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Edna Phillips papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1294

Scope and Contents

Materials in this collection include correspondence, lectures, research, photographs, images, and albums and scrapbooks.

Correspondence includes letters both to and from Edna Phillips, mostly from her time serving with the YWCA in France and Germany in 1918 and 1919. Letters to her are from friends and family, with the majority being from her mother. Topics of these letters include news about friends and family, comments on her volunteering to go overseas, and occasional expressions that this was not the best choice for her. Edna’s own letters detail the difficulties of not speaking much French, and her assignments in both the canteen and library at her camp in Dijon. The camp was not at the front, and she talks about soldiers going and coming from the front lines and the lack of news they receive about the progress of the war. In 1919, she moved to Sayn and then Deesen, Germany, undertaking much the same work as in France.

Lectures are about a variety of library-related topics, including recommending books, library policy, and services for different types of patrons. Research materials include clippings and articles, often heavily marked; research materials do not appear to relate to the topics of lectures. Topics are related to nonviolence and women. Norwoord Library materials include brochures, policies, and annual reports.

Personal materials include visas and passports, and essays and poetry written while Phillips was a student. Materials from her time with the YWCA include financial information, poetry, several dinner invitations and programs, and cartoons from her time as a canteen supervisor. Patterns for knitting clothes for children are provided by the American Friends Service Committee, presumably for distribution in relief work. Travel materials include brochures, notes on travel, and articles about travel; locations include Mexico and Asia. Retirement materials include letters of congratulations and information about a celebratory dinner. Articles about includes clippings from newspapers, mostly on the occasion of Phillips’s retirement. There is also a program from the memorial for Lynda Phillips Lum, Edna’s sister.

Photographs include some snapshots from Phillips’s time in France and Germany with the YWCA; most of these are not labeled. Later international relief photographs are from UNESCO and feature work in the Middle East, Latin America, and India; these seem to be photographs Phillips collected rather than took. Family photographs are of earlier generations of the family. Phillips’s Norwood house and garden are extensively documented. Unidentified photographs are mostly portraits, and may include further family members. Non-photographic images include mounted images -- mostly clipped from magazines -- of Gandhi, angels, saints, and flowers.

Albums and scrapbooks include a scrapbook of poetry and quotations written out by Phillips. The “ideal scrapbook” includes newspapers clippings about events Phillips participated in as well as news stories about libraries. The photo album of the Norwood house documents its construction in 1952 and 1953. The art scrapbook contains sketches done by Edna Phillips, including people, trees, cats, and still lifes. The first clippings scrapbook has the names of both Edna and Lynda Phillips in the front; contents include poetry and some news items. The second clippings scrapbook is by Letitia G. Macy, Edna’s mother. It includes poetry, prints, and essays about authors. There is also a section of sketches, potentially done by Macy, as well as some clippings about Phillips and Macy family members. An album of carte de visite photographs is labeled as being of the Macy family.

Miscellaneous materials include poetry, articles on the draft, and memos.


  • 1915-1963

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

Edna Phillips was born January 13, 1890 to Letitia G. Macy and Edward L. Phillips. Although born in Newark, New Jersey, she grew up in Chatham, New Jersey. She had at least one sister, Lynda Phillips Lum, who also became a librarian. Edna Phillips studied art, and then became a library assistant in Edgewater, New Jersey in 1913. During World War I, Phillips volunteered with the YWCA and served in France and Germany as a canteen operator in 1918 and 1919. She was among the first six women to enter Germany with Army of Occupation. Upon her return to the United States, she was a librarian in East Orange, New Jersey; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Norwood, Massachusetts. She served as Norwood’s librarian from 1939 to 1962.

Service to immigrants was the focus of much of Phillips’s library work. She wrote Easy Books for New Americans (1926), and supported “Americanization” with the preservation of the cultural heritage of immigrants. She chaired the American Library Association Committee on Work with the Foreign Born from 1927 to 1928. Edna Phillips died in November 1968.

Sources: Census documents, and The American Public Library Handbook (1911).


2.5 Linear Feet (5 boxes, 4 volumes)




Materials in this collection document the life of Edna Phillips. She served as a YWCA volunteer in France and Germany in 1918 and 1919, and was a librarian for much of the rest of her life.


Materials are arranged into series by type of materials, including: correspondence, lectures, research, personal, photographs, images, and albums and scrapobooks.


The Edna Phillips papers were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in August, 1993 by Mary Ann and James Nicholoson, through the archives of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

Related Materials

  • MC.950.095: Joseph Haines papers
  • MC.1225: Collection of Beulah Hurley Waring and Alston Waring
  • HCS: James A. Babbitt papers

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Horowitz; completed June, 2018.
Edna Phillips papers
Sarah Horowitz
June, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

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