Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Drawing of a woman dancing with a grotesque man. Click to enlarge.

"A Future Husband Seen through the Medium of Repugnance," The Ladies Treasury, 1866. Robert Lee Wolff Collection.

Women's Studies

This section focuses on collections related to pioneering women in various fields, as well as women's social history and the women's rights movement.



The Center owns a handful of manuscripts of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's (1860–1935) poetry.

The collection of Alice Corbin Henderson (1881–1949) contains correspondence and manuscripts documenting her work as assistant editor of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, the influential periodical founded and edited by Harriet Monroe. Also represented in the collection are materials related to Henderson's interest in New Mexico and Native American life and art.

Among the large correspondence archive of novelist Fannie Hurst (1889–1968) are letters from such varied figures as Zora Neale Hurston, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rebecca West, and birth control activist Margaret Sanger. Hurst's correspondence with women's organizations includes the Women's Trade Union League of New York and the Lucy Stone League, an organization advocating that women maintain their maiden names.

The extensive papers of American novelist Nancy Wilson Ross (1901–1986) include manuscripts, research notes, and correspondence. The papers cover her years as a student of the Bauhaus; her Asian trips; and her research on the settling of the American West, from which she wrote her unsentimental studies of women pioneers. Among Ross's research notes and newspaper clippings are several folders devoted to the topic of "women."

Materials for Mary McCarthy's (1912–1989) novel The Group (1963), which depicts the lives and struggles of eight Vassar graduates in the 1930s, include chapter drafts, a final typescript, and galley proofs.

The papers of Norman Mailer (1923–2007) contain materials documenting the writer's engagement with major feminist figures of the 1970s on issues of literature and women's liberation. Included are research notes and manuscripts for Mailer's The Prisoner of Sex (1971) and a raw transcript of the famous 1971 Town Hall panel debate, "A Dialogue on Women's Liberation," moderated by Mailer and featuring Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling, Jacqueline Ceballos, and Jill Johnston.


A seventeenth-century manuscript volume of poems by Katherine Philips (1631–1664), The Matchless Orinda, in the hand of Sir Edward Dering is found in the medieval and early modern manuscripts collection. A large collection of manuscripts for stories, poetry, novels, and articles, as well as diaries and travel and commonplace books by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887), depict the moralistic ardor that made her popular. The Robert Lee Wolff collection of nineteenth-century fiction includes numerous manuscripts and letters of novelist Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1837–1915), as well as materials for women writers such as Anna Eliza Bray, Marie Corelli, and Marie Louise de la Ramée, who wrote under the pseudonym Ouida. The 18,000 printed volumes in Wolff's collection of nineteenth-century fiction include first editions of the major Victorian novelists, such as Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot, but its strong suit is works of minor writers, particularly women.

George Bernard Shaw's (1856–1950) often controversial engagement with women's issues is documented in manuscripts and correspondence found in his collection. Of particular note are page proofs for Shaw's The Philanderer, a parodic treatment of the "New Woman," and Mrs. Warren's Profession, which treats organized commercial prostitution, as well as manuscripts for his nonfiction work The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. The anti-imperialist convictions and political activities of South African writer Olive Schreiner (1855–1920) are reflected in her manuscripts and letters. Of special interest is her correspondence with psychologist Havelock Ellis (1859–1939). Manuscripts of Irish playwright and novelist Clotilde Inez Mary Graves (1863–1932) represent practically the entire literary output of this once-popular writer, who wrote under the name Richard Dehan. The fiction writer Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868–1947) is represented by diaries, notes, and a large group of letters to her daughter Susan Lowndes Marques, as well as by correspondence with politicians, actors, artists, and writers with whom she was associated. The massive correspondence archive of Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938) reflects not only her connections to the Bloomsbury Group but also her pacifist activities and other intellectual interests. The archive of Constance Holme (1880–1955) includes her last, unpublished novel. Birth control pioneer Marie Stopes (1880–1958) is represented by a small collection.

More than 600 letters by Radclyffe Hall (1886–1943) to Evguenia Souline (1904–1958), a White Russian living in Paris, evince the devotion of the novelist to her younger friend. Una Troubridge's (1887–1963) papers, containing diaries and several manuscript versions of Hall's The Well of Loneliness, are an important complement.

A large collection of the letters and manuscripts of Freya Stark (1893–1993), one of the few women to travel in the Near East in the aftermath of the Arab Revolt, are preserved, as well as 5,700 letters written to her by writers, artists, scholars, archaeologists, mountaineers, diplomats, and politicians. The manuscripts of the Scottish novelist Naomi Haldane Mitchison (1897–1999) record her travels across Europe, Russia, India, and Africa.

