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Harriot F. Curtis Papers, 1836-1963 (Bulk: 1936-1963)
2 boxes (1 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 692

Abstract:
Mill worker; Author. Curtis' writings and correspondence, historical research notes and background sources compiled during the 1950s and 1960s by biographer, Lila Wead Berman. 1840s publications about and from New England's mill workers included.

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The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Harriot Curtis' unpublished works in this collection. Copyright to the correspondence and writings of Frank Wilber Wead is held by Maria Deforest McLeish until 2018. 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. 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

Harriot Flora Aurora Louisa Maria Curtis was born in Kelleyvale (now Lowell), Vermont on September 16, 1813, only a year after this Northeast Kingdom town incorporated, to Asahel (or Ashael) Jr. and Betsey Brigham Curtis. Her friend Harriet Hanson Robinson would later recall Curtis' unhappiness with her "lonely and isolated" existence in Kelleyvale. Like thousands of other young women in rural New England during the antebellum era, Curtis defied her parents and moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, to work in its burgeoning textile industry. She first appears on the Lawrence Manufacturing Company's payroll in 1833 as a harness knitter, considered one of the more skilled positions, staying through March 1838. Also a writer, the Lowell Casket, in which she had published, offered her an editorship position in 1837. In 1841 she began publishing in the corporate-sponsored literary magazine, Lowell Offering. Curtis became one of its two editors in 1842; responsible for soliciting subscriptions, she traveled widely. A year later, she and co-editor Harriet Farley bought the Lowell Offering, but the journal only lasted another two years and publication stopped in 1845. By then, Curtis had gained a measure of success after authoring the popular novel, Kate in Search of a Husband (1843), following it with the equally popular novel, Jessie's Flirtations (1846), and a collection of her wisdom, S.S.S. Philosophy (1847). Simultaneously, Curtis wrote for a number of newspapers including the Home Journal, the New York Tribune, the Lowell Journal, and the American of Lowell. During the 1830s and 40s, the open-minded Curtis maintained an interest in Swedenborgianism, threatened to join Shaker communes, and not only studied phrenology, but became a public lecturer on the topic and claimed eminent phrenologist O.S. Fowler as a mentor before disavowing the discipline by 1845. From 1854 to 1855, she served as editor of the Lowell weekly, Vox Populi. The antithesis of the Lowell Offering, the industry-critical Vox Populi spoke for workers rather than their employers. Curtis gave up her career after 1855, providing care to her ailing mother in Vermont. Curtis moved in with her sister Betsey's family in Needham, Massachusetts, upon her mother's 1859 death, living there for the remaining thirty years of her life. Writing in 1836 that "matrimony is an ocean upon which I shall not probably ever embark," Curtis never married, a lifestyle her friend and fellow former mill worker Harriet Hanson Robinson attributed to a shortage of suitable suitors. Writing in 2008 in the American Transcendental Quarterly, scholar Judith Ranta notes that "Curtis's fiction is striking for its critique of courtship and marriage, specifically the marriage market's oppressive effect upon young women." Styling herself a coquette, Curtis further reveals her critical ambivalence toward the institution of marriage in her lengthy correspondence with her suitor and friend, Hezekiah Morse Wead, whose proposals of marriage she rejected more than once.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection encompasses Curtis' writings and correspondence, as well as historical research notes and background sources compiled during the 1950s and 1960s by her aspiring biographer, Lila Wead Berman (great-granddaughter [?] of Hezekiah Morse Wead). The spirited and often flirtatious letters from Curtis to Hezekiah Morse Wead (1836-1845) have been fully transcribed and those typed transcriptions are also included in the collection.

While thirty-five letters and three full works from Curtis' own pen are represented, Lila Wead Berman's contextualizing sources and research notes comprise much of the collection, and include 1840s publications written by and about New England's mill operatives, an 1844 work of phrenology by Curtis' phrenological mentor, and twentieth century pamphlets on New England history and Swedenborgianism. Wead Berman's correspondence with various libraries and rare booksellers, bibliographies, a chronology of Curtis' life, and a paper she wrote critically examining Curtis' novel Jessie's Flirtations are contained in the papers.


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 Harriot Curtis' unpublished works in this collection. Copyright to the correspondence and writings of Frank Wilber Wead is held by Maria Deforest McLeish until 2018. 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. 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:

Harriot F. Curtis Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Sophia Smith Collection acquired the Harriot Curtis Papers from Maria Deforest McLeish, daughter of Lila Wead Berman, in 2012.

Processing Information

Processsed by intern Adrienne Marie Naylor, 2012


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
(1927-2012)


This series contains writings laying forth the history of the Wead family's associations with Harriot Curtis' story, and various plans to present it to the public. Also found in this series is Lila Wead Berman's chronology of Curtis' life, told largely through excerpts from Curtis' letters.

(1836-1845)


This series consists of thirty-five letters Curtis wrote to her suitor, Hezekiah Mead Worse, as well as an inventory and typed transcriptions of each.

