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Agnes De Mille papers, 1908-1993
11 boxes (4 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 46

Dancer and choreographer. The first woman to choreograph on Broadway, Agnes de Mille was an innovator who combined American folk dances with American music and transformed the world of musical comedy forever. Papers include writings, extensive family correspondence, photographs, research notes for two autobiographies, and memorabilia. Correspondence describes her life and activities in great detail and discusses many notable people including Cecil B. de Mille, Rebecca West, Fannie Hurst, Cole Porter, Martha Graham, Oscar Hammerstein, and Richard Rogers.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Literary rights are owned by Agnes de Mille's son, Jonathan Prude. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Agnes George de Mille was born in New York City, September 18, 1905, daughter of film producer, William de Mille and Anna (George) de Mille, daughter of economist Henry George. When Agnes was nine years old the family moved to Hollywood where her uncle, Cecil B. de Mille, was a motion picture director. Agnes entered university at age sixteen graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a degree in English. Although she began dancing in her early teens, it was not until after her graduation from college that she seriously considered dancing as a career. She studied with Theodore Koslov, Marie Rambert, Antony Tudor, and Tamara Karasvina, becoming a proficient ballet dancer. In 1925 her parents divorced and she and her sister, Margaret, moved back to New York with their mother. De Mille's first New York performance was in MacKlin Marow's production of Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera in 1927. She choreographed productions through the early 1930s, returning to Hollywood in 1934 to participate in Cecil B. de Mille's Cleopatra, from which she withdrew after differences arose over the dances. De Mille spent the 1937-38 season in England helping to form a ballet troupe in Oxford and choreographing Cole Porter's The Nymph Errant starring Gertrude Lawrence. She staged dances for Leslie Howard's Hamlet (1936), Ed Wynn's Hooray for What?(1937), Swingin' the Dream (1939), and a jazz version of A Midsummer's Night Dream. In 1939 she joined the New York Ballet Theatre as choreographer and performer. During her first season she choreographed Black Ritual, the first ballet of a classical American ballet company to be danced by all black dancers. She then established a company of her own and began a national tour. In 1941, de Mille devised a scenario for Rodeo for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo which was presented in 1942. In 1943 she did the choreography for Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein's hit musical Oklahoma!. She was one of the first women choreographers to work on Broadway doing the choreography for One Touch of Venus (1943), Bloomer Girl (1944), Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), and Paint Your Wagon (1951). De Mille also published articles on dance and several books. These include two autobiographical works: Dance to the Piper (1952), and Promenade Home (1958), To A Young Dancer (1960), The Book of Dance (1963), Lizzie Borden: A Dance of Death (1968), The Dance in America (1971), and Speak to Me, Dance With Me (1973). Despite a stroke and heart attack in the mid 1970s, de Mille continued her writing, publishing two memoirs, Where the Wings Grow (1978) and Reprieve (1981). She also choreographed the ballets The Informer (1988) and The Other (1992).

Agnes de Mille combined American folk dances and American music into classic art and was an innovator in dance who transformed the world of musical comedy forever. She received many awards including twelve honorary degrees, the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for best choreography (1947 and 1962), Theatre Hall of Fame (1973), Handel Medallion (1976), John F. Kennedy Center Career Achievement Award (1980), and the National Medal of the Arts (1986).

On June 14, 1943 Agnes de Mille married Walter Foy Prude. They had one son, Jonathan.

She died October 7, 1993 in Manhattan at the age of 88.

Scope and contents of the collection

The Agnes de Mille Papers consist of four linear feet of correspondence, biographical and autobiographical material, research notes, manuscripts and typescripts, printed material, photographs, published writings, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1914 to 1960 and focus on both personal and professional aspects of de Mille's life. Personal material can be found in the correspondence, especially to her mother, Anna George de Mille, and in the manuscript and research material for her two autobiographical books, Dance to the Piper and Promenade Home. Her professional life is reflected in the clippings and material related to her other writings about dance.

Organization of the collection

This collection is organized into three series:

  • I. Biographical Material
  • II. Correspondence
  • III. Works and Writings

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

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Literary rights are owned by Agnes de Mille's son, Jonathan Prude. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Preferred Citation

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

Agnes de Mille Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA

History of the Collection

Agnes de Mille donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection between 1959 and 1968, and her Dance To The Piper was purchased in 1994.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Susan Boone, 2000.

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

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

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
2.5 linear in.

This series contains clippings and articles, photographs, theater programs, and miscellaneous memorabilia. The clippings and articles cover de Mille's career from 1933 to her death in 1993 and include several short pieces authored by her. A group of clippings copied from photostats of her press books located at the New York Public Library and those specifically related to And Promenade Home, Fall River Legend, and Nymph Errant are located in SERIES III. WORKS AND WRITINGS. There are two portraits of de Mille, a photograph of Leicester Square Theater in London with de Mille's name on the marquee, and a Christmas card with a young Agnes de Mille on the front. All are undated. Theater programs include five from various theaters in England in the 1930s and one from the Majestic Theatre in New York (1941). Miscellaneous memorabilia includes an unidentified verse and a sketch; and locks of hair (1908-34) from Anna, Agnes, and Margaret de Mille and Margaret's daughter Judy.

10 linear in.

The correspondence comprises the most significant portion of the Agnes de Mille papers. This series consists of letters from and to Agnes de Mille and Anna George de Mille. Letters Agnes de Mille wrote to Margaret Storrs Grierson in 1963 are also included. They describe the circumstances under which the correspondence was written and provide identification and personal information about the correspondents and people mentioned in the letters. The letters to Grierson in conjunction with the rest of the correspondence provide a fascinating look into de Mille's relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances and an aggregate picture of the theater in New York and London in the 1930s and 40s. Her lengthy letters to her mother (1914-46) and her husband (1944-45), are of particular interest. They describe her life and activities in great detail and provide insights and gossip about many notable people including Cecil B. de Mille, Rebecca West, Gertrude Lawrence, Noel Coward, Fannie Hurst, Cole Porter, Elizabeth Bowen, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, Oscar Hammerstein, and Richard Rogers. This series also contains several letters from William de Mille to Anna George de Mille (1897-1903).

2.5 linear ft.



Scope and content:

This series contains notes, manuscripts, typescripts, printed material, and clippings relating to both the choreography works and published and unpublished writings of Agnes de Mille. Choreography works include original scripts for Act II of Carousel (1945); sketches, notes, scenes and drawings from the dream ballet from Oklahoma! (1943); Fall River Legend (1946) with an article written in 1968 about the play; and clippings and the program from Nymph Errant (1933). Published writings include Dance to the Piper (1951), "Edwardian Lady" (McCalls,1961), "Goodnight C. B." (Esquire, n.d.), The Book of the Dance (1963), "Russian Journals" (Dance Perspectives #44, 1970), "One Hundred and Fifty Dollars Away From Anything" written for The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Souvenir Program, "Methods of Choreography" (Vogue, n.d.), And Promenade Home, (1958), and To A Young Dancer (1960). Unpublished manuscripts include an article on Alicia Markova (n.d.); a lecture on Marquis de Cuevas (n.d.); and "Handbook for Dancers" which may have been an early draft of To A Young Dancer. This series also includes copies of clippings (1924-48) from de Mille's press book located at the New York Public Library.

