Mary Meigs 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
Mary Meigs was born on April 27, 1917 in Philadelphia to Edward Browning Meigs and Margaret Wister Meigs. She spent most of her childhood in Washington, DC, but returned to the Philadelphia area to attend Bryn Mawr College. She graduated in 1939 and served in the U. S. Navy during World War II as a WAVE. After her service in the military, Meigs spent her life as a painter, honing her talents under the guidance of close friends and fellow artists Henry Poor and his stepdaughter Anne Poor. Through the Poors, Meigs met author and women's rights activist Barbara Deming, and was instantly captivated by her. They spent a number of years together during the 1950's and 1960's, but their relationship eventually foundered, partially due to Meigs' timidity and Deming's unrelenting political activism.
During this time Meigs moved to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where she befriended the social commentator Edmund Wilson and his circle of friends. Among them was the revolutionary Canadian author Marie-Claire Blais, with whom Meigs became romantically involved; Meigs, Blais, and Deming lived together for six years.
In the 1970's Meigs turned her attention to writing. She moved to Quebec in 1975, and in 1979 she began to write an account of her life entitled Lily Briscoe: A Self-Portrait , describing her life as a lesbian and an artist. The book was a success, and she wrote other autobiographical books: The Medusa Head (1983), The Box Closet (1987), and The Time Being (1997). In 1990, she appeared in the Canadian movie The Company of Strangers, a film about a group of elderly women stranded in the wilderness and how they survive this ordeal. Her book, In the Company of Strangers (1991), describes her experiences during the filming of the movie. Throughout her later life Meigs, increasingly prominent as a writer, became a spokesperson for elderly lesbians, battling against prejudices of age, class, and gender. She died on November 15, 2002.
The collection is divided into four sections: Correspondence, Writings, Artwork, and Other Materials.
Correspondence, is organized into Outgoing Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, and Third Party Correspondence. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically. Outgoing Correspondence consists of nearly three hundred letters written by Meigs from 1954 to 1995; most of the letters are addressed to Anne Poor, or to former companions Barbara Deming and Ruth Barratt. Incoming Correspondence contains over six hundred letters received throughout Meigs' life, dated from 1942 to 1999; they include letters from Henry and Anne Poor, Edmund Wilson, and fellow Bryn Mawr alumna Hortense Flexner King. Third Party Correspondence consists of a small group of letters, including correspondence between Meigs, Elena Wilson, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University concerning the donation of Edmund Wilson's papers after his death.
Writings, is organized into Journals, Manuscripts, and Other Writings. Journals contains thirty-six handwritten journals dated 1977 to 2000 recounting daily experiences, reflections, and dreams; they describe Meigs' life as her first and subsequent books are published. Manuscripts is organized by book: The Box Closet, In the Company of Strangers, Lily Briscoe: A Self Portrait , The Medusa Head, and The Time Being. Documents for each book are organized into Materials, Notes / Drafts, Translations (when applicable), Published Excerpts, Correspondence with Publisher, and Reception. Materials consists of research gathered for the writing of each book. Notes / Drafts contains successive manuscripts, from notes and first drafts to printed proofs. The collection includes Translations into French for two of Meigs' books, Lily Briscoe, Un Autoportrait, and Femmes dans un Paysage, the French version of In the Company of Strangers; these works were translated by Michelle Thériault and Marie José Thériault, respectively. Published Excerpts contains selections published prior to or shortly after the publication of each book. Correspondence with Publisher contains chronologically cataloged correspondence, mostly from Mary Schendlinger of Talon Books, Ltd. of Vancouver. Reception contains chronologically arranged reviews and fan mail written in response to Meigs' works.
Other Writings contains Meigs' minor literary works and is organized into Essays, Letters to the Editor, Reviews, and Public Appearances. Each subseries is cataloged alphabetically. Essays contains short writings published by Meigs during the 1980's and 1990's on topics such as homosexuality, aging, and nature; correspondence concerning the publication of many of these works is included. Letters to the Editor contains three letters in defense of lesbian writers. Reviews contains six book reviews written by Meigs, two of which were published in the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin. Public Appearances contains speeches, interviews, and flyers announcing public readings by Meigs.
Artwork, is divided into Artwork, Gallery Opening Notifications, and Reception. Artwork contains three groups of unpublished illustrations: for Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, and the epic cycle of the legend of Cuchulainn in Jean Markale's L'epopée celtique d'Irlande. Gallery Opening Notifications contains memorabilia from the 1950's to the 1970's concerning Meigs' art exhibitions, including both gallery and newspaper announcements. Reception contains articles and fan mail relating to Meigs' artwork.
