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Cynthia Propper Seton Papers, 1946-1982
4 boxes (3 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 142

Abstract:
Author. Papers consist primarily of typescripts of Seton's columns, essays, and novels; biographical material; detailed correspondence; and a few photographs. Major themes addressed in the papers are Smith College; the city of Northampton; the social movements of the 1960s (especially the women's movement); the impact of feminism on middle-aged women; and writing.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following exception:

  • Materials received as Accession #97S-42 are closed until January 2038 and have been removed from these boxes.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright ownership of Cynthia Seton's unpublished works is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Cynthia Seton 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 to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Cynthia Propper was born October 11, 1926, in New York City to Charlotte Jansen and Karl Propper. She graduated from the Fieldston School in Riverdale, New York and earned her B.A. from Smith College in 1948. She was married to Paul Seton, the Smith College physician and psychiatrist; the two had five children: Anthony, Julia, Margaret, Jennifer, and Nora. After living in Natick and Stockbridge, Massachusetts the family moved in 1957 to Northampton, where they remained for the rest of Seton's life. Starting in 1956 Seton worked as a journalist, serving for 12 years as a writer for the Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where she wrote a column on modern motherhood called "Skirting the Issue." Her column was also printed in the Washington Post for a year, from 1959-60. She published three essay collections and five novels. Additionally, Seton wrote articles for magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, and McCall's, and regularly contributed book reviews to several publications. Many critics praised Seton's work, calling her "a latter-day Jane Austen, writing a comedy of manners." Her third novel, A Fine Romance, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1976. In addition to writing, Seton lectured on literary and feminist topics and taught at the Indiana University Writer's Conference. After a decade-long battle with Hodgkin's disease and leukemia, Seton died in Northampton on October 23, 1982.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Cynthia Propper Seton Papers consist of 1 linear foot of material dating from 1946 to 1982, with the majority dating from the later 1960's to the end of Seton's life. The collection consists mainly of Seton's writings, including drafts and finished typescripts of her columns, essays, and novels. Personal papers are less extensive, and are primarily Seton's detailed correspondence to her longtime friend and confidante Frances Richardson, whom Seton met in 1951 while their husbands were both at Yale Medical School. These discuss Seton's views on women's rights, writing, travels, her children, and her later battle with Hodgkin's disease. Seton's search for what it means to live a fulfilling life runs heavily throughout the correspondence, a theme she also discusses at length in her writings.

The collection also contains several photographs and some biographical information, mostly articles featuring Seton's politics and experience as an older feminist and mother, but also obituaries and other materials relating to her death. Major themes addressed in the papers are the social movements of the 1960s (especially the women's movement); the impact of feminism on middle-aged women; Smith College; the city of Northampton; and the writing process.

This collection is organized into three series:


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 with the following exception:

  • Materials received as Accession #97S-42 are closed until January 2038 and have been removed from these boxes.

Restrictions on use:

Copyright ownership of Cynthia Seton's unpublished works is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Cynthia Seton 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 to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

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

Cynthia Propper Seton Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Cynthia Propper Seton Papers were first donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Cynthia Seton in 1969. Her publisher George Brockway and her friend Frances Richardson donated additional materials in the 1990s. Additional materials received in 2013 are not reflected in this record.

Processing Information

Processed by Joanna Johnson, 2011


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
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS



Contents


Box 1: folder 1
Articles and clippings about Cynthia Seton,
1971-83

Box 1: folder 2
Obituary clippings,
1982, n.d.

Box 1: folder 3
Eulogies,
Oct 1982

Box 1: folder 4
Photographs,
1946-88, n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE



To Frances Richardson,
1963-82

Box 1: folder 6
To David Richardson,
10 Nov 1967

Box 1: folder 7
SERIES III. WRITINGS



Articles



Literary reviews, clippings, and typescripts,
1973-81

Box 1: folder 8
"Ah, Did You Once See Shelley Plain?,"
n.d.

Box 1: folder 9
"The College Town,"
Feb 1974

Box 1: folder 10
"Higamous Bigamous Who Is Monogamous?,"
n.d.

Box 1: folder 11
"On Being Bored By Mistake,"
1972

Box 1: folder 12
"One Woman and Two Myths,"
1972

Box 1: folder 13
"On Women, Men, and Monogamy,"
n.d.

Box 1: folder 14
Untitled essay, perhaps related to The Mother of the Graduate,
n.d.

Box 1: folder 15
Books



The Half-Sisters: incomplete typescript,
n.d.

Box 2: folder 1
The Mother of the Graduate: typescript,
Mar 1970

Box 2: folder 2
A Special and Curious Blessing



Typescript,
1968

Box 2: folder 3
Galley,
25 Apr 1968

Box 2: folder 4
Page proof,
30 Apr 1968

Box 2: folder 5
Published copy,
1968

Box 2
Portions of an untitled novel,
n.d.

Box 2: folder 6

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
  • Family--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Female friendship--United States--History--20th century
  • Feminism--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History--20th century--Sources
  • Seton, Cynthia Propper
  • Smith College--History--Sources
  • Women authors, American--20th century--Biography--Sources


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