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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 604

Additional papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1922-2010 (inclusive), 1980-1998 (bulk)


Addenda to the papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, educator and psychiatric nurse, including biographical and personal material, correspondence, speeches, conference materials, writings, photographs, memorabilia, etc.


  • Creation: 1922-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-1998


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Access is unrestricted with the following exception: folders #42.1 and 42.2 are closed until January 1, 2054.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Hildegard E. Peplau 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.


20.27 linear feet ((42 file boxes, 2 half file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 folio+ box) plus 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 10 photograph folders, 1 supersize photograph folder, 9 objects)

These addenda from Hildegard E. Peplau, the Peplau family, and Dr. Rufus Carter date mostly from the 1980s and 1990s, although there is a small amount of earlier material, as well as family papers following Peplau's death. Audiovisual material was removed and cataloged separately as T-165 and Vt-41. A preliminary inventory for the first body of papers donated in 1984 is available online (84-M107). There is some overlap between the two groups of papers. Additional material received in 2010 and 2013 (2010-M59 and 2013-M198) were added to the collection in November 2013. These materials are housed in #46.1-46.5 and PD.4-PD.5.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1922-2010 (#1.1-35.2, 46.1-46.5, F+D.2), consists of biographical material regarding Hildegard E. Peplau and several family members. It is divided into four subseries.

Subseries A, Biographical, 1922-2010 (#1.1-5.3, 46.1-46.2, F+D.2), contains early school records; clippings; biographical sketches and notes; interviews; curricula vitae; passports, licenses (both driving and professional) and membership cards (mainly for professional nursing organizations); awards from professional nursing organizations and honorary degrees; and an autobiography (ca.1990). Also included are report cards, student identification cards, medical information, programs, clippings, and other biographical material regarding Peplau's mother, Ottylie Peplau; her sister, Bertha (Peplau) Reppert; her paternal cousin, Clara Peplau; and her daughter, Letitia Anne Peplau. The bulk of this subseries consists of a genealogy of the Peplau, Prill, and Elgert families that Peplau completed in the 1990s with the assistance of her niece, Marjorie Reppert. This genealogy was originally in two large binders which have been dismantled; the material is foldered in its original order. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Personal, 1926-1999 (#5.4-6.15), includes appointment books; photocopies of book dedications and inscriptions from family, friends, and colleagues; a small quantity of financial records, consisting of royalty statements, retirement fund documents, income tax documents, check registers, etc.; medical information regarding several of Peplau's illnesses; legal documents, consisting of deeds, various powers of attorney, a will, a death certificate, etc.; notes containing details of telephone calls made and received (1994-1996); and an address book. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Family correspondence, 1933-2007, n.d. (#6.16-20.11, 46.3-46.5), consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence with numerous family members, including Peplau's sister Bertha (Peplau) Reppert, which forms the bulk of the correspondence; her daughter Letitia Anne (Tish) Peplau Gordon; her brothers and their families, as well as various aunts and cousins residing in the United States and Europe. The correspondence documents family life and relationships; birth, marriage, and death announcements; current events; travel plans; career goals; and professional accomplishments. Of special interest are letters sent to Bertha during World War II from Hildegard, while stationed in England and the United States, and from Harold and Walter while they were stationed in the United States. A substantial portion of the correspondence contains photographs and clippings by or about family members. Bertha Reppert, a professional herbalist, also included samples of herbal bath salts and other products from her store; these items were noted and removed. Also included is correspondence with family members following Peplau's death in March 1999; correspondents include Barbara J. Callaway (her biographer), faculty and students of educational institutions with which she was associated, professional nursing organizations, and friends who wrote to various family members to establish scholarships and grants in Peplau's name. For additional material re: awards, grants and scholarships see Series I, Subseries A (Biographical). The subseries is arranged chronologically, following the correspondence of Letitia Peplau, and Marjorie Reppert.

