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Patricia Beck Papers, 1936-1986 (Bulk: 1940-78)
24 boxes (9.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 14

Author, poet. Papers include Beck's personal diaries, kept continuously from age 14 until her death in 1978; manuscripts of 59 short stories, 2 semi-autobiographical novels, and poems; correspondence; and photographs and slides of artwork. The diaries, used as basis for her writings, contain insight into her relationships, daily activities, books and movies, her dreams, travel descriptions (including time spent in Civil War Spain), and periodic depressive episodes (which led to brief hospitalizations and her eventual suicide). Manuscripts include criticisms by Bernard Malamud and Theodore Roethke. Notable orrespondents include Frank Capra, Erich and Henny Fromm, Dorothy and Granville Hicks, Bernard and Ann Malamud, Karl Polanyi, and Allan and Barbara Seager.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Beck's writings. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Beck 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.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Patricia Beck was born on April 8, 1924, in "Hell's Kitchen," New York, New York, to Margaret and Fred "Whitey" Beck. Her father, a bookmaker on racing grounds, died in July of 1926 when Pat was two years old. Pat was the third of four children, though an older sister Peggy died at the age of one. Her older sister Vera was in the army and later became a lawyer. Her younger brother Fred was a musician.

In the early 1930s the Beck family lived in Great Neck, Long Island, and, in 1933, Pat's mother married Paul Swiderski, a boxer, who Pat called "Pops." From 1934 to 1938 Pat's family spent much of the time living in various locations in Europe, including Spain, England, and France. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the family decided to return to the United States and take up residence again in Great Neck, Long Island, and then Asbury Park, New Jersey. Beck worked at the Allenhurst (New Jersey) Beach Club as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and graduated from Asbury Park High School in 1943. In the fall of 1943 she began attending Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, where she studied writing, art, and psychology. From her sophomore year until his departure from the college, Beck's academic counselor was poet Theodore Roethke. She also studied with W. H. Auden and Allan Seager.

In the middle of Beck's first year at Bennington College, her mother died from cancer, two weeks before her divorce from Paul Swiderski would have become final. The death affected Beck greatly and depression forced her to leave school in 1946. From July to August, she resided in the psychiatric unit at Albany Hospital in Albany, New York, and underwent shock therapy for her depression. After her release she spent some time in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, and then went to live in Bennington again.

Pages from Patricia Beck's diary, 6-7 May, 1949

Pages from Patricia Beck's diary, 6-7 May, 1949

On June 28, 1952, Beck married Thomas Maulding, a blind pianist and entertainer. She moved to New York City to live with him but she and Tom often traveled back to Vermont to visit friends. In 1954 Beck and Maulding purchased a home on Pleasant Street in North Bennington, Vermont, which they named "Birdland." Pat and Tom did not have any children but by 1956 Beck became more insistent that they try to conceive. In September of 1958 she discovered that she was pregnant but she miscarried due to Tom's forcing her to have intercourse though her doctor had advised against it. Tom soon left and did not return to live in the home until December of that year. He eventually moved out in 1959 and Beck asked for a divorce in August 1959.

Beck remained at Birdland after the divorce and eventually resumed her studies at Bennington College in the early 1960s, studying writing with Bernard Malamud. She continued her writing and painting and eventually two of her short stories, "A Promise in the Wind" and "Come Down to the Willow," were published in the magazine Yankee in 1970. These were the only items that would be published during her lifetime. A volume of short stories entitled, A Gift of Kindling and Other Stories, was compiled and published posthumously by a group of her friends.

In 1974 Beck's brother Fred passed away suddenly. He was buried on Beck's property at Birdland. In 1976 Pat's right leg was amputated because of complications from diabetes, with which she had lived for much of her life. After the amputation she was dependent on crutches and a wheelchair in her regular activities but still swam to remain active.

In 1977 Pat's other leg was amputated, also due to complications from diabetes. On March 2, 1978 Pat Beck committed suicide by an insulin overdose. Her ashes are buried at Birdland near her brother Fred's grave.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Patricia Beck Papers consist of 9.5 linear ft. and date from 1936 to 1986. Types of materials include diaries, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, art slides, and newspaper clippings.

