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COLLECTION Identifier: A-50: M-133: M-52

Somerville and Howorth family papers, 1850-1974


Diaries, correspondence, photographs, etc., of Nellie (Nugent) Somerville, suffragist and temperance worker; her daughter Lucy (Somerville) Howorth, lawyer; and other female family members in Mississippi.


  • Creation: 1850-1974


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Folders 1-69a+ and Vol.1-Vol.25 are closed; use microfilm M-133. The remainder of the collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Somerville and Howorth family 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.


9.76 linear feet ((16 file boxes, 1 folio+ box, 1 oversize box) plus 2 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 1 oversize photograph folder, 1 supersize photograph folder, 1 folio volume, 7 reels of microfilm)

The collection includes biographical material, diaries, letters, speeches, memorabilia, clippings, and photographs, and is divided into five series. Only Series I and Series II were microfilmed in 1979, and only those two series are included in the SL/UPA microfilm.

Series I, Genealogical and early family records, contains a genealogy of Nellie Nugent Somerville by Keith (Frazier) Somerville, daughter-in-law of Somerville; the diaries (1852-1868) of S. Myra (Cox) Smith, Somerville's grandmother; correspondence between Somerville's parents, Eleanor (Smith) Nugent and William L. Nugent; and miscellaneous family papers and newsclippings.

Series II, Nellie Nugent Somerville, is divided into four sections: Biographical, Correspondence, Writings, and Organizations.

The Biographical section (folders 19-24, volumes 7-18) contains scrapbooks of clippings by and about Somerville, notebooks, and diaries.

Correspondence (25-35) includes letters to and from family members, as well as from Anna Howard Shaw, James O. Eastland, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the American Association of University Women, the Mississippi State Democratic Party, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the First Southern Methodist Church (Memphis). Also included here are letters of condolence to Somerville's children after her death.

Writings (36-49) includes typescript and manuscript speeches and articles on such subjects as suffrage, religion, prohibition, and democracy, as well as letters to the editor.

Organizations (50-69a+, vols. 19o-25) is arranged alphabetically, and contains material from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Democratic National Convention of 1924, the Greenville M.E. Church Methodist Industrial Association, the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association, National American Woman Suffrage Association, and other organizations in which Somerville was involved.

Series III, Lucy Somerville Howorth, is divided into eight sections:

1. Biographical (71-96), including personal items, photographs, clippings, etc. of Howorth.

2. Correspondence (97-117): letters from family members (including one folder of letters from Somerville), and from others (arranged alphabetically by correspondent).

3. Legal Work and Women in the Law (118-129) includes work record books of Howorth, and material from the Federal Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the United Nations League of Lawyers, and other lawyers' organizations.

4. Organizations (130-147, alphabetical) includes minutes and some correspondence.

5. Business and Professional Women's Clubs (148-154) concerns the various state, national, and international branches of the Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.

6. Speeches and Articles (155-222) is arranged chronologically.

7. Memorabilia (223-227af+, vol. 26o) contains invitations, souvenirs, dinner programs, clippings, a scrapbook, certificates, licenses, family trees, etc.

8. An eighth section (228-260) contains additional Howorth speeches, articles, and correspondence, all arranged chronologically; these were received after Sections 1-7 were organized.

Series IV, Other Family Members, contains clippings about Howorth's two brothers, Robert Somerville and Abram Douglas Somerville, her sister-in-law, Keith (Frazier) Somerville, and the Shands family (Somerville's granddaughters).

Series V, Photographs, includes photos of Somerville; her parents and earlier ancestors; her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; and miscellaneous photos.

Much of the material in the collection is accompanied by Howorth's comments as to its value or the reason why it is included.


The Somerville-Howorth papers span six generations of Mississippi women, but are primarily the papers of Nellie (Nugent) Somerville (1863-1952) and her daughter, Lucy (Somerville) Howorth (1895-1997).

