Scope and arrangement
The Elizabeth Wade White papers document her passion for political action and the welfare of others, as well as the difficulties of coming to terms with her sexuality and her position in life. The papers consist of personal correspondence, arranged by name and date, subject files documenting White's activities and interests, photographs of White and her family, and her writings, which include both poetry and articles written for various publications. These papers are a strong resource for insights into early 20th century women's education, social activism and war work, and the upper classes and sexuality.
Users should note a guide was created by Peter Judd of the totality of White's papers before they were donated. Materials referencing Waterbury, Connecticut were donated to the Mattatuck Museum. The bulk of White's Anne Bradstreet materials were donated to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. The remainder of the papers covered in the guide are contained in this collection. Guide box numbers are no longer valid, but users should be able to use this aid in tandem with the old guide to complete their research.
The Elizabeth Wade White papers are arranged in six series:
This series includes letters from White's most frequent correspondents, primarily close friends and family members. Family letters mostly convey home news – frequent correspondents include Mary Wade White (her mother), Peter Haring Judd (her cousin), and her brother Henry Wade White. Letters from family members often reflect the discrepancies between the social path the Whites had imagined for their daughter and the one she was choosing to pursue. Other letters of interest include those from her lover Valentine Ackland, Valentine's partner the author Sylvia Townsend Warner, and White's partner Evelyn Holahan. The letters between these three women and White are often fraught with tension, as Ackland openly professed to loving White but refused to leave Warner. Other lifelong friends and correspondents included Janet Machen (Sylvia Warner's niece), George Hamilton, and Doug McKee.
This series contains letters from less frequent correspondents are arranged by date. These include cards from acquaintances, inquiries about studies or the rare book trade, and letters from businesses with which White had dealings.
This series contains White's diaries from 1919 to 1940 as well as a record kept by her caregivers in 1994 during her final illness. The earlier volumes consist of day to day entries about school, travel and friendships. The later entries, especially those post-1929, cover more complex topics. During this time, White notes feeling like a social outcast as her friends from school enter into marriage and have children, while she slowly begins to realize that marriage and a traditional female role in life may not be in her future.
This series contains materials relating to White's various interests, alphabetized by subject. Correspondence from organizations, travel ephemera, financial materials, documents relating to White's education, and playbills and programs are all included in this series. The bulk of the material relates to political and social organizations in which White participated. These include American Relief for France, Spanish civil war relief groups, Russian War relief efforts, the Colonial Dames, the American Red Cross Motor Corps, and the 1948 Wallace presidential campaign. Other materials include financial documents, such as the wills and inventories of relatives. Of interest is the will of Mary Wade White, which stipulated that nothing be left to her daughter and that Henry White should act as a trustee for his sister. This device was designed to ensure that no family money go to Communist causes. White's travel documents include passports, postcards (unsent), some photographs, and ship logs and travel notes from many of her trips including one to Egypt in 1962. Papers held in this series relating to White's education include diplomas, correspondence from distance learning programs, report cards, and some essays. Some family memorabilia, such as White’s baby book and her mother’s recipe book are also contained here.
This series contains both formal portrait and snapshot photographs of the White family and their home. The bulk of the pictures date from before 1930 and depict the White children and their parents in various activities and poses.
This series contains White's poetry as well as copies of the many articles, columns and letters to the editor she wrote during her lifetime. Though White focused her research on Anne Bradstreet, she wrote many smaller articles, most notably the "Old Book Column" for the Junior League Magazine, which coincided with her work as a rare books seller in the 1940s.