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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 720: T-477

Papers of Adele Siegel Rosenfeld, 1916-2011 (inclusive), 1930-2000 (bulk)


Personal papers of Adele Siegel Rosenfeld, teacher and poet, document her courtship and marriage, children, and relationship with her family.


  • Creation: 1916-2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-2000

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

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

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Adele Siegel Rosenfeld 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.


9.17 linear feet ((22 file boxes) plus 32 photograph folders, 1 audiotape)

The papers of Adele Siegel Rosenfeld include correspondence, diaries, memoirs, poetry, photographs, clippings, and documents relating to her husband, children, parents, siblings, work experience, and life at Foulkeways retirement community. The collection includes correspondence, notes in verse, poetry, photographs, and handmade cards that encompass the entire span of Rosenfeld's relationship with her husband, Leonard, from the time they courted while he was a student at Harvard University until her death in 2003.

During the late 1990s, Adele Rosenfeld went through much of the collection, adding notes and comments to her writings and organizing the majority of the early correspondence (pre-1945) for donation to the Schlesinger Library. After her death in 2003, the rest of the collection arrived at the library with little to no organization, including all of the later correspondence (1981-2002). Many folders and envelopes had unique and significant comments written on them about the enclosed materials. Whenever possible, these folder headings and envelopes were retained. Folder titles and arrangement were created by the archivist.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, ca.1927-2011 (#1.1-8.13, PD.1-PD.5, T-477.1), includes calendars; Rosenfeld's memorial program with testimonials; diaries; doodles; family papers; resumes; Leonard Rosenfeld's papers; and materials relating to the Woodcraft League of America, Foulkeways, Congregation Beth Or, and Rosenfeld's professional experience. In her later years, Rosenfeld taught two different writing classes for older adults. From 1986 until 1992 she taught at the YM-YWHA of Southern Westchester and from 1992 until 2002 she taught at Foulkeways. Materials for both writing workshop include advertisements, participant correspondence, schedules, and class notes. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1921-2002 (#8.14-18.17, PD.6-PD.11), includes Rosenfeld's correspondence with friends and neighbors, letters to Eleanor Flatow (Rosenfeld's girlhood best friend), and correspondence with Siegel family members. There is also correspondence between Rosenfeld and her husband while they were courting (1933-1939). Later there is daily correspondence while he served with the United States Army during World War II (1942-1945). Some letters include marginalia from the recipient. Folders are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically.

In the Rosenfelds' courtship letters (#11.3-11.16; 14.4-14.16), Leonard's expresses his love for Adele, and writes of his life philosophies, books read, and classical music concerts attended at Harvard. Adele's letters include expressions of love, poetry, prose, scripted scenes, college grades, and anecdotes of friends, books read, plays and music concerts attended, summer camp activities, and her work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The World War II letters (#11.18-14.2; 15.1-16.6) document the couple's early marriage and the birth of their first child. Leonard's letters include expressions of love, thoughts on being an expectant father, cartoons, thoughts on Reconstructionist Judaism, thoughts on raising children, being homesick, and thoughts on war events. Adele's letters include expressions of love, poetry, scripted scenes, essays, clippings, valentines, and descriptions of daily activities and her health. After their daughter Susan's birth on February 3, 1943, most letters contain status reports on the baby's health and development progress, cartoons and sketches, Rosenfeld's thoughts on child care, and "Susanisms" (anecdotes about Susan).

Notes and cards between Leonard and Adele Rosenfeld (#16.9-17.3) include handwritten notes in verse, handmade cards for anniversaries, birthdays, and valentines day.

The majority of the correspondence with Rosenfeld's siblings, her children, and her grandchildren is from 1980 through 2002. Earlier correspondence with the Siegel family was arranged separately by Adele Siegel Rosenfeld.

Series III, WRITINGS, 1932-2003 (#19.1-22.16, PD.12-PD.13), contains mostly memoirs and poetry. All writings are dated. Poems written while Rosenfeld lived at Foulkeways (1992-2003) are signed and dated with both original and revision dates. Folders are arranged alphabetically, first by genre then by title.

Photocopied versions of poems often included additional comments and notes, so duplicates were retained when this occurred. The majority of poems were written between 1990 and 2001 and include subjects of coping with loss, aging, marital stress through aging, Alzheimer's, life at Foulkeways, tension and grief from loss, light verse ("verse doodles"), writing and writing workshops. When identified, some poems were filed with their drafts, otherwise handwritten drafts and notes are filed in "poetry drafts." Some poems were specially grouped by Rosenfeld and sent to her rabbi, doctor, family, and friends. These groupings were retained and are listed under the heading "poetry compilations." These poems are duplicates of individual poems and each can be found with the individual poems, which are listed alphabetically by title.

Memoirs were mostly written for personal essay writing workshops in the 1970s and 1980s. Subjects include recollections about girls' camps, Woodcraft League, family members, and Jewish holidays.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1916-1990 (#PD.14-PD.32), includes snapshots of Siegel family members, Adele Siegel Rosenfeld, Leonard Rosenfeld, and their daughters, Susan Rosenfeld and Paula Rosenfeld Schram. PD.1-PD.13 contain photographs found with other documents. Photographs were removed and foldered separately, and their folders listed in the various series above.

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 [*].


Born February 16, 1916, to Morris E. and Dora Goodman Siegel, Adele Siegel Rosenfeld grew up in Staten Island, New York, the second child of three girls and two boys in a middle class Jewish family. Her father, Morris E. Siegel, was superintendent of Vocational Evening and Continuation Schools of New York City. During her childhood, Adele developed her life-long love of the outdoors and nature, as her father often took his children on local hikes. In the late 1920s, the Siegels began summer boarding at Bedford's Farm in East Canton, Pennsylvania. Throughout her life Adele stayed close with the Bedford family and continued to visit the farm during the summer with her children.

