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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 651

Papers of Eloise Cummings Simpson, 1867-1993 (inclusive), 1940-1985 (bulk)


Journals, notes, writings, photographs, and charts of religious seeker, teacher, and writer Eloise Cummings Simpson.


  • 1867-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1985

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Eloise Cummings Simpson 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.


22.10 linear feet ((49 file boxes) plus 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize box, 9 photograph folders, 2 photograph albums)

These papers include journals, notes, writings, photographs, and charts of religious seeker, teacher, and writer Eloise Cummings Simpson. Many of the scope and content notes were taken from descriptions provided by the donor, who worked with and packed the collection. The collection was in relatively good order when received. The archivist created the file arrangement.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1867-1993 (scattered) (#1.1-2.7, PD.1), includes material from Simpson's mother's family; Cummings family correspondence; school transcripts; lesson plans for classes; financial statements and budgets; and transcribed observations and conversations between Simpson and Sarah Milius, used in Milius' master's thesis on Simpson. For additional class notes, see Series IV. Files are arranged in chronological order.

Series II, JOURNALS AND DIARIES, 1912, 1921-1990 (#2.8-20.3), includes Simpson's journals, which originally focused on traveling, marriage, giving birth, raising her child on her own, etc. They eventually became directed towards self and religion within her environment, research notes, reflections on books, ideas on running a school, etc.

Simpson also kept "Day Thoughts," which were notebooks with her more "technical" ideas. She had many theories about how the natural world corresponded to the inner spiritual world, and how people could and should seek to lead integrated lives. The journal dates become incorrect/inconsistent towards the 1980s when Simpson was elderly.

Beginning in the 1940s, Simpson kept a notebook beside her bed for her nighttime insights, which she wrote down and called "Night thoughts"; these included poems, notes, and essays. Subjects included life, nature and matter, meaning of substance of experience, dimension, space, consciousness, purpose of love, observances, etc. She often transcribed these journals and placed them in clip binders. This series includes both original handwritten notes and corresponding typewritten binders. Files are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. Original folder titles are in quotation marks.

Series III, WRITINGS, 1922-1993 (#20.4-42.3), includes chronological files organized by Simpson with edited drafts, manuscripts, handwritten notes, and articles. The themed binders originated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a number of people took an interest in Simpson's writing and volunteered to organize her many notes, ideas, and manuscripts. Excerpts were placed in binders by various themes. Original binder titles were maintained and arranged according to the original numbering system, followed by the unnumbered binders.

The processor arranged the working files in alphabetical order by original folder title. Based on Simpson's well-known themes (including her autobiography, center, communication, discovery, energy, growth, and knowledge), these titles were possibly chapters or entries for a book or other publication. Simpson's other writings include an essay based on her 1912 travels to England, and her master's thesis (1922) on women in England in the Middle Ages, but the majority are directed toward her spiritual life.

Simpson wrote and published the booklet entitled The Universe Within and proposed a book of the same title. She continued to write on this general theme for many years, with chapters including "the total situation," "predicament," "the question," and "inner activity." Folders include edited typescripts, outlines, handwritten notes, etc., all related to The Universe Within. Simpson's observations changed over time, and are reflected in the different versions and drafts of introductions and chapters. Original folder titles are in quotation marks.

Series IV, NOTES, ca.1920-1988 (#42.4-48.5), contains gardening and farming ideas; notes on books read and classes taken; and themed and unidentified notes. Many are not dated and original folder titles are in quotation marks. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, CORRESPONDENCE, 1897-1945, 1960-1985 (#48.6-49.5, PD.2), includes letters between Simpson and friends and family. Most notable are letters from friends and co-workers, written before and after she taught for a year at a women’s college in India. Files are arranged in chronological order. See also #1.2-1.4, and #1.10.

Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS, CHARTS, AND DRAWINGS, 1902-1992 (#49.6-49.11, PD.3-PD.11, F+D.1-F+D.2, 50OB.1-50OB.9), contains photographs, and charts and drawings by Simpson.

Subseries A, Photographs, 1902-1992 (#PD.3-PD.11), includes photographs of Eloise, her parents, son, ex-husband, Vassar College life, Stepping Stones, and Spring Farm School.

Subseries B, Charts and drawings, 1940-1980 (#49.6-49.11, F+D.1-F+D.2, 50OB.1-50OB.9) contains charts and drawings by Simpson on the universe and her sense of being within it; charts/lesson plans for teaching history and chemistry; and a mock-up of her book chapters of The Universe Within. In later years, Simpson created visual diagrams depicting the ways she believed humans learned and related to what she came to call "universal energy."

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 [*].


Eloise Cummings Simpson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 26, 1895, to Mary Eloise (Hood) and Robert Augustus Cummings Sr., an engineer. Simpson attended Vassar College (B.A., 1917), where she became involved with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an ecumenical Christian pacifist organization that stressed integration of the spiritual and social. She worked as the first Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) secretary at the University of Pittsburgh following her graduation. In 1920, Simpson moved to New York City, where she attended graduate school at Columbia University (M.A., 1922), and lived and worked at the Union Settlement. That same year, Simpson married William Gayley Simpson (1892-1991). The couple lived in various places, spending almost ten years with a group at Stepping Stones Farm in Long Valley, New Jersey, subsistence farming and weaving. During this time she gave birth to her only child, Tom (1929- ). In 1931, she received her certification from Teachers' College (Columbia). In 1935 Simpson founded Spring Farm School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, to provide a child-centered environment that nurtured the whole child. The school eventually closed in 1938, and through the 1940s she taught at schools in Maryland and Massachusetts. Simpson and her husband parted ways at some point and eventually divorced. William continued on his own path, becoming a pro-white racial activist and author. Simpson eventually settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1948. Simpson's love of teaching continued throughout her life, and in 1962 at the age of sixty-seven, she traveled to Lucknow, India, where she spent the year teaching young women at the Isabella Thoburn College. She returned to Cambridge, where she took in boarders, meditated, and wrote on the relationship between spiritual development and the laws of nature, until her death in 1993.


The collection is arranged in number series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1867-1993 (scattered) (#1.1-2.7, PD.1)
  2. Series II. Journals and diaries, 1912, 1921-1990 (#2.8-20.3)
  3. Series III. Writings, 1922-1993 (#20.4-42.3)
  4. Series IV. Notes, ca.1920-1988 (#42.4-48.5)
  5. Series V. Correspondence, 1897-1945, 1960-1985 (#48.6-49.5, PD.2)
  6. Series VI. Photographs, charts, and drawings, 1902-1992 (#49.6-49.11, PD.3-PD.11, F+D.1-F+D.2, 50OB.1-50OB.9)
  7. ___Subseries A. Photographs, 1902-1992 (#PD.3-PD.11)
  8. ___Subseries B. Charts and drawings, 1940-1980 (#49.6-49.11, F+D.1-F+D.2, 50OB.1-50OB.9)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2006-M126

The papers of Eloise Cummings Simpson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sarah Milius in July 2006.


The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. Eloise Cummings Simpson (1895-1993): A Spiritual Biography B.A. thesis (Harvard College) by Sarah Milius, December 1993
  2. Short Practical Instructions in the Use of the Biological-Dynamic Methods of Agriculture, by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer
  3. Ultimate Reality, by Reverend Lewis Hite

Processing Information

Processed: November 2010

By: Stacey Flatt

Simpson, Eloise Cummings, 1895-1993. Papers of Eloise Cummings Simpson, 1867-1993 (inclusive), 1940-1985 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1945.

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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