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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 459: M-26

Papers of Yvonne Skinner, ca.1916-1977


Diaries, notebooks, poems, stories, and school papers by Yvonne Skinner, wife of B.F. Skinner.


  • Creation: 1916-1977

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm (M-26).

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

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


1.25 linear feet ((3 file boxes) plus 1 folio photograph folder)

This collection consists of diaries, notebooks, poems, stories, and school papers by Yvonne Skinner, as well as letters and postcards from Skinner's parents and friends. The diaries cover the years 1923 to 1934 (with one passage written in 1937) and record the family life, activities, friendships, thoughts, and feelings of a young girl from a moderately well-off professional family. They include some original poetry and prose. The later journals record "Bohemian" life at the University of Chicago during the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Skinner became, in the words of her disapproving parents, "the personification of wild modern youth." One of her college papers (see folder #25) contains Skinner's reflections on one of her diaries. Between 1921 and 1927 Skinner kept notebooks recording favorite quotes, ideas for stories, popular phrases and expressions, ideas for "self-improvement," and notes about India. The letters and postcards to Skinner from childhood friends were written while she was away at school (1923-1932). Topics discussed included campus life, suitors, travel, and future plans. There are letters and postcards between Skinner and her parents written when her father was at a sanitarium (1919), while Skinner was at summer camps (1924-1925), and a Christmas letter to Skinner from "Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus."


Yvonne ("Eve") (Blue) Skinner was born on May 9, 1911, in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were Harriet (Read) and Robert Blue; her father was an ophthalmologist and her maternal grandfather was Chicago novelist and humorist Opie Read. She grew up in Chicago and in nearby Flossmoor, and attended the high school of the University of Chicago and the University, where she majored in English and minored in the history of art. She spent her sophomore year at Beloit College. In July 1936, while visiting friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she met psychologist and educator B.F. Skinner, who was then doing post-doctoral research as a member of Harvard's Society of Fellows. They were married on November 1, 1936. They had two daughters, Julie (Skinner) Vargas and Deborah (Skinner) Buzan, and lived in Cambridge. For many years, Yvonne Skinner was a lecturer and gallery instructor for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She died on August 30, 1997. For further biographical information, see B.F. Skinner, The Shaping of a Behaviorist: Part Two of an Autobiography (1984), and A Matter of Consequences: Part Three of an Autobiography (1984).

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 83-M104, 83-M241, 85-M195, 90-M38

The papers of Yvonne Skinner were given to the Schlesinger Library by Yvonne Skinner in May and November 1983, September 1985, and March 1990. The collection was reprocessed and microfilmed with funds provided by Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and Professor at Cornell University.


  1. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
  2. Unnumbered diary pages, letter pages, and pages of scrapbooks and notebooks were numbered by the processor to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers. Blank pages were not numbered.
  3. Some photographs are numbered beginning with a "M" rather than "MC", but should be requested as "MC".
  4. In many cases, the enclosures referred to in letters are missing.
  5. Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or the signature missing, as well as portions of letters, have been marked as fragments.
  6. Loose items and photographs that obviously belonged where they were found were filmed there.
  7. When filming pages with overlapping material the filmer sometimes masked out all items except the one being filmed.
  8. Copies of this microfilm (M-26) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.
  1. Folders 1-4: M-26, Reel 1
  2. Folders 5v-12: M-26, Reel 2
  3. Folders 13-33: Reel 3

Processing Information

Preliminary finding aids to the collection were produced by Beryl Satter in 1985 and Susan von Salis in 1987.

Reprocessed: August 1999

By: Deborah A. Richards

Skinner, Yvonne, 1911-1997. Papers of Yvonne Skinner, ca.1916-1977: 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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