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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 959

Papers of Jean Lunn, 1933-2015 (inclusive), 1955-2010 (bulk)


Correspondence, dream journals, writings, and song recital programs of singer and poet Jean Lunn.


  • 1933-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1955-2010

Language of Materials

Materials in English and French.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Jean Lunn 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.


16.26 linear feet ((39 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder)

The collection consists primarily of Lunn's personal and professional correspondence, with much of the latter focused on Lunn's singing career. Other materials include programs for her concerts; poetry and prose by Lunn (as well as some poetry by others); coursework ranging from elementary school through classes taken at Cape Cod Community College in the 1980s; diaries and dream journals; and an interview with poet Carole Oles. Little or no material related to Lunn's work at Cape Cod Synagogue or with Sandscript is included.

The bulk of the folder headings were created by Lunn or by Carl Scovel, who arranged for the collection to come to the Schlesinger Library and, with input from Lunn, sorted and organized the material. The archivist maintained the existing arrangement as much as possible. Folder titles created by the archivist appear in square brackets.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1943-2015 (#1.1-10.12), includes appointment books listing Lunn's activities in the 1950s (and also reminders to herself to do various things such as "wash hair!" or get her mother a birthday present); diaries; dream journals she kept from the 1980s until near the end of her life; and schoolwork, ranging from book reports and other essays Lunn wrote in grade school to editing classes she took in the 1980s. Of particular note are Lunn's 1948 diary, which vividly details her interest in music and also the typical interests and pursuits of a 1940s teenage girl; a letter Lunn's parents received regarding Lunn's academic standing at Radcliffe suffering due to her neglecting her studies due to her "generous participation in concerts"; and medical evaluations of Lunn after her second stroke. Also included are drafts of Lunn's will and obituary. The series also includes a number of what Carl Scovel describes as "small workbooks with daily tasks to be done" from the 1940s and 1950s. The lists and notations in these notebooks (some of which apparently relate to trips to Europe Lunn made in 1951 and 1954) are not easily decipherable. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1945-2015 (#10.13-30.9), contains Lunn's extensive correspondence with family and friends, ranging from her days as a student at Shady Hill School to her final years at the Cape Regency Rehabilitation & Health Care Center. The bulk of the series consists of letters Lunn received. Of particular note for the light they shed on 1950s societal norms and gender roles are letters from Lunn's brother Gordon and from her friend Eliza Lloyd, with Gordon commenting on the ease with which a young woman could acquire a bad reputation and Lloyd giving her view of the responsibilities of young men and women in romantic relationships. Lunn's correspondence with Gordon conveys their sometimes tense relationship and their differing approaches to life. In her final years, Lunn did not trust Gordon to carry out her wishes regarding her home and possessions and felt he was motivated by feelings of inferiority towards her, while Gordon felt that Lunn often frustrated his attempts to make improvements on her house, which was in poor condition.

Other correspondents include Lunn's mother, her nephew John, her niece Valerie, and her sister-in-law Twyla. Of note is Lunn's "sundry" correspondence, which includes letters in which she details her feelings of depression and her crisis of identity after leaving the King's Chapel Choir; her relationship with alcohol; and her view that "...nothing is worth losing your joie de vivre for, and that if you can't be yourself you can't do anything else." The series also includes Lunn's correspondence with Carl Scovel, who served as Lunn's health care proxy and power of attorney for a few years after her second stroke, and continued to visit her until her death. This correspondence addresses Lunn's desire to return home and her feeling that Scovel did not sufficiently understand this desire; Scovel's efforts to manage Lunn's affairs; and tasks Lunn wanted him to perform for her. After the second stroke, Lunn wrote her letters with her left hand and her handwriting deteriorated over the years, making her letters and drafts (she sometimes made multiple copies of her letters and notes) increasingly difficult to decipher.

Lunn sorted her correspondence into several categories and the archivist has preserved this arrangement. Thus, the series is arranged with chronologically sorted correspondence appearing first, followed by an alphabetical arrangement of what Scovel or Lunn deemed "general" correspondence, and finally by the "sundry" correspondence. Some overlap exists between these groups. Professional correspondence (designated as such by Lunn) appears in Series III and some overlap also exists between the correspondents in the two series.

Series III, PROFESSIONAL, 1950-2008 (#30.10-39.8, FD.1), includes Lunn's correspondence with fellow musicians, with music companies for whom she did translating work, and with various concert venues including Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire; and programs and reviews for her concerts. Some folders contain a mix of professional and personal matters. Of note is her correspondence with John Davison. In many of his early letters, Davison describes his issues with women in general and with Lunn in particular, including his not always flattering views of her personality and singing voice. Their later correspondence focuses more on their respective musical endeavors, with Davison also expressing his admiration for Lunn. Lunn's letters to Davison are included in the collections of his papers at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections: see the Papers of John Davison (Coll.839) and the John Davison Papers: Additions, 1939-1999 (Coll.839.1.) Lunn also frequently corresponded with composers whose work she was performing or hoped to perform, inviting them to her concerts, commenting on their work, and asking for guidance on how best to interpret it. The series includes copies of Lunn's outgoing letters as well as ones she received.

