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Nathalie Gookin papers

Identifier: A82-39

Scope and Contents

The Nathalie Gookin papers consist of the personal papers of Nathalie Clotilde Gookin, Bryn Mawr College class of 1920. The collection houses the hundreds of letters written by Gookin to her parents, and sometimes her aunt Nathalie Kennedy, while a student at Bryn Mawr from 1916-1920. Along with the letters, the collection also includes Nathalie’s diaries from 1916-1920. Additionally, there is some miscellaneous ephemera from Bryn Mawr.

The collection is housed in in four boxes, ordered by date. Each box is divided by month and year into folders.

Common subjects in her letters include the stress of the workload, homesickness, lectures, professors, social life in the dorms, small-scale activities, and larger, college-wide events, and traditions. In her freshman year letters and some of her sophomore year letters, she writes profusely about her admiration for Helen Harris, class of 1917. She also writes about the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-19, which occurred during her freshman and junior years, respectively. In the collection there are also some letters from before she came to college, sent while she was on summer vacations with friends. In 1913, she writes to her parents from Rutland, Vermont, about playing with her friends and visiting Boston. In 1915, she stayed with friends on Mackinac Island, Michigan and writes about their daily activities. There are also some letters written after her graduation.

In the spring of 1921, she writes to her parents while visiting Bryn Mawr friends on the East Coast. In 1923, she writes while visiting her college friend, Anne Coolidge, in Boston. Mixed in with those letters are also letters written to Nathalie from college friends or to Maria Gookin about Nathalie. While the bulk of the letters in the collection are authored by Nathalie, here are also scattered letters (1913-1923) from her mother and father, Frederick and Marie Gookin, usually written while visiting their daughter.

One item in this collection, a program for a 1918 W. D. Griffiths’ film, is stored separately in the Playbill Collection of the Manuscripts collection. There are also some of Nathalie’s father’s books on Japanese art in the Bryn Mawr College Library. Her diaries record events of the day, and the entries are often short. She sometimes includes ephemera related to events, like pamphlets, in the pages of her diaries. In addition, there is an entire folder of miscellaneous ephemera from Bryn Mawr, another folder with approximately 40 of her exams, and a copy of her “school record,” a small book listing the classes she took and work she completed. More extensive folder description can be found under "Collection Organization."

Gookin’s numerous letters weave a detailed tapestry of life at Bryn Mawr from 1916-1920. These years were important on a national scale, as the US entered WWI, the women’s suffrage movement surged on, and the 1918 influenza epidemic threatened the health and safety of many institutions, including many college campuses. Bryn Mawr was immediately affected on a local level by these global events, and Nathalie chronicles political events, war efforts, and the influenza quarantine, as well as many other Bryn Mawr-specific events. Her correspondence, with the accompanying diaries and ephemera, would be an invaluable resource to anyone interested in Bryn Mawr College, colleges during World War I, women’s suffrage, college life, the influenza epidemic, etc.


  • Creation: 1916 - 1920


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Natalie Gookin 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 note

Nathalie Gookin was born on August 8th, 1900 in Winnetka, Illinois. Her father was Frederick William Gookin, a Japanese art collector, authority on Japanese prints, and curator of Japanese prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her mother was Marie Gookin.

She attended Chicago Latin School for Girls before studying at Bryn Mawr College from 1916 to 1920. She won the $100 dollar Western States Scholarship upon being admitted and, as a freshman, was the youngest person at college in 1916. She lived in Rockefeller dorm all four years, played field hockey, and majored in English and Latin. She was also part of the English and French clubs. She graduated 5th in her class, magna cum laude.

Little is known about her life after college. After graduating, she lived with her parents at 321 Linden St., Winnetka, Illinois. She studied part-time at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1921-1923. She also held the office of class collector for several years in the 1920’s and was a member of the Bryn Mawr College Club of Chicago. Her 1937 alumnae survey she lists “writing papers for small literary club” as her main occupation (details about this club are unknown). On the 1970 alum Survey, she reports that she was interested in Western History and had a “large collection of books.” She never married or had children. She died on February 16, 1980, at the age of 80 and left the contents of her home to fellow her college friend, Alice Rood Van Deusen’s, daughter, Kathleen E. Van Deusen.

Upon her death she left a generous bequeath to Bryn Mawr, including some valuable pieces from her father’s collection of books on Japanese art.


2 linear ft.

Language of Materials



Nathalie Gookin was a student at Bryn Mawr from 1916-1920. Her collection consists of daily letters written to her parents and aunt during her time in college, as well as some letters from before she matriculated and some from after she graduated. She was admitted to Bryn Mawr with a $100 Western States Scholarship at the age of sixteen and she was the youngest person in the college. She lived in Rockefeller dorm all four years, majored in English and Latin, and graduated 5th in her class, magna cum laude. She was a member of the English and French clubs. Nathalie’s letters to her parents are detailed and frank. Frequent subjects include frustrations with the workload, classes, professors, social life in the dorms, and larger campus-wide events. During her freshman and part of her sophomore year, she writes frequently about her admiration of Helen Harris, class of 1917. The collection also includes some letters from her mother, Marie Gookin, while she was visiting Nathalie at Bryn Mawr. Also included are her diaries from 1916-1920 which she used to record short notes about her day. Finally, there is various ephemera from her time in college.

After graduating from Bryn Mawr, Nathalie returned to Chicago and appears to have administered her parents’ house. She was a part-time student at the Art Institute of Chicago, where her father was a curator of Japanese prints, from 1921-1923. She never married or had children.

She died on February 16, 1980, at the age of 80. Upon her death, she left a generous bequeath to Bryn Mawr, including some valuable books from her father’s Japanese art collection.

Custodial History

The contents of this collection were bequeathed to Kathleen E. Van Deusen, the daughter of Natalie Gookin's college friend, Alice Van Deusen. Kathleen then gave these items to Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was a 1982 gift of Kathleen E. Van Deusen.


Nathalie Gookin papers
Michele Kemmerer Allison Rodgers
August 29th, 1988
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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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 or requesting repoductions from Bryn Mawr College Library

Bryn Mawr College Library
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Bryn Mawr 19010 USA US