Manuscript drafts and a sizable correspondence file constitute the collection of British novelist Storm Jameson (1897–1986). Complementing these materials is the archive of the international writer's organization, P. E. N., with which Jameson was associated.


Louise Marie-Madeline Dupin (1706–1799), the wife of a well-to-do government official, cultivated a salon of prominent writers and artists in her chateau, Chenonceau. In the mid-1740s she conceived the idea of writing the entire history of women. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) served as her research assistant on this ambitious project from 1745 to 1751, but after years of labor, Madame Dupin's Ouvrage sur les femmes (History of Women) was shelved unfinished. The research notes, drafts, and fair copies written by Dupin and Rousseau were stored at the castle, essentially forgotten, until they came to light at a series of auctions in the 1950s and were purchased, in large part, by the Ransom Center.

The Carlton Lake collection of French manuscripts contains significant holdings for women's studies. Among the papers of artist and writer Valentine Hugo (1887–1968) are notes and drafts for articles on various figures active in French art and letters, as well as correspondence. Also preserved are letters to a young writer from French playwright, novelist, and co-founder of the Mercure de France Rachilde (1860–1953). Letters from novelist Colette (1873–1954) to friend and well-known music critic Emile Vuillermoz (1878–1960) are also present, as is a manuscript for her novel Chéri (1920). Materials for Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) include the original manuscript of her story collection La Femme rompue (ca. 1967). Additional documents and correspondence concerning the oft-criticized English translation of de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième sexe (The Second Sex) are found in the records of publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The Maurice Saillet collection contains correspondence and other manuscript material, photographs, and printed ephemera documenting the life and activities of Sylvia Beach (1887–1962). Beach's relationship with Adrienne Monnier (1892–1955), together with her roles as publisher of James Joyce's novel Ulysses and proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore she operated in Paris from 1919 to 1941, are emphasized.


The publishing archive of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. includes much of the correspondence of Blanche Knopf (1894–1966) with such writers as Elizabeth Bowen, Willa Cather, Fannie Hurst, Storm Jameson, Clare Boothe Luce, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Sigrid Undset, and Elinor Wylie. The collection also includes materials documenting the professional activities of important female editors such as Judith Jones.

The papers of Margaret Cousins (1905–1996) document her career as a writer and as an editor at Doubleday & Company and include memoranda from other editors, minutes from editorial meetings, and correspondence with authors and literary agents.

The records of the Sunwise Turn Book Shop document the efforts of Madge Jenison (1874–1960) and Mary Mowbray-Clarke(1875–1963) to operate an independent bookstore in New York City in the 1910s.

(See also Marguerite Caetani and others in Publishing.)


The Center's art collection contains many works by female artists, the best-known of these being Frida Kahlo's (1907–1954) Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940) in the Nickolas Muray collection of Mexican art. Mary Beale (1632–1697), often considered the first Englishwoman to gain distinction as a portrait painter, is represented by two portraits of Lord John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, and his sister, Lady Anne Wilmot.

Additional art holdings include works by illustrator and children's author Kate Greenaway (1846–1901); Dorothy Brett (1883–1977); Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), including her famous six-foot-long "accordion book," La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, a collaboration with poet Blaise Cendrars; Marie Laurencin (1883–1956); Elizabeth Olds (1896–1991); and Maria Henle (1955–2007). The Center also holds artworks by figures best known for their connections to literature, such as Charlotte Brontë (1816–1855); Alice Liddell (1852–1934), Lewis Carroll's model for "Alice;" Frieda Lawrence (1879–1956); Anne Sexton (1928–1974); and the mothers of George Bernard Shaw, Wyndham Lewis, and Ernest Hemingway.

The University's collection of the work of one of Europe's foremost sculptors, Elisabet Ney (1833–1907), who settled in Austin in 1893, is now exhibited at the Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin. Several items, however, including Ney's papers, remain at the Ransom Center. Among these are self-portraits, paintings, and sculptures by her friends, Texas artists W. H. and Nannie Huddle.

Daily Life

A manuscript of "Mrs. Wilson's Receipts" (ca. 1783) located in the Evelyn Waugh collection consists of 192 recipes for "pyes," jellies, pickles, and curatives for human and beast alike.

The registration records of the British Women's Rescue Society (1892–1905) for homeless and delinquent girls contain graphic snapshots of the lives of often desperate women.

Letters of the aristocratic Poutiatine family document their lives in Great Britain after emigrating from Russia. In particular, a group of letters dating from 1912 to 1918 describes life in England and Denmark during the war years and reflects the hardships faced by Countess Edith Poutiatine and her daughters Vera, May, Olga, Dorothy, and Genia as they responded to their changed socio-economic circumstances.

