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Jean Louise Burnham Papers, 1930-1992
4 boxes (2 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 80

Abstract:
Alumna, Class of 1938. Contains biographical material, correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Jean Louise Burnham was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 20, 1916 to Leonard Preston Burnham and Mary Waterman Burnham. Her family moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts during her childhood and she graduated from Gloucester High School in 1934. A serious student, she edited and wrote for high school publications and was dubbed the "Class Genius" by her classmates. She entered Smith College in 1934 and graduated in 1938, returning to Gloucester to work as a secretary for the Red Cross. On June 6, 1942, she married Albert Robertson Gray, whom she had known since high school, while he was furloughed from the U.S. Army. At the close of World War II in 1945, her husband returned to civilian life and she left her work as a secretary. In 1948, she gave birth to a son, Thomas Leonard Gray. He died in 1974. The Grays lived in Haworth, New Jersey, moving to Sarasota, Florida in 1983. She was active in the Northern Valley (N.J.) Smith College Club and in the local chapter of the American Association of University Women as well as in other women's clubs and church groups. Jean Louise Burnham Gray died in Sarasota on February 26, 1984, after a period of illness.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Jean Louise Burnham papers contain correspondence and materials about her life and that of her husband that she preserved from the time she was fourteen years old until her death at age sixty-two. The collection also contains some correspondence and photographs collected by her husband, Albert Robertson Gray, after her death.

The correspondence includes letters written by Jean to her mother during her first year at Smith College. She relates many of her daily activities on and off campus and expresses concerns about her grades, performance in classes, weight, and finances. A resident of Talbot House, she tried to earn income by baking and selling "cakes" to other girls and taking on clerical work. A few letters reflect on her academic experience at Smith, which in this semester included history, hygiene, psychology and French. Others reflect on her personal religious beliefs and experiences.

The bulk of the collection consists of several hundred letters between Burnham and her husband, Albert Robertson Gray, between 1939 and 1945. While the archive did not receive a truly double-sided correspondence, most of the letters it did receive had been carefully preserved in date order. The collection contains letters from Al to Jean from 1939, when he was embarking on a business career after his graduation from Dartmouth, to early 1944, when he left for duty in Europe in the Finance Section of the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. His early letters were written from various East Coast locations; after he was drafted in February, 1941, most were written from three U.S. Army bases: Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Camp Gordon and Fort Benning, Georgia. They contain considerable detail about the life of a sergeant on the base and about his work in the finance office. Al wrote Jean one- to two-page letters about twice a week.

The bulk of Jean's letters to Al--which were generally much longer and more frequent--are from the period after he left for Europe in 1944. Hers also relate many daily activities as well as her emotions during their long separation. Many of Jean's are V-Mail (Victory mail) letters. Using forms available through the postal service, writers could write, fold, and send letters on a single sheet of paper. These were then opened and microfilmed. The microfilms were shipped overseas, taking up far less cargo space than actual letters would have. Recipients received a photographic print of the original letter at one-quarter its original size.

Although the letters allow one to read only one side of the correspondence for each period, their conversational quality and emotional intensity provide indicators of Jean's and Al's distinct personalities. Some letters also convey the practical problems of life in wartime--several letters from 1944 discuss their difficulty in obtaining a typewriter for Jean--and mention events in the wider world. They make many references to current cinema, compare their reactions to a radio speech by Winston Churchill, and discuss the meaning and significance of the war. Albert Gray's wartime correspondence file includes a small number of additional letters received from family and colleagues, most from 1945.

Additional materials of note include a scrapbook maintained by Jean circa 1934, an unpublished essay or speech regarding the founding of a women's club written sometime before her marriage, and a humorously written booklet of "15-year Statistics" created for the Class of 1938's 15th reunion. Other items include clippings, a high school yearbook, and dance cards from the 1930s (in the scrapbook).

Among the dozens of photographs in this collection are a few taken on the Smith campus, including a print of an Ivy Day portrait of seven Class of 1938 graduates (including Jean Burnham) signed by Paul L. Anderson.


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

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

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

Jean Louise Burnham Papers, Box #, Smith College Archives.

History of the Collection

The Jean Louise Burnham Papers were donated in August 2007 by her niece Sandi Gray-Terry, MSW 1993.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English

Series Descriptions
(1930-1985)


This series contains correspondence sent by Jean Louise Burnham as well as a few items of correspondence she received. These are arranged in date order. It also contains memorabilia, college papers, and photographs. Although few of the photographs are dated, they have been placed in approximate date order.

(1929-1992)


This series contains correspondence sent by Albert Robertson Gray as well as a small body of correspondence received by him from his mother, brother, other relatives, and friends, all in date order. Some memorabilia relating to Albert is integrated into Series I folders; items that could be separated are found here. Likewise, most photographs documented the couple's life together and are in Series I. The remainder are in Series II. They include a group portrait of the Finance Section of the 4th Infantry Division, with names, and an informal office group portrait (also with names) taken at Brooks Brothers, for whom Gray worked in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The photographs are arranged in approximate date order.

(1940-1970)


This series contains correspondence, clippings, and photographs that appear to have been collected by Jean Louise Burnham's mother.

(1929-1977)


This series contains diplomas, certificates, and other oversize materials.

Contents List
Series I: Jean Louise Burnham



Correspondence
1935

Box 1: folder 1
Correspondence
Aug. 1942-May 1944

Box 1: folder 2
Correspondence
June-Sep 1944

Box 1: folder 3
Correspondence
Oct.-Dec. 1944

Box 1: folder 4
Correspondence
Jan.- Apr. 1945

Box 1: folder 5
Correspondence
May 1945-1982

Box 1: folder 6
Writings
n.d.

Box 2: folder 7
Scrapbook
1933-1934, n.d.

Box 2: folder 8
College papers
1937

Box 2: folder 9
Printed materials
1934, n.d.

Box 2: folder 10
Printed materials
1938-1989, n.d.

Box 2: folder 11
Photographs
1930

Box 2: folder 12
Photographs
n.d.

Box 2: folder 13
Photographs
1936, 1938, n.d.

Box 2: folder 14
Photographs
1944, 1948, n.d

Box 2: folder 15
Photographs
1954-1975, n.d

Box 2: folder 16
Obituaries
1984-1985

Box 2: folder 17
Funeral service materials
1984

Box 3: folder 18
Series II: Albert Robertson Gray



Correspondence
Apr. 1939-June 1941, n.d.

Box 3: folder 19
Correspondence
July 1941-June 1942

Box 3: folder 20
Correspondence
July 1942-Feb. 1943

Box 3: folder 21
Correspondence
Mar. 1943-Jan. 1944

Box 3: folder 22
Correspondence
Apr. 1944-1990, n.d.

Box 3: folder 23
Citation to Award Bronze Star
n.d.

Box 4: folder 24
Roster, Finance Section, 4th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
1945

Box 4: folder 25
Printed materials
1929-1943, n.d.

Box 4: folder 26
Photographs
1945, n.d.

Box 4: folder 27
Photographs
ca. 1950-1992

Box 4: folder 28
Series III: Family Biographical materials



Correspondence
1940-1970, n.d.

Box 4: folder 29
Printed materials
1962-1970, n.d.

Box 4: folder 30
Photographs
1951, 1957, n.d.

Box 4: folder 31
Oversize



Diplomas and certificates
1929, 1974, n.d.

Drawer 19
Brooks Brothers Quarter Century Club
1977

Drawer 19

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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