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Anne J. Perkins Diaries

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: SFHL-RG7-028

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of 16 diaries, written by Anne J. Perkins over the span of most of her life, from 1935 to 2009. She wrote over a hundred in her lifetime, of which this representative selection was retained by the Archives. Each diary was read and annotated by several members of her family. Annotations range from remarking about factual details to insults of Anne’s character. The journals are mostly personal in nature, but there are a smattering of details about the borough of Swarthmore, and Swarthmore College, which may be of interest to local historians studying those topics.

Anne J. Perkins was born May 10th, 1925, and her first diary was a Christmas gift from her aunt, Christmas of 1935. Anne attended Swarthmore High School, and her early diaries from high school depict a young woman with aspirations to become a writer, often including snippets of short stories, poems, drawings of characters, and descriptions of books, plays, movies, and operas she consumed. Otherwise, her high school diaries are records of 1940s teenage drama and heartache. Anne attended Guilford College, although left before completing her bachelor’s degree. Anne’s 1948 journal from her college years documents a tumultuous relationship with a fellow student named Joe Woods, who she would think about for the rest of her life, particularly in her later years. Anne lived with her mother, Mary, and sister, Leonore (“Nore”), for the rest of her life, moving to 340 Haverford Place (Swarthmore, PA) in 1961 with her mother and sister. Anne never married or had a formal romantic relationship, though most of her journals up until the 1950s detail her crushes and relationships with men, including lengthy discussions of sex, sensuality, and erotic dreams. After leaving Guilford, Anne worked as a librarian at McCabe Library in Swarthmore, and many of her journals detail her feelings about her bosses and coworkers, whom she held in poor regard. The exception was Howard Williams, a coworker and superior at McCabe with whom she had a tumultuous flirtation (these flirtations never resulted in a relationship; annotations made by relatives indicate Howard was gay). Anne struggled with a host of mental and physical illnesses throughout her life, and often wrote about being incapacitated by these illnesses. After retiring from the library in 1988, her already strained relationship with Nore became more tense, and much of her writing after 1955 is focused on domestic conflict between Anne, Nore, and their elderly mother, for whom Nore was a primary caretaker. Although Anne becomes more politically opinionated in later years, often writing about social issues and presidencies (including many racist and homophobic remarks), Anne’s journals become increasingly lengthy and internal as her contact with the “outside world” becomes less frequent. She spends a great deal of time berating her family, who she relies on for socialization but does not appear to like.

In addition to the diaries, this collection contains a few photographs of Anne, her sister Nore, and their home; some short stories written by Anne; and a copy of the 1945 Guilford College yearbook with inscriptions to Anne written by various classmates.


  • Creation: 1939 - 2009

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College which holds the copyright. See

Biographical / Historical

Anne J. Perkins (b. 5/10/1925, d. 7/7/2010) was a Quaker, Swarthmore College employee, and life-long resident of Swarthmore, PA. Her father was Joseph (d. 1954), head chemist at Hire’s Root Beer, and a member of Swarthmore Monthly Meeting since 1930. Her mother was Mary Perkins (née Hartenstine, d. 1978) a homemaker. She had two sisters, Virginia (“Jinny”) (b. 1917, d. 2002) Cressman, and Leonore (“Nore”) Perkins (b. ~1919). Virginia married Philip Cressman in 1941 and had five children, Mary, Judith, Caleb, Deborah, and Cordelia. She was the only of the three sisters to marry. Anne had one brother, Joseph (“Joe”) Perkins Jr. (d. 1992), who married Margaret Hunn in 1938. The two had three children, John, Daniel, and Nancy. From 1923-1961, the Perkins family lived in the old Ogden House (530 Cedar Lane), sold to Joseph Ogden by Miss Jessie L. Hoopes in 1923. In 1961, Mary, Nore, and Anne moved to 340 Haverford Place, where Anne would live the rest of her life.

Anne attended Guilford College in North Carolina until her sophomore year, before transferring to the University of Delaware, where she remained until her senior year, although she did not graduate. In 1952 she began work as a clerical assistant at McCabe Library until her retirement in 1988. She never married.


.4 linear ft. (1 document box)

Language of Materials



Anne Jackson Perkins was born May 10, 1925, and died June 7, 2010. She attended Swarthmore High School, and later Guilford College and the University of Delaware, though she did not complete her bachelor’s degree. She worked as a librarian at Swarthmore College’s McCabe Library until she retired in 1988, and lived with her mother and sister until the ends of their lives. She never married, and her diaries often talk about romance, loneliness, mental and physical illness, dislike of family and coworkers, and the minutiae of daily life. The diaries have also been read and annotated by Anne’s surviving family. This collection contains a few photographs of Anne, Nore, and their home.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Cordelia Bardroff (accession SHS-2023-003)

Processing Information

The archivist saved one diary per decade, as well as diaries written during times of particular interest. The choice of which diaries to save was based on availability of space in the archives, the contents of the diary in relation to both personal and historical importance, and how frequently Anne wrote during a particular period. Additionally, photographs were removed from diaries and placed in platic sleeves, and metal paperclips were replaced with plastic ones.


Anne J. Perkins Diaries
Madeline Clay
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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 Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA