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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 286: M-40

Papers of the Briggs family, 1820-1915 (inclusive), 1838-1900 (bulk)


Correspondence of poet Caroline Atherton (Briggs) Mason and her sister Harriette (Briggs) Stoddard, a missionary to Persia.


  • Creation: 1820-1915
  • Creation: 1838-1900

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Unrestricted. Originals in Series II are closed; use microfilm M-40.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Briggs family as well as 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.


1.67 linear feet ((3 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 1 supersize folder, 1 folio folder, 1 oil portrait)

The Briggs Family Papers are divided into three series:

Series I, Briggs Family Correspondence contains letters of Dr. Calvin Briggs and Rebecca (Monroe) Briggs and their daughters, except that letters from Harriette and Caroline are in Series II and III, respectively. The main issues discussed are education, health and family matters. Also included are letters of a missionary friend to Mary S. (Briggs) Wight. Correspondence is arranged by writer.

Series II, Harriette Briggs Stoddard and Stoddard Family Papers, consists chiefly of letters from Stoddard family members to Briggs family members. Most are from Harriette Briggs Stoddard to the Briggs family and are dated 1838-1848; they document the religious thoughts and daily life of American missionaries in mid-nineteenth century Persia. Letters concerning the death of Stoddard family members also describe contemporary medical treatment. Arrangement is by writer. This series is available on microfilm only, M-40.

Series III, Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason and Mason Family Papers, consists of biographical and family materials, personal and professional correspondence of Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason, her literary writings, and miscellaneous papers.

Mason family papers, arranged by family member, are quite sparse. Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason's personal correspondence, chronologically arranged, discuss family, health and education, as well as Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason's poetry.

Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason's professional correspondence, 1850-1890, documents her dealings with publishers and editors. It also contains public reaction to her work, especially during the Civil War. Correspondence after her death in 1890 concerns her husband's publishing of The Lost Ring. Arrangement is chronological.

Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason's writings consist mainly of miscellaneous, undated poetry on sentimental and religious topics, some in manuscript and some in printed form. This collection of her works is extensive and representative, but not complete. Miscellaneous papers include materials on Bradford Academy and woman suffrage.


The Briggs Family Papers center on the personal and professional correspondence of Caroline Atherton (Briggs) Mason, a lesser-known Victorian poet, and her sister Harriette (Briggs) Stoddard, a missionary to Persia.

Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason and Harriette Briggs Stoddard were the youngest of seven daughters of Dr. Calvin Briggs and Rebecca (Monroe) Briggs of Marblehead, Massachusetts. All seven sisters (see p. 4) attended Bradford Academy near Haverhill, Massachusetts, where they were known as "the Pleiades." Several of the sisters retained their school ties throughout their lives; Mary (Briggs) Wight and Harriette Briggs Stoddard continued at Bradford as teachers. There are references in this collection to only two of the three Briggs sons, James Briggs and William Briggs. The latter and his sister Clara (Briggs) Robinson were locally published poets, but neither reached the prominence of Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason.

Harriette (Briggs) Stoddard (1821-1848) began teaching at Bradford Academy after graduating in 1842. A deeply religious person, she soon agreed to go as a teacher on a mission sponsored by the American Board of Foreign Missions to the Nestorians in Persia. Before her departure, however, she became engaged to the Reverend David Tappan Stoddard (1818-1857), a prospective missionary. They were married in February 1843. In Oroomiah (later called Urmia, now Reza'iyeh) in northwestern Iran, and later in Mt. Seir, David Tappan Stoddard directed a school for Nestorian boys, aided by Harriette Briggs Stoddard. Their two daughters, Harriet ("Hattie," 1844-1857) and Sarah ("Little Sa," 1847-1873) were born in Persia.

In 1848, the failing health of both David Tappan Stoddard and Harriette Briggs Stoddard necessitated the leaving of Oroomiah. Harriette Briggs Stoddard became fatally ill with cholera in Trebizond (now Trabzon), Turkey, and was buried there. David Tappan Stoddard and his daughters returned to the United States, where David Tappan Stoddard was offered, but declined, the presidency of Mount Holyoke College in 1850. In 1851, he married Sophia Hazen, a teacher at the college and they and his daughter Harriet returned to Persia. Harriet and David Tappan Stoddard died there, in 1857. Sarah, having rejoined them in Persia in 1852, returned to the United States and attended Mount Holyoke and Vassar colleges before her death in 1873.

Further biographical information about Harriette Briggs Stoddard and David Tappan Stoddard is contained in the following two books: Harriette Briggs Stoddard by Mrs. J. D. Kingsbury (Boston: McIndoe Bros., 1886) and Memoir of Reverend David Tappan Stoddard, Missionary to the Nestorians by Joseph Parrish Thompson (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1858).

Caroline Atherton (Briggs) Mason (1823-1890) graduated from Bradford Academy in 1844. Her early poetry, much of it published under the name "Caro," appeared in such local newspapers as the Salem Register. Notable among them was "Do They Miss Me at Home?" (1844), later set to music and sung to Civil War audiences. Her first collection of poetry, Utterances, or Private Voices to the Public Heart, appeared in 1852. After the death of Calvin Briggs in the same year, the family moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where Caroline met Charles Mason, a lawyer. They were married in 1853 and one child, Atherton P. Mason, was born in 1856.

Throughout her life, Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason wrote short stories, essays, hymns, poetry and frequent letters to the local newspapers, often signing these only "C.A.M." She was a regular contributor to periodicals including the Mother's Assistant and Young Ladies Friend, and St. Nicholas as well as to newspapers such as the Anti-Slavery Standard, the Christian Register, the Christian Union and the Fitchburg Daily Sentinel. She and her husband supported both local and national suffrage activities and Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason published at least one piece in the Woman's Journal (in 1885). In 1859, the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society published anonymously her Rose Hamilton, or What it is to be a Christian. Letty's Pathway, or Following On was published serially by the Boston Recorder in 1866. Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason died in 1890. With the help of his daughter-in-law, Charles Mason assembled many of Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason's later poems, publishing them posthumously in 1891 as The Lost Ring.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Briggs Family Correspondence
  2. Series II. Harriette Briggs Stoddard and Stoddard Family Papers
  3. Series III. Caroline Atherton Briggs Mason and Mason Family Papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 58-27, 1625, 69-1, 69-15, 79-M184

The papers of the Briggs family were given to the Schlesinger Library in 1958 and 1969 by Alice Caroline Mason and in 1971 by Barbara Crocker (Mrs. Bigelow Crocker). The papers were processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-24669-76-987).


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-5, 19-37
  2. Box 2: Folders 38-52
  3. Box 3: Folders 53-70
  4. Box 4: Folders 6-18

Processing Information

Processed: August 1979

By Kathleen Marquis

Briggs family. Papers of the Briggs family, 1820-1915 (inclusive), 1838-1900 (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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