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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1084

Letters of Kathryn Coleman Wharton Packe, 1939-1985


Letters from Kathryn Packe mostly to her son John, describing her travels, daily life, family and friends, work, etc.


  • Creation: 1939-1985

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use digital images.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Kathryn Coleman Wharton Packe is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.42 linear feet (1 file box)

This collection consists of letters mostly from Kathryn Packe to her son John, as well as letters to John and his wife Laura after 1957. The letters cover the time John was nine years old through adulthood, including his years at Harvard University, in the United States Army, as a newlywed and parent, and as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In the letters Packe primarily describes happenings and people in her life. During World War II, she wrote about her experiences while working for the Office of Strategic Services in London; in later years her life on Alderney. Throughout are details about her work, daily activities, and relationships, and her descriptions and impressions of family, friends, neighbors, and visitors. She also describes international travel, various illnesses and health of family members and friends, assisting Michael Packe on his writing and research, developing her market garden, and working for the Alderney library; as well as sharing her thoughts on local and international politics. Of particular interest are Packe's opinions and assessments of her children and grandchildren and her parental advice and guidance.


Kathryn Coleman Wharton Packe was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1902 to Richard and Mary Coleman Wharton. Her father was an executive for the Patriot Company, a publisher. Packe attended Vassar College, graduating around 1923. After college she traveled internationally, including visiting Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt. While in Cairo, Egypt she met her first husband, George S. Smail, who worked with Shell Oil Company. They settled in Cairo and had two children: John (b. 1930) and Virginia (b. 1932). Michael St. John Packe, an English historian, biographer, and cricketer, was hired as a tutor for the children. Michael and Kathryn fell in love but in August 1939, with the Second World War looming, Kathryn Packe and her two children left for England. After a year she and the children sailed for the United States, where they settled in Connecticut and the children attended private boarding schools. Kathryn Packe returned to London to work for the Office of Strategic Services/Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force for the duration of the war.

In 1947, Kathryn Packe divorced George Smail and she and Michael Packe married in 1948. They settled in Alderney, in the Channel Islands, where she ran a market garden and helped run the library. She also assisted her husband in preparing the biography, The Life of John Stuart Mill, published in the United States in 1954, as well as subsequent books. Kathryn Packe died in 1988.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2013-M165

The papers of Kathryn Coleman Wharton Packe were given to the Schlesinger Library by Laura Smail, September 2013.

Processing Information

Processed: September 2013

By: Anne Engelhart.

Updated and additional description added: September 2020

By: Laura Peimer.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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