The series also includes the transcript of an interview Lunn conducted with poet Carol Oles; drafts of her poem cycle "Linette" (based on a character in Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur); other unpublished poems and prose writings (some apparently done for writing classes); and Lunn's notes from meetings of the Cape Cod Writers' Conference. Only one of Lunn's published poems is included. The series is arranged with correspondence appearing first, followed by an alphabetical arrangement of the remaining material.


Singer, translator, editor, and poet Jean Williams Lunn was born in 1933 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of Susan Williams and John Aleck Lunn, a manufacturing executive. Her brother John Gordon Lunn (known as Gordon, or Gord) was born the following year. The children were raised as Christian Scientists, although Lunn felt no particular investment in this religion. She noted in an autobiographical essay that while her mother was a devout Christian Scientist, her father was a Presbyterian but did not go to church, instead spending Sundays working in the yard. In the same essay she notes, "...when people talk of a supportive family I have no idea what they mean." Her parents did apparently provide her with financial support while they were alive, as well as establishing a trust to help support her in later years. She was interested in music from an early age and was accepted into Boston's Chorus Pro Musica when she was seventeen. She attended Buckingham and Shady Hill Schools in Cambridge and the Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from Radcliffe College (A.B. 1955). She also studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music and at Mannes College of Music. From the early 1950s to the early 1970s she gave concerts at venues in Boston and Cambridge, New York City, and other cities in the eastern United States, with high points being performances of Peter Westergaard's opera Charivari at Harvard in 1963, Randall Thompson's Nativity According to Saint Luke, in 1961 and the Handl oratorio Saul at Carnegie Hall in 1963. Her roles in the first two works were written for her.

In the late 1950s, Lunn joined the choir of King's Chapel in Boston, where she sang under the direction of organist and choral director Daniel Pinkham. She also undertook some clerical and editorial work for him, in addition to working as a translator and music editor for a number of music publishers, including C.F. Peters and E.C. Schirmer. In the mid 1960s, Pinkham determined that Lunn's voice was not good enough for her to continue in the choir. This decision was deeply dismaying to Lunn and led her to question her identity as a singer. She began suffering from depression and from what she termed "instant mental illness" and also became concerned that she was drinking too much. These difficult experiences led her to seek counseling, first with Carl Scovel, the minister at King's Chapel, and then with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with Bipolar disorder. She initially struggled with this diagnosis but eventually came to terms with it.

In 1961 she began singing as part of a quartet at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and, finding it difficult to sing in a language she did not know, she enrolled in Hebrew classes at the Academy of Jewish Studies in Boston. She was the first gentile graduate of that program, receiving a teaching certificate in 1970, and teaching a Hebrew class at King's Chapel in the 1970s. In 1969, she and her mother purchased a house in Hyannis, Massachusetts, and Lunn began living there permanently in 1972. Shortly after her arrival in Hyannis, she became choir director at Cape Cod Synagogue. She served in this capacity from 1973 to 1978 and during this time began observing the Jewish holidays, ultimately converting to Judaism in 2004. Her mother died in 1976, and for the next several years, Lunn divided her time between her home in Hyannis and her ailing father's residence in Cambridge. He also spent a portion of each year with her in Hyannis and Lunn found it difficult to manage her own life and emotional well being under this arrangement. Her father died in 1981.

Lunn began writing poetry in 1961 and studied with Ruth Whitman in the 1970s, crediting Whitman with having "brought [her] into the twentieth century." Her poems have been published in Webster Review, Manhattan Poetry Review, and several other publications. She served as poetry editor of Sandscript, a Cape Cod literary magazine, from 1979-1991, and was an active participant in writing workshops and in the Cape Cod Writers' Conference.

In 1994 Lunn had a minor stroke but suffered little impairment from it. She suffered a more severe stroke in 2001, which resulted in a paralyzed right arm and greatly reduced mobility, and she was moved to the Cape Regency Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Centerville, Massachusetts. She was anxious to return home and clung to the belief that she would be able to do so, despite the doubts of her family, friends, and medical team. As her health made it impossible for her to live alone, remaining at Cape Regency was the best option, but Lunn was reluctant to accept this and also resistant to the efforts of others to clean out and sell her house, which was in a poorly maintained and overcrowded condition. The house was sold in 2004. While at Cape Regency, Lunn maintained active (though sometimes difficult to decipher, due to her writing with her left hand) correspondence with family and friends, and also continued to write poetry and maintain the dream journals she had begun some years earlier. She died at Cape Regency in September 2015.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1933-2015 (#1.1-10.12)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1945-2015 (#10.13-30.9)
  3. Series III. Professional, 1950-2008 (#30.10-39.8, FD.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2009-M142, 2015-M174, 2015-M196, 2016-M13

The papers of Jean Lunn were given to the Schlesinger Library by Jean Lunn and her executor, Carl Scovel, between July 2009 and January 2016.

Related Materials

There is related material at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections: see the Papers of John Davision (Coll.839) and the John Davison Papers: Additions, 1939-1999 (Coll.839.1).

Processing Information

Processed: February 2019

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Henry Shull and Ashley Thomas

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.

Lunn, Jean. Papers of Jean Lunn, 1933-2015 (inclusive), 1955-2010 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible 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. 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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