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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 717

Papers of Dorothy Prosky, 1911-2011


Correspondence, diaries, and notes documenting life of Dorothy Prosky, Jewish woman, social worker, mother and businesswoman in New York City, and her husband, businessman David Prosky.


  • Creation: 1911-2011

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except that folder #22.3 is closed until January 1, 2031.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Dorothy Prosky 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 linear feet ((22 file boxes) plus 15 photograph folders, 1 folio+ folder)

The collection contains correspondence, diaries, notes, poems, printed material, and photographs documenting the lives of Dorothy Prosky, her husband David Prosky, and her children, Jill Prosky and Paul Prosky. Most of the material arrived at the library unfolded; material was sorted and placed in folders by the processor, and folder titles were created by the processor.

Dorothy was known by several nicknames throughout her lifetime. As a child, she was called Dot, Dotty, Devorah and Devera by her family and friends. She sometimes signed her letters to David as Ducky. Later in life, her grandchildren and friends called her Didi. David Prosky was sometimes called Dave, and other times Vid. Dorothy's sister Evelyn is often referred to as Havelie, Havel, or Hav.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL,1911-2000, n.d. (#1.1-5.6, F+D.1), contains biographical and personal information about Dorothy and David Prosky, and their children, Jill and Paul Prosky, as well as some members of their extended family. The series is arranged with three biographical folders first followed by an alphabetical arrangement of personal information. Included in the biographical folders are birth certificates and marriage certificates for Dorothy and David Prosky, as well as Dorothy's license to practice social work and David's license to sell life insurance. The alphabetical listing of personal material includes diaries for Dorothy Prosky, some of which are written as letters to her husband. Her diary from 1969 contains many dinner party menus and seating charts. Dorothy Prosky also kept some notebooks, including one from 1939-1940, following the birth of her first child, which contains information regarding infant feeding and care. This series also includes papers, schoolwork, and report cards from of Dorothy's education (primarily high school, college, and graduate studies), as well as a project for a class at the New York School of Social Work ("Conflict and Integration: Notes on Mr. Lindeman's Course, January-March, 1935," which contains Dorothy's notes and clippings). Also contained in this series are materials related to the two family businesses: the hosiery business, and Bristol Motors, Inc, the Prosky family's Volkswagen sales and services business. There is some overlap between this series and Series II, as there is some correspondence. In particular, there are letters to Dorothy and David Prosky sent during a 1949 European trip, as well as a folder of David Prosky's notes and letters, many of them drafts probably not sent to the intended recipients.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1923-2011, n.d. (#5.7-22.9, PD.1-PD.8), contains correspondence among Dorothy and David Prosky, and their children, Jill and Paul Prosky, and some members of their extended family, including Dorothy's mother, Pauline Cohen, and Dorothy's sister, Evelyn Cohen Silin. The bulk of the series consists of letters received by Dorothy from family and friends. There are letters received by Dorothy while she was a teenager away at summer camp, and many letters written and received during her one year away at Wells College (1928-1929). In particular, this year is well documented by letters between Dorothy and David, her mother Pauline Cohen, and her sister, Evelyn Cohen Silin. The letters from her mother during this period also express her parents' initial disapproval of Dorothy's relationship with David Prosky. There are love letters between Dorothy and David, including notes passed during high school, her year away at college, and during the years of their long marriage. This series also includes correspondence between Dorothy Prosky and Berthe "Joy" Molliendo, a French graduate student who she met at Wells College and with whom she formed a life long friendship. The letters following World War II document Dorothy's efforts to send clothing, food, and goods which were hard to obtain in France following the war to Joy and her family. There are letters from Jill and Paul Prosky; the bulk of these letters are from Jill's years traveling in South America during the 1960s with her first husband Claud Erbsen, who was working as both a newspaper correspondent and studying as a graduate student. There is some overlap between Series I and Series II: see Series I for additional letters. Letters have been arranged alphabetically by recipient.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1925-1984, n.d. (#PD.9-PD.15), contains informal and formal portraits of Dorothy, David, and their children. There are also some photographs of David dressed as a lifeguard, probably at summer camp, included in a folder of portraits of David Prosky. There is also a portrait of Dorothy taken on the showroom floor of the family's car dealership. The folders are arranged chronologically.

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 [*].


Businesswoman and social worker Dorothy Althea (Cohen) Prosky was born September 24, 1910, in New York City, the elder of two daughters born to David and Pauline Sirkin Cohen. She attended Evander Childs High School where she met David Prosky whom she married in June 1932. Dorothy Prosky attended Wells College in Aurora, New York, Barnard College (B.S. 1933), and the New York School of Social Work (M.S.W. 1935). The Proskys had two children: Jill Jonatha (1939) and Paul Joseph (1942).

David Prosky graduated from St. John's University School of Law and for some years managed the family's hosiery business, Cohen & Levinson (later Prosky & Levinson), originally founded by David Cohen. In the late 1940s David Prosky sold the hosiery business and started Bristol Motor Company, a foreign car business which sold Volkswagens. Dorothy Prosky worked as a social worker until the birth of her daughter. Dorothy joined her husband in his business selling and servicing foreign cars, and she became well known for her success in sales despite the fact she never learned to drive. She specialized in fleet sales. Prosky's sister, Evelyn Sillin, also sold cars for the business. During the 1970s Dorothy Prosky served on the board of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. The Proskys sold the car business in 1983. David Prosky died in 1995. Dorothy Prosky died in 2008 in New York City.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1911-2000, n.d. (#1.1-5.6, F+D.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1923-2011, n.d. (#5.7-22.9, PD.1-PD.8)
  3. Series III. Photographs, ca.1925-1984, n.d. (#PD.9-PD.15)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2011-M117 and 2012-M150

The papers of Dorothy Prosky were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughter, Jill J. Prosky, in 2011 and 2012.

Processing Information

Processed: August 2012

By: Paula Aloisio, with assistance from Samuel Bauer.

Prosky, Dorothy, 1910-2008. Papers of Dorothy Prosky, 1911-2011: 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 Jill J. Prosky and James R. Posner (Harvard University, Class of 1965), and the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

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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