The bulk of the papers dates from 1940 to 1978 and focuses on Beck's writings and her life as it was recorded in her diaries. SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS includes information about Beck's family, pictures of Beck and her family and friends, slides of her artwork, and her extensive group of diaries, dating from 1938 when she was 14 to her death in 1978. Researchers should note that some of the biographical sketches compiled by people other than Beck in the "Biographical and family information" folder contain some inaccurate information. The diaries are arranged chronologically though not all of the diaries are of the same nature. The Daily Reminder books and other one-year daily diaries usually contain brief recordings of a day's events and, except for the very early diaries, pictograms that illustrate her activities. The composition books and red and black bound journals contain longer narratives for fewer dates.

The diaries contain a wealth of information including the movies she saw, books she read, food she ate, letters she wrote and received, telephone calls she made and received, and her financial information. She recorded her daily moods and occasionally her dreams. Many diaries contain newspaper clippings, letters, notes, and other items that Beck inserted between the pages. Some of these items have been removed to a separate folder located after the corresponding diary. Because Beck based many of her writings on her own life and the Bennington area, some of her notes in SERIES III. WRITINGS also contain biographical information.

SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE is divided into two subseries, Personal and Professional. The Personal correspondence from family and friends includes such notables as: Frank Capra, Erich and Henny Fromm, Dorothy and Granville Hicks, Bernard and Ann Malamud, Karl Polanyi, and Allan and Barbara Seager. The correspondence provides further insight into Beck's personal relationships, revealing that those relationships that began on a professional basis often grew to become much more. The correspondence with Bernard Malamud includes only brief discussions of her writing and the correspondence with other notables pertains largely to Beck's friendships with them. Professional correspondence includes rejection letters, with which Beck had once lined her walls, and letters with the magazine Yankee and the Fox Chase Agency.

SERIES III. WRITINGS is divided into four subseries, Book manuscripts, Poetry, Short stories, and Notes. Beck wrote two semi-autobiographical novels, Like Gone and Under the Shadow of a War, but neither was published as was none of her poetry. Only a few of her short stories were ever published and these are listed first in Short stories. Her unpublished stories are listed alphabetically. Beck's loose notes for her writings are arranged chronologically and her notebooks are arranged by title or type of notes.

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 without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Beck's writings. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Beck 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.

Preferred Citation

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

Patricia Beck Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

Lucien and Jane Hanks, Patricia Beck's literary executors, donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1982.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah E. Keen, 2005.

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

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


Contents List


Box 1: folder 1
Autograph book,

Box 1: folder 2
Biographical and family information,

[see also Oversize Materials]


Box 1: folder 3
Clippings and press releases,

[see also Oversize Materials]

1978, 1984-86

Box 1: folder 4
Maulding, Tom: taxes, trial report, funeral program,
1954-59, 1975

Box 1: folder 5
Will and estate,
1949, 1977-78

Box 1: folder 6

Beck alone,
1940, 1976-78, n.d.

Box 1: folder 7
Family and friends,
1943-52, n.d.

Box 1: folder 8
North Bennington, Vermont,
1968, n.d.

Box 1: folder 9
Artwork by Beck

Portrait of Allan Seager,

[see Oversize Materials]


Box 1
1943-51, 1961, 1975, n.d.

Box 1: folder 10

[see also Photographs - Family and friends for items removed]

Sep 1938-1940

Box 1: folder 11-13

Box 2: folder 1-7

Box 3: folder 1-7

Box 4: folder 1-6
1948-51, n.d.

Box 4: folder 7
Aug 1948 - Aug 1949

Box 4: folder 8-9
1949 - Jun 1951

Box 5: folder 1-7

Box 6: folder 1-6

Box 7: folder 1-8
Jul 1955 - Sep 1959

Box 7: folder 9-10

Box 8: folder 1-8
Sep 1959 - Nov 1962

Box 9: folder 1-9

Box 10: folder 1-8

Box 11: folder 1-8

Box 12: folder 1-8

Box 13: folder 1-8

Box 14: folder 1-6

Box 15: folder 1-4


Abbott, Harold,

Box 16: folder 1-2
Beck, Fred,

Box 16: folder 3-9
Beck, Vera J.,

Box 16: folder 10
Bennington College,
1945-46, 1960-61

Box 16: folder 11
Capra, Frank,
1974-77, n.d.

Box 16: folder 12
DeGray, Julian and Margaret,
1967, 1976

Box 16: folder 13
Erdman, Glory,

Box 16: folder 14
Flory, Mary Delia,

Box 16: folder 15
Foster, Thomas and Kit,

Box 16: folder 16
Fromm, Henny and Erich,
1945-57, n.d.

Box 16: folder 17
Fruitrich, Chris,
1961-63, n.d.

Box 17: folder 1
Fruitrich, Mary,
1961-70, n.d.

Box 17: folder 2
Hicks, Dorothy and Granville,
1969-76, n.d.

Box 17: folder 3
Holt, George, Jean, Sarah, Charlotte, and Charles,
1943-48, 1968, n.d.

Box 17: folder 4

Box 17: folder 5
June, Willa and Milo (Tom Maulding's parents),
1959, 1975-76

Box 17: folder 6
Malamud, Bernard and Ann,

Box 17: folder 7
Malamud, Paul,
1963-69, n.d.

Box 17: folder 8
Mendelson, Edward (about W.H. Auden),

Box 17: folder 9
Polanyi, Karl,

Box 17: folder 10
Seager, Allan and Barbara,
1943-48, n.d.

Box 17: folder 11
Seide, Katherine and Mike,
1965-69, n.d.

Box 17: folder 12
Stevenson, Lewis,

Box 17: folder 13
Swiderski, Paul and Amilla,
1970, 1976

Box 17: folder 14
Watson, E.H.,
1970, n.d.

Box 17: folder 15
Yeomans, Barbara,

Box 17: folder 16
1943-46, 1960-62, 1969-76, n.d.

Box 17: folder 17
1942-47, 1955, 1962, 1973-76, n.d.

Box 17: folder 18

Rejection letters,

Box 17: folder 19
Fox Chase Agency,

Box 17: folder 20
<title render="italic">Yankee </title>magazine,

Box 17: folder 21


<title render="italic">Like Gone</title>,

Box 17

Box 17: folder 22

Box 17: folder 23-24
<title render="italic">Under the Shadow of a War</title>: typescript,

Box 18: folder 1

Written by Beck,
1944-45, circa 1970, n.d.

Box 18: folder 2-4
Collected poems and quotations by others,
circa 1946, n.d.

Box 18: folder 5-6
Short stories


"A Promise in the Wind," <title render="italic">Yankee</title>,
Mar 1970

Box 18: folder 7
"Come Down to the Willow," <title render="italic">Yankee</title>,
Jun 1970

Box 18
<title render="italic">A Gift of Kindling and Other Stories</title> published volume, miscellaneous

Box 18: folder 8-9

"Age of Reason"

Box 18: folder 10
(circa 1940)

Box 18
"Balcony Scene"

Box 18: folder 11
"The Beautiful Indian and the Ribbon on Moonlight"

Box 18
"A Bed for Mr. John"

Box 18
"Black Ace"

Box 18
"The Breeze from Valldemosa"

Box 18: folder 12
"The Bronze Eagle"

Box 18
"The Bus"
(circa 1940)

Box 18
"Buy Yourself Something Pretty"

Box 18
"A Cake for Supper"

Box 19: folder 1
"The Clocks"

Box 19
"Cold Enough"

Box 19
"Coffee at Al's"
(circa 1964)

Box 19
"The Cupid in the Garden"

Box 19
"The Donkey's Necklace"
(circa 1950)

Box 19: folder 2
"Echoes of a Young Musician"

Box 19
"Erin Go Bragh"
(1964, 1977)

Box 19
"The Fair"

Box 19: folder 3
"Four Lemons"

Box 19
"Fresh Starched Curtains"

Box 19
"Fringed Genetian"

Box 19
"Fringes of Knowing"

Box 19
"Fun Fair"

Box 19
"A Gaggle of Lovers"

Box 19: folder 4
"A Gift of Kindling" [originally titled "Poor Sir Guilbert"]

Box 19
"Goodbye Uncle George"
(circa 1950)

Box 19
"The Green Heart"

Box 19
"Howie Died Last Week"

Box 19: folder 5
"Ich Liebe Dich"

Box 19
"Imitation of Scheherazade"

Box 19
"In Other Words, The Good Book"

Box 19
"In the Distance, Tom Toms"

Box 19

Box 19

Box 19
"A Joyous Sound"

Box 19: folder 6
"King Fisher"

Box 19
"Kate O'Reilly, C'est Moi"

Box 19: folder 7
"Madame Midnight Goes to the Ball"