Other Materials, contains Marie-Claire Blais, articles in French concerning Blais' artwork; Barbara Deming, a collection of memorials written shortly after Deming's death in 1983; Edmund Wilson, an article written by Wilson published in The New Yorker that mentions Meigs and his social circle; and Miscellaneous Articles.
Gift of Mary Meigs, 2002.
- Meigs, Mary, 1917-2002
- Blais, Marie-Claire, 1939-
- Deming, Barbara, 1917-1984
- Wilson, Edmund, 1895-1972
- Poor, Anne, 1918-2002
- Poor, Henry Varnum
- Bryn Mawr College
- Finding Aid Author
- Kristin Masters, Melissa Torquato
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
The Mary Meigs Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, of unpublished works by Mary Meigs are held by Bryn Mawr college (gift of the author). Literary rights, including copyright, of other authors belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.
- Use Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
80 letters. TLS, ALS.
82 letters. TLS, ALS.
Transcription of letters. 41 letters. TL.
Transcription of letters. 34 letters. TL.
1 letter. TLS.
Draft of letter in French. 1 letter. AL / TL.
13 letters. TLS. Original folder labeled: "Letters, MM to BD from Washington, 1954 - 1956."
44 letters. ALS, TL.
TL. Draft of letter sent concerning donation of Edmund Wilson papers (Folder 3-6) to Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
TL / AL. Draft of letter sent in response to McCarthy's letter of 1982 Jan 20. 1 letter.
2 letters. TL.
63 letters. ALS, TLS.
1 letter. ALS.
3 letters. TLS. Letters were included with outgoing correspondence to Barbara Deming (1-8) and Anne Poor (1-12).
1 letter. TL. Copy of letter found with outgoing correspondence to Anne Poor (Folder 1-12).
45 letters. TLS. Original folder labeled, "RB important letters, Post-Canada."
3 letters. TLS.
Includes 10 poems by Meigs on rustic themes. 19 photocopied letters.
1 letter. TLS, TD. Concerning Joan Colebrook (d. 1991 Mar 23); includes obituary and memorial.
1 letter. ALS. Includes duplicate.
1 letter. ALS. Includes portrait of Barbara Deming.
5 letters. TLS. Correspondence concerning donation of Edmund Wilson papers (Folder 3-6) to Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
3 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS.
16 letters. ALS, TLS.
64 letters. ALS, TLS.
7 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS.
4 letters. ALS, TLS. Includes article concerning MacIver.
Includes article by McCarthy. 16 letters. ALS, TLS.
Includes poems by Merril. 10 letters. ALS.
69 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS.
50 letters, 2 gallery opening notifications. ALS, TLS.
58 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS. Includes article about Anne Poor.
33 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS.
3 letters, 1 gallery opening notification. ALS.
1 letter. ALS.
26 letters. ALS, TLS. Short messages filed by Meigs with incoming correspondence of Anne Poor (Folder 2-19, 2-20).
38 letters, 3 gallery opening notifications. ALS.
8 letters. TD / TL.
18 letters, including numerous sketches by Wilson. ALS.
58 photocopied letters. Original folder labeled, "Copies of correspondence between Edmund Wilson and Mary Meigs. Originals now at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University."
Letter to Mrs. Thornton Brown concerning Meigs' gallery exhibit. ALS.
3 letters. TL, TLS. Correspondence between Gallup and Elena Wilson concerning donation of Edmund Wilson Papers (Folder 3-6) to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
2 letters. ALS, TLS. Letters found among incoming correspondence from Anne Poor (Folder 2-19, 2-20) to Barbara Deming and Hubert Hughes.
Notes from journals and letters of Edward Browning Meigs and Margaret Wister Meigs. TD, AD. 118 pgs.
22 photocopied letters.
Photocopies of miscellaneous articles and photographs. 7 pgs.
Sketches by Theodore Roscoe (1926-1992). 11 pgs.
Notes with preliminary drafts. TMs, AMs. 211 pgs.
Typed draft. TMs. 217 pgs.
Typed draft. TMs. 186 pgs.
Reviews. Includes many duplicates. 10 pgs.
Fan mail. 40 letters. TLS, ALS.
First draft. TMs. 9 pgs.
First draft. TMs. 17 pgs.
Final draft. TMs. 64 pgs.
Dramatic exercises for Bus characters. Photocopies. 53 pgs.
Screenplay by Gloria Demers. Photocopy. TMs. 34 pgs.
Folder containing information about cast and crew of movie. TD. 29 pgs.
