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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 842: T-145: Vt-291: DVD-125: CD-39

Papers of Jane F. Babson, 1844-2012 (inclusive), 1950-2012 (bulk)


Diaries, correspondence, artwork, writings, schoolwork, family records, and photographs of artist and writer Jane F. Babson.


  • Creation: 1844-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950-2012

Language of Materials

Materials in English, French, or Japanese.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The bulk of the collection is open to research.

Folders #1.8-12.3, 18.4-18.5, 36.9-37.1, and 37.7-38.1 require written permission of Leila J. Babson.

Folders #21.1-21.6 and 23.9 are closed until January 1, 2050.

Folder #24.16 is closed until January 1, 2061.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Jane F. Babson is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Quotations longer than 250 words require the permission of Leila J. Babson. Any commercial use of material concerning Sir Jacob Epstein and/or his family requires the prior written permission of Leila J. Babson and David W. Babson. 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.


20.9 linear feet ((44 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 folio+ box) plus 4 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 24 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 11 audiotapes, 3 videotapes, 8 CDs, 1 DVD, 1 object)

The collection documents Babson's personal life and her work as an artist and author. It includes diaries; correspondence (including family correspondence and courtship letters); genealogical material; autobiographical writings; correspondence and publicity related to the operation of The Winstead Press and the production of Babson's books; drawings, etchings, paintings, prints, photographs, and other artwork; photographs of Babson and friends and relatives and historic family photographs; audiocassettes of family reminiscences and of oral histories conducted by Babson; compact discs; and videotapes of Babson family home movies. Folder headings were created by the archivist; headings created by Babson appear in quotation marks. There is related material at the Schlesinger Library: the papers of David F. Babson's father, David F. Babson Sr. The New-York Historical Society holds audiocassettes of Babson's interviews with Sylvia Epstein Press.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1892-2012 (#1.1-20.2, 46FB.1, 47F+B.1), includes Babson's diaries, which cover the period 1976 to 2012 and travel diaries describing trips to Europe, Mexico, and Asia. The series also includes articles about Babson and versions of her resume; and inventories of her clothing, home furnishings, and doll collection. These inventories consist of annotated photographs of the items, including images of Babson in various outfits she made. Also included are college papers and exams, high school reports, and other materials related to Babson's education at Leitchfield High School, Sullins College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Illinois; material regarding Mount Holyoke class reunions is also included. The series also includes material on the extended Babson and McCall families, with writings by family members including Babson's children, her brother, and grandmother. Fannie Winstead McCall's writings on motherhood and marriage (#17.5-17.6) are of particular note. Also included are Babson's aunt Zella McCall Robeson's letters to her fiancé; letters by other relatives; funeral and death notices; genealogical material; Babson's notes on her romantic attachments during World War II; and her wedding guest list. The series is arranged alphabetically. The written permission of Leila J. Babson is required for access to the diaries (#1.8-12.3) and to the Mexico travel diary (#18.4-18.5).

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1931-2011 (#20.3-32.8, 47F+B.2), includes Babson's correspondence with family (including her husband, children, mother, and sisters), friends, former boyfriends, political figures, and curators at various museums and historical societies. The correspondence gives a vivid sense of Babson's personality and her view of her place in the world. Her correspondence with David F. Babson includes the period between their engagement and wedding, while topics discussed in her correspondence with her children include their career aspirations and her son's marriage. Of particular note is a letter from Leila J. Babson describing her experiences in New York City on September 11, 2001 (#31.5). The material related to artist Henry Sugimoto describes Babson's attempts to find a home for two paintings in her possession; they had been painted by a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II, at an army hospital overseen by Babson's uncle David L. Robeson. Sugimoto helped Babson place the paintings at the Library Museum in Wakayama, Japan. The series also includes Babson's correspondence with Pang Yongxiu; these letters were later published as the book To Jane and Yongxiu: China letters, 1981-2002. Babson frequently corresponded with officials at Mount Holyoke College; this correspondence reflects her growing frustration with what she perceived as the college's lowering of academic standards and increased focus on fundraising. Also included is correspondence regarding Babson's donations of clothing and artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution and other museums and repositories. The series is arranged with alphabetical correspondence appearing first, followed by chronological correspondence. Some overlap exists between the two groups. #23.8 contains photocopies of letters Babson donated to the Yale University Archives.

Series III, WRITINGS, 1928-2011 (#33.1-42.13, 46FB.2-46FB.4), includes drafts, specifications, and publicity for Babson's published books; travel writings; and letters to the editor in which she discusses her displeasure with local and national politicians. The series also includes correspondence, publicity, oral history transcripts, and expenses related to Babson's book The Epsteins: A Family Album, and correspondence, promotional material, and expenses, for the Winstead Press, Babson's publication company. Also included are drafts of Babson's unpublished autobiography "A Journey to Myself," which provide a detailed look at her life. In addition, the series includes meeting minutes of the New York Independent Publishers Association, kept by Babson in her capacity as the group's secretary. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, ARTWORK, 1937-2009, n.d. (#42.14-45.5, 46FB.5-46FB.12, 47F+B.3-47F+B.9, OD.1-OD.4, SD.1), includes paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, and etchings by Babson. Subjects include flowers, female nudes, animals, and family members. Babson also created a number of self-portraits in a variety of media. In addition to original artwork, the series includes photographs of Babson's art. The series also includes calendars illustrated by photographs and artwork by Babson; greeting cards designed by her; programs for art shows at which Babson exhibited her artwork; and lists of sales made. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, AUDIOVISUAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1844-2008 (#PD.1-PD.26, T-145.01 - T-145.11, Vt-291.01 - Vt-291.03, CD-039.01 - CD-039.08, DVD-125.01), includes photographs of Babson alone and with family and friends, including her sisters, mother, husband, and children; with Mount Holyoke College friends (including at reunions) and on dates; photographs of her wedding and of wedding anniversaries; and at the Schlesinger Library. The series also includes photographs of relatives and ancestors, including tintypes, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes.

The series also includes audiocassettes, including oral history interviews conducted by Babson, some used as background material for the book The Epsteins: A Family Album; an audiocassette of Babson and David F. Babson's reminiscences of life during the Depression; CDs of Leila J. Babson performing songs and of books by Babson and her son, David W. Babson; and videotapes of Babson family home movies and photo stills, with a vocal accompaniment by Leila. The series also includes an audiocassette of Babson reading and commenting on letters written by women in her family, and a DVD on which she reads excerpts from family letters and diaries recounting experiences the Civil War and World War I, accompanied by Leila singing and by family photographs. The series is arranged with chronologically arranged photographs appearing first, followed by the audiovisual material listed by format.

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


Jane Frances (McCall) Babson was born on August 17, 1925 in Leitchfield, Kentucky, the oldest child of William Winstead McCall, a railroad worker and co-owner of the McCall Clothing Store, and Matilda (Hahn) McCall, a former nurse. She had eight siblings: Zella, Charles, Barbara, Nancy, Marilyn, William, Constance, and David. (Charles and Constance died a few weeks after birth.) Babson attended Leitchfield High School, becoming the first member of her family to graduate from high school; she also studied at the Sullins Academy as further preparation for college. Her uncle, David Robeson, offered to pay for her college education, specifying that she must attend Mount Holyoke College. Babson was hesitant about attending this school as she felt it was a school for rich girls and she, as a member of a poor family, would be out of place. However, she came to value her education there very highly and considered her class to be among the best in the college's history. She received her BA in art and archeology in 1947, and then studied at art and art history at the University of Illinois, Urbana, receiving her MFA in 1949. She was the first woman to receive an MFA from the University of Illinois. Babson was proud of her education and of her identity as a member of "the greatest generation," feeling that the struggles and achievements of the women of her generation were often overlooked by younger women.

Babson moved to New York City after earning her MFA, hoping to find work in the art field. She held a variety of bookkeeping and secretarial jobs while continuing to sketch and look for more fulfilling work. In 1952, she moved to Washington, DC, where she worked as registrar for the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She married David F. Babson, Jr., a lawyer, in 1954, and moved with him to Stamford, Connecticut, where she worked as a secretary before the birth of her first child, David, in 1956. A second child, Leila, was born in 1960. David became a professor of archeology and Leila, an actress and singer. After Leila entered kindergarten, Babson resumed her artistic studies, taking life-drawing classes at the Stamford Museum, as well as classes in printmaking and silkscreen printing and in photography. She began exhibiting at local art shows, selling some of her work, and also began organizing exhibitions. In 1970, she helped found the Stamford Art Association. Upon seeing the photographs of the moon taken during the Apollo 8 spaceflight mission, Babson created a series of four woodcut prints, which she offered to the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute; they were accepted in 1972. Babson and her husband traveled widely in Europe and Asia, with Babson often writing essays about their experiences.

