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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 914: T-165: Vt-41: Phon 19

Papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1923-1984


Correspondence, speeches, articles, etc., of Hildegard E. Peplau, psychiatric nurse, educator and author.


  • Creation: 1923-1984


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Folder #52 is closed until July 24, 2024, #509 is closed until January 1, 2045, #525 is closed until January 1, 2047, #526 is closed until January 1, 2048, and #656-675 are closed until January 1, 2037. All other materials are unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Hildegard E. Peplau is held by Letitia Anne Peplau. 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.


54.96 linear feet ((129 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 8 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 28 photograph folders, 4 folio+ photograph folders, 92 audiotapes, 3 videotapes, 1 phonograph record)

The papers of Hildegard Peplau extensively document her professional life, including her student years at university, her teaching career, professional activities outside of teaching, and her research and writing in the field of mental health and psychiatric nursing. This collection also documents her personal life, including her relationship with friends, colleagues, and her daughter, Letitia (Tish) Anne Peplau. Materials include diaries, correspondence, articles and essays, notes, photographs, printed materials, and clippings.

Series I. PERSONAL PAPERS, 1923-1984 (#1v-257, 1553) contains photographs, biographical and genealogical data, clippings about Peplau, curriculum vitae, diaries, and correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues. The bulk of material in this series consists of personal correspondence to and from family and friends. Most of the letters to Peplau from friends and family remark on general topics such as travel, work, and everyday life. Letters from Peplau's brother, Walter, from the 1940s discuss his time stationed abroad during World War II. Letters from Peplau to her sister, Bertha, discuss preparations for Peplau's service in the United States Army Nurse Corps as well as her time serving abroad during World War II. In correspondence with Peplau's daughter, Letitia (Tish) Anne Peplau, Peplau details her experiences teaching at the University of Leuven in Belgium, her nursing work, and travel, while her daughter discusses her everyday life, travel, and her early work in the field of social psychology. Peplau's diaries detail her day to day life as well as her time traveling around Europe in 1965 and on safari in 1975. The photographs (1v-27, 1553) include images of Peplau along with friends, family, and colleagues. Included are photographs of Peplau's fellow nursing students, leisure activities with family and friends, time spent abroad, Peplau's service in World War II, Peplau at a number of different professional engagements and conferences, and images of her daughter, Letitia (Tish). Many photos are annotated with names, dates, and/or other captions. This series is arranged chronologically within subject or type of material, beginning with photographs.

Series II. SCHOOL, COLLEGE, CAREER, 1923-1981 (#258-604), contains student records, course notes, and papers from Peplau's time at school and university. Included from Peplau's teaching career are teaching notes, student papers, administrative correspondence, and faculty committee records, which include meeting minutes, notes, memos and correspondence. The schools represented include Pottstown School of Nursing, Bennington College, Teachers' College at Columbia University, and Rutgers University. The bulk of this series consists of background research files compiled for a text on psychiatric nursing as well as administrative records and teaching files from both Teachers' College at Columbia and Rutgers University. These papers contain extensive information related to Peplau's education as well as the trajectory of her career and work within the field of psychiatric nursing. Noted topics include Peplau's approach to teaching and her views on the need for establishing interpersonal relationships within the nursing profession- a topic for which she is well known. Original folder or binder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks.

Series III. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1943-1984 (#605-1201, T-165.1-T-165.86, T-165.89-T-165.92, Vt-41.1-Vt-41.3, Phon 19), includes correspondence, notes, programs, agendas, schedules, expense reports, and logistical material related to workshops and conferences either attended or conducted in part or in full by Peplau. These events focus heavily on the education of psychiatric nurses, both on an academic and professional level. Other notable material relates to Peplau's work as a consultant for educational organizations where she advised on curriculums, texts, conferences, and workshops. Peplau's files have been kept intact and are labeled "Peplau's file." Materials are arranged chronologically.

