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Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant papers

Identifier: BMC-M10

Scope and Contents

The Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant papers house the personal papers and Robert Frost collection of Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, writer, sister of Katherine Sergeant White, and Bryn Mawr class of 1903. The collection, which ranges from 1949 to 1964, contains correspondence, Sergeant’s writings, photographs, and materials pertaining to Robert Frost.

The collection is organized into two series: “Series I: Correspondence” and “Series II: Other Papers.”

“Series I: Correspondence” consists of correspondence about Sergeant's book, Willa Cather: A Memoir, which she published in 1953. The correspondence, which includes carbons of Sergeant's outgoing letters, is to Sergeant's publishers; friends of Cather, including Edith Lewis and Carrie Miner Sherwood; and scholars, including Cather biographer E. K. Brown. There are also a few letters about Sergeant's biography of Robert Frost, which she published in 1960 (Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence). “Series II: Other Papers” is organized into four subseries: “Writings by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant,” “Writings by Others,” “Photographs,” and “Other Material”. “Writings by Sergeant” includes notes, drafts, proofs, and other materials for Willa Cather: A Memoir, as well as notes and a few proofs for Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence. “Writings by Others” contains a book report on Sergeant's memoir of Cather by a young relative of Sergeant and a chronology of Cather's life written by an unidentified author. “Photographs” mainly consists of prints of Robert Frost, and people and places related to Frost. The majority are proofs or copy prints, some used by Sergeant in her biography of Frost, others collected by her but not used in the book. There are a few original prints as well. For the copy prints, when the location of the original photograph was known, this information has been given as a note under the folder title. The remainder of the subseries contains an original studio portrait of Willa Cather; original prints of people and places related to Cather; and three original prints of Sergeant. “Other Material” contains a transcript of a 1929 letter from Cather to Sergeant, a transcript of Cather's will, copies of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial Newsletter, and brochures and programs that Sergeant collected about Robert Frost.

This collections captures a small, but interesting, sliver of Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant's long and full life. Correspondence and notes for Sergeant’s book Willa Cather: A Memoir provide a strong testimony to the intimate friendship held between Sergeant and author Willa Cather. The materials related to Robert Frost and Sergeant’s book on Frost highlight Sergeant’s skills as a writer. The collection as a whole captures Sergeant’s writing process, from note-taking to manuscript. It would be of value to those interested in Willa Cather, Robert Frost, or Elizabeth Sergeant.


  • 1949 - 1964


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is open for research

Copyright and Rights Information

The Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant was born on 23 April 1881 in Winchester, Massachusetts. In 1903, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where her sister, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, also received a degree in 1914. When Sergeant published her first article in 1910 in McClure's Magazine, she met Willa Cather, who was working as an editor there. Sergeant later recounted their friendship in Willa Cather: A Memoir (1953). In 1914, Sergeant became one of the original contributors to The New Republic and was sent by the magazine to Paris in 1917 to cover the war. Her own experience of being seriously wounded on a battlefield was the basis for her book, Shadow-Shapes: The Journal of a Wounded Woman, October 1918-May 1919 (1920).

After returning to the United States, Sergeant moved to the southwest in 1920 and began writing about Pueblo Indians and New Mexico until the mid-1930s. She also spent some time during this period in New York and in Europe, where she studied with the analyst C. G. Jung. Sergeant later moved to Piermont, New York, and spent her time there and at the MacDowell Colony working on writing projects, especially the Cather memoir and her book, Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence (1960). During her career, Sergeant published many articles, a number of books, and one novel, Short As Any Dream (1929). She died in New York on 26 January 1965.


1.5 Linear Feet




Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, BMC Class of 1904, was a writer of several books and articles. Sergeant contributed to McClure’s Magazine, The New Republic and authored Shadow-Shapes: The Journal of a Wounded Woman, October 1918-May 1919 (1920), Short As Any Dream (1929), Willa Cather: A Memoir (1953), Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence (1960). Materials include Sergeant’s correspondence, drafts, proofs and photographs. The correspondence and photographs are principally concerned with matters regarding Sergeant’s published works.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant.
Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant papers
Miriam B. Spectre, Melissa Torquato
2000 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Bryn Mawr College Library

Bryn Mawr College Library
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