Box 19: folder 8
"The Man Who Ran Away from the Circus"

Box 19
"The Maze"

Box 19
"The Meaning of the Word"

Box 19
"The Mole"

Box 19
"The Muskrat"

Box 19
"Mute the Trumpet"

Box 19
"My Father and Aristotle"

Box 19

Box 19: folder 9
"The Need for Nightingales"
(circa 1964)

Box 19
"Night School"

Box 19
"Of Fireballs, and Fear from the Dark Border"

Box 19: folder 10
"The Omen of the Three Cardinals"

Box 19
"One of the Green Mountain Boys"

Box 19
"Overture to the Blues"

Box 19

Box 19: folder 11
"Poor Sir Guilbert" [published as "A Gift of Kindling"]

Box 19
"Purple Finches Come to Pleasant St."

Box 19
"A Relative Performance"

Box 19: folder 12
"The Ring"

Box 19
"Roots of Memory"

Box 19
"The Saga of 'Alie-Cat,' a Letter Writer"

Box 19: folder 13
"A Sin of Blood"

Box 19
"Sinbad: A Wish to Grow On"

Box 19
"Snow Ghosts"

Box 19
"So Many Ports"

Box 19
"Something of a Stranger"

Box 19
"Soon We Expect the Cardinal"

Box 19
"The Sound of the Wind in the Trees" (n.d)

Box 20: folder 1
"Space" [also called "Empty Space"]

Box 20
"The Standard of Gold"
(circa 1965)

Box 20
"The Star Gazer"

Box 20
"Still Life, Opus 132"

Box 20
"Storm Outside"

Box 20
"A Streak of Blue"

Box 20
"The Sunken Tree"

Box 20
"The Survivor"

Box 20
"Take It as a Gag"

Box 20: folder 2
"Ten Minute Wait"

Box 20
"That Certain Glow"

Box 20
"There Was This Horseplayer"

Box 20
"There Will the River Whispering Run"

Box 20
"There's Something Up Ahead"

Box 20
"Three Flights Up to Davy Jones's Locker"

Box 20
"Two Weeks in Silver City"

Box 20
"Velvet Dust"

Box 20: folder 3
"The Violets are Here Dear"

Box 20
"Wake to a Dream"

Box 20
"The Waste-land, or Tonight at 8:30 on Channel 40"

Box 20
"White Bird"
(circa 1945)

Box 20
"The Wind"

Box 20
"Yankee Ingenuity"

Box 20
"Yellow on Black" [originally titled, "As a Decrepit Father Takes Delight"]
(1963, 1965)

Box 20
Unnamed stories,

Box 20: folder 4


Box 20: folder 5-7

Box 21: folder 1-13

Box 22: folder 1-9

1968-77; 1974-76

Box 22: folder 10-11
"Books and My Favorite Poems,"

[see also Oversize Materials]


Box 23: folder 1
Reading journal,
circa 1940-1967

Box 23: folder 2
"A Trip Abroads [sic]," notes and stories about European travels,

Box 23: folder 3

Biographical materials

Portrait of Allan Seager,

Box 24
Magazine clipping with images: "Kicking the Sky" by Egons Spuris; "The Drum Major" by Alfred Eisenstaedt; and "Motherless Chinese Baby After Air Raid; Shanghai," by H.S. ("Newsreel") Wong

Flat file
Article, "Faculty Literati of 1940s Recalled," <title render="italic">Quadrille</title> (Bennington College),
Apr 1984

Flat file
Article, "The Report of the Round Table," by Russell W. Davenport,

Flat file

"Have a Very Happy Christmas" poster,

Flat file
Literary Acquaintance Test: Current literature,

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.

  • Beck, Patricia, 1924-1978
  • Capra, Frank, 1897- --Correspondence
  • Depression, Mental--Patients--Diaries
  • Europe--Description and travel--Sources
  • Fromm, Erich, 1900- --Correspondence
  • Hicks, Granville, 1901- --Correspondence
  • Malamud, Bernard
  • Roethke, Theodore, 1908-1963
  • Suicide victims--Biography--Sources
  • Women authors, American--Biography--Sources
  • Women poets, American--Biography--Sources
  • Women with disabilities--United States--Diaries
  • Women--Mental health--United States--History--20th century--Sources

Genre terms
  • Diaries

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