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COLLECTION Identifier: 1632--80-M189

Additional papers of the Alger family, ca.1850-1980 (inclusive), 1918-1980 (bulk)


Addenda to the papers (A-103) of the Alger family from New England, including correspondence, photographs, and account books.


  • Creation: 1850-1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1918-1980

Language of Materials

Materials in English and French.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Alger family 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.


2.5 linear feet ((6 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder and 1 photograph folder)

The Alger family Additional papers include correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters, brochures, photographs, diaries, account books, clippings, writings, magazine articles, etc. The bulk of the collection centers around Louisa R. Alger and includes correspondence, the bulk of which is incoming, with fewer draft and other letters that Alger sent to friends, family and others. Correspondence in the collection documents Alger's work with the Warren Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children and its day camp, the American Friends Service Committee, the FUND (an organization that assisted black communities and businesses in securing loans and grants for community projects); the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Collier's Reference Service, the Clothing Room of the Cambridge (Massachusetts) Society of Friends, and the Boston Suburban Advisory Council. Alger maintained regular correspondence with family and many friends who share news of births, deaths, and marriages. Correspondence with friends also includes descriptions of their daily life working for the Peace Corps or the American Friends Service Committee as teachers in foreign countries such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria, as well as discussions of current political events such as the election of Richard Nixon, and a sit-in demonstration at the Welfare Office in Roxbury, Massachusetts, that ended in a riot.

Alger maintained a regular correspondence with Elizabeth Cummings Qualey (sister of ee cummings) until her death. Much of the correspondence in this collection is from Elizabeth Cummings Qualey as well as Marion Cummings (wife of ee cummings), and ee cummings himself. This correspondence includes details about their everyday lives, their families, and their opinions on local political issues such as the firing of Northfield Minnesota's chief of police and the inequality in salaries of male and female teachers in Minnesota. Alger was very active in the community and worked with several organizations including the Warren Center, the FUND, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and the American Friends Service Committee. The collection includes newsletters, meeting minutes, internal communication, reports, operating expenses, budgets, by-laws, and official publications from these organizations. Publications include "Structure and Functions of Advisory Councils," "An abbreviated summary of House 5700 & H. 2990", and "A Day with M.C.A.D." by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; and "Italy Program Report" by the American Friends Service Committee.

Included in the collection are a number of essays written by Alger while she was a student at Radcliffe College, including her honors thesis. Alger wrote her honors thesis about the works of English novelist William Beckford (1760-1844). She focused on Beckford's novel Vathek, discussing its plot, influences, origins, and impact. She goes on to compare Beckford's work to the work of others, including Voltaire. Further writing of Alger's included in the collection are notes for a speech she gave at the 25th reunion of the Radcliffe class of 1922. Other materials of Alger included in the collection are her account books (1937-1970) and correspondence, photographs, and clippings regarding the Taylor Cup Award from 1953-1967. The Taylor Cup Award was named for Alger's uncle, Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor, and was an annual award given by the Navy to a patient who has exhibited exceptional spirit, fortitude, courage, and determination in overcoming their physical disability. Winners received a silver trophy and a personal letter of congratulations from Alger. Alger received correspondence from several Navy officials detailing who the recipients were every year and the reasoning behind their selection. Also included in the collection are correspondence from several Taylor Cup award winners, press releases about the award, photographs of the award ceremonies, and articles about the winners.

