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COLLECTION Identifier: A/A262f

Letter of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz, undated


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


  • Undated


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 consists of one handwritten letter from Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz to Annie Fields acknowledging payment for an article in the Atlantic, and expressing regret at the delay in submitting the article. Agassiz explains that the delay is due in part to Louis Agassiz having "something of the nature of a boil or abscess on the head," which made him unable to work. The illness of their grandchild also contributed to the delay. The letter includes a handwritten note from Louis Agassiz to James T. Fields, editor of the Atlantic and husband of Annie Fields, concerning the reprinting of the Methods of Study in Natural History essays. Also included is a transcript of Agassiz's letter, though the transcript does not include Louis Agassiz's note.


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 number: 86-M224

This letter of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz was acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Goodspeed's in 1986.

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 Papers, 1859-1879 (A/A262); 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).

Processing Information

Processed: July 1990

By: Jessica Gill

Updated and additional description added: March 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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