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Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, 1916-1989
26 boxes (16 Linear Ft.)
Collection number: MS 39

Abstract:
Author, Poet, Biographer, Diarist. Papers include correspondence, photographs, line-a-day diaries; scrapbooks, financial records, and material relating to her literary career, including published and unpublished manuscripts, poetry, stories, articles, publicity, reviews, fan mail, research material, and forty-two volumes of diaries. Curtis' introspections give a perspective on a life's journey that included a troubled marriage and complex family life; a struggle to make a career as a writer; and day-to-day observations of New England life, from Boston elite society to small town New Hampshire.

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. Please note that this collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright to unpublished works by Edith Roelker Curtis is owned by the Sophia Smith Collection. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored 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.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

The author Edith Goddard Roelker was born on July 29, 1893 to William and Eleanor (Jenckes) Roelker. The family's roots in Rhode Island stretched back to the colonial era, and Edith grew up in a privileged environment on an East Greenwich homestead and a city residence in Providence. With the marriage strained by Eleanor's alcoholism, the Roelkers divorced in 1901. Edith attended school in Providence and lived for a time with an aunt in Cincinnati. She subsequently attended the elite Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut between 1909 and 1912 but left before receiving a degree. She made her society debut in 1912. Two years later, she married Charles Pelham Curtis, Jr., a Harvard Law student and member of a similarly distinguished Boston family. Charles became a partner at the Choate, Hall, and Stuart firm, and the couple lived in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood until they moved to Norfolk, Massachusetts in 1924. Their first child, Sarah (called Sally), was born in 1915, followed by Anita (1917), Charles (1919), William (1923), and Richard (1924). During the First World War, Edith volunteered for the Red Cross. She was active in Boston club life, becoming a member of the Nucleus, Chilton Club, and Boston Sewing Circle (a predecessor to the Junior League), among others. The groups functioned as hubs of high society, but they also sponsored cultural events and volunteer activities. Edith maintained an interest in literary and social clubs throughout her life.

Edith Curtis' literary ambitions were awakened after the birth of her third child, and she undertook coursework in composition and English literature at Radcliffe College. In the 1920s, she would become a steady diarist, writing daily ruminations on travels and home life, reflecting on the progress of her writing career, and exploring writing projects. Her personal papers contain an extensive run of diaries, primarily spanning from 1926 to 1977. With brief newspaper articles, Curtis entered the professional realm of publishing in the 1920s. Inspired by the celebration of the Boston tercentennial, she released a full-length book, Anne Hutchinson: A Biography, with the Washburn and Thomas publishing house in 1930. As her writing career developed, her marriage foundered. Charles' extramarital affairs prompted a separation in 1934 when Edith discovered in a gossip column that her husband had registered at a New York hotel with his mistress. Charles obtained a divorce in Reno, Nevada in 1936 and soon married Frances Prentice. Given the prominent standing of the family, the divorce caused scandal in Boston social circles. Edith's continuing discontent with her ex-husband led her to obstruct contact between Charles and the children, complicating family relationships. While maintaining an active social life and overseeing a large household, Edith continued to write as her children grew up and left the home. Short works appeared in magazines and newspapers throughout the 1930s. A second historical biography, Lady Sarah Lennox, An Irrepressible Stuart, was published by Putnam in 1946 and was also released in London and Brazil. This extensively researched narration of the life of the notorious royal consort was reportedly enjoyed by the British royal family and Winston Churchill. A facsimile reprint of this book was issued in 2007.

Moving to Dublin, New Hampshire in the mid-1950s, where she would remain until her death in 1977, Edith became an avid gardener and bird-watcher while still publishing historical sketches, book reviews, and travel essays. Her most noted book, A Season in Utopia, The Story of Brook Farm, was published in 1961 and reprinted in 1971. Her history of the Massachusetts Transcendentalist commune was widely reviewed, and it won the National League of American Pen Women's 1962 prize for the best work of non-fiction. Curtis later assisted greatly in the successful effort to designate the endangered site of Brook Farm in West Roxbury a national historical landmark.

Curtis' histories interwove a narrative style with considerable scholarly research, providing transcriptions of primary documents and detailing the context of historical dramas. In the 1960s, Edith became an increasingly prolific writer of fiction and verse, exploring more personal and contemporary topics. A novella about Gilded Age Rhode Island, Love's Random Dart, came out in 1962, and the full-length novel, Mexican Romance, was published in 1969. At the same time, Curtis spent many years researching and writing a biography of Josiah Tattnall, a naval officer who became a commander in the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. Though she was not able to complete this book project, she distributed her research and writings to the National Archives and the Sophia Smith Collection in hopes that the work would be completed. She died in Dublin, New Hampshire on February 1, 1977 at the age of 83.

[NOTE: This biographical note also appears in a Wikipedia article and the text is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License].