Series IV. Professional associations, 1950-1984 (#1202-1425, T-165.87-T-165.88), includes correspondence, papers, audiocassettes, etc., relating to arranged Peplau's service to the American Nurses Association, the International Council of Nurses, and other professional organizations, as well as Peplau's consultancy work for various organizations. Materials are arranged alphabetically by organization.

Series V. Writings, 1942-1984 (#1426-1513a), includes unpublished papers, talks, typescript and printed articles, and books by Peplau; also books including forewords, reviews, or essays by Peplau; correspondence with publishers. Files are arranged chronologically.

Series VI. Awards and honors, 1925-1984 (#1514o-1552af+), includes certificates, plaques, medals, etc., honoring Peplau's work in the field of nursing. Materials are arranged chronologically.


Hildegard Elizabeth Peplau, educator and psychiatric nurse, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on September 1, 1909, the daughter of Polish and Russian immigrants Gustav and Ottylie Peplau. Gustav Peplau (1882-1949) worked as a fireman at the Reading Railroad yards for 31 years. Ottylie Peplau (1883-1944) maintained the family's home and occasionally worked outside the home as a housekeeper. Over the course of her life, Peplau maintained especially close ties with her siblings, Clara Julianna (1907-1984), Harold Gustav (1911-1985), Walter Carl (1913-1969), Bertha Ottylie (1919-1999), and her foster brother John David Forster (born 1931).

Educated at local schools, Peplau received a diploma in nursing from Pottstown Hospital Training School in Pennsylvania, in 1931; an A.B. from Bennington College (1943); an A. M. (1947) and Ed.D (1953), both from Teachers' College, Columbia University; and a certificate in Psychoanalysis Applied for Teachers from the William Alanson White Institute (1954). Peplau gave birth to Letitia Anne (Tish) Peplau in 1945 but for personal reasons did not marry Tish's father, Donald M. McIntosh. Eventually, societal pressures influenced her decision to have Tish adopted by her brother Walter. For many years, she presented Tish as her niece so that she could pursue a nursing career without the stigma of being a single parent.

She first worked as a private duty and general staff nurse (1931-1936) and in the summers (1932-1942), for the New York University summer camp. Peplau later became Head Nurse and then Executive Officer of the College Health Services at Bennington College (1936-1942), as well as a part-time student, taking courses with Erich Fromm. She gained clinical psychiatric experience by spending her winter terms in field study at Chestnut Lodge (under the direction of Frieda Fromm-Reichman), where she attended lectures by Harry Stack Sullivan, and at the Psychiatric Department of Bellevue Hospital. Peplau served in the United States Army Nurse Corps (1943-1945) in neuropsychiatric units in England and the United States. After studying under the G.I. Bill at Teachers' College, she was employed there as instructor in nursing education and director of the Advanced Program in Psychiatric Nursing (1948-1953). She was a faculty member of the College of Nursing at Rutgers University (1954-1974), becoming chairman of the Department of Psychiatric Nursing and director of the Graduate Program in 1955, and Professor in Nursing in 1960. She was executive director of the American Nurses' Association (September 1969 - May 1970) while on leave from Rutgers, President of the American Nurses' Association (1970-1972), and 2nd Vice-President (1972-1974). After her retirement in 1974, she was Visiting Professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium (1975-1977) under the auspices of the World Health Organization. She served on the editorial boards of Nursing and Nursing Digest, and was active in the leadership of the New Jersey State Nurses Association (1965-1967, as director), National League for Nursing, World Health Organization, International Council of Nurses (board member, 1973-1977), American Psychiatric Association, National Institute for Mental Health, Veterans' Administration Research Study Group, and the Nursing Education Advisory Committee to the New Jersey Board of Higher Education. Among her numerous honors and awards are an honorary Doctorate of Nursing Science from Boston College (1972), an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Indianapolis (1987), and honorary Doctorate of Science degrees from Alfred University (1970), Duke University (1974), Columbia University (1983), Rutgers University (1985), Ohio State University (1990), Indiana University (1994), and the University of Ulster (1994). In addition she was co-recipient of the International Council of Nurses' Christiane Reimann Prize (1997) and inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame of the American Nurses' Association (1998).

