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Henrietta Baldwin Sperry papers

Identifier: BMC-M99

Scope and Contents

The Henrietta Baldwin Sperry papers are a collection of approximately 1000 handwritten letters that provide a window onto the daily life of a Bryn Mawr student in the early 20th century, including descriptions of traditions, social gatherings, and studying. She describes her courses, professors, fellow students, campus jobs, dances, meals, the 1918 flu epidemic and resulting quarantine. There is a particularly striking November 11th, 1918 letter wherein she describes the college’s reaction to the armistice.

The letters are divided into three distinct categories: letters from Henrietta to her mother, Susan Baldwin; letters from World War I balloonist, Sheldon Clarke, to Henrietta; and letters from third parties to either Henrietta or her mother. Folders containing the correspondence are arranged by semesters, years, and also by recipient, with Henrietta’s correspondence first, then the Sheldon Clark correspondence, then third party correspondence including correspondence to Henrietta from her mother, and finally, undated Henrietta correspondence. Folder-level scope description exists for Henrietta's correspondence under "Collection Organization."

The bulk of the collection consists of the letters Baldwin wrote to her mother, Susan Baldwin, with whom she was close and whom she considered her “chum.” They are upbeat in tone. In one letter Baldwin writes, “I am, as usual, the happiest girl in the world.” These letters are from 1916 to 1921 and cover her experiences at Misses Kirke's boarding school (1916-1917) and later Bryn Mawr College (1917-1921). There are also some letters from the summer after she graduated. Baldwin writes mainly of her studies, her successes and achievements, her social life, her romances, and her jobs and scholarships. She occasionally makes social commentary on current events and issues, including campus culture at Bryn Mawr, atheism and religion, the financial costs of attending college, and women’s suffrage. The remainder of the collection consists of letters from one of her admirers, Sheldon Clarke. Clarke’s letters begin in December, 1917 and continue until January, 1919. During that time, he served with the 9th Balloon Division overseas. He writes of his experiences abroad as a balloonist in WWI, his training, the risks of ballooning, his impressions of buildings and people abroad, and his reflections on life as influenced by war. He received a Distinguished Service Cross from General Perishing, and the Croix de la Guerre from the French Government. The third party letters are a mix of letters from Henrietta's mother, from Henrietta's friends and admirers, and from Henrietta's mother's friends.

This collection would be of value to researchers interested in women’s education, women’s colleges, the 1918 flu epidemic, First World War ballooners, and the impact of the First World War on college life.


  • Creation: 1916 - 1921


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Henrietta Baldwin Sperry papers are the physical property of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the author's heirs and assigns.

Biographical / Historical

Born on May 3rd, 1896, Henrietta Elizabeth Baldwin grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She attended Williamsport High School before enrolling in Misses Kirke's boarding school in Bryn Mawr to prepare for the Bryn Mawr College entrance exams. She attended Bryn Mawr College from 1917-1921. On the 1961 Alumnae survey, she listed her majors as Economics, Politics, and Psychology. After graduation, she worked as a psychologist at the State Industrial Home for Women in Muncy, P.A from 1922-1947. She primarily conducted Binet tests. In 1929, She married Mr. Pierrepont E. Sperry. After college, she lived in Sunbury, Northumberland, and Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. The couple had one child, a son named Pierrepont E. Sperry, Jr, born in 1933. Henrietta spent the last years of her life in The Episcopal Church Home. She died on June 30, 1986.

Sheldon Clarke served with the 9th Balloon Division overseas during the First World War.


1.25 linear ft.

Language of Materials



Henrietta Baldwin Sperry was a student at Bryn Mawr from 1917-1921. This collection consists of approximately 1000 of her letters. Of those letters, most are written by her to her mother about her time applying to and attending Bryn Mawr College (1916-1921). The subjects of the letters include social life at Bryn Mawr, disease quarantines, the college war effort. The collection also contains letters to Henrietta from her friend and admirer, Sheldon Clarke, who wrote to her while he was serving in the 9th Balloon Division during the First World War. The subjects of these letters includes impression of the French and Dutch people, reflection on war, training to be a balloonist, and daily life in the army. The collection also includes letters to Henrietta from her mother and third party correspondence. The subjects in these letters vary, but tend to be largely social news.

Custodial History

In 2008, Judy Hood donated the letters from Sheldon Clarke to the Henrietta Baldwin Sperry Papers. Originally, Hood had acquired both Baldwin Sperry’s correspondence with her mother and the Sheldon Clarke letters upon her mother’s death, who was Henrietta Baldwin Sperry’s friend. Baldwin Sperry’s son procured his mother’s correspondence with her mother in the early 90s and gave them to Bryn Mawr in 1993.

Henrietta Baldwin Sperry papers
Allison Rodgers, Cassidy Gruber Baruth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Find It at the Library

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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