Monday, February 13, 2012

While working on collections at the Schlesinger Library, archivists often get to experience the life journey a person or family takes as they go from birth to death with all that happens in between.

One of the most enjoyable items to work with is the love letter. Written from the heart, these letters can tell tales of heartfelt love, worry, or despair. Conducting a search of the Schlesinger Library’s collections in HOLLIS for “love letters” and “courtship” will result in a wide range of collections where these letters reside.


Miriam Jay Wurts was a young woman in the summer of 1932 when she took a vacation with her best friend to a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There she met E. Cowles Andrus, an up-and-coming medical doctor who was teaching at John Hopkins University. In this letter, written August 24, 1932, Miriam’s most persistent boyfriend, Thornton “Floyd” Lorentzen, petulantly states:

"So the doctor is interesting and attractive? I'm terribly jealous. I hope he is married and has a flock of kids. I think I even hate him." 

Miriam became engaged to Andrus in December of that year, and the two were married June 1933.


Suffragist and international women’s rights advocate, Doris Stevens, was lucky enough to find love twice in her life. From 1921-1929 she was married to lawyer Dudley Field Malone. In 1935 she married journalist Jonathan Mitchell, whom she had known for over ten years. Both men were passionate in expressing their feelings through their letters to Stevens.


Malone closed this letter dated July 3, 1918, with this heartfelt statement:

"I have so passionately longed for you yesterday and to-day... as if it had been weeks since I held you warm and close in my arms. But you, wonderful blessed, are so given by God Himself to me that I love you, love you, love you with a love and passion such as in my Irish boy-heart, I never even dreamed in all the long years gone by and I will love you, my own sweetness, with the deepest love and constant devotion."


In this letter from February 6, 1928 (a year before her divorce to Malone was finalized), Mitchell shows his immense love and pride for Stevens’s accomplishments as an international women’s rights advocate:

"I know what a speech it will be. I know the stuff that's in you. You'll bring tears and make hearts pound against the ribs, and make people cheer and yell in storms of emotions. Tomorrow night every girl in the new world will have reason to be grateful you were born and lived. Nothing as exciting as this I guess has ever happened in my life. Nothing except knowing and loving you, and this is a beautiful part of you." 


City planner and landscape architect John Nolen met his future wife, Barbara Schatte in 1889 at a meeting of a Sunday reading group. They were engaged to be married October 1894, right around the time John wrote this letter to his future wife:

"Each day makes me realize that I didn't know half the value of the love I sought just two weeks ago to-night... I love you with my whole heart, and long for your love in return. I realize that it is right for you to have time to think it over, and I do not want to do anything to unduly influence you, but if you find that your heart is mine, I will be the happiest man in the world." 



Louise Walker, whose grandfather’s art collection started the well-known Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was a student at Smith College when she started a correspondence with John Savage, a friend of her brother. The two exchanged letters, sometimes daily, from 1935-1938. Savage hoped to marry Louise, but she had reservations that being someone’s wife would constrict her freedom and ruin what love remained.

In this letter dated February 11, 1938, Savage writes to Louise knowing she will receive his letter on Valentine’s Day. Although reserved in his prose, he proves he still wants a relationship, despite her obvious hesitations: 

"For the time being, won't you be my Valentine (F&W* says this means sweetheart)." 

* Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia