Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 202: M-148

Papers of Anna Boynton Thompson, 1842-1960 (inclusive), 1862-1935 (bulk)


Correspondence, diaries, etc., of Anna Boynton Thompson, history teacher at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass., and her mother Harriot Boynton (Sawyer).


  • 1842-1960
  • Majority of material found within 1862-1935


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-148.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Anna Boynton Thompson 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.


.42 linear feet ((1 file box) plus 1 photograph folder)

Except for one folder of papers by or about Harriot Boynton Thompson (#1), this collection consists of papers by or about Anna Boynton Thompson. They are arranged in the following order:

Personal (#2-6) consists of some miscellaneous papers about Anna Boynton Thompson, including a photograph and clippings, and notes, outlines and journals kept by her. In the journals Anna Boynton Thompson recorded her daily activities and observations, both abroad and at home; they also contain language study and lecture and reading notes.

There is correspondence (#7-20) from, to, and about Anna Boynton Thompson. These letters provide information about Anna Boynton Thompson's students and teaching methods (#17); Thayer Academy; Radcliffe College; her study of the philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (#9, 13-14, 17); Harvard professors George Santayana, Josiah Royce, and Albert Bushnell Hart; Anna Boynton Thompson's friendship with Alice Mary Longfellow; her social life, and her sister, Mary Francis Thompson.

Of particular interest are Albert Bushnell Hart's letters to Blanche Hazard Spraque (#18) about Anna Boynton Thompson's life and her philosophical studies, and three 1922 letters from Eleanor Wembridge to Anna Boynton Thompson (#17) about psychology.

A final folder contains photocopies of letters to Anna Boynton Thompson. She used the backs for notes on Fichte; the originals were found in, and remain with, volume 2 of Fichte's Nachgelassene Werke, which was transferred, with volume 3, to the Radcliffe College Archives, where they are shelved as RA.A/T468. Thompson's letters to former student Lawrence J. Hawes are available on microfilm (M-17) at the Schlesinger Library. The originals of these letters are at Thayer Academy.


Anna Boynton Thompson, teacher and student of philosophy, was born on September 10, 1848, in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Harriot Boynton (Sawyer) and William A. Thompson. Harriot Boynton Thompson and William A. Thompson had met in Monson, Mass., his home town, where Harriot Boynton Thompson was attending Monson Academy while William A. Thompson was studying for the ministry. They were married in October 1843 and left shortly thereafter for the West under the auspices of the American Home Missionary Society. William A. Thompson was ordained in Denmark in the Iowa Territory and they settled into a one-room cabin in Troy, southwest of the Des Moines River.

In 1848 Harriot Boynton Thompson returned to Portland for the birth of Anna Boynton Thompson. On her return to Iowa, they moved first to Fairfield and in 1851 to Port Byron, Illinois. There William A. Thompson built a proper house on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Coming back from a circuit preaching tour in May 1852, William A. Thompson drowned in the river. Harriot Boynton Thompson sold their land but kept the house as rental property and returned to her husband's family in Monson. After working as matron at Wheaton Seminary (Norton, Massachusetts) and at the Boston Children's Friend Society, Harriot Boynton Thompson opened a boarding house for schoolteachers in Boston, where Anna Boynton Thompson and her younger sister, Mary Francis, attended school.

Rental money from the Illinois house and her Boston boarders enabled Harriot Boynton Thompson to send her daughters to study in Europe for two years, 1871-1873. After their return home, both began their long teaching careers. Mary Francis Thompson taught science in Boston and Anna Boynton Thompson history. In 1878 Anna Boynton Thompson joined the faculty of Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass. She remained there as head of the history department for over forty years. During this time she also attended Radcliffe College, studying with professors Josiah Royce, Albert Bushnell Hart, and George Santayana, and earning her AB (1898) and AM (1899) degrees; received an honorary D. Lit. from Tufts University in 1900; traveled and studied abroad; learned Greek; was an active member of the New England History Association; and in 1895 published The Unity of Fichte's Doctrine of Knowledge, Radcliffe College Monograph Series, number 7. At Thayer she started an elementary school (Thayerlands); urged the school to buy adjoining property, contributing a year's salary to help pay for it; and donated money for several scholarships.

Harriot Boynton Thompson wrote her will in 1897. She left her estate "in trust" to her daughters but made them promise to use the principal and interest only if it was necessary for their well-being. They in turn were to leave everything to Radcliffe College, to be used to "erect a building ... for the use of the women students ... the building to be called Boynton Thompson Hall." Harriot Boynton Thompson died in 1900. The sisters honored their mother's wishes and were both benefactors of the college; a wing of Cronkhite Graduate Center was named Harriot Boynton Thompson Hall.

Anna Boynton Thompson died in 1923, Mary Francis Thompson in 1933.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 1180

These papers were originally deposited at Radcliffe College by Blanche Hazard Sprague, a student of Anna Boynton Thompson at Thayer Academy. They were transferred to the Schlesinger Library in 1967 and microfilmed in 1998.


This collection presented a challenge to the microfilmer. Many pages, particularly in the journals, are difficult to read in the original due to faded and smudged pencil, tiny writing, smudged manuscript carbons, or see through writing. Tight gutters in the journals were also a problem.

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

Unnumbered journal pages with text were numbered by the processor to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers.

Loose items found between journal pages were filmed where found.

Some multipaged letters conclude at the top and/or sides of page one. The signature page was not refilmed, researchers must return to the pertinent page.

Copies of this microfilm (M-148) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Anna Boynton Thompson, 1890-1893 (RA.A/T468).

Processing Information

Reprocessed: December 1997

By: Bert Hartry

Thompson, Anna Boynton, 1848-1923. Papers of Anna Boynton Thompson, 1842-1960 (inclusive), 1862-1935 (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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA