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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 682: T-391

Papers of Marjory Collins, 1904-1985


Papers of photographer, writer, and political activist Marjory Collins, including biographical information, correspondence, personal and professional essays, photographs, and audiovisual material.


  • 1904-1985

Language of Materials

Materials in English. Some material in Italian.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Marjory Collins 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.


5.21 linear feet ((13 file boxes) plus 5 folio folders, 416 photograph folders, 8 folio photograph folders, 53 slides, and 3 audiotapes.)

This collection contains the papers and photographs of Marjory Collins, including biographical information, writings on various topics, and audiovisual material. Although the processor created the arrangement, where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; the remaining folder titles were created by the processor. The papers are arranged in three series.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL,1904-1985 (#1.1-5.26), includes a partially completed autobiography; a biographical sketch; correspondence; educational material; clippings regarding Collins' family and relatives; financial information; passports; and résumés. The autobiographical material includes handwritten and typed drafts, essays, notes, and revisions arranged alphabetically by proposed chapter title, which Collins may have hoped to publish as a complete autobiography. For each chapter, items include diary-like entries or essays documenting Collin's personal life, work, and observations from her extensive travels throughout the United States and abroad. The material dates from approximately the 1940s through the 1960s as well as later reflections on those earlier periods, which date to the 1980s. Some chapters also include segments found in other chapters, which may be evidence of Collins' editing process. A few chapters include numbers in parentheses, which may indicate Collin's desired chapter arrangement.

Series II, WRITINGS AND RELATED, 1944-1983 (#5.27-13.5; T-391.1 - T-391.3), includes published articles, captions, commentaries, essays, notes, published photograph stories, reports, and support material such as clippings, flyers, and printed material arranged by topic. Of particular interest are Collins' writings on women and aging (#5.36-6.20) and her travels throughout Africa (#5.29-5.35), Europe (#9.1, 9.9-9.10, 9.19-9.29), Alaska (#6.20-6.21), and the American South (#6.23-8.4). In 1963, Collins photographed and wrote about the civil rights struggle and racism in Danville, Virginia; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana, among other Southern cities and towns. There are also photographs of her experience in the South that are located in the photographs series, including a small image that appears to be Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at a civil rights event in Danville, Virginia (#PD.133-PD.134). Collins also appears to have used portions of these writings in her draft autobiography. Many original folder titles appearing in quotation marks may have been used by Collins for article or photograph essay submissions.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS AND RELATED, 1940-1978 (#PD.1-PD.416), contains photographs, negatives, slides, and transparencies arranged alphabetically by topic and then by format. Many of the subjects reflect topics about which she wrote professionally and in her autobiographical writings. There is a substantial number of photographs from Collins' time spent in Alaska in 1944 (#PD.76-PD.132). This set of images evidences the intricate cataloging system that Collins used to organize some of her photographs. There are also extensive photographs of Collins' travels through Africa and Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, which document everyday life, traditional ceremonies, customs, and political events.

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 [*].


The daughter of Elizabeth Everts Paine and Frederick Lewis Collins, Marjory Collins was born on March 15, 1912. She spent her childhood in Scarsdale, New York, and in Europe. She attended Brearley School, Sweet Briar College, the University of Munich, and Antioch College West. Shortly after starting at Sweet Briar College, Collins married Yale student John "Jack" I. H. Baur (1909-1987) in 1931. The couple continued their education at the University of Munich during a year in Europe, before divorcing in 1935.

In 1935, Collins moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and studied photography with Ralph Steiner until 1940. During World War II, she worked for the Office of War Information as part of Roy Stryker's documentary photography team. When the job ended in 1944, she moved to Alaska for a year, where she worked for a construction company and as a freelance photojournalist. She also married and divorced again. In 1945, she began traveling extensively, working on photographic assignments for United States government agencies and for commercial photo presses such as Black Star, the Associated Press, and Time, Inc., in Egypt, Ethiopia, Ireland, Italy, Italian Somaliland, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. Between 1948-1950, Collins married for a third time, but that marriage also failed with her husband destroying many of her photographs and negatives.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Collins became a political activist, involving herself in civil rights, peace activism, and feminism. She was the founder and first editor of the monthly publication, Peace Concern, and was associated with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (1964-1968). During the late 1960s, Collins' interests became increasingly focused on older women's issues, and she was particularly concerned with ageism and its effects on women. In 1984, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch College West, where she studied American studies and women's history. She also founded the magazine Prime Time, Inc. "for the liberation of women in the prime of life," and was an active member of Older Women's Liberation (OWL). Though Collins spent a portion of her adult life in Vermont, she lived in San Francisco during the 1980s and died there from esophageal cancer at age seventy-three in 1985.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1904-1985 (#1.1-5.26)
  2. Series II. Writings and related, 1944-1983 (#5.27-13.5; T-391.1 - T-391.3)
  3. Series III. Photographs and related, 1940-1978 (#PD.1-PD.416)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M201, 90-M159

The papers of Marjory Collins were given to the Schlesinger Library by her cousin, Luciole de Spirlet, between 1985 and 1990.

Processing Information

Processed: June 2011

By: Mary O. Murphy, with assistance from Camille Torres

Collins, Marjory, 1912-1985. Papers of Marjory Collins, 1904-1985: 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 gifts from generous supporters of the Schlesinger Library to the Maximum Access 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. 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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