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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1020: Vt-302: T-415

Papers of Florence Cawthorne Ladd, 1915-2019


Collection includes drafts of Sarah's Psalm; and The Spirit of Josephine, reviews and correspondence concerning the books; personal and literary correspondence; office files related to Ladd's tenure at Radcliffe College's The Bunting Institute, and Harvard's Graduate School of Design; photographs; and audio recordings of interviews with Ladd.


  • Creation: 1915-2019


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 papers created by Florence Cawthorne Ladd is held by Florence Cawthorne Ladd. 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.


10.97 linear feet ((24 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 4 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 43 photograph folders, 1 oversize photograph folder, 4 audiotapes, 3 videotapes)

The Florence Cawthorne Ladd papers contain personal and literary correspondence, personal files including clippings, passports and yearbooks; published and unpublished writings, subject files, photographs and audiovisual material.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE AND PERSONAL, 1925-2019 (#1.1-16.13, 25FB.1-25FB.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2), includes personal and literary correspondence between Ladd and her colleagues, friends, and family. Of particular interest are letters and postcards sent to Ladd's mother, Eleanor Cawthorne, including Ladd's regular updates sent from Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France. Greeting cards, holiday letters, and postcards from Ladd's friends and colleagues comprise most of the series. General correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the last name of the sender. Mail from senders without last names is listed and arranged after general correspondence.

Literary correspondence includes letters from agents and publishers regarding contracts, royalty statements, revisions, and administrative matters for Ladd's writings, Sarah's Psalm, and The Spirit of Josephine. Personal papers include address and date books, clippings about Ladd, invitations, passports, programs, guest books for visitors to her Vermont home, and high school yearbooks. Journals document travel, personal notes, and artwork; as well as containing various writing outlines, ideas, prompts, and exercises. The series is arranged in alphabetical order.

Series II, WRITINGS, 1952-2019 (#17.1-22.29, F+D.3-F+D.4), contain both published and unpublished works by Ladd, including articles, essays, lectures, poetry and short stories and reflections; as well as material related to her novels, Sarah's Psalm and The Spirit of Josephine, and her non-fiction work, Is That Your Child? Ladd's articles and reviews of books have appeared in the Boston Globe, The Bay State Banner, and the Women's Review of Books. The major themes reflected in Ladd's writings are gender and social issues, housing and urban development, and conditions that influence African American women in the United States and abroad.

Essays of special interest are "On Being Daddy's Son and Daughter" (#17.13) describing Ladd's girlhood; and "Observations of a First Wife/Four Wives and a Wake" (#17.19) discussing her complex feelings at her first husband's wake. Lectures given at the Bunting Institute, Harvard Divinity School on women's creativity, and remarks about race, leadership, and social equity and safety given at Smith College, Harvard School of Design, Fitchburg State, and Wheaton College are also included.

Of particular note are materials related to Ladd's published novels and non-fiction works. Early drafts and a copyedited typed version of Sarah's Psalm; as well as drafts, notes, and research for The Spirit of Josephine are included. Proposals for an anthology about Josephine Baker, and a book proposal, "Sojourner's Daughters: African American Women and The Contemporary Public Discourse," are also included. The series is arranged in alphabetical order.

Series III, SUBJECT FILES, 1960-2019 (#22.30-24.24, 25FB.3, OD.3), contains Ladd's general and professional files. The majority of the series consists of office files related to her tenure as director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College (1989-1997) including announcements, correspondence, reports, and administrative files. Of note is a scrapbook entitled "Nurturing Genius," created to commemorate Ladd's time at the Bunting Institute. Also included are reports, syllabi for classes, and papers written by Ladd while serving as Associate Professor in City Planning at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Correspondence with various art galleries including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; and the National Gallery of Art contain loan requests for pieces from Ladd's art collection, particularly Romare Bearden's works. Also included are files related to Ladd's consultant work for the South African Education Program, whose mission was to promote advancement through education in the United States. Ladd's evaluation on the efficacy of the program, clippings, and questionnaires completed by past alumni of the program are also included. As an avid member of the Saturday Morning Club, Ladd's papers on threads, mapping, textiles and cures are included in the series. The series is arranged in alphabetical order.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1915-2019 (PD.1-PD.44o), contains photographs of Ladd, her family, friends and colleagues. The earliest photographs document Ladd's childhood and college years at Howard University, as well as her wedding to her first husband, Ulysses Grant Shelton. Most of the series consists of family images of Ladd and her son, Michael, her parents, Eleanor and William Cawthorne, her third husband, Bill Harris, and grandchildren, Martin and Maya Ladd. Of special interest are photographs of Ladd and Dorothy West; Toni Morrison, and Joan Mondale. Photographs from book signing events for Is That Your Child? and her other published works are also included. The series is arranged in chronological order.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

Series V, AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL, 1989-2000 (#Vt-302.1-Vt-302.3, T-415.1-T-415.4), contains interviews with Ladd regarding her novel, Sarah's Psalm, and her tenure as director of the Bunting Institute. Of special note is an interview with Ladd and her son Michael discussing their relationship, race, class and gender; as well as an interview with singer Nancy Holloway conducted by Ladd regarding the legacy of Josephine Baker.


Psychologist, educator, administrator, and author, Florence Cawthorne Ladd was born in Washington, DC, in 1932. A graduate of Howard University (B.S. 1953) and the University of Rochester (Ph.D. 1958), Ladd taught psychology at Simmons College before moving to Turkey, where she taught at Robert College and the American College for Girls in Istanbul. From 1965 to 1977 she taught at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Design, offering courses that reflected her interest in combining psychology with environmental studies.

Shifting her focus to administration, Ladd was assistant, then associate dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning (1977-1979), Dean of Students at Wellesley College (1979-1984), Director of Education and Outreach and later Associate Executive Director at Oxfam America (1985-1989), and Director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College (1989-1997). Her first novel, Sarah's Psalm, was published in 1996. It received the Literary Award for Best Fiction from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her second novel, The Spirit of Josephine, was published in 2014. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction work, Is That Your Child? Mothers Talk about Rearing Biracial Children (2008).

Ladd has served as overseer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and as a member of various boards including those of Hampshire College, Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art, and the National Council for Research on Women. Ladd is the mother of performance poet, Michael Ladd. She resides in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Correspondence and personal, 1925-2019 (#1.1-16.13, 25FB.1-25FB.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2)
  2. Series II. Writings, 1952-2019 (#17.1-22.29, F+D.3-F+D.4)
  3. Series III. Subject files, 1960-2019 (#22.30-24.24, 25FB.3, OD.3)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1915-2019 (PD.1-PD.44o)
  5. Series V. Audiovisual, 1989-2000 (#Vt-302.1-Vt-302.3, T-415.1-T-415.4)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2003-M66, 2004-M97, 2006-M90, 2009-M39, 2013-M153, 2015-M3, 2016-M42, 2016-M112, 2016-M134, 2016-M229, 2018-M63, 2019-M102, 2019-M144, 2020-M1.

The papers of Florence Cawthorne Ladd were given to the Schlesinger Library by Florence Cawthorne Ladd between 2003 and 2020.

Processing Information

Processed: December 2019

By: Amber L. Moore, with assistance from Sarah DeRupo

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 Patricia M. King/Schlesinger Library Director's 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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