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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 359

Papers of Mary Paterson Van Norden, 1866-1973


Volumes of typed transcripts of letters of Mary Paterson Van Norden, wife of a physician and missionary in Iran for the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.


  • 1866-1973

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Paterson Van Norden 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.


.42 linear feet (1 file box)

The collection consists of four volumes and one folder. The first volume commemorates Mary Paterson Van Norden's seventieth birthday (1915). The remaining three volumes are typed transcripts of letters written by Van Norden from 1866 to 1873 to her mother, sister, and other relatives. They describe her travels, domestic events (including the deaths of her two sons), and life in Urmia. The folder includes notes by family members on people and places mentioned in Van Norden's letters.


Mary (Paterson) Van Norden was born in New York City on February 13, 1845, the second daughter of George Wilson and Mary Maitland Paterson. Following the death of George Wilson Paterson in 1851, Van Norden returned with her children to her native Scotland, after four years moving to Canada and finally to Brooklyn, New York, where Van Norden completed school at the age of fifteen.

In May 1866 Van Norden married Thomas Langdon Van Norden, a physician and missionary for the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. The couple immediately sailed for Persia, where they remained for the next seven years, residing for the most part in the city of Urmia, the present Rezaiyeh, in northwest Iran. Upon their return to the United States, they lived for a time in New Orleans before returning to Brooklyn, where the last three of their eight children were born. In 1883 Thomas Langdon Van Norden left for the Near East to continue his work. He died in 1895 without returning home. Mary Paterson Van Norden died on January 12, 1939, in Yonkers, New York.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 84-M119

The papers of Mary (Paterson) Van Norden were given to the Schlesinger Library in July 1984 by George Van Norden Morin, Mary Paterson Van Norden's grandson. The other three to six extant copies of these privately produced volumes remain, as far as is known, in family hands. The original letters have reportedly been destroyed.

Processing Information

Processed: July 1984

By: Anne Engelhart

Van Norden, Mary Paterson, 1845-1939. Papers of Mary Paterson Van Norden, 1866-1973: 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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