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COLLECTION Identifier: A-168

Diaries of Clara Morris, 1867-1924


Diaries, etc., of Clara Morris, actress and author.


  • Creation: 1867-1924


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use microfilm: M-59, reels 977-981, no. M20.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Clara Morris 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.


4.17 linear feet (10 file boxes)

The Clara Morris diaries cover the period from 1867 to 1924 and discusses her career on the stage, her writings, current events, and her personal life. An address book and date book of Frederick C. Harriott are also included. The presence of a "+" on a diary page means Morris took a drug by hypodermic that day.


Clara Morris was born in Toronto, Canada on March 17, 1848. She and her mother fled to Ohio later that same year when her father was discovered as a bigamist. With him they had left another daughter whom Clara later tried desperately to find.

When the diaries begin, Clara Morris has already started her acting career. She had some time earlier boarded with a family named Hefty to whom she occasionally sent money. They had lost their boarding house and were left penniless.

She married Frederick C. Harriott on November 30, 1874 and supported him from then until he started acting with her in 1892. Her mother lived with them in their first home, the Pines, in New York and in later homes in Fair Lawn, Whitestone, and Colonial Heights, New York. Most of the money she earned from acting was spent for the support of others - her mother, her husband, the Heftys and her many pets.

Morris constantly suffered ill health partly due to an injury to her spine in childhood. On several occasions she was forced to miss rehearsals and performances. Usually upon arrival in a new town it was necessary to procure a doctor immediately. Her eyesight also bothered her and she went partially blind from 1910 until 1914. The only entries from this period are four in 1911. In 1914 she regained her sight.

She played several different fund benefits in the 1880's including those for the widow of a Yonkers police sergeant, the Custer Memorial Monument, and Edgar Allan and Virginia Clemm Poe's graves. She continued her acting career until 1905 after which she only made small appearances in variety shows, and gave talks and lectures. After her retirement her days were spent painting, writing, knitting, sewing, embroidering, reading, taking and giving French, Spanish and Italian lessons, and playing the guitar.

As of 1895 she had already begun to make money by writing and selling short stories and articles. In addition to these she wrote three books: Little Jim Crow, 1894, The Silent Singer, 1898, and Life on the Stage, 1901. Her husband died May 29, 1914 and her mother August 30, 1917. When she was left alone, she found it necessary to take in boarders to supplement the money she received for writing. She continued her writing until her death on November 20, 1925.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 70-2

The papers of Clara Morris were deposited with the Schlesinger Library in October 1969 by Mr. and Mrs. George MacAdam.


  1. Box 1: Volumes 1-7
  2. Box 2: Volumes 8-16
  3. Box 3: Volumes 17-22
  4. Box 4: Volumes 23-27
  5. Box 5: Volumes 28-32
  6. Box 6: Volumes 33-37
  7. Box 7: Volumes 38-42
  8. Box 8: Volumes 43-47
  9. Box 9: Volumes 48-52
  10. Box 10: Volumes 53-56

Processing Information

Processed: March 1971

Morris, Clara, 1848-1925. Diaries of Clara Morris, 1867-1924: A Finding Aid
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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