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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 440

Papers of Anna Louise James, 1874-2015 (inclusive), 1901-1984 (bulk)


Diaries, family correspondence, financial records, etc., of Anna Louise James, the first African American woman licensed as a pharmacist in Connecticut.


  • Creation: 1874-2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1901-1984


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Anna Louise James is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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.


2.29 linear feet ((5 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 oversize volume, 14 folders of photographs, 1 folio photograph folder)

This collection documents the personal and professional life of Anna Louise James. The papers includes diaries, family correspondence, financial records, photographs, clippings, certificates, and other material related to Anna Louise James. Additional material received in October 2003 (accession number 2003-M131), October 2011 (accession number 2011-M188A), and March 2016 (accession number 2016-M68) was added to the collection in May 2023. These materials are housed in #111-129. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical order.

Series I, PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL, 1879-2015, undated (#1-75, 111-127), includes biographical and financial materials of and about Anna Louise James and the James family, and records of her education such as notices of commencement exercises and pharmacology class notes and examinations. The series contains James's journals and desk calendars (#15-23) and such family materials as photographs, receipts, invoices, and financial correspondence. This series also includes material collected by James, notably photographs of friends and acquaintances, as well as her collection of picture postcards, which she had stored in albums (#36-75). Most of these albums were started in 1906. Picture postcard albums are of sites in New England, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Washington, DC, Canada, and France (#65-68). The albums have been disassembled for preservation reasons. Cards from #69vo were removed, and filed in (#71-75); most were unordered and loose in the album.

Series II, BUSINESS, 1901-1995, undated (#76-88, 128-129), includes records of the James Pharmacy and publicity about it, both during James's time there and afterwards. There are also some photographs of the interior and exterior of the pharmacy building, and two soda fountain recipe books.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1901-1978, undated (#89-110), consists of letters from family and friends to James (and others), and condolence letters to Ann Petry after James's death. Except for a few letters to Ann Petry (#99), there are no letters written by James.


Anna Louise James was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on January 19, 1886, the ninth child of Anna Houston and Willis Samuel James. Her father had escaped to Hartford, Connecticut, from a plantation in Virginia at the age of 16. The name recorded on James's birth certificate is Louise Clegget James. Anna Houston James died in 1894, leaving Willis Samuel James to raise his eight surviving children with the help of relatives. James graduated from Arsenal Elementary School (Hartford) in 1902 and Saybrook (Connecticut) High School in 1905. Following something of a family tradition, she decided to become a pharmacist, graduating from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in 1908, and in 1909 becoming the first African American woman licensed pharmacist in Connecticut.

James ran her own drug store in Hartford from 1909 until 1911, when she moved to Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to join her brother-in-law, Peter Lane, at the pharmacy he had opened there around 1900. When Peter Lane left (ca.1917), James bought his half of the business and ran James Pharmacy until her retirement in 1967. She lived in an apartment above the pharmacy. A historical marker indicates that the building once housed a shop in which Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette) made a purchase.

Active in Republican Party politics, James was one of the first women in Old Saybrook to register to vote after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was a well-known and admired figure in the community; for generations young and old alike stopped in to have prescriptions filled, and to enjoy her soda fountain treats and sage advice. Anna Louise James died on December 12, 1977, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

James's sister, Helen "Lou" Evelyn James Chisholm, attended college briefly, then had an opportunity to live in Hawaii, teaching at an orphanage there in 1903. She returned to the United States the following year, and attended Atlanta University, where she was a student of W.E.B. Du Bois. She was later a student at the State Normal School in Tallahassee, Florida. Their sister Bertha married Peter Lane; their daughter is Ann Lane Petry. The other James siblings were Willis S. (1877-1940), Harriet "Hattie" (1879-1902), H. Fred (1880-1881), Fuller (1881-?), Fritz Morris (1882-1957), Harold Edward (1884-1945), and Fuller Houston (1887-1888). Ann Lane Petry died on April 28, 1997, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. I. Personal and biographical, 1879-2015, undated (#1-75, 111-127)
  2. II. Business, 1901-1995, undated (#76-88, 128-129)
  3. III. Correspondence, 1901-1978, undated (#89-110)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 94-M171, 94-M177, 94-M180, 95-M89. Accession numbers 2003-M131, 2011-M188A, 2016-M68 were added in May 2023.

These papers of Anna Louise James were given to the Schlesinger Library between November 1994 and March 2016, by Anna Louise James's niece, Ann Petry, via Edward Clark.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Ann Petry Papers, 1938-2013 (MC 1051).

There is related material at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; see James family papers, 1873-1975 (JWJ MSS 65).


  1. Box 1: 1-3, 5, 15-21
  2. Box 2: 22v-32, 34-50
  3. Box 3: 51-68, 70-79, 85-86v
  4. Box 4: 87-100, 102-113
  5. Box 5: 114-125
  6. Box 6: 126-129

Processing Information

Processed: January 1997

By: Susan von Salis

Updated and additional materials added: May 2023

By: Cat Lea Holbrook, with assistance from Janin I. Escobedo Garcia.

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.

James, Anna Louise, 1886-1977. Papers of Anna Louise James, 1874-2015 (inclusive), 1901-1984 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Zetlin Sisters Fund, Jane Rainie Opel '50 Fund, and The Gerard Schlesinger Library 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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