Advertisement posters and postcards. 14 pcs.
Obituary of Winifred Holden (d. 1996 Oct 3); several copies included. TD. 9 pgs.
Incoming letter of Cynthia Scott to Meigs concerning Gloria Demers. 1 letter. ALS. 4 pgs.
Photographs taken on the set of the movie. Includes photographs of dogs. 44 pcs.
Photocopied sketches of cast, artist unknown. 11 pgs.
Reviews not listed in press book. 26 pgs.
Fan mail concerning Meig's role in the Company of Strangers; includes photographs. 36 letters. ALS, TLS.
Journal excerpts. Two copies. TD. 34 pgs.
Notes, character development. AD, TD. 58 pgs.
Postpreamble, plus editing notes. AD, TD. 53 pgs.
Photocopied typed draft. TMs. 65 pgs.
TMs. 110 pgs.
Complete Ms copy. TMs. 129 pgs.
Complete Ms copy. Copy 2. TMs. 129 pgs.
Revised unpublished edition. TMs. 170 pgs.
Printed proofs. TMs. 170 pgs.
Printed proofs. TMs. 230 pgs.
Book cover. 27 copies.
Notes, letters between Meigs and Thériault concerning translation of book. TLS, AD. 20 pgs.
"Contagious Harmony: Friendship in the Company of Strangers." Photocopy. 2 pgs.
"The Forging of Friendship in The Company of Strangers." Incomplete essay. TD. 1 pg.
"Interval." Published in Brick, pgs. 40-43.
Incoming letters from Talon Books, et al. concerning publication of In the Company of Strangers. Includes contract. 3 letters. TDS. Throughout the correspondence,Mary Schendlinger of Talon Books, Ltd. appears as Mary the Other, or M. T. O.
Incoming letter from Édition Trois concerning publication of Femmes dans un Paysage. Includes contract. 1 letter. TDS.
Incoming letters from Coach House Press concerning publication of "Interval." 3 letters. TLS, ALS.
Reviews of the book. 15 pcs.
Folder concerning Meigs' 1992 award in nonfiction by the Quebec Society for the Promotion of English Language Literature (QSPELL) for In the Company of Strangers. 3 pcs.
Fan mail to Meigs concerning her book. 29 letters. ALS, TLS.
First draft. TMs. 213 pgs.
Ms bound in black cover. TMs. 108 pgs.
Final Ms version. TMs. 247 pgs.
TMs. 305 pgs.
Excerpt published in Women's Peace Write booklet. 39 pgs.
"Mary Meigs: A Self Portrait." Clipping from Broadside. Includes duplicate. 4 pgs.
Correspondence with Talon Books, et al. 40 letters. TLS.
Correspondence with Talon Books, et al. 42 letters. TLS.
Correspondence with Women's Peace Write concerning publication of Lily Briscoe excerpt. 1 letter. TLS.
Reviews of Lily Briscoe. 39 pcs.
Reviews of Lily Briscoe: un Autoportrait. 2 pcs.
Lequi, Lucie, and Morley, Pat. "Compte rendu de Lily Briscoe." TD. 10 pgs.
Fan mail. 162 letters. TLS, ALS.
First draft. AMs, TMs. 134 pgs.
Discarded pages. AMs, TMs. 44 pgs.
Final draft. TMs, AMs. 187 pgs.
Excerpt published in Broadside, Vol. 5, No. 4, p. 10-11.
Reviews. Includes several duplicates. 24 pcs.
Reviews. Includes several duplicates. 24 pcs.
Reviews of La Tête de Méduse, French translation by Pierre Desruisseaux. 3 pcs.
Fan mail. 39 letters. TLS, ALS.
Notes from correspondence with Ruth Barratt. AD, TD. 94 pgs.
Notes, including pen-and-ink sketch of Meigs walking a snail. AD. 367 pgs.
Preliminary drafts, with notes. TMs, AMs. 289 pgs.
Chapter 1, first typed draft. TMs. 37 pgs.
Chapter 3. TMs. 39 pgs.
Chapters 1 - 4. TMs. 68 pgs.
Chapters 3 - 5, final drafts. TMs. 103 pgs.
Chapter 5. TMs. 38 pgs.
Chapters 1 - 6, drafts and notes. AMs, TMs. 171 pgs.
Chapters 6 - 7, corrected copy. TMs. 89 pgs.
Chapters 8 - 10, corrected copy. TMs. 79 pgs.
Discarded pages from The Time Being. TMs. 23 pgs.
First corrected copy. TMs. 125 pgs.
