Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
2.09 linear feet ((5 boxes) plus 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 1 folio+ folder, 1 folio folder, 9 reels of microfilm)
Series I, Personal and Biographical, 1857-1963 (#1-13), is grouped in three sections: biographical, education and professional.
Series II, Writings, 1849-1920, n.d. (#14-126), is arranged chronologically, with dated items followed by the undated items. The latter are divided into three sections: college writings, writings on woman's rights, and sermons. All items are handwritten unless otherwise noted.
Series III, Correspondence, 1855-1920 (#127-142), is grouped in three sections: letters to Brown; letters by Brown; and other to other. Each section is arranged chronologically. See Index of correspondents.
Series IV, Suffrage and Woman's Rights, 1855?-1921 (#143-158, 161+), is arranged by organization, event, or type of record and then chronologically. Woman's rights material is located throughout the collection; see also Series I, #6, 9, 10, 12 and 13; Series II, especially #25, 28-29, 32-36, 46-50; and Series III.
This collection does not represent the total surviving Brown papers. Other collections are listed in Women's History Sources (New York and London, 1979).
It was in Weymouth that Brown met John Henry Willis, a trustee of the church. They were married in 1873 and had two children. Brown never used her husband's name and was known as Reverend Olympia Brown throughout her life.
Brown's interest in woman's rights began early. In her autobiography (#2) she writes that she chose Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) over Oberlin College because the latter discriminated "...against the women." She was disappointed that no women lecturers were invited to speak at Antioch and persuaded her fellow women students to raise money and invite Antoinette Brown Blackwell. She found her reception and treatment at St. Lawrence University to be less than wholehearted but she was determined to achieve ordination and hoped by her example to persuade other women to enter the ministry.
In 1866, at the invitation of Susan B. Anthony, Brown attended the convening meeting of the American Equal Rights Association. This was her first encounter with Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the beginning of a lifelong dedication to the woman's rights movement. In 1867 Brown campaigned in Kansas, speaking two and sometimes three times a day, for a woman's suffrage amendment to the state constitution. In 1868, under Brown's guidance, the New England Woman's Suffrage Association was formed, the first suffrage organization in the United States. After Brown's success as a stump speaker in the Kansas campaign, Susan B. Anthony tried to persuade her to resign her pastorate and give all her time to the woman's rights struggle, but Brown continued to put her ministerial duties first and give her spare time to suffrage work. She maintained good relations with both the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, believing that each served a useful function.
In 1882 she helped organize the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association, became its president in 1884, and was reelected annually until 1912. The passage by the Wisconsin legislature, and its approval by the people of the state, of the School Suffrage Law (1885) finally led Brown to resign from her parish. This law gave women the right to vote in any election pertaining to school matters. Believing that every election fell into this category, Brown handed in her resignation in 1887 and that November went to the polls to vote. Her vote was rejected and the case went to court. Brown argued on her own behalf and won, but in an appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court the decision was reversed.
The NWSA and the AWSA merged to form the NAWSA in 1890. Brown was disappointed at the new organization's emphasis on securing suffrage by amending each state constitution. In 1892 she called a meeting in Chicago and formed the Federal Suffrage Association. She was president from 1903 to 1920, and remained active with this organization, testifying before Congressional committees and speaking at public gatherings, until it was disbanded in 1920. She also joined the Congressional Union (later the National Woman's Party) and distributed suffrage material in front of President Wilson's White House. She later became a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Brown published Acquaintances Old and New Among Reformers in 1911, and in 1917 Democratic Ideals, A Life of Clara Bewick Colby. She died in Baltimore, Maryland on October 23, 1926.
More complete biographical material is available in this collection, including An Autobiography, edited and completed by Gwendolen B. Willis, unpublished, 1960. See also the article in Notable American Women (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), which includes a list of additional sources.
- SERIES I. Personal and Biographical, 1857-1963. #1-13.
- SERIES II. Writings by Brown, 1849-1920, n.d. #14-126.
- SERIES III. Correspondence, 1855-1920. #127-142.
- SERIES IV. Suffrage and Woman's Rights, 1855?-1921. #143-158, 161+.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Olympia Brown, the first woman to be ordained by full denominational authority, were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughter, Gwendolen B. Willis, in 1958, 1959 and 1960.
MICROFILM OF COLLECTION
- 1. Dates and/or other information have been written on some items by a number of people, including Brown and Gwendolen B. Willis. In organizing the material the processor accepted dates written by others. Dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
- 2. In most cases newspapers and magazines were not microfilmed in their entirety, but only the page(s) by or about Brown, and the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.
- 3. The pages of "notebooks" containing Brown essays, sermons, etc. were microfilmed consecutively. The reader is cautioned, however, that the text is not always consecutive. Brown sometimes wrote on the right-hand page before the left-hand one, sewed in extra pages, or inserted loose pages; and some pages have been lost.
- 4. Brown clipped, pinned, pasted or sewed clippings in the "notebooks." They were microfilmed with the pages with which they were found.
- 5. Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or signature missing, as well as smaller portions of letters, have been counted as fragments in the inventory.
- 6. The photographs in #4 have been microfilmed with the Library's photograph collection; the film is available at the Schlesinger Library.
- 7. Supersize items are larger than 20"x24." Supersize items listed in the inventory were all microfilmed together at the end of their respective series.
- 8. Only title pages of the five issues of Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, 147, were microfilmed with the supersize items at the end of Series IV. A complete run of the weekly is available on microfilm (S 1025) at Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
- 9. Some of the supersize material will be given to other libraries after being microfilmed. A Separation Record listing these items can be found after the Index to the Inventory.
Accession numbers: 58-50, 59-65, 175
Processed by: Bert Hartry
The following items have been sent to the American Antiquarian Society, August 1980:
- The Evening News. Danbury, Connecticut. December 2, 1871.
