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Helen Griffith papers


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Helen Griffith was born on January 24, 1882 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Griffith graduated from Central High School in Minneapolis before attending Bryn Mawr College. She graduated from Bryn Mawr with the class of 1905 with degrees in English and Philosophy. She was an active member of her class, serving as president of the Christian Union and playing field hockey. Post-graduation, she went on to study English at Columbia University (M.A. '10) and English at the University of Michigan (Ph.D. '24). She belonged to the Modern Language Association and College English Association. Griffith began teaching English immediately after her graduation from Bryn Mawr. In 1912, she began working at Mount Holyoke College, where she remained until 1947 (professor emerita). Griffith continued teaching after she left Mount Holyoke, instructing at the historically black, liberal arts Bennett and Tougaloo Colleges. While at Tougaloo, Griffith became fascinated by the life of Sarah Dickey, an ordained minister who founded Mount Hermon Female Seminary, a college for black women. She wrote a biography of Dickey titled "Dauntless in Mississippi: The Life of Sarah A. Dickey," published in 1966. Griffith passed away in 1976.

The Helen Griffith papers houses the scrapbook and diary of Helen Griffith, Bryn Mawr College class of 1905. The scrapbook spans 1901-1956, but the bulk of the material comes from her years at Bryn Mawr (1901-1905). The diary spans 1903-1910, but the bulk of the entries describe her junior and senior at Bryn Mawr (1903-1905) or her first year at Columbia University (1909). These materials offer a record of student life at Bryn Mawr, with special attention to sports, clubs, and theater productions. The diary provides a near-daily record of her time at Bryn Mawr, while the scrapbook records her time at the College through the material objects that she collected.

The scrapbook comprises one volume. It begins with entries around 1901, starting with Griffith's freshman year at Bryn Mawr. Around two-thirds of the scrapbook contains material from her freshman year to her graduation in 1905. The remaining third compiles material relating to Bryn Mawr, such as alumnae association letters, reunion booklets, and pamphlets relating to student events or clubs. The diary comprises one volume. It begins with entries in 1903 and ends with entries in 1909; however, there are a few pages near the middle of the volume that are dated 1909. The diary has long stretches of daily entries, with occasional large breaks of months or years. The last few pages of the diary are a ledger of expenses.

The format of scrapbook materials ranges greatly, from school directories to theater programs, photographs, news clippings, train tickets, calling cards, administrative notices, financial bills, cutouts from the campus publications (i.e. The Lantern), and memorial addresses. She also includes two plant pressings and a swatch of fabric. Like many other examples of scrapbooks kept by female college students at the time, Griffith's contains rich examples of student life documentation. There is a special emphasis on annual Bryn Mawr College events, such as the class plays, exams, and the 1904 and 1905 commencement ceremonies. Griffith also collects tea invitations, photographs from field hockey and basketball games, and material dealing with the Christian Union. While Bryn Mawr College is the obvious focus of the scrapbook, it also includes snapshots of student life off campus. Serving as a broad overview of student life, the scrapbook extends beyond campus events and includes materials relating to Griffith's vacations and possible weekend travel. In two instances, Griffith also collects information relating to other institutions, representing a greater network of women's education. She documents material relating to Smith College commencement activities in 1904. She also documents the Eastern Student Conference in 1905, a Christian association conference for women in college or private schools.

In addition to student life, the scrapbook records administrative and academic materials. In contrast to photographs and flyers that comprise most of the scrapbook, the administrative notices often take the form of school policy pamphlets and letters from the President's Offices. These materials provide a written record of the formal organization of the College during the early twentieth century. Griffith's collection of academic materials most often emphasizes scheduling classes and taking exams, marking the beginning and ending of school terms.

To supplement the rich materials found in her scrapbook, Griffith's diary provides extensive documentation of her everyday activities. She occasionally offers her opinion on the events of the day, but many of the entries are simply descriptions of the day's occurrences. Griffith was the president of the Christian Union and many of her entries mention their meetings. In October of 1904, she spoke at the C.U. annual reception for freshmen on the organization and purpose of the Christian Union. Her diary entries discuss preparing for and delivering this speech. Griffith frequently mentions her classes, playing (field) hockey, sermons delivered by pastors at the nearby church, and chapel talks given by then-President M. Carey Thomas. She also discusses socializing with friends and visiting Bryn Mawr town and Philadelphia. Entries of note include the senior performance of The Last of the Mohicans, which details the amount of work that went into preparing the class plays, 1904; registering for classes at Columbia, 1909; and seeing Eleanor Robson in "The Dawn of Tomorrow," 1909.

Helen Griffith's scrapbook provides an in depth view of student life at Bryn Mawr in the early twentieth century. As a whole, the scrapbook highlights the administrative and academic framework that forms the foundation of the College, as well as the student events and activities that bond students together and to the institution. It would be especially useful for those interested in religious life on campus, class plays and professional productions, college sports, and extracurricular activities. Helen Griffith's diary is a meticulous record of Griffith's everyday activities. It provides an overview of the daily fabric of quotidian student life in the early twentieth century. It would be of value to those interested in the Christian Union, class plays and professional productions, field hockey, and Columbia University. Some events appear in both the scrapbook and the diary, such as information relating to The Last of the Mohicans, a class play produced in 1904. Researchers might find it useful to consult both the diary and the scrapbook in order to cross-reference events, especially in regard to the class plays.

A digitized version of Griffith's diary can be found on Triptych.

Please be aware that the diary of Helen Griffith is held within the Small Collections of Alumnae Letters and Memorabilia, whilst the scrapbook of Helen Griffith is held within the Scrapbook and Photo Album collection.

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
Cassidy Gruber Baruth
Finding Aid Date
2018 November 26
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Collection Inventory

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