The list of positions and honors tells only part of the story of Peplau's impact on psychiatric nursing. For thirty years she was one of the best known teachers of psychiatric nursing in the U.S. During the summers she conducted workshops in mental hospitals from coast to coast and abroad, training nurses in interviewing techniques while analyzing and explaining psychiatric theory. "I heard more last week about human behavior and how the mind works than I had ever learned," said a graduate of one of Peplau's workshops. As a lecturer at conventions, institutes and meetings, she spoke on trends in nursing, psychiatric nursing practice, and interpersonal relations. She constantly advocated professionalization and graduate training for nurses, and the need for nurses to exercise therapeutic skills and provide more than just custodial care. As a faculty member of Rutgers, Peplau conducted research under a National Institute of Mental Health training grant (1956-1974) in support of the first graduate program in psychiatric nursing for the preparation of clinical specialists. This research resulted in new and sophisticated theories based on psychiatric nursing practices. In particular, she used clinical interview data to clarify the interpersonal nature of nursing practice, to abstract and formulate theoretical concepts, and to test these concepts in practice. In addition to supervising research at Rutgers, she served on many advisory committees to research projects.

Her books are classics in the field of psychiatric nursing: Interpersonal Relations in Nursing (1952), Aspects of Psychiatric Nursing (1957), and Basic Principles of Patient Counseling (1964). Additionally, she wrote many articles for professional journals and essays for nursing textbooks and handbooks. She was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of abdominal cancer, and died following a stroke in 1999.


The collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Series I. Personal Papers (#1v-257, 1553)
  2. Series II. School, College, Career (#258-604)
  3. Series III. Professional Activities (#605-1201, T-165.1-T-165.86, T-165.89-T-165.92, Vt-41.1-Vt-41.3, Phon 19)
  4. Series IV. Professional associations (#1202-1425, T-165.87-T-165.88)
  5. Series V. Writings (#1426-1513a)
  6. Series VI. Awards and Honors (#1514o-1552af+)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 84-M107

The papers of Hildegard E. Peplau were given to the Schlesinger Library by Hildegard E. Peplau in June 1984.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library. See Hildegard E. Peplau Additional papers, 1922-2007 (MC 604). There is some overlap between the two groups of papers. See also Hildegard E. Peplau Letters to Mary Beth Mathews, 1984-1999 (A/P421) and Hildegard E. Peplau letters to Joan Kessner Austin, 1985-1998 (MC1271).

Additional audiovisual material has been cataloged separately as T-165 and Vt-41.


  1. Box 1: 28-36
  2. Box 2: 37a-46
  3. Box 3: 47-71
  4. Box 4: 72-85
  5. Box 5: 86-105
  6. Box 6: 106-119
  7. Box 7: 120-137
  8. Box 8: 139-152
  9. Box 9: 153-164
  10. Box 10: 165-172b
  11. Box 11: 173a-188
  12. Box 12: 189-200
  13. Box 13: 201a-203b
  14. Box 14: 204-208b
  15. Box 15: 209-215
  16. Box 16: 216-222
  17. Box 17: 223-226a
  18. Box 18: 226b-231
  19. Box 19: 232-240
  20. Box 20: 241-247a
  21. Box 21: 247b-253
  22. Box 22: 254-262
  23. Box 23: 263-273
  24. Box 24: 274-282a
  25. Box 25: 282b-292
  26. Box 26: 293-303a
  27. Box 27: 303b-304, 306-317
  28. Box 28: 318-327
  29. Box 29: 328-336b
  30. Box 30: 337-341
  31. Box 31: 342-351
  32. Box 32: 352a-359
  33. Box 33: 360-369
  34. Box 34: 370-382
  35. Box 35: 383-405
  36. Box 36: 406-420
  37. Box 37: 421-433
  38. Box 38: 434-447
  39. Box 39: 448-458
  40. Box 40: 459-470
  41. Box 41: 471-484
  42. Box 42: 485-497
  43. Box 43: 498-513
  44. Box 44: 514-534
  45. Box 45: 535-549b
  46. Box 46: 550-563
  47. Box 47: 564-579
  48. Box 48: 580-590
  49. Box 49: 591-604
  50. Box 50: 605-619
  51. Box 51: 620-630
  52. Box 52: 631-638
  53. Box 53: 639-648
  54. Box 54: 649-657
  55. Box 55: 658-666
  56. Box 56: 667-675
  57. Box 57: 675a-685
  58. Box 58: 686-694
  59. Box 59: 695-702
  60. Box 60: 703-713
  61. Box 61: 714-731
  62. Box 62: 732-746
  63. Box 63: 747-759
  64. Box 64: 760-773
  65. Box 65: 774-786
  66. Box 66: 787a-792
  67. Box 67: 793-806
  68. Box 68: 807-822
  69. Box 69: 823-838
  70. Box 70: 839-858
  71. Box 71: 859-872
  72. Box 72: 873-891
  73. Box 73: 892-907
  74. Box 74: 908-921
  75. Box 75: 922-936
  76. Box 76: 937-949
  77. Box 77: 950-962
  78. Box 78: 963-976
  79. Box 79: 977-990
  80. Box 80: 991-1009
  81. Box 81: 1010-1020
  82. Box 82: 1021-1030
  83. Box 83: 1031-1043
  84. Box 84: 1044-1052b
  85. Box 85: 1053-1064
  86. Box 86: 1065-1075
  87. Box 87: 1076-1086
  88. Box 88: 1087a-1088d
  89. Box 89: 1089-1097
  90. Box 90: 1098-1107
  91. Box 91: 1108-1121
  92. Box 92: 1122-1138
  93. Box 93: 1139-1153
  94. Box 94: 1154-1160
  95. Box 95: 1161-1177
  96. Box 96: 1178-1190
  97. Box 97: 1191-1197, 1199a-1202
  98. Box 98: 1203-1211
  99. Box 99: 1212-1224
  100. Box 100: 1225-1238
  101. Box 101: 1239-1248
  102. Box 102: 1249-1261
  103. Box 103: 1262-1280
  104. Box 104: 1281-1286
  105. Box 105: 1287-1293
  106. Box 106: 1294-1306
  107. Box 107: 1307-1322
  108. Box 108: 1323-1331
  109. Box 109: 1332-1340
  110. Box 110: 1341-1349a
  111. Box 111: 1349b-1359
  112. Box 112: 1360-1363c
  113. Box 113: 1363d-1376
  114. Box 114: 1377-1379, 1381-1385
  115. Box 115: 1386-1395
  116. Box 116: 1396a-1402
  117. Box 117: 1403-1415
  118. Box 118: 1416-1423
  119. Box 119: 1424-1444
  120. Box 120: 1445-1456
  121. Box 121: 1457-1468
  122. Box 122: 1469-1478
  123. Box 123: 1479-1488v
  124. Box 124: 1489v-1497
  125. Box 125: 1497a-1503
  126. Box 126: 1504-1509
  127. Box 127: 1510-1513a, 1515-1516, 1518, 1520
  128. Box 128: 1521-1523, 1525-1528, 1530-1532, 1534
  129. Box 129: 1536-1545, 1547
  130. Box 130: 1548, 1550-1552
  131. Folio Box 131: 305vf, 1519f, 1522af, 1529f, 1533f

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: October 1984

By: Jane S. Knowles, Marc Dolan, Cassandra L. Fraser

Updated: August 2018

By: Zoe Hill and Ashley Thomas

Peplau, Hildegard E. Papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1923-1984: 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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