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COLLECTION Identifier: M-126

Diaries of Ada Louise Comstock, 1902-1968


Diaries of Ada Louise Comstock, third president of Radcliffe College.


  • Creation: 1902-1968

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Available only on microfilm; use microfilm M-126.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the diaries of Ada Louise Comstock is held by Susan Comstock Clemedtsen.

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


4 microfilm reels

Eighteen volumes of diaries (1v-19v; 4v is missing) cover over sixty years of Ada Louise Comstock's life. Although only a minority of the entries are of a reflective nature, the brief daily notations of activities and appointments reveal details of her extensive travels, her professional pursuits, and her personal life. For example, the diaries outline the itinerary of her 1931 trip to East Asia, and describe the events leading to her marriage in 1943.


A champion of higher education for women and the third president of Radcliffe College, Ada Louise Comstock was born on December 11, 1876, to S.G. [Solomon Gilman] Comstock, a lawyer, and Sarah (Balls) Comstock, a former schoolteacher. She was raised in Moorhead, Minnesota. Her father was a lawyer, state legislator, and United States Representative (1889-1891), and, as regent of the University of Minnesota, he assisted with the founding of the Moorhead Normal School. Her mother was active in founding the women's club and a strong supporter of the public library in Moorhead.

Comstock grew up in a close knit family with her brother and sister, George Madison Comstock and Jessie Comstock. She remained very close to her father until his death in 1933. An avid student, she graduated from high school at the age of fifteen. From 1892 to 1894 Comstock attended the University of Minnesota, before transferring to Smith College where she received her B.L. in 1897. While at Smith she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She completed her teacher training at Moorhead Normal School in 1898, but, dissatisfied with her training there, she attended Columbia University where she earned an A.M. in English, history, and education. In 1900 she accepted an assistantship at the University of Minnesota in the department of rhetoric and oratory.

During her time at the University of Minnesota she befriended Wallace Notestein, a professor of history who later taught at Yale University. Comstock and Notestein maintained their correspondence for forty years; they married in June 1943, after Comstock retired from Radcliffe College. The Notesteins traveled to England frequently due to Notestein's work on British literature and social history. They lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

Comstock died in 1973.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 89-M189

The diaries of Ada Louise Comstock were loaned to the Schlesinger Library for microfilming by Susan Comstock Clemedtsen in July 1989, and were returned to the family after filming. They are available only on microfilm.


The diaries of Ada Louise Comstock were microfilmed to make their contents available for research while they remain in the possession of the Comstock family.

All materials written or collected by Comstock were filmed; other sections of the diaries, such as preprinted indexes or blank pages, were omitted.

Covers were not filmed.

Items found loose between pages were marked as such and were filmed with or near those pages.

The few double-sided or multi-paged items found loose in the diaries were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreaders, and researchers.

All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.

Some of the material was difficult to film: some pages have writing that disappears into the binding area (gutters) of the volumes, and some pages are brittle, torn, or loose. Additional difficulties were posed by the great range in ink quality and tone, and by the occasional pencil entries. Every effort has been made to ensure legibility.

Several of the volumes are five-year diaries; pages were filmed only once. For example, entries for January 1st of 1909-1913 appear on the first page of 8v, while the next page contains entries for January 2nd of those same five years.

The film was proofread by the processor and corrections were made where necessary. These corrections may disrupt the sequence of frame numbers.

For a list of the contents of M-126, see the inventory on page six. When requesting material, please use the microfilm number and the reel number.

  1. 1v-3v: reel 1
  2. 5v-11v: reel 2
  3. 12v-16v: reel 3
  4. 17v-19v: reel 4

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Ada Comstock scrapbook, 1934 (SC 26), Ada Comstock records of the President of Radcliffe College, 1923-1943 (RG II, Series 2), Ada Comstock papers, 1929-1974 (RA.A/C739), Ada Comstock papers, 1818, 1887-1982 (MC 471; T-156).

Processing Information

Processed: August 1989

By: Alex Chisholm


Comstock, Ada Louise. Diaries of Ada Louise Comstock, 1902-1968: 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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