Papers of Mary Lee, 1834-1982 (inclusive), 1915-1949 (bulk)
- Majority of material found within 1915-1949
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Use
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
22.31 linear feet ((51 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 card file box) plus 1 folio folder, 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversized folder, 60 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder)
Series I, MARY LEE, 1892-1982 (#1.1m-39.16, 53CB, F+D.1-F+D.3), includes biographical items, school papers, financial material, correspondence, articles, book-related files ("It's a Great War!" and History of Chestnut Hill Chapel), and speeches/papers presented by Lee. The series is divided into eight subseries.
Subseries A, Biographical/personal, 1896-1982 (#1.1m-2.3, 53CB), includes a ribbon/pin from the Town of Andover's 250th anniversary (1896); a diary; an account of Hannah Cobb's wedding to William Appleton Lawrence; clippings; address books and contact cards; a sketchbook and address book from trip to Greece, Italy, France, and England; and certificates and membership cards for organizations. Folders are arranged chronologically.
Subseries B, Education, 1899-1947 (#2.4-4.2), includes progress reports, papers/essays from Chestnut Hill School and the Winsor School; an automobile repair class; and air raid warden classes during World War II. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Financial, 1911-1977 (#4.3-5.4), includes bills/receipts for Boston area businesses; automobile purchase and bills; income tax forms and related; income and expense statements from Lee's financial advisor, etc.
Subseries D, Correspondence, 1897-1982 (#5.5-25.2), includes letters from Mary Lee's grandfather, parents, siblings, individuals (arranged alphabetically), children, and other family and friends, each grouped chronologically. Also included are letters from Mary to family and friends. Family relationships are specified when known. Christmas cards, a Valentine card, and postcards of exceptional age and condition have been noted. Letters are arranged chronologically within each of these groupings.
Lee's alphabetical correspondence files on people, organizations, and topics include friend Maude Abbott, American Legion (membership scandal), birth control, Greek War Relief Association, New York Evening Post, New York Times, Westport (family vacation home), Widows' Society in Boston (founding member), etc. Files were kept in their original order, using original titles; most files contain correspondence. Some files were added to this group and noted by the processor.
The general correspondence includes vendors; Chestnut Hill house tenants; household issues; workers/caretakers of Westport, New York, home/farm; Putnam Camp (group-owned establishment) rentals and business issues, complaints to the town and state; letters to editor; etc. These files are arranged chronologically.
Search note: There is no correspondence index. However, the names of selected correspondents (those who appear in the Additional catalog entries) can be searched using the browser's search feature. Because the search feature is also the most efficient way to find the recurring names and issues throughout the collection, there are few specific cross-references provided in the finding aid.
Subseries E, Published/unpublished articles, 1919-1951 (#25.3-29.16), includes essays and articles written by Mary Lee. In 1925, Lee worked for the Atlantic Monthly Press, writing topical and biographical sketches/essays for a series of school readers. Essays are arranged in alphabetical order by essay title, topic, or person's name including
Adventures of the Coast Guard, Boy Scouts, explorers, Thomas Jefferson,
The Road Mender, and Socrates.
During the 1920s, Lee worked for the New York Evening Post, and freelanced for the New York Times and magazines, writing about celebrities arriving in the United States, mill workers, women's issues, skiing, dog sledding, New England, women's colleges, etc. The subseries is arranged in alphabetical order by publication and chronologically within.
Subseries F, "It's a Great War!" and related, ca.1926-1952 (#30.1-38.2, F+D.1-F+D.3), includes rejection letters and recommendations re: The Farce; contest information and correspondence with Houghton, Mifflin and Company; foreign publisher George Allen & Unwin Ltd correspondence; press releases and advertising; serial installments of book; reviews from the United States and foreign press; clippings on the American Legion ousting Lee from their membership; fan letters; typescript of original work, The Farce; Spanish and Dutch translations of book; and edited typescript of German translation and related correspondence.
Subseries G, History of Chestnut Hill Chapel and related, 1892, 1936-1975 (#38.3-39.9), contains material related to Lee's book, History of Chestnut Hill Chapel, including correspondence, research notes, typescript, book, advertising, and exhibition text. Lee was involved in church and local community events, including the church's annual Thanksgiving Food and Flower Sale, installation of ministers, United States Post Office anniversary celebration, and a school play based on her book.
Subseries H, Speeches/papers presented, ca.1919-1961 (#39.10-39.16), contains speeches and papers written and presented by Mary Lee, including re: her World War I experiences in France and Germany, being a journalist, "Indians" [Native Americans] in the Chestnut Hill area, John Brown, and Lee family history.