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Edith Roelker Curtis Papers document Curtis' literary output, family history and personal reflections. The collection of diaries, which were annotated by Curtis' granddaughter, Edith Byron, covers many years, beginning again in the mid-1920 and extending until the end of her life in 1977. There is also lesser amount of family correspondence and photographs. Curtis' introspections give a perspective on a life's journey that included a troubled marriage and complex family life; a struggle to make a career as a writer; and day-to-day observations of New England life, from Boston elite society to small town New Hampshire. The collection contains a large amount of material related to Curtis' writings, both published and unpublished. It includes research, correspondence with publishers, drafts, fan mail, reviews, and publications, which ranged from books that were well-received by scholarly audiences to pulp pieces in confessional magazines. In addition to books and articles, the collection contains unpublished poems and stories in which she took up themes of romance, interpersonal drama, and the pastoral alongside the travel narratives and historical vignettes that made up a large amount of her published work. Of interest is research and draft material from an unfinished biography of Josiah Tattnall, whose extensive naval career has not otherwise received scholarly attention.

This collection has not been fully processed and is arranged in four accessions as received from the donor between 1962 and 2011:


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. Please note that this collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright to unpublished works by Edith Roelker Curtis is owned by the Sophia Smith Collection. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored 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.

Preferred Citation

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

"Edith Roelker Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass."

History of the Collection

Edith Roelker Curtis donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection beginning in 1962. Additions to the papers have been given by various family members. Some materials were transferred from the Georgia Historical Society.

Accruals:

Periodic additions to this collection are expected. The collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.

Processing Information

Finding aid written by Amanda Izzo, May 2011.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/

Language
English

Contents List
ACCESSION 1 (no accession number)



Biographical


Box
Contents list


Box 1: folder 1
Correspondence, Sophia Smith Collection


Box 1: folder 2
Biography


Box 1: folder 3
Literary clubs and societies, awards


Box 1: folder 4
Clippings


Box 1: folder 5
Photographs of Edith Roelker Curtis (ERC)


Box 1: folder 6
Date books
1964-74

Box 1
Photographs


Box 1
Photographs of family and friends


Box 2: folder 1
Large photos of ERC, slides, and travel postcards


Box 2
Correspondence


Box 2
Law firm: Ropes, Gray, Boyden, Perkins


Box 3: folder 1
Financial papers


Box 3: folder 2
Son's report cards


Box 3: folder 3
Family correspondence


Box 3: folder 4
Miscellaneous correspondence


Box 3: folder 5
Correspondence with publishers


Box 3: folder 6
Paperback project


Box 3: folder 7
Re: Gregg Thompson


Box 3: folder 8
Publications: Anne Hutchinson (1930) and Lady Sarah Lennox (1946)


Box 3
Reviews and correspondence from Sophie Drinker


Box 4: folder 1
Correspondence


Box 4
Richard Hale


Box 4: folder 2
John Murray


Box 4: folder 3
Putnam's Sons (publishers) and miscellaneous


Box 4: folder 4
Ropes, Gray, Best, Coolidge, and Rugg (law firm)


Box 4: folder 5
Correspondence re: Lady Sarah Lennox, miscellaneous


Box 4: folder 6-7
Illustrations


Box 4: folder 8
Reviews


Box 4: folder 9
Fan mail


Box 4: folder 10
Printer plates for Lady Sarah Lennox


Box 4
Early draft and proofs, Lady Sarah Lennox


Box 5
Publications: Love's Random Dart (1960)


Box 5
Proofs


Box 6: folder 1
Reviews and fan mail


Box 6: folder 2
Publications: A Season in Utopia (1961)


Box 6
Notes and research material


Box 6: folder 3
Research material, Charles Fourier


Box 6: folder 4
Material written by Arthur Eugene Bestor, Jr.


Box 6: folder 5
Brook Farm Letters


Box 6: folder 6
Photostat of letter to R.H. Dana, Sr., from George Ripley
1845

Box 6: folder 7
Correspondence re: Brook Farm


Box 6: folder 8
Article


Box 7: folder 1
Manuscript


Box 7
Reviews


Box 7: folder 2
Fan mail


Box 7: folder 3
Publications: general


Box 7
Mexican Romance (1969): reviews and fan mail


Box 7: folder 4
Book reviews by Curtis, dated


Box 8: folder 1
Book reviews, undated


Box 8: folder 2
Poetry by Curtis, dated


Box 8: folder 3
Poetry, undated


Box 8: folder 4
Articles: includes fan mail, typescripts, and publications


Box 8
"Visit Historic Homes"
1939

Box 8: folder 5
"Yucatan Revisited"
1947

Box 8: folder 6
"My Husband Had Another Wife"


