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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 705

Papers of Barbara Gould Nylander, 1893-2005


Correspondence, diaries, schoolwork, travel itineraries and souvenirs, financial records, scrapbooks, etc., documenting the lives of Barbara Gould Nylander; her husband, Donald Nylander; her children, Russell, Robert, Richard, and Karen; her mother, Flora Hazel Gould; and her aunt, Edith Rebecca Ervin.


  • Creation: 1893-2005

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Barbara Gould Nylander 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.


27.61 linear feet ((63 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 1 folio folder, 6 photograph folders, 1 supersize photograph folder, 1 object)

The collection contains correspondence, diaries, schoolwork, travel itineraries and souvenirs, financial records, scrapbooks, etc., documenting the lives of Barbara Gould Nylander; her husband, Donald Nylander; her children, Russell, Robert, Richard, and Karen; her mother, Flora Hazel Gould; and her aunt, Edith Rebecca Ervin. Materials arrived at the library unfoldered and in no discernable order. Folder titles and arrangement were established by the archivist.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1912-2005 (#1.1-20.4, 64F+B.1-64F+B.6, PD.1-PD.2, PD.6+, Mem.1), includes Nylander's diaries, schoolwork, travel itineraries and souvenirs, scrapbooks, etc. Diaries contain detailed accounts of her daily activities, including cooking, sewing, church and social activities, and traveling, but do not provide insight into Nylander's thoughts or feeling about events or people. Between 1969 and 1977, Nylander underwent multiple rounds of electroshock therapy, each of which is noted in her diaries. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Nylander and her husband, Donald, traveled extensively. Files relating to their travels include itineraries, notes, tickets and programs from sightseeing excursions, etc. Their travels are also noted in Nylander's diaries. Files are arranged with biographical materials first, followed by an alphabetical arrangement of files.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1916-2004 (#20.5-46.3, PD.3-PD.5), contains letters written to Barbara Gould and Donald Nylander by friends and family, as well as a small number of drafts and carbon copies of letters sent by the Nylanders. Letters contain news about family and friends; accounts of daily activities, such as shopping, cooking, housekeeping, and errands; child rearing; trips taken; etc. Barbara Nylander and many of her friends were amateur photographers and letters frequently include accounts of taking and developing photographs. Many letters, particularly those from the 1970s and later, include accounts of aging and age-related ailments, including cancer, arthritis, loss of balance, and dementia. Letters from Nylander's mother, Flora Hazel Gould, date mainly from Nylander's time as a student at Mount Holyoke College (1930-1935) and document her efforts to help Nylander cope with her homesickness and stress over her course work. Gould's letters from 1936 include those written while Nylander was teaching at the Morning Face School in Richmond, Massachusetts, and detail her concern for Nylander's mental state as well as her support and encouragement for Nylander to quit the position for the sake of her health. Letters from Nylander's children are largely from their time in college in the 1960s and contain accounts of their social activities, their opinions on the food and dorm life, and their academic interests. Letters from the children also document the family's shared interest in the folk music movement, particularly in Joan Baez's early career. Elaine Neefus Poole was a childhood friend of Nylander who moved to Oakville, Ontario, Canada, following her marriage to Gordon Poole. Her letters contain reflections on the differences between life in the United States and Canada, particularly following World War II. Poole's letters also document her attempts to have children and the process of adopting two children. Most of her letters contain detailed accounts of the children's development and her disappointment in their academic performances and life choices. Files are arranged alphabetically.

Series III, FAMILY PAPERS, 1893-2005 (#46.4-63.6, FD.1, PD.7), includes diaries, correspondence, scrapbooks, schoolwork, etc., of Nylander's aunt, Edith Rebecca Ervin; grandfather, Richard Ervin; mother, Flora Hazel Gould; and children, Karen, Richard, Robert, and Russell Nylander. Edith Rebecca Ervin's diaries and letters document her work and her friendships with several blind women, including her experiences living and working in settlement houses that cared for blind women. Her notebooks and scrapbooks document her love of reading through lists and reviews of books she read and quotations she collected. Flora Hazel Gould's letters from Barbara Gould Nylander document Nylander's time at Mount Holyoke College, including descriptions of dorm life, dining hall food and rituals, classmates, and courses. Letters also document Nylander's homesickness and frequent illnesses brought on by her stress over her course work and desire to be academically successful. In 1936, Nylander taught at the Morning Face School in Richmond, Massachusetts, and her letters document her deteriorating health brought on by the stress of teaching and her disappointment over her inability to be an effective teacher. Letters from Barbara Gould and Donald Nylander to their children contain family and local news; discussions of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, folk music scene; and news on historic preservation efforts in the Boston area, particularly work done by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) and the founding of Iron Work Farm in Acton. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

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 [*].


Barbara Gould Nylander was born July 24, 1912, in Westfield, New Jersey, the daughter of William Matthew Gould and Flora Hazel (Ervin) Gould. She attended the Westfield public schools through the 8th grade. In July 1926 the family moved to Easthampton, Massachusetts, where Nylander attended high school. Her father died of a stroke following a lengthy battle with tuberculosis on January 1, 1929. Nylander and her mother moved to Arlington, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1930 to help care for Gould's father, Richard Ervin.

Nylander attended Mount Holyoke College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1934, and receiving a master's degree in physics in 1935. She was an apprentice teacher at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the 1935-1936 school year, and taught at the Morning Face School in Richmond, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1936. From 1937 to 1938 and 1952 to 1964, she was a substitute teacher and tutor.

On June 24, 1938, Nylander married Donald Oliver Nylander (1913-2005), a recent graduate of Northeastern University. They lived with Nylander's mother in Arlington, Massachusetts, before moving to West Acton, Massachusetts, in 1948. Flora Hazel Gould continued to live with them until her death in 1961. The Nylanders had four children: Russell Alan, Robert Harrington, Richard Conrad, and Karen Elizabeth. Russell (born 1939), an engineer, married Roberta Daly and had two children, Michael and Beth. Robert (born 1942), an architectural historian, died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage on March 16, 1987. Richard (born 1944), a wall paper expert and former curator at Historic New England (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities), married Jane Louise Cayford Giffen and had three children, Sarah Giffen, Thomas Giffen, and Timothy Nylander. Karen Elizabeth (born 1946), a health and wellness professional, married Norbeto Juan Ankone.

Nylander was a member of the Iron Work Farm in Acton and the Acton Historical Society, a life member of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), and an avid gardener. She taught Sunday school at West Acton Baptist Church, and helped out with Karen's Brownie and Girl Scout troops. In 1952 the Nylanders bought the Ebenezer Hubbard House (and 40 acres of woodland), a two-story house without electricity or an indoor bathroom, in Hancock, New Hampshire, as a summer home. In 1966, the Nylanders moved to the John Robbins House, built ca.1800, at 144 Great Road, Acton. After Donald's retirement from Cambridge Savings Bank, the Nylanders traveled extensively throughout the world.

Nylander died November 23, 2003, and was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Arlington, Massachusetts.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1912-2005 (#1.1-20.4, 64F+B.1-64F+B.6, PD.1-PD.2, PD.6+, Mem.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1916-2004 (#20.5-46.3, PD.3-PD.5)
  3. Series III. Family papers, 1893-2005 (#46.4-63.6, FD.1, PD.7)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2005-M39, 2005-M49, 2006-M208, 2008-M53, 2009-M18

The papers of Barbara Gould Nylander were given to the Schlesinger Library by her son, Richard Conrad Nylander, between May 2005 and January 2009.


Donor: Richard Conrad Nylander

Accession numbers: 2005-M39, 2005-M49, 2006-M208, 2008-M53, 2009-M18

Processed by: Johanna Carll

The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. Cook Book of the West Acton Baptist Church was transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection
  2. Once carton of Mount Holyoke College course work and ephemera was transferred to the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
  3. The Pilgrim High School Quarterly for the Intermediate-Senior Department, Volume 44, Number 1 (October-December 1926), Volume 44, Number 3 (April-June 1927) were transferred to the Andover-Harvard Theological Library
  4. Saint Mary's School (Peekskill, N.Y.) brochure was transferred to the Female Academies Collection, 1844-1936 (B/F3289)

Processing Information

Processed: March 2012

By: Johanna Carll, with assistance from Suzanna Calev.

Nylander, Barbara Gould, 1912-2003. Papers of Barbara Gould Nylander, 1893-2005: 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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