Series II, MARION (DOVE) LEE, FRANCIS WILSON LEE, AND CHILDREN, 1863-1949 (#40.1-49.12), includes biographical/personal material and correspondence related to Marion and Francis "Frank" Lee. The subseries also contains correspondence of Lee children: Alice, Guy, Isabella, Susan, and Guy's daughter Jeanne "Nanot." For letters written by Mary Lee to her siblings, sister-in-law, and niece, see Series I, Subseries D. The series is divided into two subseries.
Subseries A, Biographical/personal, ca.1865-1949 (#40.1-40.16), includes birth announcement, school papers, address books, bills/receipts, legal documents, testimonial, and funeral announcement.
Subseries B, Correspondence, 1863-1948 (#40.17-49.12), includes correspondence from Marion's parents (often Marion addressed as "Marnie"); Marion's sister Edith (often Marion addressed as "Dovelet" or "Marny"); Frank from sister Alice; between Frank and Marion; from children: Alice, Guy, Isabella, Mary, and Susan. The largest collection of letters in this subseries are from their children Guy and Mary.
The end of the subseries includes letters to Marion and/or Frank from other family and friends; from Marion to children; and correspondence to and from Alice, Guy, Isabella, Susan, and Guy's daughter Jeanne "Nanot."
Series III, OTHER FAMILY, 1834-1974 (#49.13-52.7), includes family genealogy, biographical/personal material, and correspondence for extended family members of both the Lee and Dove families. The series is divided into two subseries.
Subseries A, Dove Family, 1834-1974 (#49.13-50.5), includes notes and research on the Dove family, correspondence of Marion's mother Susan Cotter Dove, letters to Dove family members from Marion Dove Lee, and sister Edith "Nelly" McHenry correspondence.
Subseries B, Lee Family, 1836-1951 (#50.6-52.7), includes family history notes and tree; Elizabeth Brown Cutting scrapbook and correspondence; Francis L. and Sara Lee correspondence and material from the Varieties Theatre in Boston (run by Francis), including plays, stage prop knife, and programs; Henry Lee memorial booklet; Frances "Fanny" Rollins Morse correspondence and biographical material; Harriet (Lee) Morse correspondence; Mary Lee Ware correspondence, memorial program, and will; and other family correspondence.
Series IV. PHOTOGRAPHS AND OVERSIZED, ca.1853-1970 (#PD.1-PD.37, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1), includes photographs, posters, proofs, and sketches. The series is divided into two subseries.
Subseries A, Photographs, ca.1853-1962 (#PD.1-PD.37), contains photographs of Mary Lee (#PD.1-PD.11), her family, trips, unknown children, and images from her Chestnut Hill Chapel book. Filed with photographs unless otherwise noted
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].
Subseries B, Oversized, ca.1900-1970 (#FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1), includes pencil sketch, article proofs, and posters.
After the war, Lee returned to Radcliffe College, receiving her M.A. in government, history, and economics in 1920. She moved to New York City, working as a member of the city staff of the New York Evening Post for three years as the only woman among six reporters. With her knowledge of French and German, Lee was often sent to the harbor to meet boats, interviewing famous people including Arthur Balfour, Lord Beatty, Stanley Baldwin, Margot Asquith, Lady Astor, among others as they arrived onshore. While in New York, Lee lived in Greenwich House, a settlement house, doing social work in her evening hours and on weekends. In 1923 she traveled to Greece, Italy, France, and England, with her mother and one of her sisters, studying archaeology and acting as foreign correspondent for the New York Evening Post. She left the job after the 1923 collapse of the newspaper.
After living in New York City as a journalist for almost 5 years, Lee moved back to Chestnut Hill in 1925 to live with her mother. Lee wrote historical and biographical sketches for school readers published by the Atlantic Monthly Press and began writing a book based on her wartime experiences. She spent two years writing the book, working between the family home in Chestnut Hill and their summer estate in Westport, New York, where the Lee family had been vacationing for 90 years. The book was completed in 1927, initially titled, The Farce. It was rejected by numerous publishers, until she changed the name of the book to "It's a Great War!" and entered it into a best war novel competition, sponsored by the American Legion Monthly and Houghton, Mifflin and Company. She won half of the $25,000 prize (divided between her and a male author) and the novel was published the following year, selling over 30,000 copies in the United States and England. It was translated into Polish, Spanish, and Dutch. The book was also translated into German, but not published due to the rise of the Hitler regime. Lee received hundreds of fan letters from veterans, civilians, and even prisoners, congratulating her on having written the truth about the war. She claimed the book was not a diary (diaries were forbidden while serving overseas), but that everything in it was true, except that some events happened to her and others to people she knew during the war. The book was also mentioned as a potential for the Pulitzer Prize in the spring of 1930. She did not receive the award, but it was rumored that year's announcement was late because of the committee arguing over her book.
