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Minnie S. Davis letters


Armenia “Minnie” Skinner Davis (1835-1927) lived and worked largely in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She began teaching at the age of thirteen and published numerous books and articles, many of which reflect her interest in the lives of children, the home, education and her Universalist faith. The collection consists of fourteen letters written by Davis to her classmate, Mary A. Dodge. In these letters, Davis reports on her daily life as a young girl living in Quincy and Sterling, Massachusetts. She writes about matters related to family, friends, illness, and teaching.


  • 1846-1848


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Physical Description

14 letters

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is available for research. Access to these materials is governed by the rules and regulations of the Gutman Library’s Special Collections Department.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests have not been transferred to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Users are advised to determine the copyright status of any document from which they wish to publish. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Gutman Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold the copyright.


1 linear feet (1 box)

This collection contains fourteen letters written by Minnie Davis to Mary A. Dodge, a classmate and close friend. Four of the letters are dated between 1846 and 1848; the rest are undated. The letters are arranged in chronological order, with the undated ones filed first. Each letter was hand carried, except for #14, which has an illegible postmark. With much affection for Dodge, Davis writes about her family, classmates, missing school due to illness, her mother’s death, and her position teaching at a private school. The conversational writing style of her letters reveals her sense of compassion and paints a picture of Davis’s daily life as a young adolescent.

Biographical / Historical

Armenia “Minnie” Skinner Davis was born on March 25, 1835 in Baltimore County, Maryland to Reverend Samuel Armin Davis and his first wife, Mary Partridge. Mary died in 1848, when Minnie was thirteen. In the letters found in this collection, Minnie wrote about four sisters: Mary Josephine Davis (1837-1897), Eudora Adelaide Davis (1839-aft. 1900), Isadora Francis Davis (1844-1883), and Florence Annette Davis (1848-1856).

At the age of six, Davis was thrown from a carriage and run over by the wagon wheel, an accident that continued to affect her throughout her lifetime. That same year, Davis’s father, a Universalist minister and abolitionist, moved the family to Quincy, Massachusetts. There, Davis attended James Whitman Greene’s school with classmate Mary A. Dodge until moving in 1848 to Sterling, Massachusetts. With no local school in Sterling, Davis began teaching approximately twenty students, including Eudora and Isadore, at a private school at the age of thirteen. At the age of seventeen, Davis attended Green Mountain Institute in South Woodstock, Vermont for one year before returning to teaching. Davis would eventually serve as the associate editor for the Ladies’ Repository for five years. She contributed many articles to this publication, as well as the Trumpet and the Christian Freeman. Her first major work, Marion Lester (1856), was a fictional account of a mother who mistakenly sent her daughter to a school that did not respect their religious opinions. This was followed by Clinton Forrest (1859), Rosalie and Her Two Homes (1859), and Ideal Motherhood (1898), many of which were widely read by members of the Universalist denomination.

Davis moved to Hartford, Connecticut in 1853, where she hoped to continue writing and teaching. Illness stemming from her childhood accident eventually forced her to retire. Towards the end of her life, Davis was confined to a dark room due to her weakened condition and problems with her eyes. She died in 1927 at the age of ninety-two.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, EBAY, 2013 Oct. 18

Processing Information

Processed by Alexandra C. Vargo, 2013 November. Transcribed to HOLLIS for Archival Discovery by Te-Yi Lee, 2021 January.

Minnie S. Davis letters, 1846-1848: Finding aid
Gutman Library Special Collections, Harvard Graduate School of Education
November 7, 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Monroe C. Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University Repository

Monroe C. Gutman Library
6 Appian Way
Cambridge MA 02138 United States