Complete draft. TMs. 152 pgs.
Printed proofs. TMs. 160 pgs.
Editing notes from printed proofs. TMs. 57 pgs.
"Time Being." Excerpt for Geist, Vol. 17, pgs. 22 - 28. TMs. 27 pgs.
Chapter 4 of The Time Being with editing notes, for Geist, Vol. 26. TMs. 13 pgs.
Incoming correspondence with Talon Books, et al. Includes contract. 12 letters. TLS.
Incoming correspondence with Geist concerning publication of "The Meeting." 4 letters. TLS, ALS.
Review in Herizons, Vol. 12, No. 3. pgs. 38 - 39.
"About Being an Old Lesbian in Love." Published in Dyke Life : From Growing Up to Growing Old, A Celebration of the Lesbian Experience, ed. Karla Jay. TD. 5 pgs.
Incoming correspondence with Karla Jay concerning publication. Includes contract. 4 letters. TLS.
"The Diary of a Lesbian Artist." Three copies. TD. 50 pgs.
Incoming correspondence with Francis Rooney concerning publication. 2 letters. TLS.
"The Dying Process." Four copies. AD, TD. 12 pgs.
Incoming correspondence with Lynda Hall concerning publication. 3 letters. TLS.
"Falling Between the Cracks." Two copies. TDS. 22 pgs.
Incoming correspondence with Karla Jay, et al. concerning publication. 9 letters. TLS.
Reviews of anthologies Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions, ed. Karla Jay and Joanne Glasgow, and InVersions: Writings by Dykes, Queers & Lesbians, ed. Betsy Warland, in which essay is published. 3 pcs.
"Lesbians in the Visual Arts." RFD / DRF, the Lesbian Issue Vol. 12, No. 1, pgs. 28 - 30.
"A Migrant to Montreal." For Women's Agenda. Copy. TD. 1 pg.
"On Aging." Published in Canadian Women Studies. TD. 8 pgs.
Contract for "Pandora was a Feminist," published in Women and Words: the Anthology and Essays: Thought and Style. TDS. 2 pgs.
"Witness to Wilderness." Includes printed proof. TD. 2 pgs.
Incoming correspondence to Meigs thanking her for her literary contributions. 5 letters. TLS.
Photocopy of letter to Fireweed. TLS. 4 pgs.
Letter to Inner Circle, writer's union. TD. 1 pg.
Letter to Women's Review of Books. Vol. 3, No. 9, p. 4.
No Immediate Danger? by Rosalie Bertell. TD. 3 pgs.
Quiet Pilgrimage by Elizabeth Gray Vining. Published in Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, pgs. 11-12. 1 pg.
"None So Blind," a review of Henrik Ibsen's Wild Duck. 2 copies. Published in Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 3, pg. 9. TD. 46 pgs.
Readings from the Labyrinth by Daphne Marlatt. TD. 1 pg.
Correspondence with Jennifer Bellward concerning Meigs' review. 1 letter. TLS. 1 pg.
Heroine by Gail Scott. Three copies. TD. 8 pgs.
What Holds Us Here by Betsy Warland. Three copies. TD. 6 pgs.
"Writing a Life," speech for Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures, Inc. (ACQL). TD. 4 pgs.
Correspondence concerning ACQL speech. 2 letters. TLS.
"Reflections of a Senior Lesbian." Speech for Gay and Lesbian Academic Society. TD. 1 pg.
Speech for Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC). With French translation. TD. 5 pgs.
Interview with Sylvie Audovin for Revue les Tribades. In French. Two copies. TD. 20 pgs.
Flyers and article concerning public appearances. TD. 5 pgs.
"Jane as a child is teased by her cousin. She flings herself on him and kicks him in the shins while his mother (Jane's Aunt) watches, scandalized." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Jane is shut up by her aunt in the Red Room where her uncle died. She imagines his dead body on the bed and is full of terror. The maid, and her irate aunt, come in." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Jane talks strongly and passionately to her aunt. She cries when she is corroborated by Bessie, the kind maid." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Jane confronts Mr. Brocklehurst, the schoolmaster. Jane sees the carriage arrive to take her cousins away to school." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Mr. Brocklehurst sends Jane to school to punish her for being rude to him. Jane weeps, and is comforted by her friend Helen." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Rochester has come home after a trip. His horse throws him and he hurts his leg. Jane (grown up now) and Pilot the dog watch." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Rochester goes riding with a highborn arrogant woman friend and Jane watches jealously from the door with Rochester's little godchild, Adèle." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Jane has illustrated her dreams in a notebook, and is showing it to Mr. Rochester." Watercolor, pen, and ink.