Lee continued to freelance between 1927 and 1940, contributing to the New York Times' special features section and Sunday Magazine and other publications, writing articles on dog sledding, skiing, horseback riding, and a series on women's colleges. During 1936 and 1937, Lee wrote The History of Chestnut Hill Chapel, published in 1937 by the History Committee of the First Church in Chestnut Hill. A history of the church, the book was also an early history of the Chestnut Hill district of Newton, Massachusetts. It provided opportunities for Lee to present papers and deliver speeches to groups interested in local history. During World War II, Lee worked with the Greek War Relief Association, serving as executive secretary for two years, and received the Royal Hellenic Order of the Phoenix medal from King Paul of Greece for her work. She also supported the war effort by working as a day laborer at Hood Rubber Company in Watertown, Massachusetts, making de-icers for D-46 planes and with the Red Cross in Westport, New York. Throughout her life, Lee was involved in community causes, serving as the first director of the Widows' Society in Boston, member of the Radcliffe College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, National Birth Control League of Massachusetts, and other organizations. She was also physically active, skiing, hiking, and horseback riding until late in her life, before passing away in 1982.
- Series I. Mary Lee, 1892-1982 (#1.1m-39.16, 53CB, F+D.1-F+D.3)
- ___Subseries A. Biographical/personal, 1896-1982 (#1.1m-2.3, 53CB)
- ___Subseries B. Education, 1899-1947 (#2.4-4.2)
- ___Subseries C. Financial, 1911-1977 (#4.3-5.4)
- ___Subseries D. Correspondence, 1897-1982 (#5.5-25.2)
- ___Subseries E. Published/unpublished articles, 1919-1951 (#25.3-29.16)
- ___Subseries F. "It's a Great War!" and related, ca.1926-1952 (#30.1-38.2, F+D.1-F+D.3)
- ___Subseries G. History of Chestnut Hill Chapel and related, 1892, 1936-1975 (#38.3-39.9)
- ___Subseries H. Speeches/papers presented, ca.1919-1961 (#39.10-39.16)
- Series II. Marion (Dove) Lee, Francis Wilson Lee, and children, 1863-1949 (#40.1-49.12)
- ___Subseries A. Biographical/personal, ca.1865-1949 (#40.1-40.16)
- ___Subseries B. Correspondence, 1863-1948 (#40.17-49.12)
- Series III. Other family, 1834-1974 (#49.13-52.7)
- ___Subseries A. Dove family, 1834-1974 (#49.13-50.5)
- ___Subseries B. Lee family, 1836-1951 (#50.6-52.7)
- Series IV. Photographs and oversized, ca.1853-1970 (#PD.1-PD.37, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1)
- ___Subseries A. Photographs, ca.1853-1962 (#PD.1-PD.37)
- ___Subseries B. Oversized, ca.1900-1970 (#FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Mary Lee were placed on deposit in the Schlesinger Library in 1951 by Mary Lee; she donated them to the library in June 1960. Additional papers were given to the library by her estate in 1982 and 1983.
Accession number: MC 587
Processed by: Stacey Flatt
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Material Division:
- Wat Een Oorlog, by Mary Lee [translation of "It's a Great War!", N.V. Johan Mulder's Uitg. MY, Gouda, 1931
- ¡Vaya una guerra!, by Mary Lee [translation of "It's a Great War!", Editorial Juventud S. A., Barcelona, 1931
By: Stacey Flatt
- American literature--20th century
- Authors and publishers
- Authors, American
- Autobiographical fiction
- Birth control--Massachusetts
- Chestnut Hill (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Christmas cards
- Drafts (documents)
- Family records
- Fan mail
- Financial records
- Japan--Social life and customs
- Journalists--United States
- Letters to the editor
- Manuscripts for publication
- Mothers and daughters
- New York (N.Y.)--Newspapers
- Newton (Mass.)--Church history
- Parent and child--United States
- Sisters--United States
- Tax records
- Unitarian churches--Massachusetts--Newton--History
- Voyages and travels
- War stories
- Westport (N.Y.)--Social life and customs
- Women authors, American
- Women journalists--United States
- Women travelers
- Women--United States--Social conditions
- World War, 1914-1918--Fiction
- World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American
- World War, 1914-1918--Photography
- World War, 1914-1918--War work--France
- World War, 1914-1918--War work--Young Men's Christian Associations
- World War, 1914-1918--Women
- World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief--Greece
- Lee, Mary, 1891-1982. Papers of Mary Lee, 1834-1982 (inclusive), 1915-1949 (bulk): A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- EAD ID
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