Contents List


Box 1: folder 1
Clippings and articles,

Box 1: folder 2



Box 1: folder 3
Theater programs,

Box 1: folder 4
Miscellaneous memorabilia,
1908-34, undated

Box 1: folder 5

From Agnes de Mille

Bently, Madison,

Box 2: folder 1
de Mille, Anna George


Box 2: folder 2-11

Box 3: folder 1-7
Grierson, Margaret Storrs,

Box 3: folder 8
Hammerstein, Dorothy (Mrs. Oscar),

Box 3: folder 9
Prude, Walter,

Box 3: folder 10
To Agnes de Mille

Anthony, Joseph,

Box 3: folder 11
Barton, Craig,
1943, 1945

Box 3: folder 12
Bliss, Arthur,

Box 3: folder 13
Cochran, Charles B.,

Box 3: folder 14
Ferdinand (Twitch) Davis,

Box 3: folder 15
de Mille, Anna George,

Box 3: folder 16
de Mille, Clara,

Box 3: folder 17
de Mille, Margaret,

Box 3: folder 18
Dix, Beulah Marie,

Box 3: folder 19
Fiske, Gladys,

Box 3: folder 20
Haskell, Arnold,

Box 3: folder 21
Keeler, Leonarde,

Box 3: folder 22
Laing, Hugh,

Box 3: folder 23
Ludlum, Mabel Stuart,

Box 3: folder 24
Madsen, Arthur W.,

Box 3: folder 25
Martin, John,

Box 3: folder 26
Menuhin, Diana (Mrs. Yehudi),

Box 3: folder 27
Prude, Walter,

Box 3: folder 28
Read, Ramon,

Box 3: folder 29
Smith, Oliver,

Box 3: folder 30
West, Rebecca,

Box 3: folder 31
1922-33, undated

Box 3: folder 32
Anna George de Mille to Judy Fineman,

Box 3: folder 33
To Anna George de Mille

de Mille, Margaret

Box 3: folder 34
de Mille, William C.,

Box 3: folder 35
Prude, Walter,

Box 3: folder 36
Read, Ramon,

Box 3: folder 37

Dance To The Piper,

Notes and early drafts,

Box 4: folder 1
Original manuscript,

Box 4: folder 2
Notebooks (12),

Box 4
Various versions with editorial comments,

Box 5
Final manuscript,

Box 6
Published work (Boston, Little Brown and Co.),

Box 6
"Edwardian Lady,"

Box 6: folder 1
"Goodnight C.B.,"

Box 6: folder 2
"Alicia Markova,"

Box 6: folder 3
"Methods of Choreography,"

Box 6: folder 4
"Marquis de Cuevas,"

Box 7: folder 1
Carousel: original script for Act II,

Box 7: folder 2
Fall River Legend

Original script,

Box 7: folder 3
"Lady With An Ax: The Dramatic Story of Fall River Legend," McCalls,

Box 7: folder 4
Oklahoma: sketches, notes and scenes for Dream Ballet,

Box 7: folder 5
Nymph Errant: clippings, program and telegrams,

Box 7: folder 6
And Promenade Home,

Original manuscript (chapters not in book)

Box 8: folder 1
Incomplete and revised chapters

Box 8: folder 2
Manuscript with Catherine Bowen's comments

Box 8: folder 3

Box 8: folder 4
Notebooks (11)

Box 8
Typescripts and carbon copy,

Box 9
To A Young Dancer,

Chapters for Atlantic with letters from the editor,

Box 10: folder 1

Box 10: folder 2-3
"Handbook For Dancers,"

Box 10: folder 4
Book of the Dance,


Box 10: folder 5

Box 10: folder 6
Draft of Chapter VIII

Box 10: folder 7


Box 11
The Dance In America, United States Information Agency,

Box 11
"Russian Journals," Dance Perspectives vol. 44,

Box 11
"One Hundred and Fifty Dollars Away From Anything," The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Souvenir Program,

Box 11
Poster for a Paris dance recital,

Flat File:
Photostats of clippings,

Flat File:

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.

  • Ballet--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Choreographers--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Coward, Noel, 1899-1973
  • Dance--History--20th century--Sources
  • Dancers--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • De Mille family
  • De Mille, Agnes
  • De Mille, Cecil B., (Cecil Blount), 1881-1959
  • Europe--Description and travel--Sources
  • George, Henry, 1839-1897
  • Graham, Martha
  • Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968
  • Lawrence, Gertrude
  • Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 1892-1950
  • Performing Arts--History--20th century--Sources
  • St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968
  • Theater--History--20th century--Sources
  • West, Rebecca, Dame, 1892-

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