"Mr. Rochester talks to Jane Eyre, Pilot the dog at his feet. In background, Adèle, Mr. Rochester's ward, shows off her new dress. In scene on right, Adèle plays with Pilot. Rochester talks to Jane and hints at tragedy going on in the mansion." Pencil, pen and ink.
Same scene as 13 (earlier version). Pencil, pen and ink.
"Bertha attacks her brother with a knife, which Rochester seizes, while Grace Poole looks on." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Bertha, Rochester's mad wife who is shut up in the attic, steals the key from her guardian, Grace Poole, who has been drinking gin. Bertha puts on her wedding veil, visits Jane, and then sets fire to the curtains in Rochester's room. Jane rushes in and pours water over him." Pencil, pen and ink.
Same scene as 5 (preliminary version). Pencil, pen and ink.
"Rochester tries to save Bertha from jumping off the roof but the house burns down and Bertha dies. Later (on the right) Rochester, (blind in one eye) and Jane declare their love for each other." Pencil, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn se change en pierre de moulin et route sur ses ennemis / Cuchulainn, aged 5, turns himself into a millstone and rolls over his enemies." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn se met en colère / Cuchulainn kills more enemies, is presented with two beautiful virgins as a reward, refuses so angrily that he steams, is thrown into a vat of water to cool off. He is then transformed into an extraordinary being." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn étude chez la sorcierè / Cuchulainn goes to Sorcerer's School." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn prend une forme effrayante / Cuchulainn is exhausted, meets and old woman and her cow, is given milk to drink and falls asleep. He wakes up transformed into a magical being." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn tue son ami / Cuchulainn kills his best friend in battle and then mourns over him." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Le combat des deux grands taureaux / The two great bulls of Ireland fight to the death. Queen Medb has to urinate and King Fergus shields her." Watercolor.
"Three witches give Cuchulainn cooked dog (his totem animal) to eat. His hand immediately withers up." Watercolor, pencil, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn avant sa mort / Cuchulainn is mortally wounded. His entrails fall out and a cow comes to eat them. He bathes in a pool and laughs. Then he lashes himself to a post so as to die standing up. His horse mourns." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"On coupe la tête de Cuchulainn / His enemies kill Cuchulainn and cut off his head." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Cuchulainn slays the great dog who gives him his name, Son of the Dog (Cuchulainn)." Watercolor.
"The warrior goddess Morriganne appears before the brown bull Cualunge in the form of a bird and advises him to be prudent in battle. The child hero, Cuchulainn, watches." Watercolor, pen and ink.
"Antoinette in Christophine's house. She sees Christophine's voodoo objects on the floor near the bed: a severed hand, a dead rooster." Watercolor.
"The house is on fire. The parrot (Coco's) wings catch fire. Christophine is carrying Pierre to safety while Aunt Cora comforts Antoinette." Watercolor.
"The fire. Christophine carries Pierre to safety. Coco cries out "Qui est la?" Antoinette is terribly frightened. A servant takes away Annette's white horse." Watercolor.
"A little black girl who was Antoinette's friend throws a stone that hits her in the forehead. The girl's grandmother watches." Watercolor.
"Annette comforts Pierre, her little handicapped son, after fire is set to the house by hostile workers." Watercolor.
"Antoinette comes on her mother (Annette's) white horse dead in the woods. It has been poisoned by one of the hostile workers." Watercolor.
"Antoinette and Rochester go riding." Watercolor.
"Rochester and Antoinette (now married) bathing. Antoinette throws a stone at a big crab while Rochester looks on." Watercolor.
Detailed list of donated illustrations. TD. 9 pgs.
"Illustrations for Two Novels by Marie-Claire Blais." Published in Exile Press catalog. 6 pgs.
Photocopy of a pen and ink sketch of a cat.
Drawing published in Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, p. 19.
Christmas card. Woodcut.
Includes gallery opening notifications, newspaper clippings, and an invitation list for one of Meigs' exhibits. TD, AD. 10 pcs.
Reviews of Meigs' artwork. 4 pcs.
Fan mail. TLS, ALS. 2 letters.
Gallery opening notification and articles concerning Blais, several in French. 9 pgs.
Various memorials for Barbara Deming (1917 - 1983). Multiple copies. 13 pcs.
Flyers from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. TL. 14 pcs.
Wilson, Edmund. "An Upstate Diary." The New Yorker, Vol. 47, pgs. 43-83.
Miscellaneous articles. 38 pcs.