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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 426

Papers of Anna Spicer Gladding and Miriam Van Waters, 1855-1992


Correspondence, speeches, diaries, photographs, etc., of librarian Anna Spicer Gladding, and penologist Miriam Van Waters.


  • Creation: 1855-1992


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Collection is open for research. Folders 191-194, which contain adoption and foster child placement information, are closed for 80 years.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Anna Spicer Gladding and Miriam Van Waters 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 linear feet ((12 file boxes) plus 4 folio+ folders, 57 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 1 audiotape)

The collection has been divided into three series: Papers of Anna Gladding, Papers of Miriam Van Waters, and Photographs.

Series I, Papers of Anna Gladding, #1-196, documents Gladding's work at the reformatory, largely in the nursery. There are also printed materials (mostly clippings) collected by Gladding, most of which pertain to the accusations, trial, dismissal, and subsequent reinstatement of Van Waters. The clippings have been photocopied and discarded. There are many letters between Gladding and Van Waters, but little other personal correspondence.

Series II, Papers of Miriam Van Waters, #197-376, comprises the bulk of the collection. Personal materials consist mainly of family letters, diaries, and correspondence with Hans Weiss, a suitor, and Geraldine Thompson, a close friend who was active in social causes, especially prison reform, in New Jersey. There is also business correspondence, as well as exchanges between Van Waters and prisoners and ex-prisoners from the reformatory and elsewhere; there are many more such letters in the Van Waters papers in the Schlesinger Library (A-71).

There are also typescript and manuscript drafts of speeches given by Van Waters, at the reformatory or elsewhere, and notes and drafts of articles and other of her writings. Much of the material relating to the reformatory documents student activities, especially the plays staged by the students and directed by Van Waters. Like Gladding, Van Waters collected many printed materials, largely reflecting her interests; most pertain to prisons, penal reform, juvenile delinquency, and the death penalty. For additional information about her dismissal, hearing, and reinstatement, see the records of the Friends of Framingham Reformatory (B-18) in the Schlesinger Library. Most materials from her work on juvenile delinquency are at the Harvard Law School.

Series III, Photographs, #377-432. As it was impossible to determine whether Gladding or Van Waters owned any particular photograph, they have been left as one series. Most of the photographs depict scenes and activities at the reformatory, particularly students performing plays, including the Merrymakers Club (a club for African American students) in "A Hill of Beans," a play written for them by Van Waters. There are also photographs of Van Waters, her friends and family.


Anna Spicer Gladding was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1906 or 1907, the daughter of Royal and Anna (Spicer) Gladding. She was a graduate of Vassar College and studied early childhood education at the Merrill School in Detroit. She applied her education first as a teacher in the Smith College Nursery School, and then in the nursery at the Reformatory for Women in Framingham, Massachusetts, where she was hired the same year (1932) that Miriam Van Waters became superintendent. In 1957 she became the reformatory's librarian. She was also director of the Friendly Visitors' program, organist and choir director, and leader of the literary discussion and nature study groups. She retired in 1984, and died in Ashland, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1992.


Miriam Van Waters was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on October 4, 1887. She was one of five children of Reverend George Brown and Maude (Vosburg) Van Waters. She received a B.A. in philosophy (1908) and the A.M. in psychology (1910) from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. from Clark University in 1913. After suffering a debilitating bout of tuberculosis, she served as director (1919-1920) of El Retiro, a school for delinquent girls in California, referee (1920-1930) for the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court, and consultant for the Wickersham Commission (1928- 1931), and on a number of other boards and commissions.

Her most noted work was as superintendent of the Reformatory for Women at Framingham (1932-1957). Her liberal views on penal reform brought her both praise and condemnation. In January 1949 she was fired because of alleged administrative failings, such as condoning lesbianism among the "students" (as she called the prisoners) and failing to supervise a work-release program properly. After a lengthy hearing process she was reinstated. Van Waters was the author of Youth in Conflict (1925) and Parents on Probation (1927).

Although Van Waters never married, she had close family ties. She adopted a daughter, Sarah Ann, in 1932; her brother Ralph and his wife Bertha lived nearby, and after the death of Van Waters' father, her mother went to live with Van Waters. Sarah Ann Van Waters married Richard Hildebrandt; they had three sons and later divorced. Sarah Ann Van Waters died in an automobile accident in 1953. Miriam Van Waters died in a hospital in Framingham on January 17, 1974. For additional biographical information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period (1980).


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Papers of Anna Gladding, #1-196
  2. Series II. Papers of Miriam Van Waters, #197-376
  3. Series III. Photographs, #377-432

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 82-M183, 84-M74, 89-M78, 89-M146, 93-M52, 93-M53, 93-M73, 93-M81, 93-M174, 94-M7, 94-M18

These papers of Anna Spicer Gladding and Miriam Van Waters were given to the Schlesinger Library in September 1982 and May 1984 by Anna Gladding; in April 1989 by Cynthia Thomas; in August 1989 by Anna Gladding and Margaret Van Wagenen; in April and May 1993 by Margaret Van Wagenen; in May 1993 by Margaret Van Wagenen (via Mary Q. Hawkes); in April 1993 by Richard, Peter, and George Hildebrandt (via Margaret Van Wagenen); and in November 1993 by Margaret Trapwell, and in January 1994 by Margaret Van Wagenen (via Estelle Friedman)

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Miriam Van Waters, 1861-1971 (A-71).


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-25
  2. Box 2: Folders 26-91
  3. Box 3: Folders 92-187
  4. Box 4: Folders 188-214
  5. Box 5: Folders 215v-219v
  6. Box 6: Folders 220v-241
  7. Box 7: Folders 242-270
  8. Box 8: Folders 271-286
  9. Box 9: Folders 287-310
  10. Box 10: Folders 311-331
  11. Box 11: Folders 332-355
  12. Box 12: Folders 356-376

Processing Information

Processed: December 1993

By: Susan von Salis

Gladding, Anna Spicer, 1906-1992. Papers of Anna Spicer Gladding and Miriam Van Waters, 1885-1992: 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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