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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 835

Papers of Jeanne Schinto, 1913-2016


Diaries and correspondence of writer Jeanne Schinto.


  • 1913-2016

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Written permission of Jeanne Schinto is required to use these papers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Jeanne Schinto is held by Jeanne Schinto until her death. Upon Schinto's death, copyright will transfer to her husband, Robert J. Frishman. Upon his death, copyright will transfer to 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.


8.34 linear feet ((20 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder, 14 photograph folders, electronic records)
The papers of writer Jeanne Schinto contain personal diaries and writing journals spanning fifty years; several datebooks and a few personal documents; correspondence with publishers, other writers, students, and friends; and photographs of Schinto and her family and friends. These papers document Schinto's relationship with other writers, her varied successes with writing fiction and nonfiction, and her struggles with body image. The collection also includes photographs and documents from the years Schinto's mother, Josephine Biase Schinto, served with the Navy WAVES during World War II.

Schinto's childhood and teenage diaries (#1.11v-4.3v) were previously listed in a container list with the accession number 91-M206. Schinto deposited these diaries at the Schlesinger Library in 1983 after responding to a call for such material by historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg in the New York Times Book Review. Schinto formally donated these diaries to the Library in 1991 and has sent periodic shipments of material since that time.

This collection was processed in October 2015. Material from accession 2016-M105 was added in June 2016 and comprises #18.14-20.8; it is listed in intellectual, not numerical, order in the inventory.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1940-2014 (#1.1-1.10, 18.14-19.9, F+D.1, E.1), contains Schinto's childhood medical records, her datebooks from the 2000s, and documents related to her mother Josephine Biase Schinto's enlistment with the WAVES during World War II. Photographs of Josephine Biase Schinto in WAVE uniform are in Series IV. Jeanne Schinto's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX). This series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series II, DIARIES, 1963-2011 (#1.11v-15.1, 20.1-20.2, OD.1), contains personal diaries kept by Schinto since the age of twelve. Some journals have indices made by Schinto (index cards with subjects keyed to page numbers.) Later journals (after 1990) may have indices included at the end of each volume. Topics discussed in the diaries shift as Schinto ages, but a concern with her weight and diet appear throughout. She often notes her weight at the top of each entry. She often also remarks on music listened to and concerts seen, books she is reading or wants to read, and movies she sees. Diaries from the mid-1970s onward discuss in great detail Schinto's feelings about her chosen vocation of creative writing. She also frequently comments on her menstruation cycle and how it affects her moods and general physical health.

When she began keeping a diary at the age of twelve, Schinto was attending St. Mary's School, a Catholic elementary school in Greenwich, Connecticut. She listed courses, taped in grade reports, and mentioned making the honor roll, but did not discuss school work extensively. Religion plays a more significant role: at the outset she hopes fervently to become a nun; this desire fades, but she often reports attendance at masses and confession, and records religious thoughts. Popular music plays an even larger role, however, with references to "Beatlemania" in the first three volumes, and excerpts or complete lyrics of popular songs throughout. While friendships with girls are mentioned frequently, the focus of many entries is Schinto's relationships with boys. During the last year of high school and in the first years of college, her personal appearance becomes paramount. She is very much concerned with clothing and with losing weight. Dieting is the chief health concern reported in the diaries; Schinto recorded little of her reactions to the onset of puberty, and did not discuss the physical aspects of sexuality, except for the pregnancy of a friend reported in the twelfth volume (#4.3v). For the most part these teenage diaries do not concern themselves with political issues or events. They deal primarily with the changing relationships of a girl with her peers, with current popular culture, and with her self-image. These teenage diaries end in 1971, while Schinto is studying at George Washington University.

Diaries resume in 1976, when Schinto is married to Bob Frishman and living in Washington, DC. She is working as an editorial assistant, newsletter editor, and a freelance journalist while she begins to write fiction, primarily short stories. In the volumes from 1976 to 1999, Schinto often mixes her personal commentary and musings with detailed notes and ideas for her stories; a few include much longer sections from fictional work in progress. Many volumes include "free writes," a creative exercise to overcome writer's block or stagnation - sometimes these are explorations of her fictional characters, sometimes descriptions of her personal life. Schinto discusses the marriages and lives of her friends, but rarely discusses her own marriage, other than to say it is "good." These diaries deal extensively with her difficulty finding a writing schedule and regimen she can stick to, her worries about producing fiction, self-esteem, and her moods and menstruation patterns. Schinto records her dreams, daily interactions, and often record the books she is reading and the movies and plays she sees. Most diaries include quotes Schinto copies from whatever she is reading. There is little discussion of political events; notable entries are described in the inventory below. After Schinto and Frishman move to Lawrence in 1984 there are more references to Schinto's interactions with the people (sometimes children) in her neighborhood. Schinto also accompanies Frishman on many trips to buy and sell clocks, and often describes these in detail. Schinto's relationship with her dogs, and her tennis playing, are other constant topics. In the 1990s, as Schinto's parents age, she discusses their health and her relationship with them in more detail in many volumes.