Subseries D, General correspondence, 1966-1999, n.d. (#21.1-35.2), consists of correspondence between Peplau and friends, former students, and colleagues in the field of psychiatric nursing both in the United States and around the world. Much is personal in nature, describing daily activities, family life, etc., although it also includes requests for Peplau to appear as a speaker at conferences; to supply articles, forewords, chapters, etc., to a variety of psychiatric nursing journals and texts; and to act as a reader for various graduate student theses and dissertations. Many of her colleagues continued to provide Peplau with updates on current events at her former places of employment (e.g., Columbia University and Rutgers University). In addition, the subseries includes requests from colleagues and publishers for permission to reprint a number of her articles, books, etc., in volumes of her selected writings, nursing anthologies, and in translated form in a number of other languages. Also included is correspondence with a number of professional nursing organizations in which she remained involved throughout her lifetime. Correspondence between Peplau and her biographer Barbara J. Callaway (also known as Barbara Pollack) relates family events and provides updates for the biography, entitled Hildegard Peplau, Psychiatric Nurse of the Century (published in 2002). Correspondents include Joan Austin, Elizabeth Carter, Mary Jane Carter, Luther Christman, Carmen de la Cuesta, Malaly Feely, Cheryl Forchuck, Suzanne Lego, Marguerite Manfreda, Bill Reynolds, Grayce Sills, Shirley Smoyak, Ruth Southard, and Doris Stewart, among others. The subseries is arranged chronologically. See also Series II, Subseries A (Speeches and engagements) for additional correspondence.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1943-1999 (#35.3-42.12), consists of speeches, notes, correspondence, conference ephemera, working papers, articles, drafts, reviews, committee reports and minutes, teaching materials, etc., related to Peplau's professional activities both during her employment and following her retirement. It is arranged in three subseries.

Subseries A, Speeches and engagements, 1959-1998, n.d. (#35.3-38.5), contains agendas, schedules, notes, correspondence, speeches, and other related material, regarding conferences, conventions, luncheons, study tours, etc., at which Peplau appeared as a featured speaker or faculty member, or attended as a participant, both in the United States and abroad. Most folders contain both correspondence and other material regarding the conference, and either draft or printed speeches. The majority of these engagements were sponsored by professional nursing organizations and/or universities. Most conventions, conferences, etc., are in the field of psychiatric nursing, with topics ranging from professionalism in nursing to schizophrenia. Peplau also often spoke on interpersonal relations in nursing, the subject for which she is best known. Several engagements are events at which Peplau received awards or honorary degrees. The subseries is arranged chronologically by event.

Subseries B, Writings and annotations, 1943-1999, n.d. (#38.6-41.16), consists of working papers, published manuscripts and drafts, reports, outlines, book reviews, critiques, and articles authored or co-authored by Peplau, as well as correspondence regarding her written work. Many of the articles were revised versions of speeches presented at earlier conferences (see also Subseries A, Speeches and engagements). Of particular note are her highly influential work Interpersonal Relations: The Theoretical Framework, considered a classic in the field of psychiatric nursing; her contributions to edited volumes, including Basic Concepts in Psychiatric Nursing, Nursing Theorists and Their Work, and The Foundations of Psychiatric-Mental Nursing; and her work in the development of the American Nurses' Association Social Policy Statement. Several annotated books and published articles by authors in the field of nursing are also included. The subseries is arranged chronologically. For additional correspondence and writings, see Series I, Subseries D (General correspondence).

Subseries C, Other professional activities, 1951-1989 (#41.17-42.12), consists of patient and hospital notebooks; teaching materials from Peplau's tenure at Teacher's College (Columbia University) and Rutgers University, and during her visiting professorship at the University of Leuven in Belgium; committee meeting notes and reports from her involvement with the International Council of Nurses; and an application and correspondence for a grant, entitled "Work Roles of the Psychiatric Staff Nurse," for which Peplau served as a consultant in 1989. The subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, OVERSIZED, AND MEMORABILIA, ca.1923-1999 (#PD.1-PD.5, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1, 43.1m - 45FB.4m. Mem.1-Mem.9), consists of photographs of Peplau and colleagues at nursing conferences and events, etc., oversized materials removed from other series, and various items of nursing-related memorabilia.

