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COLLECTION Identifier: T-579

Audio letters from Tove Gerson to Elena Dodd, 1985-1995


Audiotape letters from Tove Gerson to her friend Elena Dodd.


  • Creation: 1985-1995


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the audio letters created by Tove Gerson as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


11 audiocassettes

Collection contains 11 audiocassette letters from Tove Gerson in Germany to her friend Elena Dodd in the United States. After Gerson retired to her native Germany and lost her sight she sent Dodd these taped letters which include reminiscences, reflections, and discussion of past and current events. Included are topics such as the People's Theatre and working at the YWCA in Cambridge, Massachusetts; current events such as the United Nations Women's Conference (1995) and Bill Clinton's presidency; and personal reflections on blindness and aging. The collection is arranged chronologically.


Civil rights and peace activist Tove Gertrud (Müller) Gerson, was born on September 18, 1903, in Munich, Germany, the daughter of Ellen (Dyhr) and Albert Müller. She attended a private elementary school in the village of Dachau, and went on to secondary school in Munich, graduating in 1919. After spending a year in Denmark with her mother's family, Tove Gerson took courses at a business school, worked as a bank clerk and secretary, and in 1924 married Gerhard Gerson, a research engineer working in Essen, Germany. Following a four-year course at the Bundesschule für Körperbildung und rhythmische Erziehung (Federal school for physical education and rhythmic education) in Essen, Tove Gerson worked as a teacher and physical education instructor. In 1938 Gerhard Gerson, who was half Jewish, left for the United States and went to work for Phillips Petroleum Company; Tove Gerson joined him in 1939. Until she returned to Germany in 1973, Tove Gerson lived in four states (Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts) and led an active life as a teacher, physical therapist, Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) administrator, and activist for peace and civil rights. From 1957 to 1968 she was the Adult Program Director at the YWCA in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she organized travel groups and co-founded the People's Theatre (1964). In 1970 Gerson began to lose her sight. She returned to Germany in 1973 and lived in Essen until her death in 1998.

Elena Harap Dodd grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. She studied acting and holds an M.A. in American literature from Boston University, and an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Dodd's interest in multi-cultural theater and the life of cities led to her co-founding Streetfeet children's workshops in Roxbury, Massachusetts, with Angela Cook (1975). She is also co-founded Streetfeet Women, a Boston-based multi-cultural ensemble of writers and performers, with Mary McCullough (1982). From 1991 to 2014 she performed in a national tour of "Meet Eleanor Roosevelt," a one-woman show written and produced with Josephine Lane. Dodd is also a contributor to the anthology, What Does it Mean to be White in America? (2016). Dodd now lives in Putney, Vermont.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2021-M10

The audio letters of Tove Gerson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Elena Dodd.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Tove Gertrud Gerson, 1919-1993 (MC 447).

Processing Information

Processed: April 2021

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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