Also included in the collection are the papers of one of Alger's friends, Sarah (Sally) Sprague. Materials in Sprague's papers include clippings, articles, pamphlets, correspondence, reports, etc. The bulk of the papers consists of correspondence, the bulk of which is incoming, with fewer draft and other letters that Sprague sent to friends, family, and others. Correspondence in the papers documents Sprague's work with the South End Music School, Vietnam Summer National Office in Cambridge, and the American Friends Service Committee. A large portion of the correspondence is from members of Sprague's family detailing their daily lives and sharing news of family events. Another portion of the correspondence documents Sprague's efforts to assist her former South End Music School student, Ronald Cyr, during his seven-year prison sentence for robbery. During Cyr's incarceration, Sprague made efforts to improve his situation and expedite his release. Sprague corresponded regularly with the Parole Board, Cyr, and several other individuals she thought could help. Sprague also wrote to several organizations and Congressmen, such as Senator Edward W. Brooke and the Committee of Responsibility, about her views on the Vietnam War and other issues. Other materials in Sprague's papers include clippings, magazine articles, and pamphlets about the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and nuclear policy; a report from the American Friends Service Committee; South End Music Center internal correspondence and publications such as the organization's bylaws, newsletters, list of committees and committee members, reports, etc.; and notes for a speech Sprague gave to the Unitarian Universalist Women's Alliance. Other materials in the collection consists of three diaries, two commonplace books, and a collection of recipes. The first diary (1897) contains short descriptions of the weather and lists of expenditures. The diary's owner is unidentified. The second diary (1902-1907) likely belonged to a relative of Sally Sprague. The entries describe the writer's daily life, including taking care of Sally when she was ill, making dresses for her, buying items for her, visiting with others, going to church, writing letters, going on vacation, etc. The owner of the third diary (1953-1956) is also unidentified. It also describes the weather and the author's daily life, including doctor visits, writing letters, gardening, visits from guests, and dinners, lunches, and other excursions with Louisa R. Alger. The commonplace books and recipes were owned by Abby Langdon Alger (ca.1850). The commonplace books include poetry, word puzzles, riddles, and jokes. The collection of recipes includes a handwritten recipes, notes, and recipe clippings for various desserts, main dishes, and vegetable dishes. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Louisa Rodgers Alger was born to Louisa Taylor Alger and Philip Rounseville Alger in 1900 in Washington, DC, and grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. She enrolled in Radcliffe College and graduated in 1922. While at Radcliffe she made the acquaintance of Radcliffe alumna, Frances Lee, who ran Miss Lee's School (formerly Miss Caroll's School), a school for girls in Boston, Massachusetts. Following Alger's graduation, Lee offered Alger a teaching position at the school and instructed her in teaching techniques. Following the death of a close friend during World War II, Alger became a member of the Society of Friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alger left Miss Lee's School to teach mathematics at the Winsor School until her retirement in 1965. Alger began volunteering with the Cambridge Clothing Room of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Society of Friends in 1947, which was started in 1944 to gather, repair, and provide clothing for those affected by war in Europe. During the 1970s the Clothing Room distributed clothing locally to the St. Monica's Home, Cardinal Cushing Hispanic Center, Boston Boys Club, and other organizations, and sent off a portion of the clothing to Philadelphia. In the 1980s they shipped clothing to the Lakota tribe on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Alger eventually would go on to become the Clothing Room's volunteer director. As part of the Society of Friends, Alger was a member of the Mosher Book and Tract Committee which provided funding for publishing and distributing books and tracts promoting the principles of Quaker faith and practice. Currently it is under the auspices of the publications and communications committee of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. She was also active in the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association, acting as its secretary several times and becoming editor of the alumni newsletter, and was an ardent supporter of racial integration and equality, working as a member of the Boston Suburban Council with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Alger served on the board of directors of the Cambridge Mental Health Association and as Vice President of the Warren Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children in Brookline, Massachusetts (now defunct). Alger died in 1995 at the age of 95.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 1632, 1650, 70-8, 70-62, 70-126, 71-27, 73-56, 74-12, 74-67, 74-101, 74-125, 74-178, 75-24, 75-214, 76-203, 77-M213, 78-M110, 79-M111, 80-M189

These papers of the Alger family were given to the Schlesinger Library between August 1969 and May 1979 by Louisa R. Alger.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Alger family Papers, 1809-1969 ((A-103)); Alger family Additional papers, 1809-1984 (84-M102), and Alger family Additional papers, 1809-1993 (MC 829) (folders #20-31 for which original restrictions have expired were added to the collection in November 2009).


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-4d
  2. Box 2: Folders 5-14
  3. Box 3: Folders 15-18
  4. Box 4: Folders 18a-18f
  5. Box 5: Folders 19-36
  6. Box 6: Folders 37-40

Processing Information

Processed: May 2002

Updated: July 2015

By: Meghan Pipp, with assistance from Mark Vassar.

Alger family. Additional papers of the Alger family, ca.1850-1980 (inclusive), 1918-1980 (bulk): 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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