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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 674: MP-64: T-389

Papers of the Marshall-Spiess family, ca.1861,1893-2009 (inclusive), 1917-1991 (bulk)


Wartime correspondence, biographical material, work-related files, photographs, and motion pictures on three generations of the Marshall and Spiess families, including Elva Monck Spiess, Elva Jean Spiess Marshall, and Megan Marshall.


  • Creation: 1861,
  • Creation: 1893-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-1991

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, some portions are closed as noted. Researchers must contact Research Services for access to audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Megan Marshall are held by Megan Marshall during her lifetime. Upon her death, all rights transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. All open material may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

The donor's written permission is required for all electronic reproduction for use on the internet.


10.51 linear feet ((22 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 3 folio folders, 4 folio+ folders, 28 photograph folders, 26 audiotapes, 12 motion pictures, and electronic records)
.224 Megabytes

The papers of the Marshall family span three generations of women and their families, containing wartime correspondence (World War I and II); biographical material; work-related files (Elva Jean Spiess Marshall was editor and book designer for a publishing company and Megan Marshall is a writer and professor); photographs; and home motion pictures. The papers have been arranged into four series, but there is frequently an overlap of information among series. Original folder titles are in quotation marks.

Series I, ELVA AND FREDERICK SPIESS, 1910-1991, 2009 (#1.1-6.7, PD.1-PD.2), includes Elva's high school yearbooks, wartime wedding invitation, travel diaries, and Fred's self-published memoir written during World War I. The correspondence is arranged by recipient, and includes letters to Elva from Fred while he was away during World War I and later on business, and holiday cards and notes from her children as they grew up. Fred's correspondence includes letters received from Elva, and with his church group, the "Yoke Fellows," while serving in World War I. Letters addressed to Elva and Fred together from their daughter Elva Jean, grandchildren, and friends are also in this series. Correspondence often includes postcards, clippings, poems, church programs, and photographs. All material is related to Elva, unless otherwise noted. Files are arranged in alphabetical order by topic and chronologically within.

Series II, ELVA JEAN SPIESS MARSHALL, 1893, 1909-2001 (#6.8-19.3, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1 - F+D.4, PD.3-PD.5, 23F+B.1v), includes biographical material, correspondence, and work-related material. Unless otherwise noted, all files are related to Elva Jean. This series is arranged in three subseries.

Subseries A, Biographical and personal, 1893, 1909-2001 (#6.8-13.13, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1 - F+D.4, PD.3-PD.4, 23F+B.1v), includes address and appointment books; art and art exhibit-related material; school files; family histories including the diary of Elva Jean's mother-in-law, Elizabeth Metcalf Marshall, kept while living in Paris with her husband who served as an officer in the Army Press Corps during World War I; paper dolls (either handmade by Elva Jean's Aunt Fame, purchased, or cut out of magazines); and a scrapbook documenting Elva Jean's life. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by general topic and chronologically within.

Subseries B, Correspondence, 1931-1991 (#14.1-16.2, PD.5), contains correspondence arranged by family member and chronologically within, followed by friends. Letters are addressed to either Elva Jean or Elva Jean and Woody. This subseries includes wartime letters from brother Noel working on a submarine; parents traveling; Woody during their courtship/marriage; news from her children, etc.

Subseries C, Work-related, 1947-1992 (#16.3-19.3), contains material related to Elva Jean's employment as a city planner and book designer/editor. Booklets, reports, and correspondence document Elva Jean's work for the City of Cambridge Planning Board. The Castle Press files include alphabetically arranged client files with sketches/drafts, brochures, smaller-sized books, invitations, announcements, newsletters, and letterhead. This subseries is arranged in chronological order by job.

Series III, MEGAN MARSHALL, 1954-1993, 2008 (#19.4-22.20, T-389.1 - T-389.26), contains biographical material as well as research files and interviews used in her book The Cost of Loving. The series is arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, Biographical and personal, 1954-2008 (#19.4-20.9), contains early childhood stories and drawings; booklet/class project on plants; files related to the death of her mother Elva Jean, which includes the memorial service, estate, and wrongful death lawsuit; and a small amount of correspondence. Folders are arranged in chronological order.

Subseries B, Writings and work-related, 1982-1985 (#20.10-22.20, T-389.1 - T-389.26), includes transcripts, questionnaires, audiotape interviews, and notes on the women used as subjects for Marshall's book, The Cost of Loving. The identities of those interviewed were kept anonymous for the book. The files are arranged by the number Marshall assigned to each interviewee, followed by the audiotapes.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS AND MOTION PICTURES, ca.1861, 1897-1991 (#PD.6-PD.28, E.1-E.4, MP-64.1 - MP-64.12), includes photographs of both the Marshall and Spiess families; two albums made by Fred Spiess (for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco in 1915, and his experiences at Naval training camp during World War I in San Pedro, California); a Spiess family album with portraits of Elva Jean and Noel through the years; and 16 mm motion pictures taken at the family vacation home on Echo Lake in California, holidays, and birthdays. Files are arranged by format and then chronological order within. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Elva Josephine Monck Spiess (1897-1983) was born in Oakland, California. She married Frederick Henry Spiess (1894-1991) in 1918; and they had two children, Frederick Noel, called "Noel" or "Fred Noel" (1919-2006) and Elva Jean (Marshall) (1922-1991). Elva received an associate degree from Oakland Junior College in 1958.

