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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 972

Papers of Helene Pilibosian, 1906-2018


Poems, editorials, correspondence, scrapbooks, speeches, diplomas, photographs, and electronic records of poet, editor, publisher, and Armenian American activist Helene Pilibosian.


  • 1906-2018
  • Majority of material found within 1963-2010

Language of Materials

Materials in English and Armenian.

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 Helene Pilibosian is held by Hagop Sarkissian. Upon his death, copyright will be transferred and assigned to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. 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.


2.63 linear feet ((4 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 2 folio+ folders, 3 photograph folders, 1 oversize photograph folder, 1 archived web site)
18.37 Megabytes (16 files)

The collection documents Pilibosian's career as a poet, memoirist, editor, and publisher. The collection includes certificates and diplomas; grade reports; correspondence (including letters regarding Pilibosian's participation in the Massachusetts State House Armenian Genocide Commemoration, and regarding her books); articles about Pilibosian; speeches by her; published poems, articles, book reviews, and editorials; scrapbooks of published writings; reviews and publicity for her books; royalty statements, orders of Pilibosian's books, bills, and related material regarding the operation of Ohan Press; and photographs. The collection also includes Pilibosian's high school yearbook, which describes her with the quotation "She's quiet and willing and likes to work/From the hardest of tasks she'll never shirk" and lists her ambition or career goal as "Secretary." Relatively little personal material is included. Materials of note include a photograph of Pilibosian's father Khachadoor in his infancy, with other family members, in Ichmeh, Turkey; a digital audio file of Pilibosian reading her poetry; Pilibosian's notes on various books she read; and a letter from May Sarton responding to Pilibosian's request for feedback on her poetry. The collection is arranged alphabetically. The bulk of the folder headings were created by the archivist; headings created by Pilibosian or Sarkissian, when used, appear in quotation marks. The collection is arranged alphabetically.

Pilibosian's website is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program; it is represented in this finding aid as "E.1." Pilibosian's widower, Hagop Sarkissian, provided the library with digital scans of unpublished collections of Pilibosian's poetry, as well as of other documents; these are located in folders #E.2 and E.4-E.17. #E.3 contains a digital audio file of Pilibosian reading her poetry.

Books by Pilibosian and Sarkissian were transferred to the Schlesinger Library's Printed Materials division and periodicals including Pilibosian's poetry was offered to other Harvard Libraries. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Editor, publisher, and poet Helene "Hosmig" Pilibosian was born in 1933 in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Khachadoor "Archie" Pilibosian and Yeghsabet "Elizabeth" (Haboian) Pilibosian. She had one older sister, Lucia. Both Khachadoor and Yeghsabet were survivors of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), during which many members of their families were killed. Khachadoor (1903/4-1989) was enslaved by the Kurds at a young age and forced to care for farm animals and young children. Eventually he escaped and with the help of acquaintances arrived at an orphanage in Aleppo, Syria. He was then able to establish contact with his father, who had immigrated to the United States some years before. His father provided him with money for the journey and Khachadoor arrived in the United States in 1920. He worked a variety of jobs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island (including as a gravedigger) before working for Star Market and then becoming a partner in Huron Spa, a grocery store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Yeghsabet (1905-1997) was orphaned during the Genocide and sent to orphanages first in Kharpert, Armenia, and then Ghazir, Lebanon. She and other orphans worked at a rug weaving factory in Ghazir, where a rug made by the orphans was sent to the White House. In 1923, she began studying nursing at the American University of Beirut, and after graduation she relocated to Gardanne, France, where her sister lived. While in France, she began corresponding with Khachadoor, who was a close friend of her brother. In 1930, Khachadoor traveled to France and they were married, settling in Boston, Massachusetts, later on moving to Watertown, Massachusetts.

Pilibosian graduated from Watertown (Massachusetts) High School and Katharine Gibbs School. She attended Boston University briefly, before studying at Harvard University Extension where she received an Adjuncts in Arts (bachelor's equivalent) degree in 1960. During the mid-1950s, she suffered from depression and was briefly hospitalized at Boston State Hospital in Mattapan, Massachusetts, where she underwent electroshock therapy. According toMy Literary Profile: A Memoir, some of her behavior while a student at Harvard was deemed "questionable" in ways never fully made clear to her and the combination of her overall depression and the shock therapy treatment led to her not being able to remember a year of her life. In 1960, she married Hagop Sarkissian, who had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1957. The couple traveled to Europe and then to the Middle East on their honeymoon, to visit Sarkissian's family. Sarkissian worked at the Harvard University Printing Office for the bulk of his career. The couple had two children, Robert Hovhannes and Sharon Anoush. In 1963, Pilibosian underwent gall bladder surgery at Mount Auburn Hospital and suffered a cardiac arrest on the operating table; she was resuscitated by emergency surgery including manipulation of her heart and was kept in a medically induced coma and on a respirator for four days.

