Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections


Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant Papers, 1949-1964

Part I: Description

Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Collection Number:M 10

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


Total Boxes: 3
Linear Feet: 1.5

Administrative Information


Gift of Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. 

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant 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:

Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant Papers, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.



The writer Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant was born on 23 April 1881 in Winchester, Massachusetts. In 1903, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where her sister, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, also received a degree in 1914. When Sergeant published her first article in 1910 in McClure's Magazine, she met Willa Cather, who was working as an editor there. Sergeant later recounted their friendship in Willa Cather: A Memoir (1953). In 1914, Sergeant became one of the original contributors to The New Republic and was sent by the magazine to Paris in 1917 to cover the war. Her own experience of being seriously wounded on a battlefield was the basis for her book, Shadow-Shapes: The Journal of a Wounded Woman, October 1918-May 1919 (1920).

After returning to the United States, Sergeant moved to the southwest in 1920 and began writing about Pueblo Indians and New Mexico until the mid-1930s. She also spent some time during this period in New York and in Europe, where she studied with the analyst C. G. Jung. Sergeant later moved to Piermont, New York, and spent her time there and at the MacDowell Colony working on writing projects, especially the Cather memoir and her book, Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence (1960). During her career, Sergeant published many articles, a number of books, and one novel, Short As Any Dream (1929). She died in New York on 26 January 1965.


The Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant Papers are organized into two series: Correspondence and Other Papers.

Series I, Correspondence, consists of correspondence about Sergeant's book, Willa Cather: A Memoir, which she published in 1953. The correspondence, which includes carbons of Sergeant's outgoing letters, is to Sergeant's publishers; friends of Cather, including Edith Lewis and Carrie Miner Sherwood; and scholars, including Cather biographer E. K. Brown. There are also a few letters about Sergeant's biography of Robert Frost, which she published in 1960 (Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence).

Series II, Other Papers, is organized into four subseries: Writings by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Writings by Others, Photographs, and Other Material. Writings by Sergeant includes notes, drafts, proofs, and other materials for Willa Cather: A Memoir, as well as notes and a few proofs for Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence. Writings by Others contains a book report on Sergeant's memoir of Cather by a young relative of Sergeant and a chronology of Cather's life written by an unidentified author.

Photographs mainly consists of prints of Robert Frost, and people and places related to Frost. The majority are proofs or copy prints, some used by Sergeant in her biography of Frost, others collected by her but not used in the book. There are a few original prints as well. For the copy prints, when the location of the original photograph was known, this information has been given as a note under the folder title. The remainder of the subseries contains an original studio portrait of Willa Cather; original prints of people and places related to Cather; and three original prints of Sergeant. Other Material contains a transcript of a 1929 letter from Cather to Sergeant, a transcript of Cather's will, copies of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial Newsletter, and brochures and programs that Sergeant collected about Robert Frost.

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