Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections


Caroline Wells Healey Dall Papers, 1811-1954

Part I: Description

Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Collection Number:M 1

Copyright © 2000 by Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library


Total Boxes: 13
Linear Feet: 10.75

Administrative Information


Gift of Charles Whitney Dall, Jr. in memory of Emily Maurice Dall (Class of 1909), 1976.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Caroline Wells Healey Dall Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Cite as:

Caroline Wells Healey Dall Papers, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.




Caroline Wells Healey Dall, a writer, lecturer, and women's rights advocate, especially in the area of education, was born on 22 June 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts to Caroline Foster Healey and Mark Healey, who was a merchant and bank president. Dall was the oldest of eight children and attended a private girls' school in Boston run by Joseph Hale Abbot. She taught Sunday school, was a relief worker, and ran a nursery for the children of working women in Boston. In 1841, at the invitation of Elizabeth Peabody, Dall attended Margaret Fuller's weekly "Conversations" and, based on these sessions, later published Margaret and Her Friends (1895) and Transcendentalism in New England (1897). From 1842 to 1844 Dall was vice principal of a girls' school in Georgetown. While in Washington, D.C., she was also involved in efforts to provide schooling for African-Americans and contributed to an anti-slavery publication, The Liberty Bell.

On 24 September 1844, Dall married Charles Henry Appleton Dall, a Unitarian minister who was a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. They moved from Baltimore to Boston in 1845, where their son, William Healey Dall, was born that year. Their daughter, Sarah Keene Healey Dall (Munro) was born in 1849. William Healey Dall became a naturalist at the Smithsonian Institution who also worked for the U.S. Coast Survey of Alaska and the U.S. Geological Survey and published extensively on mollusks. He married Antoinette Whitney, and their son, Charles Whitney Dall, married Emily Maurice. The son of the latter couple was Charles Whitney Dall, Jr.

After one year working as a pastor in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and two years in Needham, Massachusetts, Charles Dall held a Unitarian pastorate in Toronto for four years. During that time, Caroline Dall was corresponding editor of Una, a women's journal. In 1854, the Dalls returned to Boston, and in 1855, Charles went alone to Calcutta, India as the first American Unitarian foreign missionary. He remained there, except for occasional visits to the United States, until his death in 1886.

In her husband's absence, Caroline Dall became more active in issues involving women's rights. She helped Paulina Wright Davis organize the woman's rights convention in Boston in 1855, and then in 1859, she organized and was one of the principal speakers at the New England Woman's Rights Convention in Boston. Dall was an active lecturer and teacher, and published some of her lectures, including "The College, the Market, and the Court, or Woman's Relation to Education, Labor, and Law" in 1867. Her other writings include biographies of women, a children's book (Patty Gray's Journey to the Cotton Islands), and several autobiographical writings. She was a founding and active member (librarian, director, and vice president) of the American Social Science Association, serving on its executive committee until 1905.

In 1879, Dall moved to Washington, D.C., where her son lived, and continued writing and teaching until her death on 17 December 1912.


The Caroline Wells Healey Dall Papers document Dall's family and personal life and that of several of her family members; the papers also touch on her activities and writings. The papers span the years 1811 to 1954, but the bulk of the material is from 1845 to 1912. The collection is organized into three series: Correspondence, Photographs and Art, and Other Papers.

Series I, Correspondence, is organized into three subseries: Caroline Wells Healey Dall Correspondence, William Healey Dall Correspondence, and Third Party Correspondence. The first two subseries are organized into Outgoing and Incoming and are arranged alphabetically; the third subseries is arranged alphabetically.

In the Caroline Wells Healey Dall Correspondence, the outgoing letters are mainly to family members, including her son, William Healey Dall; her daughter-in-law, Antoinette Whitney Dall; her father, Mark Healey; her mother, Caroline Foster Healey; her husband, Charles Henry Appleton Dall; and her daughter, Sarah Keene Healey Dall Munro. The letters mainly concern family matters; the letters to her father describe her financial problems and the troubles of her husband. The majority of the letters are to her son and also partly discuss her activities; many of the letters are in a diary format. There are also some letters to Elizabeth P. Peabody regarding a dispute between Caroline Dall and Elizabeth Thompson; cross-references have been made under Peabody's name to other letters concerning this subject. The letters to James Freeman Clarke concern women's rights, anti-slavery activities, and theological subjects, among other topics. The letters to her attorney, Wilfred S. Hutchinson, are about legal matters. The incoming correspondence includes social letters from friends and legal and business letters from her attorneys and others. The letters from family members concern family matters, although the letters from her husband also describe life in India. There are four folders of letters regarding the death of Dall's husband in 1886.

The Outgoing portion of the William Healey Dall Correspondence contains one letter each to his father and his sister. There are also letters concerning his mother's dispute with Elizabeth Thompson. In the Incoming portion, most of the letters concern his mother's illness. There are two letters from his sister regarding the publication of their mother's book, The College, the Market, and the Court, in 1914, as well as two folders of letters regarding the death of his mother in 1912.

The Third Party Correspondence contains three letters between third parties, one of them from J. Patton to Mark Healey in 1854, regarding Caroline Dall's relationship with her husband.

Series II, Photographs and Art, is organized into two subseries: Photographs, and Art. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically. The photographs are mainly scenes of places, including Burma, Egypt, India, and Scandinavia. There are six photographs of San Francisco in 1906 after the earthquake and fire. The photographs of people include Caroline Wells Healey Dall, Charles Darwin, and Barbara Fritchie. There is also a photograph of the burial of Wendell Phillips in 1886, and there are several photographs of paintings. The art includes two original pieces by Annie I. Crawford, one of which is a pen and ink sketch of Caroline Wells Healey Dall. There is also a plaster silhouette of Dall by an unidentified artist. The other works are mainly prints by unidentified artists; there is one watercolor of a floral arrangement.

Series III, Other Papers, is organized into three subseries: Writings by Caroline Wells Healey Dall, Materials Regarding Caroline Wells Healey Dall, and Materials Regarding Other People. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically. The Writings include materials about two of her books, The College, the Market, and the Court; and Patty Gray's Journey, such as clippings, financial materials, and fan letters. There is a journal that she wrote in 1866 on a trip through Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio that mentions anti-slavery, female preachers, and other topics, as well as notes that she took in 1869 for an autobiography. There are also some poems and a short article. The materials regarding Dall include legal documents, a biographical article, a catalog of the books in Dall's library, and a list of the speeches that she gave from 1856 to 1904.

The materials regarding other people include a letterpress copybook from the Office of the Secretary in Dakota Territory from 1872 to 1874, which includes the outgoing letters of Edwin Stanton McCook and of Oscar Whitney (William Healey Dall married into the Whitney family) regarding the Sioux Reservation in the Black Hills. There is an address book belonging to Charles Henry Appleton Dall, postcards (some about the Bayeux Tapestry) collected by Emily Maurice Dall, a notebook of poems written by William Healey Dall, and volumes of poems copied by Helen M. A. Watkins and sent to Charles Whitney Dall, Jr.

PART II: Box and Folder List  

Processing and description by Miriam B. Spectre.


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Last Update: November 18, 2013 , Special Collections at