From 1964 to 1966 she served as the first woman editor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, an Armenian Democratic Liberal Party paper originally based in Boston, then (since 1962) in Watertown; she later returned to the paper as an assistant editor (1975-1981). Pilibosian's editorials addressed a range of topics including "the teenage issue," Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and issues in the Middle East. She also frequently profiled notable Armenian Americans and other public figures, such as Indira Gandhi. On April 24, 1965, during her editorship, the newspaper published an issue dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In 1983 she founded Ohan Press, a family-run press that published several books of her poetry, prose, and a memoir. Titles include Carvings from An Heirloom: Oral History Poems (1983), At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems (1998), History's Twists: The Armenians: Poems (2007), My Literary Profile: A Memoir (2010), A New Orchid Myth (2014), Candor Candy: Global Poems (2016), and Planet Tome Reborn (2016). (The last two works were published posthumously.) Her poems appeared in a number of literary journals including The Seattle Review, Louisiana Literature, and The Cape Rock. She and her father Khachadoor Pilibosian also collaborated on his memoir, which described the Armenian Genocide, his experiences when enslaved, and his life in the United States. The memoir, They Called Me Mustafa: Memoir of an Immigrant (1992, 1999), was selected by Alexander Street Press to be part of the North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories database. Pilibosian died in 2015 following exploratory brain surgery.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2018-M105, 2018-M172

The papers of Helene Pilibosian were given to the Schlesinger Library by her widower, Hagop Sarkissian, between June and October 2018.


Donors: Hagop Sarkissian

Accession number: 2018-M105

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following item was transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division:

  1. Korone: Women's Voices, Volume VIII, 1994

The following items have been removed from the collection and offered to Widener Library:

  1. The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, assorted issues, 1964-1998
  2. Author & Journalist, February 1959
  3. Byline, May 2000
  4. Hawaii Review 46: Linoleum, Volume 20.1, 1996
  5. The North American Mentor Magazine, Volume XXIII, Number 4, Winter 1985
  6. Panhandler: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, Issue 33, Spring 1997
  7. The Seattle Review, Volume XXIX Number 1, 2006
  8. Soviet Literature, 12, 1975
  9. Space and Time: The Magazine of Fantasy, Horror, and Science-Fiction, #100, Spring 2007

The following items have been removed from the collection and offered to the Woodberry Poetry Room at Lamont Libray:

  1. Arveste II, 1962
  2. Bibliophilos Poetry, Volume V, Number 1, 2001
  3. Black Buzzard Review, #4,
  4. Blue Unicorn, February 2012
  5. Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Fall/Winter 2005, Fall/Winter 2007
  6. The Broad River Review, Volume 46 Spring 2014
  7. The Cape Rock, Spring 1990, Spring 1994, Spring 1996, Spring 1998
  8. Cold Mountain Review, Spring 2000
  9. Crucible, Fall 2011, Fall 2014
  10. Ekphrasis: A Poetry Journal, Volume 4 Number 6, Fall/Winter 2008
  11. Ellipsis...Literature and Art, Volume 44 (2008), Volume 45
  12. The G.W. Review, Volume XX Number 1, Fall 1999
  13. Half Tones to Jubilee, Fall 1992, Fall 1995, Fall 1998
  14. Icon, Spring 1999, Spring 2003, Fall 2004
  15. Into the Teeth of the Wind, Volume III Issue 1, 2001
  16. The Licking River Review, Volume 29 Winter/Spring, 1997-1998
  17. Louisiana Literature, Volume 6 Number 1 (Spring 1989), Volume 21 Number 1 (Spring/Summer 2004), Volume 28 Number 1, Volume 31 Number 2
  18. Miller's Pond, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2003
  19. The Monocacy Valley Review, Number 12, 1995
  20. Nebo Literary Journal, Spring 2006
  21. New Athenaeum, Winter 1964
  22. Northwest Florida Review,Spring 2003
  23. Pacific Review: Poetry & Fiction, Interviews & Reviews, Fall/Winter 1992
  24. Phase and Cycle, Spring-Summer 1996, Spring-Summer 1997
  25. The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Volume 2 Number 3, Summer 1992
  26. Plainsongs, Fall 1992, Spring 2008, Winter 2010, Winter 2011
  27. Pleiades, Spring 1994, Fall 1995
  28. Poetry Salzburg Review, Spring 2008, Autumn 2010
  29. Potpourri: A Magazine of the Literary Arts, Volume 9, Number 2, 1997
  30. Rhino: A Review of Literature, 1993
  31. River Oak Review, Volume 2 Issue 3, Summer 2006
  32. Sahara: A Journal of New England Poetry, Winter 2002, Summer 2003
  33. Shorelines: Poetic Thoughts & Stories (The Third of a Series), 1988
  34. Talking River, Issue Number 20, 2006
  35. Third Wednesday, Winter 2012
  36. Tributary, Volume 2 Issue 3 Winter 1993
  37. Voices, 1958
  38. Widener Review 9: Poetry/Fiction/Essays, 1992
  39. Wild Edges: Manzanita: Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Volume 6 2010
  40. Willow Review, Volume XXIX, Spring 2002

Processing Information

Processed: April 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.

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, and by a gift from Hagob Sarkissian.

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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