Box 8: folder 7
"Border Crossing"
1958

Box 8: folder 8
"The Comeback"
1958

Box 8: folder 9
"I Remember Too"
1959

Box 8: folder 10
"Sundays at Potowam"
1959

Box 8: folder 11
"Mr. Hawthorne Arrives"
1961

Box 8: folder 12
"The Palace that Will Shirley Built"
1963

Box 8: folder 13
"Adventures of a Tyro Herb Grower"
1966

Box 8: folder 14
"Bellamy's Utopia"
1969

Box 8: folder 15
Housing Association of Boston correspondence and miscellany re: housing article


Box 8: folder 16
Highlights in the Life of Amy Lowell (play)


Box 8
Notes and drafts


Box 8: folder 17
Typescript


Box 8: folder 18
Programs and scripts


Box 8: folder 19
Fan mail


Box 8: folder 20
Plays, miscellaneous


Box 8: folder 21
Unpublished, undated articles by topic


Box 8
Divorce


Box 9: folder 1
Red Cross


Box 9: folder 2
Travel


Box 9: folder 3
Unpublished, undated articles by title


Box 9
A-I


Box 10
J-The I


Box 11
The J-Z


Box 12
Untitled


Box 12
Publications: The Tattnalls of Savannah


Box 12
Note cards


Box 13
Notes and typescripts


Box 13: folder 1
William Howard Allen by Harold Cook, typescript


Box 13: folder 2
Correspondence to Harold Cook


Box 13: folder 3
Cook's notes and letters


Box 13: folder 4
Other correspondence re: Tattnall sources


Box 13: folder 5
Note cards


Box 14
Lecture notes and course material, How to Write for Money


Box 14: folder 1
Suggestions for Writers of Informal Essays by M. Tanner


Box 14: folder 2
Six Lessons in Fiction Writing by Anne Hamilton


Box 14: folder 3
Patterns for Newspaper Writing


Box 14: folder 4
Notes on Confess for Cash by Pauline Smith


Box 14: folder 5
Description of New Hampshire profiles


Box 14: folder 6
2 Scrapbooks of art postcards


Box 15
Gershwin sheet music


Box 15
Photograph


Box 15
Fashion drawings


Box 15
Framed poem, oversize


Box 15
ACCESSION 2 (no accession number)



Magazines with Curtis' articles: "True Experience" (1954); "Town and Country" (1947); and "Rhode Island History" (1947)
1947, 1954

Box 1
Dublin, N.H. real estate records
1947

Box 1
Identification cards and records


Box 1
Improvements, Dublin house


Box 1
Writings, notebook


Box 1
Scrapbooks: writings and correspondence by Curtis


Box 1
Scrapbook: miscellaneous clippings (not about Curtis)


Box 1
Business and income taxes


Box 1
Divorce agreement


Box 1
Insurance and financial papers


Box 1
Photographs


Box 1
Financial ledgers [16]


Box 2
Xerox of "Civil War at Sea"


Box 2
Research related to the Shirley-Eustis House


Box 2
Radcliffe seminar papers
1970s?

Box 2
Josiah Tattnall project


Box 3
Writing notes, outlines, research materials, correspondence


Box 3
Manuscript, drafts and final


Box 3
Research material


Box 4
Manuscripts, drafts and final


Box 4
Correspondence


Box 4
ACCESSION 3 (No. 03S-77)



Biographical information by Edith Byron


Box 1
Diaries


Box 1
1916, 1926-27, 1930-38

Box 1
1939-42, 1951-59

Box 2
1960-73

Box 3
1974-77

Box 4
Poetry typescripts, notes, and correspondence
1970s

Box 4
ACCESSION 4 (No. 11S-25)



Published volumes and periodicals


Box 1
Anne Hutchinson
1930

Box 1
Lady Sarah Lennox
1946

Box 1
A Season in Utopia: The Story of Brook Farm
1961

Box 1
Mexican Romance
1969

Box 1
"A Season in Utopia," in American Heritage
1959

Box 1
"Blood Is Thicker than Water," in American Neptune
1967

Box 2
"Border Crossing," in General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, University of Pennsylvania
1958

Box 2
Manuscript, "Never Back Step" or "Aladino's Folly" [4 folders]
circa 1965

Box 2

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.

Subjects
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography -- Sources
  • Biographers -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Brook Farm Phalanx (West Roxbury, Boston, Mass.) -- History -- Sources
  • Family -- New England -- History -- 20th Century -- Sources
  • Hutchinson, Anne, 1591-1643
  • Lennox, Sarah, Lady, 1745-1826
  • Massachusetts -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • New England -- Description and travel -- Sources
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography -- Sources
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Biography -- Sources
  • Tattnall, Josiah, 1795-1871
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
  • Women authors -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources

Genre terms
  • Diaries -- Women authors


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