Guide to the Edith Ella Baldwin Papers, 1848-1920


Artist, craftswoman, and author from Worcester, Massachusetts. Collection consists of 39 unpublished volumes of stories, novels, poetry, lecture notes, and family history from Edith Ella Baldwin, including a novel about sex education for women, diary excerpts describing her visits with painter Mary Cassatt, and typescript copies of letters from her aunt, Ellen Frances Baldwin, dating from 1848 to 1854. Edith Baldwin's writings tend to cover timeless themes of religion and love, although some compositions include contemporary issues such as automobiles, labor strikes, and women's rights. Each volume is arts-and-crafts style construction with typed texts, frequently annotated by hand.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Edith Ella Baldwin papers
Baldwin, Edith Ella
4.1 Linear Feet, 39 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

The collection and its volumes represent over 20 years of work by Edith Ella Baldwin. There is no indication that any of her writings were published, although rejection letters included in one of the volumes suggests that she did attempt to become published at one point.

Each volume consists of typescript or carbon copy pages, sewn into cloth boards with dyed red cloth covers stamped with gold lettering; two volumes are burlap and one is corduroy. Some of the volumes' bindings are loose or separated from their covers. The texts have been copy-edited with corrections throughout, along with several re-titled in pencil. Most volumes' title pages include notes explaining whether the work is a fragment, unfinished, or complete; how they "must not be changed"; and how many are "the only copy in existence." Several stories also include Baldwin's handwritten introduction, summarizing the action or presenting the theme.

Many of the stories explore love and religion, but several are noteworthy for their contemporary subjects. "The Automobile" is a short story written in 1907 following two women as they tour New England in their Pope Hartford automobile. "Antony the Foreigner," an unpublished 1912 novel, concerns anarchists, labor strikes, worker unrest, and the suspicion of foreigners. The most notable text is the 1911 "Affairs at Farslope," a 140-page novella about a women's refuge for troubled young girls and how proper sex education could have prevented their misfortune.

Along with Baldwin's fiction and poetry, the collection includes lecture notes from several courses she took on bookbinding, cooking, nursing, and art. There are also her efforts at preserving her family's history, including a copy of her aunt's diary, dated 1848-1854; several of her grandfather's sermons; a volume of stories and poems by her younger sister, who died at age 11; and selected excerpts of her own journal kept while studying art in Paris from 1889-1892.

The materials have been arranged by genre, with the Fiction and Poetry Series making up the bulk of the collection; the Non-Fiction Series consisting largely of lecture notes and diary entries; and the Family History Series, which includes her aunt's diary, other family writings, and sermons. Within each series, materials have been arranged chronologically.

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[Identification of item], Edith Ella Baldwin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

One Day, 1896

7 pp. A short piece, in which 2 young girls meet a man, presumably Christ in disguise.

Box 1
Benjamin Blood or The Days of Dora, 1900

Cover title: Benjamin Blood. 300 pp. Baldwin has crossed out the original title and written above it in pencil, A Small Town Affair-A Narrative of the Nineties. A lengthy novel, in the author's own words, "I have very painstakingly attempted to portray a careful psychological study of life. With its theme in under [sic] threads of inference, uncertainty, and misunderstanding, I know it will be most appreciated by those to whom I hope to aid..."

Box 1
Chance or Change or Allegra's Love, 1900

Cover title: Allegra's Love. 157 pp. As summarized here by the author, "This novel is intended for a picture of the powerful influences for construction or destruction of ideal by the one nearest to the center of home life - namely, the influence of wife or mother upon the ideal of her family."

Box 1
Flora or The Valley of Shadow, 1901

70 pp. A young girl's coming of age story, sometimes presented in the form of a diary.

Box 2
Sisters Three, 1903

19 pp. A story of three elderly sisters.

Box 2
Common Clay, 1903-1906

156 pp. A novel about the lives of ordinary people in small town New England.

Box 2
Meditations of Amanda, 1905

37 pp.. An unfinished story about a small group of women traveling as tourists around Massachusetts.

Box 2
David Sinclair or As Stars to Shine, 1906-1907

157 pp. A romance story about the "clash between the spirit and the flesh."

Box 2
The Automobile, 1907

31 pp. A short story about two young women, cousins, who take off on a two-day journey across New England in a Pope Hartford automobile. The story includes anecdotes on early motorized travel.

Box 3
Solomon Gray or Webs of Fate, 1907

Cover title: Webs of Fate. 127 pp. The adventures of Mary and Josie, sisters whose father is a clergyman.

Box 3
Children of Men, 1908

20 pp. A tale of the Rev. Ormond, rector of a church.

