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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections


Clare Boothe Luce's scene description of her play The Women. Circa 1936. Clare Boothe Luce Papers. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Complementing the papers of women novelists are several collections relating to women playwrights, including Clare Boothe Luce (see Women Members). Sixty-three volumes of diaries, love letters exchanged with her fiancé, and drafts of her plays make up the papers of playwright and peace advocate Olivia Cushing Andersen (1871-1917), sister-in-law of Hendrik Christian Andersen (12,000 items; 1844-1940; bulk 1880-1920).

Paul Field Sifton and his wife Claire G. Sifton (1897-1980) collaborated on several literary and theatrical works, but the most appealing part of their papers (25,500 items; 1912-80) are Claire's diaries, which span the time from her junior high school days in Kansas City to her retirement in Mexico. They contain detailed descriptions of college life in the 1915-16 period, thoughts of a young working woman in New York in the early 1920s, the concerns of a government official's wife in late New Deal Washington, and interesting philosophical observations of a senior citizen spending her retirement in Maine and Mexico.

Transfers from the Copyright Office account for several collections of women's plays.

  • Actress Mae West (1893-1992) submitted for copyright registration at least thirteen unpublished plays that she wrote between 1921 and 1964, including “The Hussy,” “Sex,” and “Diamond Lil.”
  • Social worker and reformer Rose Pastor Stokes (1879-1933) also submitted plays for copyright (5 items; 1913-15), as did Djuna Barnes (1 item; n.d.), Barbara Garson (1 item; 1966), and Ruth St. Denis (2 items; 1905).
  • Additional playscripts are likely to join these as the product of the division's ongoing effort to microfilm copyright submissions and retain selected originals as part of the Library of Congress Copyright Office Drama Deposits/Manuscript Plays Collection.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.