Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 912; T-526; DVD-126

Papers of Dorothy Wallace, 1865-2015 (inclusive), 1935-2000 (bulk)


Correspondence, writings, schoolwork, scrapbooks, diaries, and family records of philanthropist and teacher Dorothy Wallace.


  • 1865-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1935-2000

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material. #28.1 is closed until January 1, 2034.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Dorothy Wallace 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.


24.81 linear feet ((59 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 3 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 9 photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 5 audiotapes, 1 DVD.)
The collection documents the life of Dorothy Wallace and also contains material related to the lives of her parents, husband, children, and other family members. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, with other materials including schoolwork and autobiographical and other writings by Wallace; articles about Wallace and members of her family; diaries; scrapbooks and guestbooks; financial records; photographs; and audiovisual material. The collection was donated by Wallace's daughter, who collected materials held by other family members and by Wallace's longtime assistant. Some of the material relates to events which occurred after Wallace's death, such as the deaths of her daughter Constance and Constance's husband Cyrus Gordon, and developments in New England Conservatory's Third Stream Department involving members of Wallace's family. Most folder headings were created by the archivist; those created by Wallace or members of her family appear in quotation marks.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1886-2015 (#1.1-17.6), includes articles about Wallace (including obituaries); diaries (including one describing a 1959 trip to Italy and diary entries for her 1935 trip to the Soviet Union); guest books; financial records (including tax returns); and material on Wallace's death (including her will, condolence letters received by family members, and material regarding a memorial concert). The series also includes material related to Wallace's education, ranging from articles she contributed to the Choate School newsletter to essays she wrote for the numerous classes at the Radcliffe Seminars she attended in later life. Many of these classes related to the art of journal keeping. The stories Wallace wrote for other classes were heavily autobiographical, with some also detailing aspects of other family members' lives. Of particular note is #17.1, including Wallace's lists of "things I have in my life that I like having" and "things I have in my life that I dislike having," and her accounts of Wallace family achievements in the mid-1950s. The series also includes scrapbooks prepared by Wallace's family and friends commemorating her life on the occasions of her 70th and 80th birthdays, a lock of Wallace's hair, and a lock of her son Richard's hair from his first haircut.

In addition, the series includes material on Wallace's husband, sister, parents, children, and other family members. Material related to Wallace's father Howard D. Colman includes letters he sent his wife Bertha Maguire Colman; his correspondence with his mother Lucinda Darling Colman; chronologies of his life; recollections of and tributes to Howard Colman by Wallace and other family members; drafts and other material related to the biographical project that resulted in the book Master Inventor: How Howard Colman Created a Multi-National Corporation; and documents related to a nature preserve Wallace established in honor of her father. Also included are death notices for Richard H. Wallace, articles about a large (almost 7 foot) fish he caught in Bermuda; a scrap of fabric from his first suit; and articles describing the dedication of a Lawrence College dormitory to Lucinda Darling Colman (Wallace's grandmother and the school's first female student). The series also includes a diary in which Bertha Maguire Colman describes a 1902 trip to Europe; programs and clippings related to Anne Wallace Elvins's operatic career (under the name Anna Gabrieli), a family newsletter written by Constance Wallace Gordon at the age of nine or ten condolence letters she received upon her brother Richard's suicide; and genealogies and family trees. Also included are letters received by family members other than Wallace, with topics including travel plans, daily activities, and medical issues. The series is arranged alphabetically