Subseries A, Photographs, ca.1923-1998 (#PD.1-PD.5), includes photographs of Peplau at various nursing conferences and conventions, receiving awards and honorary degrees, at the signing of the 1972 Nurses Practice Act, and meeting President Bill Clinton. Also included are several group photographs (e.g., an F. & W. Grand Store picnic and a Camp Fire Girls outing), in which Peplau appears.

Subseries B, Oversized, 1929-1997 (#F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1), contains material removed from other series, consisting of awards and honorary degrees, posters, and a pastel portrait of Peplau.

Subseries C, Memorabilia, 1928-1999 (#43.1m - 45FB.4m. Mem.1-Mem.9), consists of pins and buttons relating to nursing and health care; a nurse's cape and caps; World War II Army Nurse Corps jacket, cap, hats, and regalia; a t-shirt; and two scarves.


Hildegard Elizabeth Peplau, educator and psychiatric nurse, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on September 1, 1909, the daughter of Polish and Russian immigrants Gustav and Ottylie Peplau. Gustav Peplau (1882-1949) worked as a fireman at the Reading Railroad yards for 31 years. Ottylie Peplau (1883-1944) maintained the family's home and occasionally worked outside the home as a housekeeper. Over the course of her life, Peplau maintained especially close ties with her siblings, Clara Julianna (1907-1984), Harold Gustav (1911-1985), Walter Carl (1913-1969), Bertha Ottylie (1919-1999), and her foster brother John David Forster (born 1931).

Educated at local schools, Peplau received a diploma in nursing from Pottstown Hospital Training School in Pennsylvania, in 1931; an A.B. from Bennington College (1943); an A.M. (1947) and Ed.D (1953), both from Teachers' College, Columbia University; and a certificate in Psychoanalysis Applied for Teachers from the William Alanson White Institute (1954). Peplau gave birth to Letitia Anne (Tish) Peplau in 1945 but for personal reasons did not marry Tish's father, Donald M. McIntosh. Eventually, societal pressures influenced her decision to have Tish adopted by her brother Walter. For many years, she presented Tish as her niece so that she could pursue a nursing career without the stigma of being a single parent.

She first worked as a private duty and general staff nurse (1931-1936) and in the summers (1932-1942), for the New York University summer camp. Peplau later became Head Nurse and then Executive Officer of the College Health Services at Bennington College (1936-1942), as well as a part-time student, taking courses with Erich Fromm. She gained clinical psychiatric experience by spending her winter terms in field study at Chestnut Lodge (under the direction of Frieda Fromm-Reichman), where she attended lectures by Harry Stack Sullivan, and at the Psychiatric Department of Bellevue Hospital. Peplau served in the United States Army Nurse Corps (1943-1945) in neuropsychiatric units in England and the United States. After studying under the G.I. Bill at Teachers' College, she was employed there as instructor in nursing education and director of the Advanced Program in Psychiatric Nursing (1948-1953). She was a faculty member of the College of Nursing at Rutgers University (1954-1974), becoming chairman of the Department of Psychiatric Nursing and director of the Graduate Program in 1955, and Professor in Nursing in 1960. She was executive director of the American Nurses' Association (September 1969 - May 1970) while on leave from Rutgers, President of the American Nurses' Association (1970-1972), and 2nd Vice-President (1972-1974). After her retirement in 1974, she was Visiting Professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium (1975-1977) under the auspices of the World Health Organization. She served on the editorial boards of Nursing and Nursing Digest, and was active in the leadership of the New Jersey State Nurses Association (director, 1965-1967), National League for Nursing, World Health Organization, International Council of Nurses (board member, 1973-1977), American Psychiatric Association, National Institute for Mental Health, Veterans' Administration Research Study Group, and the Nursing Education Advisory Committee to the New Jersey Board of Higher Education. Among her numerous honors and awards are an honorary Doctorate of Nursing Science from Boston College (1972), an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Indianapolis (1987), and honorary Doctorate of Science degrees from Alfred University (1970), Duke University (1974), Columbia University (1983), Rutgers University (1985), Ohio State University (1990), Indiana University (1994), and the University of Ulster (1994). In addition she was co-recipient of the International Council of Nurses' Christiane Reimann Prize (1997) and was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame of the American Nurses' Association (1998).