- The Geneva Courier. New York. June 7, 1876.
- The Gospel Banner. Augusta, Maine. March 30, 1872.
- Leavenworth Daily Commercial. Kansas. November 5, 1867.
- The New York Era. February 6, 1876.
- Rochester Evening Express. New York. April 4, 1873.
- The Xenia Torchlight. Ohio. January 2, 1867.
- Star in the West. Cincinnati, Ohio. July 5, 1877; August 23 and 30, 1877; September 6, 13, and 20, 1877; October 11 and 18, 1877; January 24, 1878; March 14, 1878; March 27, 1879.
- The Advocate. Racine, Wisconsin. April 5, 1883.
- The Morning Liberal Democrat. La Crosse, Wisconsin. June 9, 1878.
- The Wisconsin Citizen. Racine. March 1889.
- The Wisconsin Prohibitionist. Madison. February 21, 1889.
- The Gospel Banner. Augusta, Maine. September 28, 1872.
- The Boston Investigator. June 10, 1868.
INDEX OF CORRESPONDENTS
- *Anthony, Susan Brownell, 127-129, 132-137, 140, 142.
- Baker, George S., 131.
- Ballou, Eli, 127, 142.
- Bate, Amelia W., 134.
- Bates, R.B., 135.
- Bennett, Edgar M., 136.
- Bennett, Sarah Clay, 138.
- Blackwell, Alice Stone, 136.
- Blackwell, Antoinette Brown, 127, 128, 134, 142.
- *Blackwell, Henry B., 128, 130, 141. Blanchard, Inez A., 134.
- Boyd, Mary Sumner, 138.
- Bradberry, J.G., 128.
- Brown, Lephia Olympia, 127.
- *Brown, Olympia, 127-141.
- Bruce, E.M., 133.
- Burleigh, Celia. 131.
- Burns, Lucy, 138.
- Canfield, H.L., 130.
- Catt, Carrie Chapman, 139.
- Cobb, E.H., 127, 130, 131, 142.
- *Colby, Clara Bewick, 136, 142.
- Comstock, Hannah M., 142.
- Cothren, Marion B., 139.
- Couzins, Phoebe W., 135.
- Craig, Austin, 127.
- Dickinson, Anna E., 127, 128.
- Dodge, J. Smith, Jr., 130.
- Eates, Adelia, 129.
- Effinger, Lucretia, 131
- +Emerson, Rev. George H., 142.
- Fairbanks, Asa, 131
- +Fels, Mrs. Joseph, 141.
- *Fish, A.C., 134, 135, 141.
- Fisher, Ebenezer, 127.
- Fisher, R. G., 135.
- Fogg, M., 128.
- Foster, A.K., 129.
- Foster, Charles G., 128.
- Foster, Ellen Burroughs, 138.
- +Fowler, Maria A., 142
- Foye, John O., 127.
- +Fuller, Mrs., 141.
- Gage, Matilda E. Joslyn, 132, 133.
- *Garrison, William Lloyd, 129, 141.
- Garrison, William Lloyd II, 137.
- Gregory, John G., 135.
- *Hanaford, Phebe A., 128, 131, 132, 134, 142.
- Harper, Ida Husted, 138, 139.
- Haskell, William Garrison, 128, 129.
- Hazard, Mrs. W. T., 142.
- Hickox, Mary C., 137.
- Hirst, Cosmelia, 137.
- *Hooker, Isabella Beecher, 131, 132, 134, 136, 137, 142.
- Hooker, John, 130.
- Howe, Julia Ward, 131.
- Johnson, Adelaide, 137.
- Jones, J. E. (Elizabeth), 127.
- Larkin, Samuel, 130, 131.
- Lee, John S., 132.
- Lenroot, I.L., Congressman, 138.
- Leonard, T.F., 128-130.
- Lewis, Dora, 139.
- Livermore, Mary A., 128-130, 142.
- Moody, Joel, 128.
- Moore, Charles C., 138.
- Morgan, John, 127.
- Peck, C.H., 131.
- Perry, Henry, 132.
- Richards, Elias, 128, 130.
- Richards, Sara H., 134.
- Robinson, C., 128, 129.
- Rowlands & Rowland, Attorneys, 135.
- Sabin, Ellen C., 138.
- Severance, George, 129.
- Sewall, May Wright (Wright-Thompson, May), 133.
- Shaw, Anna Howard, 138.
- Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 129, 134-136, 140.
- +Start, Brother, 141.
- +Stearns, Cora M., 141.
- Stearns, Lutie E., 137.
- Stearns, O., 127.
- *Stone, Lucy, 128, 129, 131, 141.
- +Stone, Sarah, 141.
- +Sturgeon, [Mr.], 142.
- Tanner, Clara Follette, 140.
- +Upton, Harriet Taylor, 142.
- Vance, James J., 133.
- Wales, Zippie Brooks, 132.
- Welsh, Henry, 132.
- Weston, J.B., 132.
- Wheeler, D.H., 129.
- +Wiley, Dr. Harvey, 141.
- Wilkes, Eliza Tupper, 131.
- +Willis, John Henry, 142.
- *Wood, S.N., 128, 142.
- Wright-Thompson, May, 133.
By: Bert Hartry
- Connecticut -- Politics and government.
- Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879
- Religion--History--19th century
- Trials (Political crimes and offenses)
- Women clergy
- Women's rights
- Women--Education--History--19th century
- Women--Suffrage -- Kansas
- Women--Suffrage--Songs and music
- Brown, Olympia, 1835-1926. Papers of Olympia Brown, ca.1849-1963: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- The papers were reprocessed and microfilmed under a grant from the North Shore Unitarian Veatch Program, Plandome, New York.
- EAD ID
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