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, ca.1915-2010, n.d. (#17.7-56.6), includes correspondence with Wallace's family and friends. Notable correspondents include poet May Sarton, editor and translator Katharine Strelsky, and composer Ran Blake. Wallace's correspondence with her sister Ruth Colman Tower (sometimes addressed as "Sister Susan") spans almost 70 years, with topics including activities such as travel, family visits, and dinner parties; financial matters; and the lives of their parents, brothers, children, and acquaintances. The sisters frequently exchanged gifts and, as each had children, often exchanged clothes that one child or another had outgrown, with many of Wallace's letters from the 1930s and 1940s including enthusiastic thanks for outfits Ruth had sent her children. Almost all the letters are from Wallace to Tower, with only a few of Tower's responses included. The series also includes Wallace's letters to her mother (with only a few of Bertha Colman's letters included). Topics include Wallace's studies at Vassar and Radcliffe; her plans for her future (including her plans for travel to Europe and the Soviet Union in 1935); parties and social activities; servants; clothes and home decor; and Wallace's children. Of note is a letter from 1936, in which Wallace recounts her husband's views of the causes and statistical probability of miscarriage. Wallace's correspondence with her father covers her achievements at school, her plans for her life (including her professional goals and thoughts about marriage), financial matters (including the financial help Colman provided her and his other children), and Colman's home life. Of particular note are letters in which Colman describes his first dinner party since separating from his wife (#19.10) and in which Wallace reports a job in a girls' school being offered her, which would "make the 9th year in a pan-female establishment: I don't pretend to like it, but neither do I expect any job with entirely ideal conditions" (#19.10). Colman's letters to his daughter convey his affection for her and his dry sense of humor.

The series includes letters and telegrams Wallace exchanged with Richard H. Wallace while she traveled in Europe in 1935 and he worked in Boston and then traveled to join her; her correspondence with her children; and condolence letters she received upon the deaths of her husband and her son Richard, who committed suicide in 1981. Also included are letters from artists (including students) requesting financial or other assistance from Wallace and thanking her for that assistance; Wallace's contract with the Boston School Board; and letters from family and friends recounting daily events, including social engagements and travel. Correspondents include Elon Marquand (son of novelist John P. Marquand); Theodora Perry (proprietor of Boston's Bay Colony Bookshop): and Wallace's cousins and friends from Vassar College, many of whom addressed her as "Colie."

Wallace (or a member of her family) organized some correspondence into folders with titles such as "Letters and cards," "Family correspondence," "Letters to answer," and "Unfinished letters and postcards" and the archivist maintained this arrangement. The dates of these folders often overlap and correspondents frequently appear in more than one group, as well as in individual folders. The series is arranged with the alphabetical correspondence appearing first, followed by chronological correspondence. Some correspondents appear in both groups.

Series III, WRITINGS, 1923-2000, n.d. (#56.7-60.4), includes the articles Wallace wrote for the Rockford Register-Republic while traveling in Europe and the Soviet Union: the series includes typescripts of these articles as well as clippings. Also included are essays she wrote about her father, Howard D. Colman; a play she translated from the Russian with a friend; and articles on life in Boston that she submitted to various magazines, along with related correspondence with publishers (including an acceptance letter); and a family newsletter, "The Literary Record," that she wrote at the age of ten. Additional material includes poems by Wallace, some written while she was at Vassar College and some given to her children as gifts; autobiographical essays, and essays about other family members, some apparently written for classes and with notes by class instructors. The series also includes drafts of an article Wallace wrote on the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (accompanied by booklets about the WAACs) and correspondence and background material for an article she intended to write on the Federal Theatre Project. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, AUDIOVISUAL, AND OVERSIZED 1865-ca.2000 (#PD.1-, #T-526.1 - T-526.5, DVD-126.1, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1), includes photographs of Wallace as a baby, child, and on the day of her graduation from Vassar College. The series includes photographs of Wallace en route to the Soviet Union in 1935 and of her wedding in Munich. Also included are photographs of Wallace with her sister, husband, children, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, composer Ran Blake, and her students at the Florence Nightingale School. In addition, the series includes photographs of Wallace's children (including a photograph of Anne Wallace Elvins under her professional name of Anna Gabrieli), her parents (including Howard D. Colman with one of his inventions), and her siblings and other family members. Audiotapes include recordings of a birthday party for Wallace and a "soirée" honoring her, and of a presentation she gave on composers Cole Porter and George Gershwin. All of these events included musical performances by Wallace's friends and protegés, including Greg Silberman and Ran Blake. An audiotape of the memorial service for Wallace's friend Jack Graham is also included, as well as a DVD in which Wallace is interviewed by her nephew Jeffrey Colman about her childhood. The series is arranged by format and thereunder chronologically. The series also includes a manuscript storybook by Wallace, a draft of a story about visiting Moscow, and oversized items removed from elsewhere in the collection.