The list of positions and honors tells only part of the story of Peplau's impact on psychiatric nursing. For thirty years she was one of the best known teachers of psychiatric nursing in the U.S. During the summers she conducted workshops in mental hospitals from coast to coast and abroad, training nurses in interviewing techniques while analyzing and explaining psychiatric theory. "I heard more last week about human behavior and how the mind works than I had ever learned," said a graduate of one of Peplau's workshops. As a lecturer at conventions, institutes and meetings, she spoke on trends in nursing, psychiatric nursing practice, and interpersonal relations. She constantly advocated professionalization and graduate training for nurses, and the need for nurses to exercise therapeutic skills and provide more than just custodial care. As a faculty member of Rutgers, Peplau conducted research under a National Institute of Mental Health training grant (1956-1974) in support of the first graduate program in psychiatric nursing for the preparation of clinical specialists. This research resulted in new and sophisticated theories based on psychiatric nursing practices. In particular, she used clinical interview data to clarify the interpersonal nature of nursing practice, to abstract and formulate theoretical concepts, and to test these concepts in practice. In addition to supervising research at Rutgers, she served on many advisory committees to research projects.

Her books are classics in the field of psychiatric nursing: Interpersonal Relations in Nursing (1952), Aspects of Psychiatric Nursing (1957), and Basic Principles of Patient Counseling (1964). Additionally, she wrote many articles for professional journals and essays for nursing textbooks and handbooks. She was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of abdominal cancer, and died following a stroke in 1999.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1922-2010 (#1.1-35.2, 46.1-46.5, F+D.2)
  2. Series II. Professional activities, 1943-1999 (#35.3-42.12)
  3. Series III. Photographs, oversized, and memorabilia, ca.1923-1999 (#PD.1-PD.5, F+D.1-F+D.3, OD.1, 43.1m - 45FB.4m. Mem.1-Mem.9)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M216, 89-M48, 90-M132, 93-M17, 93-M22, 94-M98, 96-M70, 98-M124, 99-M52, 99-M53, 99-M83, 99-M117, 99-M140, 2000-M59, 2000-M85, 2000-M168, 2001-M104, 2002-M127, 2002-M131, 2003-M67, 2003-M94, 2003-M99, 2006-M147, 2008-M77. Accession numbers 2010-M59 and 2013-M198 were added in November 2013.

These addenda to the papers of Hildegard E. Peplau were given to the Schlesinger Library by Hildegard E. Peplau and the Peplau family between 1985 and 2013. Additional correspondence was given to the library by Dr. Rufus Carter in 1993.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1923-1984 (MC 914), Audiotape collection of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1984-1998 (T-165) Videotape collection of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1968-2000 (Vt-41), Hildegard E. Peplau Letters to Mary Beth Mathews, 1984-1999 (A/P421), and Hildegard E. Peplau letters to Joan Kessner Austin, 1985-1998 (MC1271).

Processing Information

Processed: August 2009

By: Emilyn Brown and Mark Vassar

Updated: November 2013

By: Anne Engelhart

Peplau, Hildegard E. Additional papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, 1922-2010 (inclusive), 1980-1998 (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, in part, by gifts from Anita O'Toole and the International Society for University Nurses.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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