Nellie Nugent Somerville was born September 25, 1863, on a plantation in Mississippi; her father was serving in the Confederate Army at the time. Her mother died two years later, and her father was widowed again after a brief second marriage; Somerville was raised primarily by her grandmother, S. Myra (Cox) Smith, until her father's third marriage in 1870. Somerville spent two years at a Mississippi boarding school and graduated from Martha Washington College in Abingdon, Virginia, in 1880. She married Robert Somerville in 1885; they had four children: Robert, Abram, Eleanor, and Lucy.

Somerville became active in suffrage and temperance work in the early 1890s, becoming corresponding secretary of the Mississippi Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1894 and organizing the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association in 1897. By 1915 she was a vice president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1923 she became the first woman to be elected to the Mississippi legislature, serving until 1927. Somerville died in Mississippi in 1952. For additional biographical information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: 1980), which also includes a list of sources.

Lucy Somerville Howorth was born July 1, 1895, in Greenville, Mississippi, the youngest of the four children of Robert Somerville and Nellie Nugent Somerville. Educated at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Howorth did postgraduate work at Columbia University and received her J.D. from the University of Mississippi in 1922; she was admitted to the Mississippi bar the same year. Howorth practiced law in Mississippi, 1922-1934, and was admitted to the bar before the United States Supreme Court in 1934. In 1928 she married Joseph Marion Howorth; they had no children.

Howorth served as the chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Law Examiners, 1924-1928; the United States commissioner of the Southern Judicial District of Mississippi, 1927-1931; a member of the Mississippi state legislature, 1932-1936; associate member of the Board of Veterans' Appeals, 1934-1943; legislative attorney in Virginia, 1943-1949; general counsel to the War Claims Commission, 1949-1954; attorney, Commission on Government Security, 1956-1957; and a member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women, 1962-1963. She has maintained a private law practice in Mississippi since 1958. In 1977, Howorth co-edited Dear Nellie: The Civil War Letters of William L. Nugent, correspondence between her maternal grandparents.

Howorth has been a member of the Federal Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Mississippi Historical Society, and numerous other organizations. For additional biographical information, see Who's Who of American Women, 1987-1988 (Wilmette, Ill., 1986).


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Genealogical and early family records
  2. Series II. Nellie Nugent Somerville
  3. Series III. Lucy Somerville Howorth
  4. Series IV. Other Family Members
  5. Series V. Photographs

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 52-60, 53-20, 54-60, 54-73, 54-79, 55-75, 56-12, 56-30, 56-93, 57-17, 57-73, 57-83, 57-95, 59-22, 59-52, 118, 321, 375, 384, 426, 430, 448, 571, 574, 575, 577, 928, 1238, 74-97, 74-138

The Somerville-Howorth papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Lucy (Somerville) Howorth beginning in 1952. Most of Series I and II was reprocessed in 1979 and microfilmed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center; this microfilm (M-52) is included in the Schlesinger Library/University Publications of America project. An expanded biography and scope and content note were added in October 1989 by Jane Ward.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Additional papers of the Somerville and Howorth family, 1850-1989 (591--2008-M37; Vt-6).


  1. Box 1: 1-19
  2. Box 2: 20-48
  3. Box 3: 49-61
  4. Box 3a: 62-69, Vol 1-Vol 5
  5. Box 4: Folders 70a-93
  6. Box 5: Folders 94-117
  7. Box 6: Folders 118-129
  8. Box 7: Folders 130-147
  9. Box 8: Folders 148-154
  10. Box 9: Folders 155-207
  11. Box 10: Folders 208-222
  12. Box 11: Folders 223-227
  13. Box 12: Folders 228-252
  14. Box 13: Folders 253-263a+
  15. Box 14: Vol 6-Vol 10
  16. Box 15: Vol 11, Vol 15-Vol 18, Vol 22-Vol 25
  17. Folio+ Box 16: Vol 13o-Vol 14o
  18. Oversize Box 17: Vol 19o-Vol 21o

Processing Information

Processed: 1979

By: Eva Moseley

Somerville, Nellie Nugent, 1863-1952. Somerville and Howorth family papers, 1850-1974: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women
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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