In the mid-1970s, Marthe Clamage and Sylvia Epstein Press, the niece and sister of the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, invited Babson to write a biography of Epstein. She devoted considerable time to this project over the next several years, conducting extensive research and interviewing both Clamage and Press several times. She also sought unsuccessfully to have Epstein's birthplace in New York City preserved as a historic landmark. The finished book, The Epsteins: A Family Album was published in 1984. In 1987, prompted by her difficulty in finding a publisher for the Epstein book and also by various issues with the book's publisher and distributor, Babson founded the Winstead Press, a small-press publisher of children's books, which she managed until 2010.

Her books published through the press include The Search for the Indian (2001) (a book about her family's history), and the children's books The Nest on the Porch (1988), Babson's Bestiary (1990), The Story of Us (2003), and Ima Frog and Yura Owl (2008). In addition, the press published To Jane and Yongxiu: China letters, 1981-2002 (2008), a compilation of letters between Babson and her friend Yongxiu Pang, and her son David's book When Chester Lost Maybelle (1996) which she illustrated. Babson also wrote an unpublished autobiography, "A Journey to Myself." She was active in library and small press associations, serving as secretary of the New York Independent Publishers Association. An ardent Democrat, she was highly critical of the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and also had a low opinion of Bill Clinton, even before the Monica Lewinsky scandal, feeling he paid too much attention to his hair and to his "Hollywood friends." She died on January 10, 2013.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1892-2012 (#1.1-20.2, 46FB.1, 47F+B.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1931-2011 (#20.3-32.8, 47F+B.2)
  3. Series III. Writings, 1928-2011 (#33.1-42.13, 46FB.2-46FB.4)
  4. Series IV. Artwork, 1937-2009, n.d. (#42.14-45.5, 46FB.5-46FB.12, 47F+B.3-47F+B.9, OD.1-OD.4, SD.1)
  5. Series V. Audiovisual and photographs, ca.1844-2008 (#PD.1-PD.26, T-145.01 - T-145.11, Vt-291.01 - Vt-291.03, CD-039.01 - CD-039.08, DVD-125.01)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 82-M149, 82-M194, 84-M160, 85-M8, 85-M35, 85-M64, 85-M75, 85-M82, 85-M272, 86-M31, 86-M41, 86-M204, 87-M12, 88-M151, 88-M170, 90-M199, 92-M190, 92-M199, 93-M95, 94-M41, 94-M106, 94-M134, 94-M153, 96-M62, 96-M133, 97-M146, 98-M196, 99-M64, 2000-M94, 2002-M59, 2002-M110, 2006-M77, 2006-M94, 2006-M179, 2007-M148, 2008-M59, 2008-M191, 2013-M145

The papers of Jane F. Babson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Jane F. Babson between July 1982 and October 2008, with an additional gift from her estate in August 2013.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see David Frederick Babson Papers, 1903-1984 (MC 361) and at the New-York Historical Society (audiocassettes of Babson's interviews with Sylvia Epstein Press)


Donors: Jane F. Babson and her estate

Accession numbers: 2006-M77, 2013-M145

Processed by: Susan Earle

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

  1. Babson, David W. Illustrations by Jane F. Babson. When Chester Lost Maybelle. Stamford, CT: The Winstead Press, Ltd., 1996
  2. Babson, Jane F. Babson's Bestiary. Stamford, CT: The Winstead Press, Ltd., 1990
  3. Babson, Jane F. Ima Frog and Yura Owl. Stamford, CT: The Winstead Press, Ltd., 2008
  4. Babson, Jane F. The Nest on the Porch. Stamford, CT: The Winstead Press, Ltd., 1988
  5. All Saints Recipe Book: 200 Simple Recipes for Home Cooking, Useful to Reduce the Cost of Living
  6. Sighs and Whispers, Bloomingdale's lingerie catalog photographed by Guy Bourdin, 1976

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

  1. American Women of Style: An Exhibition Organized by Diana Vreeland. The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975
  2. Brush with Nature: A Collection of Poetry Angela Jenkins, compiler. Readers' Room, Elizabethtown Community College, 1999
  3. Lessenberry, D.D. and Wanous, S.J. College Typewriting Intensive Course. Cincinnati, New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco: South-Western Publishing Company, 1948
  4. Miss Frances (Horwich, Frances, Dr.). Our Baby. New York: Golden Press, 1955
  5. Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, Winter and Spring 1989
  6. Sullins Alumnae Bulletin, March 1967
  7. Wedding Work-Note: A.n Indispensable Booklet for Wedding Planning by the Editors of Modern Bride. Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, ca.1954
  8. Willis, Sarah C. Afterglow: A Collection of Poems. 1997

Processing Information

Processed: December 2016

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Babson, Jane F. Papers of Jane F. Babson, 1844-2012 (inclusive), 1950-2012 (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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