Box 4
That Poor John North, 1908

Cover title: John North. 29 pp. A short story regarding a poor Northern suitor of a Southern girl.

Box 4
Jerusalem is Built as a City that is at Unity in Itself, 1909

Cover title: Unity. 19 pp. A short story of two women visiting Jerusalem.

Box 4
The Landmark, or Joshua Kingsley or The House of Doom, 1910

Cover title: Joshua Kingsley. 86 pp. A novel of small town society, gossip, and ways.

Box 4
Redwood or Leaven or The Pool, 1910

104 pp. A novel of love.

Box 4
Affairs at Farslope, 1911

140 pp. A fictional account arguing for better information and openness about sex education. The story revolves around a women's refuge for troubled young girls, with talk of suffragettes, and one young girl seduced by a man afflicted with "the unmentionable disease" causing her child to be born blind. "Girls surely had a right to protection. Romance was all very well where a world was righteous and men saints, but the world was in spots as bad or worse than it had been; yes, worse perhaps, for the innocent suffered for wrong they had never committed, and the wicked escape and flourishes. ... The modern way of the nineteenth century which had dwelt upon the spirit was only a half truth. Things had been taught that flesh and spirit were at war, and everything that went with flesh was shameful and wicked. Lust, gluttony, etc. were wrong, of course.... But to teach that hunger, thirst, and other things were wicked in themselves was cowardly." An unpublished novel that sheds insight into women's views on sex at the turn of the century.

Box 4
Petronilla, 1911

145 pp. A love story concerning an orphaned young girl.

Box 4
Roderick's Career, 1911

96 pp. A romantic novel with a strong religious bent.

Box 4
Miscellaneous Song, Lyrics, and Sonnets, 1911-1912

Cover title: Poems. 93 pp + 50 pp. A collection of more than 200 poems and sonnets on various themes.

Box 5
Antony the Foreigner, 1912

99 pp. An unfinished piece about anarchists, labor strikes, worker unrest, and the suspicion of foreigners.

Box 5
Walter, 1912

94 pp. An unfinished novel in three parts about religious realization following tragedy.

Box 5
Bella, 1913

86 pp. An unfinished novel set behind the scenes of clergy politics.

Box 5
Miscellaneous, 1913

Cover title: Stories Etc. 51 pp. A second collection of six unfinished fragments "for future stories."

Box 6
Autocracy, 1915

102 pp. Laid in are 17 pages of holograph story notes on various size sheets. An unfinished novel, set against the upheaval of Europe during World War I, with religious overtones.

Box 6
Hills of Gold, 1920

158 pp. An unfinished novel of small town life, ordinary people, and their daily trials.

Box 6
Miscellaneous, undated

99 pp. Combined typescripts and holograph samplings of the authors writings in prose, poetry, and song. Includes a note that these works are duplicates of already typewritten items. It appears that this might have been rebound in burlap cloth by Baldwin with additional material and a second title page laid into the original cloth boards with cloth cover.

Box 7

2. Non-Fiction, 1897-1914

2 flat boxes
Art in Equestrianism, 1897-1898

Cover title: Equestrianism in the Nineties. 19 pp. Notes from a course as taught at the Dickel Academy in New York.

Box 7
Methods in Miniature Work or Memoranda for Miniature Painting, 1899

Cover title: Memoranda for Miniatures. 12 pp. Lessons in painting and miniature frames. Laid in are clippings from the Miniature Frames catalog of T.W. Adams & Co.

Box 7
Gilbert Dancing, Fancy Dancing, 1907-1908

Cover title: Gilbert Dancing. 20 pp. Polkas, as taught by Miss Frances Healey.

Box 7
My Art Student Days in Paris, 1911

Cover title: A Talk of Paris Art Days. 56 pp. Excerpts from letters written by Baldwin and her sister while both were studying abroad in 1889-1892. They describe attending Academie Julian in Paris in great detail, including their classes, instructors, fellow students, and city life. They also comment on the 1889 World's Fair, seeing Sandra Bernhardt's performance as Cleopatra, and having dinner with their aunt's friend, impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. Baldwin describes one evening, "We dined with the Cassatt's last Sunday evening ... Miss Cassatt and her mother talked incessantly and very interestingly. Old pa Cassatt, beside whom I was placed at dinner, was very gallant, but distressed because he was so exceedingly deaf... I think if I had to listen to them continually I should wish to become deaf, like pa Cassatt." Her sister adds that Cassatt was "an exceedingly clever woman, although a little eccentric. Her mother is a bright little old lady of seventy six and both mother and daughter say just the same thing in just the same voice and the effect is a little unusual."