In 1927 Adele joined the Hin-han-wasta tribe of the Woodcraft League of America, a co-ed youth organization, founded by Ernest Thompson Seton, similar to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. From 1929 through 1931, she served as a junior leader of the Woodcrafters, where she received leadership, teaching, and story-telling training at Seton's estate in Cos Cob, Connecticut. Throughout her childhood and well into her adulthood, Adele was involved with many outdoor co-ed summer camps with progressive educational philosophies. As a counselor, Adele planned camp nature studies curricula and guided activities such as music, dramatics, folk-dancing, first-aid, athletics, arts and crafts, and conducted sex hygiene discussions.

While studying biology at Hunter College in New York City (B.A. 1936), Adele began dating Leonard Rosenfeld, a fellow Staten Islander who was studying philosophy and history at Harvard University. They wrote almost daily during their courtship. After their respective graduations, they both attended Columbia University at different times: Leonard studied law while Adele took courses in teaching high school biology at Teachers' College (M.A., 1937). After her graduation, she spent the next several years teaching biology and general science at several high schools in New York City.

Leonard and Adele were married at the Siegels' house in Westerleigh, Staten Island, on April 1, 1939. Two years following their wedding, Leonard enlisted in the U.S. Army following Pearl Harbor. He was processed through Fort Dix, New Jersey, and assigned to training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. After completing his basic training and Officer Candidate School in 1942, Lieutenant Rosenfeld was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group, 349th Squadron as an ordinance officer. While apart, Adele and Leonard reignited their daily correspondence. In the early summer of 1942, Adele wrote her husband about a "sickness" she couldn't shake, but later confirmed they were expecting their first daughter. Soon after their daughter Susan's birth on February 3, 1943, Leonard was shipped overseas to England. During the next two years, Adele and Leonard wrote faithfully to each other. Her letters included him in all aspects of their daughter's early childhood with descriptions of everything from breastfeeding to doctor visits.

During the war, Adele moved the family to Mount Vernon, New York where the Rosenfelds lived for almost fifty years, raising their two daughters, Susan and Paula (born 1946). While living in Mount Vernon, Adele was an active member of the community. She volunteered as a research assistant for the Mount Vernon Youth Board Council (1964), worked with Josette Frank on the Children's Book Committee of the Child Study Association of America (1971-1989), and taught writing courses at the Young Men's-Young Women's Hebrew Association (YM-YWHA) of Southern Westchester (1986-1992).

In 1992, the Rosenfelds moved to Foulkeways, a Quaker retirement community in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Over the next ten years, they spent time visiting with their children and grandchildren, attending Foulkeways events, and becoming active members of the local synagogue, Congregation Beth Or. Adele continued to teach writing, offering a class twice a year for fellow residents at Foulkeways. During this time, she became a prolific poet, writing poems that revealed her struggles with stresses associated with aging, such as lack of mobility, grief from loss, and marital stress. Although still devoted to one another, the stress of aging caused difficulties in Adele and Leonard's marriage. In her poem, "'Domestic Adversity' as Illness Advances With Age," Adele expresses her anxiety and sadness over the situation: "My sight fails with age, spelling, too. / No longer able as I used to do / If I can manage without damage from a fall / You can leave me, / I'm not your chain and ball. // It's up to me / To let you be / And help you find less duress... / You're crippled, yes? / We see it / So be it. // Humor, we know, gives a light touch -- Not very much / To banish each blow" (March 13, 2002).

In her last years, Adele developed increasing dementia and was under the incorrect assumption that Leonard suffered from Alzheimer's Disease. She contacted physicians, conducted research, and wrote numerous poems on the subject. In January 2000 she wrote Leonard, "Our youthful love ages with us. I still love you. You still love me. You are changed, and we understand the change. But love is always there." Adele Siegel Rosenfeld died from complications of dementia in her home at Foulkeways, Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, on December 19, 2003.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, ca.1927-2011 (#1.1-8.13, PD.1-PD.5, T-477.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1921-2002 (#8.14-18.17, PD.6-PD.11)
  3. Series III. Writings, 1932-2003 (#19.1-22.16, PD.12-PD.13)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1916-1990 (#PD.14-PD.32)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 90-M109, 99-M71, 2001-M140, 2002-M79, 2002-M93A, 2002-M106, 2002-M117, 2002-M128, 2002-M155, 2003-M33, 2003-M45, 2003-M61, 2004-M42, 2004-M50, 2004-M77, 2007-M107

The papers of Adele Siegel Rosenfeld were given to the Schlesinger Library by Adele Siegel Rosenfeld between 1990 and 2002, and by her husband, Leonard Rosenfeld, between 2003 and 2011.


The following items were transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division (pending review by curator):

  1. Sea Vegetable Gourmet Cookbook, by Eleanor and John Lewallen, 1996
  2. menus / restaurant ephemera: Antoine's Restaurant, New Orleans, c.1940 prospectus; Childs, NYC (43rd and Broadway), 1946 menu; Town Tavern, Bronxville, NY, 1982 menu

Processing Information

Processed: September 2012

By: Jessica Tanny, with assistance from Samuel Bauer.

Updated: September 2013

By: Jenny Gotwals

Rosenfeld, Adele Siegel, 1916-2003. Papers of Adele Siegel Rosenfeld, 1916-2011 (inclusive), 1930-2000 (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 the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing 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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