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COLLECTION Identifier: A/F282

Diary of Mary Denny Fay, 1835, May 19-June 18


Diary of Maria Denny Fay detailing travel and related expenditures in upstate New York and Canada.


  • Creation: 1835

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Maria Denny Fay, as well as 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.


1 folder

The Diary of Maria Denny Fay recounts her travels with five companions through New York State to Niagara Falls. From there they traveled to various cities in Canada, including Montreal, Quebec City, Saint John, and New Brunswick, traveling by stage coach, canal boat, and steamship. Fay's notes, legibly handwritten in pen, describe scenic landscapes, her visit to Auburn Prison in upstate New York, and her stay at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal. The diary also includes a list of travel expenses. Although Fay's name does not appear in the diary, her identification was provided by the manuscript dealer from whom the diary was purchased.


Maria Denny Fay was born in 1820, one of seven siblings born to Judge Samuel Prescott Phillips and Harriet (Howard) Fay. Her father presided over the probate court of Middlesex County, Massachusetts and served on Harvard's Board of Overseers. Her mother maintained the household. Fay was educated at the Ursuline Convent at Mount Benedict in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The family moved into the mansion in 1835 and it eventually became known as Fay House. Built in 1806 by prosperous merchant Nathaniel Ireland, the mansion had previously been occupied by several wealthy families, and briefly served as a boarding and day school for young women. During the period the Fay family lived there, it was regarded as the center of social life in Cambridge.

Fay never married and remained in the house following her mother and father's death in 1847 and 1856 respectively. In 1885 she sold the house to the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, the precursor of Radcliffe College, known today as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Maria Denny Fay died in 1890 and was buried in the family plot in Mount Auburn Cemetery. In 1894, her niece, Sarah Bryant Fay, donated a formal portrait of her aunt to Radcliffe College. The portrait is currently part of the Harvard University Portrait Collection housed at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2000-M67

The Diary of Maria Denny Fay was acquired from Larry Miller in 2000.

Processing Information

Processed: May 2000

By: Anne Englehart.

Updated and additional description added: August 2020

By: Emilyn L. Brown.

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

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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