Elva Jean Spiess Marshall (known as "Elva Jean" to her parents) was born in 1922 in Oakland, California. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. 1944) and went on to earn a certificate in city planning from the same university in 1945. Elva Jean married Woodbridge "Woody" Marshall in 1946. Woody (Harvard College class of 1942) was the son of Elizabeth Metcalf Marshall and Joseph Truesdell Marshall (Harvard College class of 1913). Elva Jean and Woody had three children: Woodbridge "Woody Jr." (born 1952), Megan (born 1954), and Amy (born 1955). During the 1940s and early 1960s, Elva Jean worked as a planning draftsman, preparing maps, charts, and illustrations for reports, and eventually became a city planner in both Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Pasadena, California. She began working for The Castle Press in 1966 as a proofreader and copy editor in addition to doing design and layout work. Elva Jean eventually became editor for The Castle Press and the company's sole book designer in 1980, designing more than 50 fine press books, many of which won design awards. She was an accomplished artist in watercolor and printmaking her entire life; her art appeared in group shows in California as well as a one-woman show in 1951 at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Megan Marshall was born in Oakland, California, in 1954 to Elva Jean (Spiess) and Woodbridge Marshall. Marshall attended Bennington College as a literature and music major, but left and later enrolled at Harvard College, where she earned her BA (1977). She married John Sedgwick in 1980, and they had two children Sara (born 1984) (Harvard College class of 2006) and Josephine (born 1990); the marriage ended in 2006. Marshall's first book, The Cost of Loving: Women and the New Fear of Intimacy, which examined the impact of the feminist movement on its followers, with particular attention to unmarried women, was published in 1984. Supported by grants and teaching, Marshall worked on her next book, The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (2005), for nearly twenty years. It was awarded the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 2006. She was also a 2006-2007 fellow of Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Marshall writes occasionally for The New York Times Book Review, Slate, The London Review of Books, and other publications. Since 2007, she has been Assistant Professor in Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emerson College.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Elva and Frederick Spiess, 1910-1991, 2009 (#1.1-6.7, PD.1-PD.2)
  2. Series II. Elva Jean Spiess Marshall, 1893, 1909-2001 (#6.8-19.3, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1 - F+D.4, PD.3-PD.5, 23F+B.1v)
  3. Series III. Megan Marshall, 1954-1993, 2008 (#19.4-22.20, T-389.1 - T-389.26)
  4. Series IV. Photographs and motion pictures, ca.1861, 1897-1991 (#PD.6-PD.28, E.1-E.4, MP-64.1 - MP-64.12)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2008-M132, 2008-M152, 2009-M127, 2009-M149, 2010-M172

The papers of the Marshall-Spiess family were given to the Schlesinger Library by Megan Marshall between 2008 and 2010.

Related Materials

See also Elva Marshall letters, 1970 (A/M3674) located in the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Papers of Joseph T. Marshall located in the Harvard University Archives.

Addenda Note:

There is additional Marshall-Spiess family material at the Schlesinger Library. It is currently unprocessed and unavailable for research. Most of the material is closed until the death of Megan Marshall.


Donor: Megan Marshall

Accession number: 2009-M127

Processed by: Stacey Flatt

The following items have been transferred to the Books Division of the Schlesinger Library:

  1. A Taste of Humboldt: An Historical and Ethnic Cookbook of Humboldt County, California, written and compiled by the Cookbook Committee of Youth Educational Services Humboldt State University, Arcata, California: YES Humboldt State University, ca.1987
  2. Book Cooks, compiled by the Staff Association, Kern County Free Library; illustrations, Dena Smith, Bakersfield, California: [Staff Association, Kern County Free Library], 1955
  3. Recipes and Appointments of Luncheons Served in the Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, California. Collected and compiled by the Gamble House Docent Council; illustrations by Gretchen Bernhard, [Pasadena, California]: The Docent Council of the Gamble House, [197-?]
  4. The Congregational Church of La Jolla Centennial Cookbook/[The Congregational Church of La Jolla Women's Association], Olathe, Kansas: Cookbook Publishers, ca.1989

Processing Information

Processed: April 2011

By: Stacey Flatt, with assistance from Su Ciampa

Marshall family. Papers of the Marshall-Spiess family, ca.1861, 1893-2009 (inclusive), 1917-1991 (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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