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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 841

Papers of Y'vonne Louise Greatwood, 1893-1997


The papers of Y'vonne L. Greatwood include letters to parents and other correspondence; school records; autobiography, poems, and other writings; and photographs.


  • 1893-1997

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Y'vonne Greatwood 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 5 photograph folders.)
This collection contains papers relating to Y'vonne Greatwood's life as a teacher, traveler and inventor. The collection contains biographical materials, such as clippings, passports and school transcripts, as well as personal correspondence to her family, writings including essays and poetry, materials related to the patenting of her covered crutch pads invention, and photographs. The papers were in some order when received and have been further arranged by the archivist.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL, 1893-1997 (#1.1-1.16), contains biographical information and clippings about Greatwood, her passports, and her transcripts from high school and college. Also included are brochures, newsletters, and programs from the National Cathedral School for Girls (Washington, D.C.) where she taught religion classes, and Lewinsville Presbyterian Church (McLean, Virginia), and St. Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo, New York) where she served as the Director of Religious Education. This series is arranged in alphabetically order by format.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1929-1997 (#1.17-4.6), consists mostly of outgoing personal correspondence including handwritten and typescript letters to Greatwood's parents in Buffalo, New York, detailing her travels to Boston (1940), San Francisco (1941), Philadelphia (1946), and other places. Greatwood also wrote home about her college experiences at Michigan State Normal College (1944), the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin (1947) and the State University of New York (1947). She also sent her parents letters (1957) from the National Cathedral School. Of particular interest is correspondence (1963) between Greatwood and President Lyndon B. Johnson discussing her memories of teaching Johnson's daughter Lynda at the National Cathedral School in 1958.

Academic letters from the Dean of Canisius College after Greatwood's completion of her Bachelor of Arts degree (1937), a letter from Board of Education in Buffalo, New York confirming her appointment as English teacher in the Public Secondary Schools of Buffalo, New York (1947), and a letter awarding her Harvard's Herschel Horner Scholarship for older summer school students (1984) are included. Greatwood also sent letters to others afflicted with polio informing them about her covered crutch pad invention (1987), as well as letters to her literary agent, Irene Krass, about publishing her autobiography (1991). This series is arranged in chronological order.

Series III. WRITINGS, 1958-1993 (#4.7-5.82), includes manuscript and typescript drafts of Greatwood's literary works including her autobiography "The Door," with deviant title "The Other Miracle." The bulk of the series contains essays and poetry written on various topics including children, Christmas, and travel. Of particular interest is an essay titled "By Plane, Boat, Bus and Train on Two Crutches," which documents Greatwood's successful ability to travel despite walking with crutches. This series is arranged in alphabetical order by format.

Series IV. PATENT MATERIAL, 1986-1995 (#6.1-6.13), contains applications, correspondence, and legal documents related to the patent for Greatwood's covered crutch pads. The covered crutch pads were designed to provide extra cushioning and comfortable to those using crutches. The patent was successfully obtained in 1992. Of particular note is an article written by Greatwood featured in the Rehabilitation Gazette (1986) discussing the benefits of covered crutch pads. This series is arranged alphabetically by format.

Series V. PHOTOGRAPHS, 1960-1983 (#PD.1-PD.5), contains photographs of Y'vonne Greatwood, as well as images of her family. Of particular interest are photographs of Greatwood during her travels throughout her life. Despite walking with crutches, Greatwood traveled both domestically and internationally. This series is arranged in chronological order.

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


Y'vonne Louise Greatwood was born in Buffalo, New York on July 1, 1910 to Charles and Louise Greatwood. At three months old, she contracted poliomyelitis which partially paralyzed her left leg. She walked with the assistance of crutches and later obtained a patent for covered crutch pads. She attended public schools in Buffalo, New York, graduating from high school in 1928. Greatwood underwent a number of treatments, including a stay at the Reconstructive Home for Infantile Paralysis in Ithaca, New York. She graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo in 1937, and unsuccessfully sought employment as a public school teacher. To gain experience, she taught piano and Sunday school, and was eventually hired as a substitute teacher in the Buffalo public school system, and finally, in 1946, as a permanent teacher at McKinley Vocational High School.

In 1951 Greatwood was asked to serve as Director of Christian Education at St. Paul's (Episcopal) Cathedral in Buffalo. Resolved to continue her religious studies, she entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in 1956. She taught at the National Cathedral School for Girls (Washington, D.C.), and was director of religious education in a Presbyterian church in Virginia before returning in 1963 to teach high school in Buffalo. Greatwood traveled widely, and briefly lived in Scotland where she studied at the University of Edinburgh. She died on December 4, 1997 in Fairfax, Virginia.


The collection is arranged in five series:
  1. Series I. Biographical, 1893-1997 (#1.1-1.16)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1929-1997 (#1.17-4.6)
  3. Series III. Writings, 1958-1993 (#4.7-5.82)
  4. Series IV. Patent material, 1986-1995 (#6.1-6.13)
  5. Series V. Photographs, 1960-1983 (#PD.1-PD.5)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 97-M167 and 98-M10.

The papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Y'vonne Greatwood's estate in 1997 and 1998.

Processing Information

Processed: December 2015

By: Amber L. Moore, with assistance from Dan Bullman.
Link to catalog
Greatwood, Y'vonne Louise, 1910-1997. Papers of Y'vonne Louise Greatwood, 1893-1997: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

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.

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