In the several volumes written after 1999, Schinto begins to describe cultural events in much more detail - lectures, art exhibits, movies, plays, concerts, etc., as a way to hone her description and memory. She describes watching popular television shows "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under." Most diaries are contained within bound notebooks; Schinto also sometimes used three-ring binders to hold journal entries she typed on a typewriter or computer. Most include material taped, stapled, or pasted into the pages: clippings, New Yorker cartoons, photographs, tickets, brochures; etc. Clippings are often obituaries of or stories about other writers. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1974-2016 (#15.2-18.13, 20.3-20.8), includes Schinto's outgoing and incoming correspondence with family members, personal friends, and other writers. Schinto kept copies of her outgoing correspondence from the 1980s and into the early 1990s in binders. This outgoing correspondence is filed in chronological order, and is often on re-used scrap paper, so the verso may have unrelated writing or typing on it. It includes both personal letters as well as business letters to journals, publications, editors, etc. Schinto enjoyed a long friendship with writer and critic Wayne Koestenbaum, her numerous letters to him are throughout the outgoing correspondence. One letter from Koestenbaum to Schinto is in #15.2; she sent most of his other letters back to him. Much of the incoming correspondence from other writers details their frequent moves due to few job opportunities, publishing updates and quandaries, and comments on each other's and other writers' work. There are a number of well-known literary figures, but most are represented by only one or two letters. A sizable number of letters from Joyce Carol Oates (#18.1) are mainly related to pre-publication story revisions and feedback on Schinto's writing. After 1998, Schinto began using email for her correspondence; there are only a few letters with later dates. Folder titles are Schinto's, additional information in brackets has been added by the archivist. Correspondence is arranged with outgoing correspondence first, followed by an alphabetical run of named correspondents. Several folders of Schinto's correspondence with editors and publishers about specific book projects are filed last.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1913-2002 (PD.1-PD.14), contains snapshots and formal photographs of Jeanne Schinto, her family, and friends. Of note are photographs of Schinto's paternal grandfather, Saverio "Sam" Schinto, and the Schinto family grocery store in Greenwich, Connecticut. Photographs of Josephine Biase Schinto while serving in the WAVES include a photograph of her playing baseball with other women. The series is arranged with photographs of Jeanne Schinto followed by photographs of her parents.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Jeanne Schinto was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1951, to Josephine Biase and Henry Schinto. She attended Catholic schools — St. Mary's School and St. Mary's Girls' High School — then the public Greenwich High School. She had an older sister, Janet (born 1949). Schinto attended George Washington University (BA, 1973) and married Robert Frishman after graduating. She attended Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars program (MA, 1981). Schinto and Frishman lived in Washington, DC, until October 1984, when they moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts. They have lived in Andover, Massachusetts, since 1994. Frishman is an horologist. Since 1992, he has had his own business, Bell-Time Clocks, selling, repairing, and restoring antique clocks.

Schinto double-majored in journalism and American Studies at George Washington University. She held a number of editorial jobs in the 1970s, while also pursuing freelance writing for Washington, DC-area publications. In 1975, she wrote a book for young-adult 'reluctant readers,' Phantom Cycle. Schinto began publishing short stories in 1979. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Schinto's nonfiction is often focused on the topics of art, history, and material culture. Schinto was a regular contributor to the San Diego Reader from 1998 to 2004. Since 2003 has written regularly for Maine Antique Digest. She taught writing at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, from 1992 to 1998.

She is the author of several books: Shadow Bands (1988), a collection of short stories; Children of Men (1991), a novel; and Huddle Fever: Living in the Immigrant City (1995), a non-fiction account of her ten years living in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Schinto is also the editor of The Literary Dog: Great Contemporary Dog Stories (1990), Show Me a Hero: Great Contemporary Stories about Sports (1995), and Virtually Now: Stories of Science, Technology, and the Future (1996).

Schinto has won a number of literary awards for her writing, and has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Radcliffe Institute, and the American Antiquarian Society.

Jeanne Schinto's mother, Josephine Biase (1922-1996), was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, to immigrant Italian parents. One of seven children, she graduated from high school in 1940 and joined the WAVES in 1943. Following her service, she attended the Barbizon modeling school on the GI Bill. Biase was an active sportswoman, and played tennis, and golf throughout her life. She married Henry Schinto (1919-2012) in 1948. Henry Schinto, also from a family of Italian immigrants, worked as a carpenter, and later became the town building inspector. Josephine Biase Schinto worked as a secretary until her retirement in the 1980s.


The collection is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1940-2014 (#1.1-1.10, 18.14-19.9, F+D.1, E.1)
  2. Series II. Diaries, 1963-2011 (#1.11v-15.1, 20.1-20.2, OD.1)
  3. Series III. Correspondence, 1974-2016 (#15.2-18.13, 20.3-20.8)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1913-2002 (PD.1-PD.14)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 91-M206, 94-M68, 2000-M44, 2002-M87, 2003-M101, 2010-M2, 2012-M27, 2016-M105

The papers of Jeanne Schinto were given to the Schlesinger Library by Jeanne Schinto between 1991 and May 2016.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2015

By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance from Dan Bullman.

Updated and additional material added: June 2016.
Link to catalog
Schinto, Jeanne, 1951- . Papers of Jeanne Schinto, 1913-2016: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Alice Jeannette Ward Fund and the Class of 1968 Archival Processing Fund.

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.

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