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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 813: T-481: DVD-102

Papers of Dorothy S. Bowles, 1887-2012


Correspondence, writings, photographs, etc., of Dorothy Stebbins Bowles, social worker and wife of Chester Bowles, who was the American ambassador to India twice and Governor of Connecticut.


  • Creation: 1887-2012


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 Dorothy S. Bowles 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.


2.5 linear feet ((6 file boxes) plus 1 photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 1 audiocassette, 7 DVDs)

The papers of Dorothy Stebbins Bowles include correspondence, datebooks, an audiotape, photographs, letters, clippings, reports, a book containing records of wedding gifts, programs from performances, memoranda, board minutes, articles from magazines and newspapers, seven DVDs, and one large format scrapbook of photographs. Folder titles were created by Bowles or her children. Additions by the archivist are in brackets. Much of the Indian correspondence reflects care and attention to the people she met in India who frequently wrote to her for help and advice.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1887-2012 (#1.1-3.6), includes correspondence (originals and copies), programs, copies of photographs, daily diaries, and report cards. Folder titles were supplied by Bowles's daughter Cynthia Aguilar except when in brackets. Welthy Fisher was a philanthropist interested in education in India. The "Race" folder (#2.2) includes a fund-raising letter from Martin Luther King, Jr., correspondence with Alex Haley, correspondence between Bowles, Chester Bowles, and Frances Williams, a civil rights activist and staff to Senator Herbert Lehman. The folders were received from Bowles's daughter in a general chronological order; this has been retained.

Series II, INDIA, 1953-1977 (#3.7-6.4), primarily contains correspondence and printed material. A folder of "correspondence India 1950s" (#4.4) includes some letters from Indira Gandhi, and the folder "Arts, Music, Dance, Film 1960s" (#3.8) includes a telegram from Mahalia Jackson. The folder "Dorothy Stebbins Bowles Filmmaking, Kulu Valley, India" (#5.6) includes an interesting album prepared for Bowles's visit to a film set in India. The "India Miscellaneous" folder (#6.3) contains various guides to diplomacy and guest lists from events.

Series III, AUDIOVISUAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS, 1927-1990 (T-481.1, DVD-102.1 - DVD-102.7, PD.1-PD.2f+), contains multimedia and photographs from the collection. The DVDs are transfers from films. Some were taken by Dorothy Stebbins Bowles, in others she and her family, or colleagues or friends, are depicted. Several DVDs and a photograph folder document Bowles's 1927 world trip. The series is arranged by format.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Dorothy Stebbins Bowles was born in 1903 in Newton, Massachusetts. She grew up in Newton and was educated at Vassar College (BA, 1924) and then Smith College School of Social work, graduating in 1926. In 1927, she went on an around-the-world trip with a friend which is documented in extensive letters and photographs in this collection. She was also a social worker during this time. Bowles was known as "Steb" to her friends.

Dorothy married Chester Bowles in 1934 and became his second wife. They had three children: Cynthia (born 1936), Samuel (born 1938), and Sarah (born 1939). The Bowles had a home base in Essex, Connecticut,and lived at different times in Hartford, Maryland, Virginia, India, and Washington, DC. These moves reflected the career of her husband. Chester Bowles was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1948 as a Democrat and served one term. From 1951 to 1953, Chester Bowles was United States Ambassador to India and Dorothy and the children moved to India to be with him. The Bowles family then returned to the United States and Chester Bowles served one term as United States Representative for the 2nd District of Connecticut from 1959 to 1961. The Bowles family went back to India in 1963 when Chester Bowles was re-appointed Ambassador to India. They remained there until 1969 when they returned to the United States.

Dorothy S. Bowles was especially involved in educational issues in both India and Connecticut, civil rights, and UNICEF. She was also particularly interested in Indian culture and helped promote music and dance companies when they toured the United States. She kept up a lively correspondence particularly about Indian and national politics with people from all over the world. She promoted Indian culture in the United States, with programs from dance and music companies. She was known for frequently wearing a sari or traditional Indian dress in both India and the United States.

Bowles had an number of health issues including cancer. She treated her bipolar disease from India with an American therapist. She died on November 29, 1989, in Essex, Connecticut.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1887-2012 (#1.1-3.6)
  2. Series II. India, 1953-1977 (#3.7-6.4)
  3. Series III. Audiovisual and photographs, 1927-1990 (T-481.1, DVD-102.1 - DVD-102.7, PD.1-PD.2f+)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2012-M205, 2013-M42, 2013-M184

The papers of Dorothy S. Bowles were given to the Schlesinger Library by her children, Cynthia Aguilar and Sam Bowles, between November 2012 and October 2013.

Processing Information

Processed: May 2015

By: Jennifer Weintraub with assistance from Dan Bullman.

Bowles, Dorothy S. (Dorothy Stebbins). Papers of Dorothy S. Bowles, 1887-2012: 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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