Letters of the Townshend family of Great Britain, most from the period 1840–1880, cover every sort of subject—love, weather, scandal, school, illness, travel, amusements—and were sent from England, Ireland, and Scotland.


The papers of actress Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) contain extensive records (including numerous film stills) documenting her pioneering career in the motion picture industry. Present are correspondence, production papers, and materials for her autobiography Swanson on Swanson, as well as numerous books, film scripts, and photographs. Also documented are Swanson's business ventures, which included cosmetics, a fashion line, hosiery, an inventions and patents company, and a travel agency.

The collection of one of Hollywood's most important screenwriters, Jay Presson Allen (1922–2006), contains notes, drafts, and scripts for her numerous projects. Present are materials for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, her first major success, Cabaret, Marnie, Funny Lady, Prince of the City, and Travels With My Aunt.

Additional film holdings include the personal and professional papers of American film and television actress Ann Savage (1921–2008), best known for her work in the film noir classic Detour (1945) and in Hollywood B-movies of the 1940s.

Performing Arts and Personal Effects

Prompt books used by the late-nineteenth-century actress Ada Rehan (1857–1916) are found in her joint collection with theater manager Augustin Daly (1838–1899). Photographs and sheet music in the collection of Florenz Ziegfeld (1867–1932) document the Ziegfeld Follies and related productions, which greatly influenced popular visions of gender and sexuality in the early-twentieth century. Photographs and papers document the career of the American actress Laurette Taylor (1884–1946), who starred in the first Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. Included in the collection of Gordon Conway (1894–1956), a costume designer for musical revues, musical comedy, and the early film industry, are original art and photographs of her family, friends, and productions, as well as diaries, datebooks, and numerous scrapbooks. Stella Adler's (1902–1992) career as a renowned acting teacher and founder of the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting is documented in her joint papers with director, producer, and critic Harold Clurman.

The papers of Sarah Rollitts document her career as a mid-twentieth-century literary and playwright agent. The collection contains correspondence with clients, prospects, publishers, and film and television studios (including with figures ranging from Tallulah Bankhead to Thornton Wilder), as well as contracts and memoranda.

The Center's personal effects holdings include collections for Carson McCullers, Gertrude Stein, Anne Sexton, and others.


The photography collection includes images made by Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1979), as well as Christina Livingston Broom's (1863–1939) documentary photographs of women's suffrage demonstrations and women during World War I. Over 200 images taken by Dorothy Babb (1909–1995), sister of the American writer Sanora Babb (1907–2005), document the lives of Dust Bowl refugees.

The Ransom Center holds single and multiple works by photographers Catherine Weed Barnes Ward (1851–1913), Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971), and Marion Post Wolcott (1910–1990). Also present are works by contemporary photographers such as Eve Arnold (1913– ), Barbara Crane (1928– ), Ave Bonar (1948– ), Debbie Fleming Caffery (1948– ), Sharon Stewart (1955– ), and Tammy Cromer-Campbell (1960– ).

Among women represented in the photographs themselves are numerous nineteenth-century stage actresses such as Lily Langtry (1853–1929) and Maxine Elliott (1868–1940).


Elias Tobenkin's (1882–1963) research materials for his book The Peoples Want Peace (1938) contain substantial numbers of pamphlets by women's groups supporting pacifism.

The papers of writer and Romanian aristocrat Princess Marthe Bibesco (1886–1973) document her interactions with Europe's literary and political elite. Also present in her papers are works by others, including a purported transcription of the diary of Catherine II, Empress of Russia.

The archive of Morris L. Ernst (1888–1976) includes trial transcripts, briefs, correspondence, and legal papers dealing with the various public movements—birth control, fair labor practices, censorship, and the right to privacy—with which this distinguished lawyer was involved.

Nancy Cunard's (1896–1965) work as a journalist documenting the suffrage movement, race relations, and the Spanish Civil War is represented in her papers.

Religious Leadership

Joanna Southcott (1750–1814), the self-proclaimed "Greatest Prophet that ever came into the World," believed that God had chosen her to give birth to the new Messiah, called Shiloh, who would usher in the millennium. Southcott is thought to have attracted as many as 100,000 followers. The Center's Southcott collection contains manuscripts and books relating to Southcott and her sect, including letters, transcripts of communications, prophecies, printed books, and pamphlets.


The manuscript memoirs and daybooks of Caroline Herschel (1750–1848), one of the first female astronomers and a discoverer of several comets, recount the working and daily lives of the Herschels, a renowned family of astronomers, in early industrial England.

The British Sexological Society (originally founded as the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology) was an early-twentieth-century organization that sought to promote the rational and scientific study of sex. Women, including Harriet Shaw Weaver, were active participants in the organization, and its records contain manuscripts and correspondence treating women's sexuality and birth control.