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COLLECTION Identifier: 88-M181--89-M125

Papers of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1843-1989


Correspondence, literary manuscripts, photographs, etc., of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet and journalist.


  • 1843-1989

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 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.


3 linear feet ((3 cartons) plus 3 folio folders, 1 oversize folder)

This collection consists of literary manuscripts and correspondence of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and correspondence and other papers of her husband, Robert Marius Wilcox. The collection is divided into the following four series:

Series I (#1-15). Personal and biographical, includes, photographs of Wilcox and Robert Marius Wilcox, their friends, actors and actresses, and their travels in Mexico, India, Jamaica, Europe and the United States. Also included are genealogical notes, financial accounts, and estate papers.

Series II (#16-54). Literary papers consists of manuscript and typescript copies of Wilcox's poems and plays; typescript and printed versions of articles; Wilcox's correspondence with publishers, and poems about Wilcox by others.

Series III (#55-95). Personal correspondence includes, courtship and other letters to and from her husband, 1882-1916, one spirit communication after his death, 1916, and other correspondence with family and friends. Robert Marius Wilcox was frequently away from home on business and Wilcox's letters to him describe her literary and social life in New York City and throw light on her literary career, reading, and other interests.

Series IV (#96-106). Papers of Robert Marius Wilcox includes, scattered family and business correspondence, and notes and drafts of his writings.


Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet and journalist, was born November 5, 1850, in Johnstown Center, Wisconsin, the daughter of Sarah Pratt Wheeler and Marcus Hartwell Wheeler. Her father taught violin, dancing, and deportment; her mother, an avid reader, encouraged Wilcox's interest in writing. By the age of fourteen, Wilcox regularly contributed poems to Waverly's Magazine and Leslie's Weekly.

She attended the University of Wisconsin for one year in 1867. Her first major publication was Maurine (1876), a sentimental verse narrative. She became notorious in 1883 when a Chicago publisher refused to publish her love poems. Poems of Passion, published later that year by another Chicago publisher, was a popular success.

On May 2, 1884, Wilcox married Robert Marius Wilcox, an executive of the International Silver Company. They settled first in Meriden, Connecticut, and later divided their time between New York City and Short Beach, Connecticut. Their only child died a few hours after birth in 1887. Robert Marius Wilcox died in 1916.

Wilcox wrote poems, plays (with collaborators), and newspaper articles. In 1901, Wilcox covered Queen Victoria's funeral for the New York Journal, and in 1902, Cosmopolitan hired her to write on women and women's suffrage. During World War I, she toured army camps in France to read her poems and lecture on sexual conduct. Her poems, while popular with the general public, were judged by critics to be facile and sentimental. However, her poetry appeared in magazines along with Edward Markham's and Rudyard Kipling's.

Wilcox and her husband became interested in spiritualism after the death of their son, and she was honorary president of the International New Thought Alliance. She claimed to communicate with the spirits of her husband and son after their deaths. In 1906, she organized a village improvement society, called White Wings, to beautify Short Beach, Conn. She was an enthusiastic hostess and made Short Beach a center of literary life. She died in 1919 of cancer.

For further biographical information see Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (1971), volume 3.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 88-M181, 89-M6, 89-M47, 89-M125

These papers of Ella Wheeler Wilcox were given to the Schlesinger Library by Frances L. Collins, Ella Wheeler Wilcox's second cousin, in November 1988 and January, March, and June 1989.


  1. Carton 1: Folders 10-31v
  2. Carton 2: Folders 32v-66
  3. Carton 3: Folders 67-106

Processing Information

Processed: May 1989

By: Lucy Thoma

Wilcox, Ella Wheeler, 1850-1919. Papers of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1843-1989: 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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