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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 802

Papers of Cora Brooks, 1769-2009 (inclusive), 1950-2009 (bulk)


Correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, and writings of poet, activist, and teacher Cora Brooks.


  • 1769-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1950-2009

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Cora Brooks is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. During Brooks's lifetime, her written permission is required for extensive quotation. 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.


18.43 linear feet ((42 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 4 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 16 photograph folders 1 oversize photograph folder)

This collection documents Brooks's personal and professional life. The collection consists primarily of letters from her father, children, siblings, friends, fellow activists, and fellow poets. Also included are Brooks's correspondence with her mother; scrapbooks, many of which include clippings and correspondence regarding Brooks's arrests for civil disobedience; diaries; photographs; poems and other writings; notes on Brooks's experiences teaching at various schools; appointment books; and material related to Brooks's participation in the New York Herald Tribune's forum for high school students. The collection also includes material related to the hotline for battered women which Brooks helped found in Chelsea, Vermont.

Brooks kept most of her correspondence in envelopes in letter boxes arranged alphabetically. The date ranges of these boxes frequently overlapped and some correspondents appeared under more than one letter. Some letters were unsigned or signed only with a first name; thus, it was not always possible to determine the last names of the writers. The processor removed the letters from the boxes and attempted to maintain Brooks's arrangement while creating one long alphabetical run of correspondence, as well as a shorter chronological arrangement of letters that were found loose. Correspondents for whom a significant amount of correspondence existed were given their own folders; these include Brooks's parents and siblings. Most folder headings were created by the archivist. Those created by Brooks appear in quotation marks.

Series I, Biographical and personal, 1769-1919 (scattered), 1950-2009 (#1.1-6.8, 43FB.1v-43FB.2v, FD.1-FD.3), includes court documents for two of Brooks's arrests for civil disobedience; notes she took on several trials and peace protests; correspondence regarding her desire to register to vote without taking the Vermont Freeman's Oath; a scrapbook regarding the "Chelsea Seven" (of whom Brooks was one), who were arrested for protesting the draft at a Vermont post office; a scrapbook including arrest notices for Brooks and articles and correspondence regarding the Vietnam War; and Brooks's notes regarding the Women's Pentagon Action Protest March in November 1980. The series also includes appointment books; articles about Brooks; autobiographical writings by her; diaries, including descriptions of her arrests of peace protests and a diary kept when she was eighteen and living abroad; school report cards and faculty reports on her performance at Sarah Lawrence college; material related to her involvement in the New York Herald Tribune's forum for international high school students; drawings and paintings by Brooks; letters and documents related to the Brooks and Vail families; and three dismantled scrapbooks of correspondence and writings by and about Brooks, including her description of her first arrest. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, Correspondence, 1950-2009 (#6.9-39.5, F+D.1, OD.1), consists almost entirely of letters received by Brooks. Little outgoing correspondence is included. Correspondents include her parents, husband, children, siblings, students and former students, fellow poets, activists, lovers, friends, and New York Herald Tribune Youth Forum delegates. Brooks's correspondence with her mother reflects their often conflicted relationship: her mother had difficulty accepting Brooks's life choices, particularly her decision to end her marriage. Brooks, in turn, was upset by her mother's attitude. Despite this, the two corresponded frequently. Donald Metz's letters touch on the collapse of their relationship; these letters also address childcare issues and his pride in their children. Brooks's father frequently described meals he ate, films he saw, and his relationships with his cats in his letters, while other correspondents sent poems, commented on poems Brooks wrote, and discussed life events, with many thanking Brooks for help she had provided them. The series is arranged with alphabetical correspondence appearing first, followed by chronological correspondence.

Series III, Professional, 1973-2009 (#39.6-42.8, FD.4, F+D.2), documents Brooks's professional life. The series includes articles about Chelsea Help for Battered Women; the organization's articles of association and by-laws; printed material regarding domestic abuse and programs for male batterers; guidelines, blank intake and assistance forms, grant applications, and feedback by Lynn Heglund, director of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, on a draft grant application. The series also contains material related to Brooks's teaching career. This consists of Brooks's accounts of her experiences working at various schools; advertisements and flyers for her writing workshops; anthologies of poems written by her students, with one including a poem written by her under a pseudonym; teaching contracts; evaluations of Brooks and letters of recommendation for her. The series also includes a brief essay describing Brooks's interactions with a magazine editor who raped her; flyers announcing poetry readings by Brooks; drafts of a novel, essays, and stories, including the essay "Lessons from a Protester's Life"; published and unpublished poems; and a dismantled scrapbook of letters to the editor. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, Photographs, ca.1943-2009, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.17), includes images of Brooks alone as an adult and as a small child with her siblings. A photograph of her senior high school class, on a trip to Washington, DC, is also included, as well as photographs of her property in Chelsea, Vermont, and photographs of family and friends (some taken by Brooks). The series also contains a dismantled album consisting primarily of photographs taken by Brooks, with captions for individual photographs and an explanatory note regarding the entire album. Images in the album include Max Abramovitz, Anita Zeltner Brooks Abramovitz, Grace Paley, and a protest at the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant. The album includes two photographs of Brooks, one labeled as taken "by the man who raped me." Negatives of the protest at Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant Station are also included. The series is arranged chronologically. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Poet, teacher, and peace activist, Cora Brooks was born in New York City on April 9, 1941, the daughter of Thomas and Anita (Zeltner) Brooks. She had two siblings, Antoinette and Henry (also known as Joshua). Her parents divorced in the early 1960s, and her mother married the architect Max Abramovitz, who designed Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and Radcliffe College's Hilles Library. In 1959, Brooks was selected as an American delegate to the New York Herald Tribune Youth Forum (established after World War II, the Forum aimed to promote world peace by bringing together young people from around the world and giving them a chance to know each other). Brooks spent four weeks with her fellow delegates, participating in debates and discussions, traveling to Washington, DC, and forming lasting friendships. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1963 and married Donald Metz that same year. They had two children. The couple first settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where Brooks taught at the Yale Child Study Center Nursery School from 1964 to 1967, and then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Brooks worked at the Harvard Epworth Nursery School from 1967 to 1969. After moving to Lyme, New Hampshire, Brooks helped set up a diagnostic clinic at the Mary Hitchcock Hospital and a cooperative nursery school. She and Metz separated in 1973 and divorced the following year. In 1977, Brooks purchased a piece of property with two houses in Chelsea, Vermont, and began using one of the houses as a safe house for women and children. In 1982, prompted by abuse she herself had experienced, Brooks helped found Chelsea Help for Battered Women, a hotline and group of safe houses for abused women; she described this as "the most dangerous work I have ever done."