(1843-1947)


Divided into two subseries, writings by Curtis, and writings from others, this series encompasses Curtis' novels Kate in Search of a Husband (1843), Jessie's Flirtations (1846), and her 1847 volume of wisdom, S.S.S. Philosophy, as well as Lila Wead Berman's research notes, bibliographies, and materials compiled to contextualize Curtis' life and times. Among the materials she collected are A.I. Cummings' 1847 novel The Factory Girl, as well as an 1841 Vindication of the Character and Condition of the Females Employed in the Lowell Mills, a May 1841 Lowell Operatives' Magazine, and Lowell's Lady's Pearl from March 1843.

(1844-1997)


The three subseries comprising this series are phrenology, Swedenborgianism, and New England history. The phrenology subseries contains an 1844 volume on the subject from Curtis' one-time mentor O.S. Fowler, as well as a 1997 article on phrenology. Lila Wead Berman's correspondence with distributors of Swedenborgian literature, as well as the pamphlets she acquired from them, dating between 1931-1958, make up the Swedenborgianism subseries. Wead Berman wrote to Boston's Old South Association in 1956 and acquired a number of their undated leaflets, which comprise the New England History subseries.

Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS



Wead Family's relationship with Curtis' story


Box 1: folder 1
Chronology of Harriot Curtis' life


Box 1: folder 2
SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE



Curtis' letters to Hezekiah Morse Wead

[originals, please use transcripts]

1836-45

Box 1: folder 3
Lila Wead Berman's inventory and summary of Curtis' letters
n.d.

Box 1: folder 4
Transcripts of Curtis' letters to Hezekiah Morse Wead


Box 1: folder 5-11
Lila Wead Berman
1948-63

Box 1: folder 12
Lila Wead Berman and Margaret Storrs Grierson of the Sophia Smith Collection
1956-61

Box 1: folder 13
SERIES III. WRITINGS






Kate in Search of a Husband
1843

Box 1: folder 14
Jessie's Flirtations
1846

Box 1: folder 15
S.S.S. Philosophy
1847

Box 1: folder 16



Elisha Bartlett, M.D., A Vindication of the Character and Condition of the Females Employed in the Lowell Mills, Against the Charges Contained in the Boston Times, and the Boston Quarterly Review
1841

Box 1: folder 17
The Operatives' Magazine, Containing Articles Upon Literary and Religious Subjects, Written By Manufacturing Operatives
1841

Box 1: folder 18
The Lady's Pearl; A Monthly Magazine, Devoted to Moral, Entertaining, and Instructive Literature
1843

Box 1: folder 19
A.I. Cummings, M.D., The Factory Girl: or Gardez La Coeur
1847

Box 1: folder 20
Research notes on Curtis' character


Box 1: folder 21
Lila Wead Berman, "An Instance of Counter-Sentimentalism in Popular Fiction of the Sentimental Period," unpublished paper
1957

Box 1: folder 22
List of pieces published in the Lowell Offering
n.d.

Box 1: folder 23
Bibliography by Lila Wead Berman on the Lowell Offering and its contributors
n.d.

Box 1: folder 24
Research notes on Lowell Offering contributor Lucy Larcom
n.d.

Box 1: folder 25
Research notes on the Lowell Offering
n.d.

Box 1: folder 26
Research notes on Lowell and Curtis' era
n.d.

Box 1: folder 27
Research notes on Lowell
n.d.

Box 1: folder 28
SERIES IV. SUBJECT FILES



Phrenology



Minna Morse, "Facing a Bumpy History: the Much Maligned Theory of Phrenology Gets a Tip of the Hat from Modern Neuroscience," Smithsonian Magazine
(October 1997)

Box 2: folder 29
O.S. Fowler, A.B., Fowler's Practical Phrenology
1844

Box 2: folder 30
Swedenborgianism



Correspondence of Lila Wead Berman and distributors of Swedenborgian literature
1956-60

Box 2: folder 31
Pamphlets
1931-58, n.d.

Box 2: folder 32-33
New England history



Lila Wead Berman to the Old South Association
1956

Box 2: folder 34
Old South Leaflets
n.d.

Box 2: folder 35-36
SERIES V. OVERSIZE MATERIALS



Jessie's Flirtations
1846 (2013 reprint)

Box 2
S.S.S. Philosophy
1847 (2013 reprint)

Box 2
The Factory Girl's Garland, Exeter, New Hampshire
1844

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.

Subjects
  • Authors, American -- 19th century -- Biography -- Sources
  • Authors, American -- Correspondence
  • Berman, Lila Wead
  • Curtis, Harriot F.
  • Fowler, O. S. (Orson Squire), 1809-1887
  • Phrenology -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Swedenborg, Emanuel, 1688-1772
  • Swedenborgians -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Wead, Hezekiah M. (Hezekiah Morse), 1810-1876
  • Women workers -- United States -- 19th Century

Contributors
  • Berman, Lila Wead


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