Box 7
Bookbinding, 1911-1912

203 pp. Extensive notes based on classes taught by Miss Elizabeth Maret at the School of the Worcester Art Museum. Handwritten on the title page are notes describing Miss Maret's background including her work with Elbert Hubbard's Roycrofters in New York. A cross between the recorded narrative of the teacher and practical hints learned along the way.

Box 8
Attendant Nursing as Taught by Dr. Mary A. Charteris at Y.W.C.A. Worcester, 1912-1913 and A Course in Invalid Cooking as Taught by Mrs. Alice Belding at the Y.W.C.A. to E.E.B., 1913-1914

Two volumes bound in one. 141, 36 pp. A view on home patient care. Both articles are based on notes taken by Baldwin at courses taught at the Y.W.C.A. in Worcester. A manuscript of questions and answers follows the nursing typescript and Invalid Cooking includes manuscript notes and a few drawings.

Box 8
The Literature of Rose Danielson Baldwin, Born Oct. 22, 1882 Died Nov. 8, 1893 (Granddaughter of Rev. John Denison Baldwin)

75 pp. A collection of juvenile stories and verse from Baldwin's little sister, who died at the young age of 11. The book preserves her spelling and spacing "just as she wrote it." Four photographs of Rose are tipped in and one is laid in.

Box 8
A Book of Church Records The Gift of J.F. to the Church of Kellingley March 1st, 1795-1796, dated 1909

Folio, 18 pp. A typescript of family genealogy records copied from the Book of Church Records, Kellingley, dating between 1715-1740. This town was in Connecticut, and has since been re-named Putnam Heights.

Box 9
Two Empty Book Covers, undated
Box 9
The Literature of Ellen Frances Baldwin, who was b. Jan. 20th, 1933 and d. March 10th, 1854, dated 1909

173 pp. A collection of writings by Baldwin's paternal aunt. These typescript pages were copied from her aunt's original writings which dated from 1848 to shortly before her death in 1854. They consist of 65 pages of personal letters, 41 pages of journal entries, an unfinished short story, and poems. Tipped in are two original photographs of the aunt and two original photographs of her sister, Mary Jane Baldwin, who died at the age of 14 years. The album is appended by a 17-page compilation of "Some Letters from Albert Sutliffe the Poet to John S. Baldwin."

Box 10
Preface to the Journal of My Aunt Ellen Frances Baldwin, November 1909

16 pp. An extensive, separately-bound preface by Baldwin to her aunt's journal with her thoughts, refection and additional information provided by family members with holograph notes on many pages and several versos.

Box 10
Sermons by The Honorable and The Reverend John De[nison Baldwin] with Letters of Rev. and Hon. John Denison Baldwin, 1909

57 pp. and 7 pp. A typed copy of selected sermons written by Baldwin's paternal grandfather, along with several personal letters, his will, and a small original photograph of the Reverend tipped in on the front pastedown. References in the letters and sermons place his preaching and family affairs in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Box 10
The Literature of Edith Ella Baldwin, 1913

Cover title: Summary. 28 pp. An organized and circumspect index of Baldwin's writing (listing the title, word counts, and year written for each) along with an introduction titled, "The Three Periods of My Literary Output," in which she defines each period, her age at the time, and the type of writing she produced. While not all of the material noted in the index is found in the Papers, a substantial portion is present. Also in this volume is a manuscript draft of the Last Will and Testament of Edith Ella Baldwin, in which she notes, "What I have written in fiction, verse, or instruction must not be destroyed. It is my earnest hope to have it found worthy of preservation for it represents the real work of my life." Laid into the volume are her baptismal certificate, several newspaper clippings, and a photograph of her dated 1911 September 26 with a note reading "E.S.B., 1910 -- age 39 years, last photograph taken."

Box 10
The Sayings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, undated

Cover title: Christ's Word. 73 pp. A compilation to the four gospels written out to "understand more clearly just what the words of the Messiah were here on Earth and the order in which they were once uttered to mankind."

Box 10

Historical Note

Edith Ella Baldwin was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on November 19, 1870 to Ellen L. T. Peckham and Charles Clinton Baldwin, the son of Reverend John Denison Baldwin. She was baptized at All Saint's Church in Worcester in November 1888. She was an artist who produced paintings and miniatures, as well as a craftswoman and bookbinder. Her entry in Representative Women of New England says she studied at the Julian Academy in Paris and exhibited at the Salon of the Champ de Mars in 1901, and in Worcester in 1903. She died on February 21, 1940.

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The Edith Ella Baldwin Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2012 and 2014.

Processing Information

Processed by Meghan Lyon, May 2012

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, May 2012

Collection guide updated to include an addition by Alice Poffinberger, March 2014

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2012-0048 and 2014-0054