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COLLECTION Identifier: 2017-M124

Papers of Virginia Cardwell Purdy, 1928-2015


Correspondence, diaries, and writings of archivist and historian Virginia Cardwell Purdy.


  • Creation: 1928-2015

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Virginia Cardwell Purdy 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.


5.13 linear feet (3 cartons, 1 folio+ box)

Collection includes grade transcripts, family genealogies, photographs, writings and conference papers, passports, scrapbooks, diaries (some re: travel), and correspondence (mostly with her husband, her mother and sister Anna). Letters from Donald Purdy in 1945 are written from Germany and France during World War II. Material was foldered and titled by Maida Loescher.


Archivist and historian Virginia Cardwell Purdy was born in Columbia, South Carolina, the younger of two daughters of Thomas Davant and Nannie Edmonds Cardwell. She graduated from the University of South Carolina (BA 1942, MA 1960) and from George Washington University (PhD 1970). In 1946 she married Donald R. Purdy, who worked as a federal meteorologist and they eventually settled in the Washington (DC) area. Virginia Purdy worked as a librarian at Library of Congress (1964-1966); historian (1966-1969) and keeper of the catalog of American portraits (1966-1970) at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery; and finally at the National Archives until her retirement in 1989. While at the National Archives she was director of the education division and lectured and wrote widely on the use of federal records to document the history of American women. Purdy was the co-editor of Clio Was a Woman: Studies in the History of American Women (1980). Active in the Society of American Archivists, she edited its journal and was named a Fellow in 1981.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2017-M124

The papers of Virginia Cardwell Purdy were given to the Schlesinger Library by Virginia Purdy, via Maida Loescher, in June 2017.

Processing Information

Container list: June 2017

By: Maida Loescher.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

This container list provides a basic inventory and description of the Purdy papers. More extensive processing work may be undertaken in the future.

Purdy, Virginia Cardwell, 1922-2015. Papers of Virginia Cardwell Purdy, 1928-2015: A Container List
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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