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COLLECTION Identifier: 2019-M126

Papers of Gattie Holmes, 1802-1997 (inclusive), 1921-1997 (bulk)


Correspondence, writings, music notes, and other personal papers of music teacher Gattie Holmes.


  • Creation: 1802-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1921-1997

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research. Audiovisual materials are closed until processed.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Gattie Holmes 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.


35.93 linear feet ((30 cartons, 3 card boxes, 2 folio boxes, 2 folio+ boxes) plus lantern slides, 30 audiotapes)

The Gattie Holmes Papers include correspondence; notebooks; sheet music; newspaper articles; music notebooks; notes; poems and other writings, including scripts for plays; printed and published materials; disassembled scrapbooks; photographs; audiotapes, etc. The materials document Holmes' personal life, music career, and other creative projects and interests.

The collection was originally foldered and housed by Danielle Allen. Allen placed the majority of the materials into folders, noting on each file a carton and folder number. Sometime prior to arriving at the Schlesinger Library the collection was re-boxed without adhering to Allen's original order. After the collection's arrival at the library, the archivist re-housed the materials into archival cartons. She did not refolder most of the materials so the folders still show Allen's original numbering.

The archivist made minimal edits to Allen's original inventory. When folder titles did not exist, the archivist added them in brackets in the inventory.


Gattie Holmes was a single professional African-American woman whose music career teaching piano spanned from the 1940s through the 1990s. She was the daughter of a Canadian Native-American mother and an African-American father. As a child Holmes lived in New Haven, Connecticut, where her father owned a candy store. Holmes was a very musical child and her parents enrolled her in the Royal College of Music in London when she was a teenager. Either in Europe or later in the United States she studied with the Austrian-American classical pianist Arthur Schnabel and with the pianist Lee Pattison, who built the music program at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Pattison recruited Holmes and she moved out to Claremont, California where she built a house and business as a music instructor.

At some point, possibly from when Holmes attended the Royal College of Music, she began passing for white. She spent her entire professional career in Claremont, California, and participated in the Los Angeles music scene, without others being aware of her ethnic heritage. In the 1980s, Danielle Allen and her brother began studying with Holmes, the only African-American children within her clientele. Holmes developed an especially strong bond with Allen's father, and over time became effectively adopted into the Allen family. Allen's parents took care of Holmes in the final years of her life. It was only in her last year or so of illness that Danielle Allen learned of Holmes' racial background when one of her parents came across Holmes' birth certificate.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2019-M126

The papers of Gattie Holmes were given to the Schlesinger Library in July 2019 by Danielle Allen.

Processing Information

Container list created: October 2019

By: Danielle Allen.

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 papers of Gattie Holmes. More extensive processing work may be undertaken in the future.

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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