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Rosamund Purdy Bell Papers, 1940-1945, 1950 (Bulk: 1941-1942)
3 boxes (7.5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0830

Bell, Rosamund Theresa Purdy, 1920-: Personnel officer, teacher and librarian. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1942. Papers contain correspondence, newspaper articles, a marriage announcment, a film and photographs. Primarily documenting a comment that she made about students dating soldiers that was misquoted in newspaper articles, generating a controversy. Also includes programs and a 8mm film documenting dramatic productions at Mount Holyoke and photographs dating from her student years.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections

Biographical Note

Rosamund Theresa Purdy, homemaker, librarian and a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 11, 1920 to Steward W. Purdy and Louise T. Bruchholz Purdy. She graduated from New Trier High School in Winnelka, Illinois in 1938, and then entered Mount Holyoke College and majored in English language and literature. While at Mount Holyoke, she was involved in many student activities: she was a member of the choir, treasurer of the freshman class, president of the junior class and the lead in the junior show. She was also awarded the Merrill Prize for achievement in English and sophomore honors. A member of the Phi Beta Kappa, she earned a B.A. degree from Mount Holyoke in 1942. She served in the WAVES (Women's Reserve, Naval Reserve) from 1942-1945, receiving the rank of full lieutenant and acting as a personnel officer. On July 7, 1945 she married Lieutenant Frank Ellwood Bell of the United States Naval Reserve. They had three children. Bell worked as a teacher, an administrator and a librarian at Mercersburg Academy. She also wrote amateur musical productions for teenage children.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Rosamund Purdy Bell Papers span the years 1940-1950, with the bulk dating from 1940-1942 and include correspondence, newspaper articles, a marriage announcement, a film, and photographs. Most of the material in the collection consists of correspondence and newspaper clippings concerning a comment she made about students dating soldiers that was misquoted in newspaper articles, generating a controversy. At a Wellesley College conference on November 11, 1941 focusing on ways that students at women's colleges could best help the national defense effort, she suggested bringing groups of soldiers to the colleges for dances. She was misquoted in many United States newspapers as having said, "We see no reason why girls at Mount Holyoke should go out with soldiers, because they are of `short range' value. The girls are only wasting their time going out with them. They are not good matrimonial risks, so why dance with them they're here today and gone tomorrow." She received many outraged letters in response to her alleged statement. Some correspondents said that her remarks as quoted in the paper lowered the moral of servicemen and it did not make them feel very patriotic. She was also accused of not being a loyal American. Although most of the responses were negative, one soldier agreed with her. He complimented her on having high ideals and he was glad that women like her were so outspoken because it gave him hope of a good marriage and a better country. Most of the other material in these papers relates to the class activities while Bell was at Mount Holyoke, particularly dramatic productions. The Class of 1942 Junior Show in 1940 (in which she played a leading role) is documented by a program, a photograph of her as she appeared in the play and an 8 mm film of the production. The collection also includes other photographs of Bell and of Brigham Hall dormitory at Mount Holyoke.

This collection is organized into five series:

  • Correspondence
  • Programs
  • Film
  • Biographical Information
  • Photographs

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


Preferred Citation

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

Rosamund Purdy Bell 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:
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.

  • Bell, Rosamund Purdy, 1920-
  • College students - Massachusetts.
  • Dating (Social customs).
  • Mount Holyoke College - Student life - 1940-1942.
  • Mount Holyoke College - Students.
  • Mount Holyoke College. - Class of 1942.
  • Soldiers - Recreation.
  • Student activities - Massachusetts - South Hadley.
  • United States - Armed forces - Public opinion.
  • Women college students - Massachusetts.
  • World War, 1939-1945 - United States.

Genre terms
  • Letters.
  • Motion pictures (visual works).
  • Photographs.

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