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Catharine Kerlin Wilder Papers, 1813-2000
7 boxes (7 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 709

Abstract:
Peace activist; teacher. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, childhood memorabilia, drafts of memoirs, and essays written by Wilder. Especially well documented are her years in Geneva (1929-1934) when she worked at the League of Nations as well as papers of Wilder's friend Hope Sewell French during her years (1930s) working for the League of Nations in Geneva, including correspondence, photographs, scrapbook, and articles, written by French and others. Also of interest is the American women's suffrage campaign material, amassed by Wilder's mother, including correspondence, pamphlets, speeches, and memorabilia. [NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]

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 caveats:

  • The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats: the collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.
  • The collection is stored offsite; researchers must give 48 hours advance notice.

Restrictions on use:

Amos Tappan Wilder and Catharine Wilder Guiles retain copyright to unpublished works created by Catharine Kerlin Wilder. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify all copyright holders.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Catharine Kerlin was born in Camden, New Jersey the daughter of Ward Dix Kerlin, co-owner of the Camden Forge, and Sarah Jenney Gilbert Kerlin, a women's suffrage activist on the state level and then, after 1920, active in the League of Women Voters. Theirs was a fairly prosperous family and the Kerlin children, Catharine and her two brothers, attended private schools, mostly those run by Quakers, and spent their summers at camps in northern New Hampshire. Catharine Kerlin graduated from Smith College in 1929 with a degree in history; her honors thesis, directed by the eminent historian Merle Curti, focused on the Anti-Imperialist League in 1900. After graduation, she travelled in Europe for a few months before settling down in Geneva to work for the American Committee to the League of Nations which was sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Such private funding was necessary, of course, because the US had never signed the Treaty of Versailles nor joined the organization that grew out of that treaty, the League of Nations. Nonethless, the international peace movement in the interwar years was a vibrant, active community, one in which Catherine Kerlin was a very much a part of.

However, unlike her friend, Hope Sewell French, who made such work her life's career, Kerlin chose a more conventional path. She had first met Amos Niven Wilder, a theologian and poet (and brother of the novelist/playwright, Thornton Wilder), in 1929, shortly after she arrived in Europe. But it was when they met again in the summer of 1934 that a romance began and a year later, the couple married in August, 1935. In the year before she married, Catharine Kerlin Wilder taught history at the Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York; she had previously taught history as well as English at the International School of Geneva. Thereafter, it was Amos Niven Wilder's career which directed the family's life. When the couple first married, Amos Wilder was a professor of the New Testament at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts. By the time he accepted a position at the Chicago Theological School in 1943, Catharine Kerlin Wilder had given birth to Catharine Dix Wilder ("Dixie") in 1937 and Amos Tappan Wilder ("Tappy") in 1940. In 1954, Wilder was named Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School and the family then moved back east, settling in Cambridge, spending summers in their second home in South Blue Hill, Maine.

Throughout these years, Catharine Kerlin Wilder, as one obituary put it, "played a prominent role as a faculty spouse." She was also active in clubs, joining the prestigious Saturday Morning Club in Boston in 1961, and engaged in charitable work for the public library and the Kneisel Hall School of Music, both in Blue Hill. After his retirement in 1963, the Wilders travelled around the world extensively for the next few decades. A few years after her husband died in 1993, Catharine Kerlin Wilder moved to a nursing home in Brunswick, Maine, closer to her daughter. In 2000, she published her memoir entitled Milestones in My Life. Three month shy of her 100th birthday, Catharine Kerlin Wilder died in Maine and is buried next to her husband in Mount Carmel Burial Ground, Hamden, Connecticut.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection includes correspondence, photographs, scapbooks, childhood memorabilia, drafts of memoirs, and essays written by Wilder. Especially well documented are her years in Geneva (1929- 1934) when she worked at the League of Nations. Her childhood, especially her summer camp experiences, are also well represented. Also of interest is the American women's suffrage campaign material, amassed by Wilder's mother, including correspondence, pamphlets, speeches, and memorabilia. Finally, this collection includes papers of Wilder's friend Hope Sewell French during her years (1930s) working for the League of Nations in Geneva, including correspondence, photographs, scrapbook, and articles, written by French and others.

[NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]


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 caveats:

  • The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats: the collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.
  • The collection is stored offsite; researchers must give 48 hours advance notice.

Restrictions on use:

Amos Tappan Wilder and Catharine Wilder Guiles retain copyright to unpublished works created by Catharine Kerlin Wilder. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify all copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

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

Catharine Kerlin Wilder Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Catharine Kerlin Wilder Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by her son Amos Tappan Wilder in 2012.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter, May 2013


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, French


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
  • Camps -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Clubs -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Europe -- Description and travel -- Sources
  • Girls -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • International School of Geneva
  • International relations -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • League of Nations
  • Maine -- Description and travel -- 20th century
  • Peace movements -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Saturday Morning Club (Boston, Mass.)
  • Smith College -- Students -- History -- Sources
  • Teachers -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Wilder, Amos Niven, 1895-
  • Wilder, Catharine Kerlin
  • Women -- Suffrage -- New Jersey -- History -- Sources

Contributors
  • French, Hope Sewell


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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