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COLLECTION Identifier: A/A262

Papers of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz, 1859-1879


Letters of writer, educator, and Radcliffe College president Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz.


  • Creation: 1859-1879


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Papers created by Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz are in the public domain.

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


1 folder

The collection includes letters from Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz to friends and acquaintances mainly concerning social engagements and Louis Agassiz's work and health. Also included are one note from Alexander Agassiz and a print reproduction of a photograph of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz.


Elizabeth Cabot Cary was born in 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Mary Ann Cushing Perkins Cary and Thomas Graves Cary. She had six siblings. Her health was delicate and she was educated at home, receiving history lessons from Elizabeth Peabody. In 1846, she met scientist and Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, who was then married to his first wife, Cecilie Braun Agassiz. Cecilie died in 1848 and Elizabeth and Louis married in 1850. Elizabeth thereby became stepmother to Louis's three children, with whom she developed close relationships. In 1856, Agassiz founded the Agassiz School for Girls in their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Louis Agassiz taught in the school and also arranged for other Harvard professors to teach classes. The school closed in 1863. In 1879, she became one of seven female managing directors of the Society for the Private Collegiate Instruction for Women (known informally as the Harvard Annex), which enabled women to have private classes from Harvard College professors. The Harvard Annex was incorporated in 1882, with Agassiz as president. She continued as president until 1903 and played a critical role in transforming the Annex into Radcliffe College in 1894.

In 1869, Agassiz became one of the first female members of the American Philosophical Society. She also helped to organize her husband's expeditions to Brazil (1865-1866) and the Strait of Magellan (1871-1872) and acted as the main writer and record keeper for these expeditions. She wrote the books A First Lesson in Natural History (1859, first published under the pseudonym Actaea); Seaside Studies in Natural History (1865, with her stepson Alexander Agassiz); and A Journey in Brazil (1868, with Louis Agassiz). She also edited Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence (1885). Louis Agassiz died in 1873 and Agassiz died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1907. They are both buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 56-161, 825, 870, 1016, 1139, 1149, 1197, 1384, 1608

The papers of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Charles Hamilton, Kingston Galleries, Paul C. Richards, Goodspeed's, and Doris Harris Autographs between 1956 and 1969.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Papers, 1884-1959 (SC 4); Records of Radcliffe College President Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz, 1879-1978 (SC 99); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Papers, 1838-1920 (A-3); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Letter, 1898 March 30 (A/A262a); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Letters, 1891, 1907 (A/A262b); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Letters, undated (A/A262c); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Letter, 1868 October 21 (A/A262d); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Postcards, 1905-1908 (A/A262e); Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz Letter, undated (A/A262f).

Processing Information

Processed: May 1986

By: Jolene A. Robinson

Updated and additional description added: April 2021

By: Susan Earle

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 the Carl & Lily Pforzheimer Fund, Pforzheimer Fund for the Schlesinger Library, Sybil Shainwald Fund at the Schlesinger Library, and Class of 1955 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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