Polk Holding Papers, 1896-1975
1 box ( 5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0790 (LD 7096.6 1902 Polk)

Holding, Florence Polk, 1880-1975; student, housewife. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1902. Papers contain correspondence, a course notebook, writings, a commencement program, and biographical information, relating principally to Holding's academic and social activities as a student at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, and Mount Holyoke College. Also includes five letters, 1935-1953, from Frances Perkins, one of her classmates at Mount Holyoke.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Florence Kirk Polk was born in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on April 1, 1880 to William Polk, a newspaper editor and Lucy Cox Polk. After attending Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, she went to Mount Holyoke College from 1898-1902, graduating with a B.A. in history and zoology. She married Archibald M. Holding, an attorney, in 1904 and had a daughter in 1907. She traveled extensively throughout her life, spending summers in Paris, Austria, and Mexico, and took a strong interest in world affairs. In 1932 she published a short book in French entitled "Oiseaux de Passage," which describes two summer vacations spent in the Fontainebleau region of France. She later published a number of articles in French and English. She also exhibited her artwork, wrote and published poetry, studied music, and was an avid golfer. As a fervent advocate of higher education, she was appointed to the West Chester State Teachers College Board of Trustees in 1935. She died in West Chester, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1975 at the age of ninety-five.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Florence Polk Holding Papers consist of correspondence, a course notebook, writings, a commencement program, and biographical information. The papers primarily reflect her social and academic life as a student at Mount Holyoke College, 1898-1902. The bulk of her correspondence was written while she was a student at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts from 1896-1898 and at Mount Holyoke College, 1898-1902. Letters written to family from Cushing Academy relate to her plans to attend Mount Holyoke, academics, and adjusting to being away from home. Several of the letters were written to her father while he traveled through the United States West. The letters from her years as a student at Mount Holyoke College discuss her studies, trips to Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield, Massachusetts with friends, her plans for holiday breaks, and items she would like sent from home. Holding mentions traditions such as the Senior-Freshman Reception and notes attention paid to her by College presidents Elizabeth Storrs Mead and Mary Emma Woolley. Holding's papers include one letter to her brother and another to a friend, both of which focus much more heavily on her social life. These letters reflect Holding's interest in Yale men and other social activities. Contained in the papers is a zoology notebook used for Zoology 1 and 2 (1900-1901), which shows her meticulous work in sketching diagrams of various invertebrates. Another significant portion of the collection consists of letters written during her adult life. Five letters are from Frances Perkins who was Holding's classmate and Secretary of Labor for Franklin D. Roosevelt. These letters reflect a strong friendship between the classmates and show a more personal side of Perkins. They primarily discuss plans to see each other and class reunions.There is also a sympathy letter from Perkins to Holding, offering condolences for the death of Archibald M. Holding. In one letter dated March 9, 1953, Perkins discusses the death of her husband Paul Caldwell Wilson in religious terms, and thanks Holding for her condolences. This letter also comments on the need for political, economic, and spiritual diversity in the United States. Perkins also praises Holding's writing, as do William Lyon Phelps and Mary Emma Woolley in other letters. This writing, which is included in the collection, consists of an article Holding wrote for the May 1943 "Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly" entitled "Another Famous Mount Holyoke Husband," which was about Owen Roberts, husband of Elizabeth Rogers Roberts, Class of 1902, and her book "Oiseaux de Passage" (1932) which describes two summers of travel in the Fontainebleau region of France.

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Terms of Access and Use
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Preferred Citation

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

Florence Polk Holding 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

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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.

  • College students Massachusetts.
  • Cushing Academy (Ashburnham, Massachusetts) Students.
  • France Description and travel.
  • Holding, Florence Polk, 1880-1975.
  • Mead, Elizabeth Storrs, 1831-1917.
  • Mount Holyoke College Student life 1898-1902.
  • Mount Holyoke College Student notebooks 1900-1901.
  • Mount Holyoke College Students.
  • Mount Holyoke College Traditions.
  • Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965 Correspondence.
  • Student activities Massachusetts Ashburnham.
  • Student activities Massachusetts South Hadley.
  • Voyages and travels.
  • Women college students Massachusetts.
  • Women travelers.
  • Woolley, Mary Emma, 1863-1947.
  • Young women Education Massachusetts.
  • Zoology Study and teaching (Higher) Massachusetts.

  • Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965.
  • Phelps, William Lyon, 1865-1943.
  • Woolley, Mary Emma, 1863-1947.

Genre terms
  • Letters.
  • Notebooks.

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