The Helen Taft Manning papers house the records of Helen Taft Manning, president of Bryn Mawr College and daughter of President William Howard Taft. This collection, which dates from 1861 to 1992, with bulk dates of 1915 to 1974, consists of correspondence, writings, clippings, and personal objects from the Manning family. These records in particular illuminate remarkable details about the personal life of Helen Taft Manning, especially in regards to her relationship with Frederick J. Manning, as well as with her family members and colleagues. While small, this collection captures the essence of Helen Taft Manning’s life, influence, and achievements, and provides insight into the development of Manning’s remarkable career and contributions to the Philadelphia region.
This collection is arranged into three series: “I. Personal, 1886-1992,” “II. Professional, 1920-1980,” and “III. Frederick J. Manning papers, 1861-1965.”
Series “I. Personal” dates from 1886 to 1992, with bulk dates of 1915 to 1976. The records in this series are mostly comprised of correspondence between Helen Taft Manning and her family members. There are also clippings, oral history transcripts, and writings relating to the Taft family’s history and accomplishments. Correspondence is primarily between Helen Taft Manning and her husband, Frederick J. Manning, including topics ranging from their courtship and subsequent engagement to their careers, living arrangements, and children. Some correspondence between Helen and Frederick can also be found in Series “III. Frederick J. Manning papers.” Other correspondents in this series include Helen’s parents, William H. Taft and Helen Herron Taft, her brothers Robert and Charles Taft, her daughters Helen Manning Hunter and Caroline Manning Cunningham, and other family members.
Records regarding the history of the Taft family include clippings, often regarding events or publicity, such as the Taft Manning wedding and Charles Taft’s death. Also included are writings and dictations by Helen Taft Manning regarding her life and potential biography, an excellent resource for researchers interested in Helen’s personal take on her accomplishments and family. Other personal records to be found here are certificates, tax documents, and deeds. This series provides rich insight into the personal life of Helen Taft Manning, her upbringing, education, career, and family, especially within the correspondence. This series is arranged chronologically within three distinct sections: correspondence, history, and a run of assorted records at the end of the series.
Series “II. Professional” dates from 1920 to 1980, with bulk dates of 1930 to 1974. This series is comprised of correspondence relating to Helen Taft Manning’s positions at Bryn Mawr College, as well as the research and writings she completed over the course of her career. There is also some assorted material relating to her career at the end of the series, including Class of 1915 Bequest Committee letters, writings regarding M. Carey Thomas, and book reviews by Helen Taft Manning. This series particularly captures the influence Helen Taft Manning on her colleagues and students, as well as to provide insight into many of the professional relationships she developed in her role at Bryn Mawr. This series is arranged chronologically, starting with a run of correspondence, followed by assorted professional records.
Series “III. Frederick J. Manning papers” dates from 1861 to 1965, with bulk dates of 1917 to 1965. This series contains materials created by or sent to Frederick J. Manning, husband of Helen Taft Manning. Most of the records are personal correspondence, especially representing lively exchanges between Frederick and his close friend H. Phelps Putnam. Other correspondents include Charles R. Walker, Jr. and Manning family members. There is also some assorted material, including sketches by Manning, photographs, a Baptism certificate, and objects from Manning’s childhood. This series is arranged chronologically, with a run of correspondence preceding some assorted materials.
This collection provides deep and rich insight into Helen Taft Manning’s life, career, thoughts, and choices, often in her own words, through the plentiful personal and professional correspondence between Helen and those who were close to her. The information about her education and subsequent career, which began quite early and progressed exponentially, is an important addition to women’s history in particular, revealing the challenges faced by a connected, well-educated woman who also wanted to fulfill societal expectations to marry and maintain a family. This collection is unique in the extensive personal thoughts recorded in Helen’s letters to Frederick, to her parents, and to her friends and colleagues. It also provides contextual details for the development of Bryn Mawr College, William Howard Taft’s presidency, and Helen Herron Taft’s role in Washington, D.C. as First Lady.