A Visit to the Smith College Archives

a typewritten letter with 5 handwritten corrections and signed Nancy

A typewritten letter from Nancy Hamilton to Nella Braddy Henney, dated July 28, 1959. There are five handwritten corrections in this copy of the letter.

October 25, 2016

On Friday, October 14, I visited the Smith College Archives to look at the Nancy Hamilton Papers. I was introduced to Nancy Hamilton through her letters to Nella Braddy Henney last spring while I digitized the Nella Braddy Henney collection. I was excited about the opportunity to see the “other side” of so many of these letters and was able to do just that when I recognized a letter that describes Hamilton’s typewriter keys “sticking” because of the humid weather. As I scanned Henney’s copy of the letter, I was impressed by what an appropriate way this was to express the hot, humid weather of New England in the summer. I recognized her memorable description immediately as I skimmed the letters in Hamilton’s collection. 

That there are two copies of the same letter in two collections was also a reminder that there are copies of materials in our collection elsewhere. For example, there were also letters to Hamilton from Edward J. Waterhouse about the Anne Sullivan Centennial. When I got back to Perkins, it was interesting to compare the two copies: Hamilton made revisions in the final version she sent to Henney, but did not reflect these changes in the copy she kept herself. While the content of the letters is essentially identical, the presentation differs. If a researcher only sees the copy of the letter in the Smith College Archives, they may think that Hamilton did not realize her typos, when in fact, her efforts to correct them are evident in Henney’s copy. 

The Nancy Hamilton Papers also contains photographs, subject files, and other correspondence. It was a treat to be able to see another archive’s collection of materials relating to Helen Keller, Polly Thomson, Anne Sullivan, and Nella Braddy Henney. A transcript of the letter follows:

Vineyard Haven
July 28, 1959

Dearest Nella
Everything in this part of the world is sticking including my typewriter keys, but of course they do whether there is fog or not. But right now we are like Anna Christie and very damp, to boot. The sun shows by fitful dya [day], but the dews and damps are very much everywhere.

I think you are absolutely right about no direct or connecting publicity between Helen and the play and so does Kit. I not only think it is a metter [matter] of taste, but also one of economics. Economically it is much less important, but past figures have shown that where Helen is personally associated with something other than her direct work for the blind and deaf, the public steers marvelous clear. Let us keep Helen free of this one, not only for taste’s sake but perhaps for the sake of honest gold. For if the play makes money, it can only do good for Helen. If things get really thick let us know and we will think again, but it is better to have the press want something and NOT get it than not want it enough.

We are glad to hear Polly had a few moments of natural interest and joy in talking to your brother-the NAVAL chap, I presume! We both feel very out of touch with Helen, which is as much our fault as possible for we have not written, but we trust the rest we are giving her, she somehoe [somehow] knows about and appreciates.

A biography of Nancy Hamilton as well as information about the Nancy Hamilton Papers is available in the finding aid. A detailed list of the box contents and links to their digitized surrogates is available on the Nella Braddy Henney Finding Aid as well as more information about the Nella Braddy Henney Collection.