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


Philanthropist and teacher Dorothy (Colman) Wallace was born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1913, the daughter of Bertha (Maguire) and Howard D. Colman, an inventor and manufacturer, and founder of the Barber-Colman textile machinery company. Wallace had three older siblings, Walter, Edwin, and Ruth. The family employed several servants and maintained homes in Rockford and in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Wallace's parents separated in 1934, and though they never divorced, according to the book Master Inventor: How Howard Colman Created a Multi-National Corporation, they never spoke to each other again.

Wallace attended Rockford Public Schools, Keith Country Day School, and the Choate School in Brookline, Massachusetts, before graduating from Vassar College in 1933 and Radcliffe College (AM in history) in 1935. She taught history part-time at the Choate School while studying at Radcliffe. In 1935, she traveled to Europe, Scandinavia, and the Soviet Union on a trip organized by the Harvard University Travel Bureau, describing her experiences in articles published in her hometown newspaper, the Rockford Register-Republic. Her fiancé, Richard H. Wallace, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, joined her in Munich, Germany, where they married. The Wallaces lived briefly in Boston before settling in Brookline, Massachusetts, and had five children, Anne (born 1937), Richard (1938-1981), James (1941-2015), Constance (1944-2001), and Daniel (born 1949). During the early years of her marriage, Wallace wrote articles on home decoration, some of which were published in national magazines. Richard H. Wallace died of cancer in 1959.

In the 1950s Wallace took a Radcliffe Seminar course on the short story taught by May Sarton; she and Sarton began a friendship which lasted until Sarton's death in 1995. Wallace became a long-term student at the Seminars, focusing particularly on classes on journal keeping and autobiographical writing. In the late 1960s she earned a master's degree in education from Simmons College and taught the sixth grade at the Florence Nightingale School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, for a few years. She was unable to continue teaching due to arthritis but remained a strong supporter of education, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Third Stream Department at New England Conservatory in the early 1970s.

She served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, the Center for Plant Conservation in St. Louis, Missouri, and Shady Hill School in Cambridge, and contributed to numerous charities, making many of her contributions anonymously. With her brothers and sister, Wallace funded the Howard Colman Library at Rockford College; she also donated over 90 acres of forest and dolomite dells to the National Land Institute, in honor of her father. She also provided financial assistance to individual artists and musicians in need of help, providing housing and musical instruments to young people in need, and establishing a "salon" in her home, where she held frequent parties, featuring concerts by Third Stream musicians. In the early 1980s, she was involved with Morville House, a housing complex for the elderly and handicapped in Boston. Wallace died in Cambridge of a heart attack in 2000.


The collection is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1886-2015 (#1.1-17.6)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, ca.1915-2010, n.d. (#17.7-56.6)
  3. Series III. Writings, 1923-2000, n.d. (#56.7-60.4)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, audiovisual, and oversized,1865-ca.2000 (#PD.1-PD.10, #T-526.1 - T-526.5, DVD-126.1, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2016-M61

The papers of Dorothy Wallace were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughter, Anne (Wallace) Elvins, in March 2016.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Katharine Strelsky Papers, 1896-1993 (MC 815).


Donors: Anne Wallace Elvins

Accession number: 2016-M61

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Periodicals Division:
  1. The Rigmarole, Choate School newsletters, 1927-1928?

Processing Information

Processed: February 2018

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.
Link to catalog
Wallace, Dorothy, 1913-2000. Papers of Dorothy Wallace, 1865-2015 (inclusive), 1935-2000 (bulk) : A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Processing of this collection was made possible in part by a gift from Dorothy Wallace's daughter, Anne W. Elvins, and by the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing Fund.

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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-8647