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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 560

Papers of Caroline Drayton Phillips, 1893-1970


Diaries and papers of Caroline Astor Drayton Phillips, wife of career diplomat William Phillips, mother of six children, and lifelong diarist.


  • Creation: 1893-1970


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Caroline Drayton Phillips is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. The library will not authorize publication or quotation from the papers without the written permission of Anne P. Bryant during her lifetime. 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.


12.93 linear feet ((31 file boxes) plus 47 photograph folders)

The papers of Caroline Drayton Phillips consist primarily of diaries and correspondence documenting Phillips's life as a wife of career diplomat William Phillips and mother of six children. The library received the bulk of Phillips's diaries in 1979. Her diaries are arranged chronologically. Loose items have been removed from the diaries and filed separately.

Family correspondence, a portion of William Phillips's diary, a friend's diary, and photographs were added to the collection in March 2024. This correspondence includes letters sent between Caroline and William during his time working in The Hague as minister to the Netherlands, as well as letters describing his diplomatic work in Europe during World War II. These materials are found in #29.6-31.10 and #PD.47. All other files remain in the same order.

The bulk of the collection consists of sixty-four diaries that originally included a variety of loose material: letters from family and friends; clippings, telegrams, and printed material (e.g., theater programs, seating charts, and social calling cards); and photographs. Some of the letters are in French and Italian. Phillips occasionally included lists of books she hoped to read and people she had met. She appears to have edited her work; there are pages that seem to have been intentionally pasted together, as well as individual pages or whole sections of the diaries that have been cut out and removed. In addition, it appears that someone else has read and marked the pages of the diaries, adding dates, comments, and underlining.

The early diaries recount the life of a young woman from a socially prominent family: Phillips tells of attending lectures, plays and concerts, touring museums, visits with family and friends, and traveling throughout Europe. She also describes her family life, particularly her strained relationship with her mother, her yearning for marriage and family, and deep religious faith. In addition, the diaries contain her reflections on politics and national events, such as the Spanish American War and her trip to the inauguration of President William Howard Taft in 1909.

Caroline Drayton married William Phillips in 1910, and while the diaries do not contain a significant account of their courtship, Phillips describes their wedding and subsequent family life in great detail. She writes of pregnancies, miscarriages, childbirths and recoveries, as well as her life as a mother and eventual grandmother. Phillips's first baby died in infancy. The diary pages from this period, however, appear to have been removed. Phillips also writes frequently of her emotional health, a recurring theme throughout the diaries; she refers to her feelings as "the black depression," calling it "the curse of my life" (January 13, 1923).

In addition to becoming a wife and mother, Caroline's marriage to William bestowed upon her the role of diplomatic spouse. Her diaries record her observations of Washington, DC, politics and gossip, particularly during the Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt administrations. The diaries also recount her involvement in numerous international diplomatic events, such as attending the coronation of King George V (1911), visits with Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands while William was minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (1920-1922), and an audience with Pope Pius XII (1940). The diaries from the years William was ambassador to Italy (1936-1940) reflect the tensions of pre-war Italy and describe William's diplomatic work with the Italian government and his efforts to dissuade Mussolini from allying with Germany, as well as his interactions with the Vatican.

In addition to the diaries, there are a significant number of letters which also document Phillips's private and social life. Included are letters from her family, in particular her mother, father, and brothers Billy and Harry; her husband William Phillips and their children; her cousin Waldorf Astor; and William's sister Anna Phillips Bolling. In addition, there are short letters from both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, many sent during Roosevelt's presidency. Other close friends represented include members of the Cutting family: Olivia Cutting, Sybil Cuffee Cutting, and her daughter, Iris Cutting Origo. Many of her letters from Olivia Cutting reference the early death of Olivia's son and Caroline Phillips's close friend, William Bayard Cutting, Jr., and Olivia's attempts to contact him after his death. With these letters are samples of Olivia's "automatic" or "spirit writing" (March 12, 1916, and December 16, 1919); the diaries from this period also reveal Caroline's attempts to contact Bayard by means of automatic writing.

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


Caroline Astor Drayton Phillips, daughter of Charlotte Augusta Astor Drayton and James Coleman Drayton, was born on October 26, 1880. Caroline was the oldest of four children, and, after her parents divorced in 1895, she lived with her father in New Jersey, New York, and Rogate, Sussex, England. She was educated by private tutors.

Caroline married William Phillips, a close friend of her friend William Bayard Cutting, Jr., in England on February 2, 1910. The Phillipses had six children: Miriam Drayton Phillips (born 1912, who died in infancy), Beatrice Schermerhorn (Phillips) Strauss (born 1914), William Phillips, Jr. (born 1916), Samuel Drayton Phillips (born 1917), Christopher Hallowell Phillips (born 1920), and Anne Caroline (Phillips) Bryant (born 1922).

Known to close friends and family as "Tommy," Caroline Phillips played a significant role in her husband's career. William Phillips was a career diplomat, and Caroline attended and served as hostess for many diplomatic functions. The Phillips family lived outside the United States for many years and traveled extensively. William Phillips served as Assistant Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson (1914-1920); minister to the Netherlands (1920-1922); ambassador to the Netherlands and minister to Luxembourg (1924-1927); minister to Canada (1927-1929); Undersecretary of State (1933-1936) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt; ambassador to Italy (1936-1941); chief of the United States Office of Strategic Services in London (1942); personal representative of President Roosevelt in India (October 1942); Special Advisor on European political matters to General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1943); special assistant to Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr. (1945); and as a member of the Anglo-American Committee on Palestine (1946). When they were not living abroad, the family lived at "Highover," their estate in North Beverly, Massachusetts.

A lifelong diarist, Caroline Phillips's observations demonstrated a keen interest in religion, art, history, politics, and international diplomacy. Caroline and William were close friends with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (Caroline was Franklin's second cousin). They were also members of the Republican Party and the Episcopal Church. Phillips died at age 84 in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 7, 1965.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 79-M85, 2019-M61

The papers of Caroline Drayton Phillips were given to the Schlesinger Library by her children, Beatrice Phillips Strauss, William Phillips, Jr., Drayton Phillips, Christopher H. Phillips, and Anne Phillips Bryant, in 1979. Additional material was given by Rose Phillips Woodard in 2019.

Processing Information

Processed: May 2010

By: Paula Aloisio

Updated and additional materials added: March 2024

By: Paula Aloisio

Phillips, Caroline Drayton, 1880-1965. Papers of Caroline Drayton Phillips, 1893-1970: 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 a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

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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