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Mary Katharine Woodworth papers

Identifier: BMC-M102

Scope and Contents

The Mary Katherine Woodworth papers is comprised of the personal, professional, and financial papers of Mary Katherine Woodworth, Bryn Mawr class of 1924 and professor of English at the school. The collection, which includes materials from 1787 to 1989, highlight Woodworth’s time at Bryn Mawr, both in her capacity as a student and a professor.

The collection includes four boxes of material collected from Woodworth's home after her death in 1988. The papers are arranged thematically and chronologically. They begin with papers relating to her early life and include educational records. The second section contains a large volume of both incoming and outgoing correspondence between the sisters written throughout their lives. Letters are filed chronologically with major correspondents filed separately. The third section contains materials from Woodworth's research including early drafts, notes, and correspondence pertaining to her research. This section contains other materials relating to her professorship at Bryn Mawr as well, especially her correspondence with famous authors soliciting lectures and readings at Bryn Mawr. The fourth section deals primarily with paperwork pertaining to Woodworth including passports, tax records, house deeds, and information on the sale of her estate. There are additional materials on Mary Katharine Woodworth in various other collections in the Bryn Mawr College Library.

Early Life: The first portion of the collection contains family papers and materials on the education of Woodworth and her sister. The educational papers relate to both girls' careers at Philadelphia Girls High School and Bryn Mawr College. There is also a scrapbook made by Woodworth, a number of report cards and attendance cards from Girls High and the Tilghman School, some short papers and notes, two Girls High Yearbooks from 1920 and 1921, Bryn Mawr notebooks, pictures, and a songbook from 1925. The papers of Woodworth's mother, Elizabeth Katharine Woodworth, include letters from her husband written in 1898, journals from her trips to Germany and England in 1906 and 1911 addressing the architecture and social life in these countries, and genealogical materials.

Personal Correspondence and Travel: This section makes up the bulk of the Mary Katharine Woodworth papers. The major portion is correspondence between Woodworth, her sister, and their mother written between 1920 and 1939 while the sisters were at Bryn Mawr and during their trips to London in the 1930s. Correspondence from 1920-1925 details the social and academic life at Bryn Mawr College. The letters from 1929 to 1939 and the sisters' travel journals, describe art, architecture, and cities, especially London, Paris, and Rome. Other correspondence includes letters from friends and acquaintances such as Alys Russell, Wyncie King, Hortense Flexner, Samuel Chew, Sir Sydney Cockerell, and Edith Finch. In addition there are papers collected during their frequent trips to Europe including brochures, maps, and programs from Paris, Scotland, and England. In particular there are several maps of Scotland and a large number of pamphlets from cathedrals and parish churches as well as papers, handbooks, and guides to art and art exhibits.

Professional Life: This section contains papers from Woodworth's professional activities. Records of her involvement in professional associations (specifically the MLA and Johnsonian society) are included as well as copies of exams that she gave during her career at Bryn Mawr. It houses papers and correspondence relating to her pursuit of famous writers and artists to lecture at Bryn Mawr. These papers include letters by E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Dylan Thomas, Eudora Welty, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bowen, D. H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, E. M. Forster, and V. S. Pritchett. At the time of her death she was completing work for a major research project on William Haley (1745-1820) and George Romney (1734-1802), numerous drafts, notes, and transcriptions related to this project are included in this part of the collection. These also include notes on related artists such as John Flaxman and George Engleheart. Additionally, there are papers relating to William Blake and correspondence between Woodworth and various collecting institutions requesting and transmitting information for her research.

Financial and Business Paperwork: This section houses many of Woodworth's legal and financial papers. There is a sizable volume of papers relating to a 1976 tax audit following her sister's death and the ensuing estate tax. In addition this section includes her passports and several deeds, mortgages, and titles on her house in Haverford dating back to 1862. The final portion of this section contains records of her donations to various institutions including the donation of a picture of Mt. Hood to the Portland Museum of Art, and of books to the Bryn Mawr College Library. This section also contains many papers produced by the college after her death relating to the sale of The Wounded Soldier and her estate.

The Mary Katherine Woodworth papers provide interesting insight into Bryn Mawr’s history, covering both Woodworth’s career as student from 1920-1924, and her teaching career from 1935-1964. The correspondence from E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Dylan Thomas, and other poets and authors is especially notable.


  • Creation: 1787 - 1989


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Mary Katharine Woodworth Collection is 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

Mary Katharine Woodworth (1900-1988) was a graduate of Philadelphia's Girls High and Bryn Mawr College. She taught English at Bryn Mawr from 1935 to 1964. She was an enthusiast of the arts, and during her life she made numerous trips to Europe.

Her mother, Elizabeth Katharine Woodworth was an Ohio native while her father, Loyal E. Woodworth, was from Oregon. Her father died in 1905. Shortly afterwards, her mother brought her and her younger sister Allegra to live in Philadelphia. Both girls attended Philadelphia's Girls High School. Woodworth graduated in 1920 – a year before her sister. They both went on to Bryn Mawr College. Woodworth graduated 1924 with a Greek and English major and a minor in archeology.

She pursued graduate studies in English at Johns Hopkins University, while teaching at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. In 1925 she left Johns Hopkins and returned to Bryn Mawr as a graduate student and teacher at the Thorne School. After completing her Masters degree in 1927, she continued on at Bryn Mawr in pursuit of her Ph.D. In 1929, a fellowship allowed her to spend a year at the University College of London studying the works of British poet and genealogist Samuel Egerton Brydges (1762-1837) for dissertation.

In 1933 she received her Ph. D. in English. When her book on Brydges was published in 1935 she was given the position of Assistant Professor of English at Bryn Mawr. In 1943 she was promoted to Associate Professor and in 1956 became a full Professor. She was active within her field, belonging to the Modern Languages Association, the Pennsylvania Historical Society, and the Johnsonian Society. Woodworth was awarded a Distinguished Teaching Award from Bryn Mawr in 1968, the year she retired, and taught the first course at the college in 20th century writers.

After she finished her research on Brydges Woodworth, she remained interested in early British literature. In 1944, she published an article on Edmund Spenser's (1552-1599) Mutabilitié Cantors. She also developed a close professional and personal relationship with Dr. Samuel Chew who had been one of her graduate professors. In 1953 she published an article on his career. She had a great interest in art, architecture and writing which became a part of her research interests as well. She spent the latter portion of her career investigating (and teaching courses on) the intersection between writing and illustrating, which culminated in an article written in 1970 on William Blake's illustrations. Additionally, she cultivated relationships with many of the century's foremost authors, bringing several of them to Bryn Mawr to give readings and lectures.

Woodworth lived in Haverford most of her life with her sister, who was a teacher at the Shipley School. Throughout the 1930s they made several voyages to Europe. It was on one of these voyages that Woodworth bought Chagall's The Violinist and The Wounded Soldier. Following her sister Allegra's death in 1974, Woodworth established a scholarship at Bryn Mawr in her name. She also donated The Wounded Soldier to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1986. In 1987 she was awarded a medal by Bryn Mawr College for her contributions to the library. She died in 1988, leaving behind no family, and left her entire estate to Bryn Mawr. The estate included The Violinist which was auctioned shortly after her death bringing in 4.8 million dollars and making her the fourth largest contributor to the college at the time.


5.5 linear ft.

Language of Materials



Mary Katharine Woodworth (1900 – 1988) graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1924 with a Greek and English major and a minor in archaeology. She received her Ph. D in English from Bryn Mawr in 1933. After her book on British poet and genealogist Samuel Egerton Brydges was published in 1935, she began teaching in the English department at Bryn Mawr, and introduced the college’s first course on 20th-century writers. She received a Distinguished Teaching Award from Bryn Mawr in 1968 upon her retirement. Her bequest of her entire estate to Bryn Mawr in 1988, which included Chagall’s The Violinist, made her the 4th largest contributor to the college at the time. Her papers include personal correspondence, journals, research notes, and financial records. Additionally, the collection includes correspondence between Woodworth and writers – including E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Dylan Thomas, Eudora Welty, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bowen, D. H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, E. M. Forster, and V. S. Pritchett – whom she pursued to lecture at Bryn Mawr.

Custodial History

Bequest of Mary Katharine Woodworth, March 12, 1989.

Mary Katharine Woodworth papers
?, Melissa Torquato, Cassidy Gruber Baruth
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