From 1974 to 1976 she held the position of poet-in-the schools at six Massachusetts public schools, and from 1974 to 1977 was poet-in-residence at Wheaton College, teaching a poetry class and developing a course in children's literature. She also taught on and off at Goddard College from 1977 to 1987; at Lesley College and Graduate School, beginning in 1986; and at the U32 Middle School in Vermont from 1997 to 2000, teaching seventh grade special education and also serving as a tutor in the HEART program, a program for children with special needs. From 2000 to 2001 she taught at the Open Fields Elementary School in Thetford, Vermont. She holds certificates in child sexual abuse intervention and American Sign Language. Her poetry has been published in Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Review of the Arts, and other publications, and is part of a permanent art exhibit at the Burlington International Airport. Her published chapbooks of poems include Heather in a Jar (1973), Ransom for the Moon (1978), A Cow Is a Woman (1979), and Poems for a Book of Hours (1979). She also wrote the children's books Posey and the Professor (1981) and Sock Monster (1992), and the book Rinds, Roots and Stars: a Woman's Journal from the Great Flood (1996). Her play, The Moon Is a Skull with Dark Wings (1980), was produced off Broadway. Brooks is also a longtime activist, demonstrating against nuclear power, the Vietnam War, and the reinstatement of registration for the draft. She was arrested six times and served time in jail in Vermont and New Hampshire, and in the Connecticut Prison for Women in Niantic. On each occasion, she argued her own case in court and charges were either dismissed or later found to be unconstitutional. As of 2009, she was living in Montpelier, Vermont.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1769-1919 (scattered), 1950-2009 (#1.1-6.8, 43FB.1v-43FB.2v, FD.1-FD.3)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1950-2009 (#6.9-39.5, F+D.1, OD.1)
  3. Series III. Professional, 1973-2009 (#39.6-42.8, FD.4, F+D.2)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, ca.1943-2009, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.17)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2009-M165, 2009-M205

The papers of Cora Brooks were given to the Schlesinger Library by Cora Brooks between August and September 2009.


Donors: Cora Brooks

Accession number: 2009-M165

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been transferred to the National Abortion Rights Action League state affiliates newsletter collection (Pr-5), Schlesinger Library:

  1. Vermont NARAL Newsletter, Winter/Spring 1996

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the National Abortion Rights Action League state affiliates printed material collection (Pr-3), Schlesinger Library:

  1. ProChoice Vermont Political Action Committee '96 Voter Guide: A Guide to Vermont Candidates' Views on a Woman's Right to Choose, October 1996

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed materials collection:

  1. Brooks, Cora. A Cow Is a Woman. Chelsea, Vermont: Acorn Press, 1979
  2. Brooks, Cora. Heather in a Jar. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Pomegranate Press, 1973
  3. Brooks, Cora. The Moon Is a Skull of Dust with Dark Wings. Chelsea, Vermont: Acorn Press, 1980
  4. Brooks, Cora. Poems for a Book of Hours. Chelsea, Vermont: Acorn Press, 1979, 1981
  5. Brooks, Cora. Posey and the Professor. Chelsea, Vermont: Acorn Press, 1981
  6. Brooks, Cora. Ransom for the Moon. Chelsea, Vermont: Acorn Press, 1978
  7. Brooks, Cora. Rinds, Roots and Stars: a Woman's Journal from the Great Flood. Lewiston-Queenston-Lampeter: Mellen Poetry Press, 1996
  8. Brooks, Cora. Sock Monster, 1992
  9. Counterpoint: News and Arts by Psychiatric Survivors, Ex-Patients, Mental Health Consumers, and their Families. Spring/Summer 1996, Volume XII, No.2
  10. Grist. Vol. 1 No.2, Vol.2 No.2, Vol. 3 No.3, 1975-1977
  11. Madre Speaks, Vol. 1 No.2, November 1984
  12. The Women's Advocate. Volume 16, No. 3, May 1995

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed materials collection (pending review by curator):

  1. Gender Inclusive Constitution of the State of Vermont. Gender Amendment Project, Governor's Commission on Women, 1994
  2. Healing: A Catalog: Resources on Intimate Violence. Full Circle Books, 1993
  3. The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont. The Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, 1985
  4. Violence against Women: a Curriculum for Empowerment. Facilitator's Manual. New York: The Women's Education Institute, 1985
  5. Violence against Women: a Curriculum for Empowerment. Resident's Workbook. New York: The Women's Education Institute, 1985

Processing Information

Processed: September 2014

By: Susan Earle, with the assistance of Dan Bullman.

Brooks, Cora. Papers of Cora Brooks, 1769-2009 (inclusive), 1950-2009 (bulk): 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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