Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Caroline Maria Seymour Severance Papers
mssSeverance papers  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Caroline Maria Seymour Severance Papers
    Dates: 1830-1980
    Bulk dates: 1860-1914
    Collection Number: mssSeverance papers
    Creator: Severance, Caroline M. Seymour (Caroline Maria Seymour), 1820-1914
    Extent: 20,473 items 107 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of American suffragist, reformer, and social activist Caroline Severance (1820-1914) and includes manuscripts, correspondence, and ephemera covering the following subjects: African American women suffrage and clubs, Susan B. Anthony, Jessie Benton Frémont, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Julia Ward Howe, child labor reform, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Fröbel and the Kindergarten movement, Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, Helen Modjeska, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, dress reform, suffrage, temperance, Unitarianism, women's rights, women's clubs, and the history, politics and social life of 19th and 20th century Los Angeles, California.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Caroline Maria Seymour Severance Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The majority of this collection was a gift from the Historical Society of Southern California, September 18, 1974. In February 1975, Mike Emett gave an addenda to the collection that includes seven xerox pieces. Several pieces of ephemera were given to the Library by the "L. A. 200 Committee," October 26, 1983.
    Acquisition numbers: 102, 134, 1062.

    Biographical Note

    Caroline Maria Seymour Severance, suffragist, reformer, and social activist, was born in Canandaigua, New York, in January 1820. She graduated from the Female Seminary of Geneva, New York, in 1835, and in 1840, she married Theodoric Severance; they had five children, Orson Seymour (born and died in 1841), James Seymour (1842-1936), Julia Long Burrage (born in 1844), Mark Sibley (1846-1931), and Pierre Clarke (1849-1890). The Severances spent their first fifteen years together in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to Boston in 1855 when Theodoric accepted a position with the North Bank of Boston. At the outbreak of the Civil War the Severances moved to Port Royal, South Carolina, where Theodoric was Collector of Customs. Caroline Severance, who was actively involved in the abolitionist movement before and during the war, became involved in several reform movements and was a member of the boards of the Sanitary Commission, the Freedom Bureau, and the New England Hospital for Women and Children. She also became a supporter of the suffrage movement and in 1866 helped organize the Equal Rights Association with Susan B. Anthony. In 1868, Caroline Severance founded the New England Women's Club, the first women's club in the United States; although this fact would later be disputed, she is always referred to as the "Mother of Clubs." She also helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone in 1869.
    In 1875 the Severances moved to Los Angeles and established themselves at their home "El Nido" on West Adams Boulevard. While in Los Angeles, Caroline Severance continued her reform work. She founded the Los Angeles Women's Club, the Orphan's Home Society, the first Unitarian congregation in Los Angeles, and the Friday Morning Club; she also helped to develop the first kindergarten in Los Angeles as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1904 she became the honorary president of the Los Angeles Political Equality League. In 1911, when women won the right to vote in California, Caroline Severance was reportedly the first woman to register to vote. She died in Los Angeles in November 1914 at the age of 94.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains the papers of American suffragist, reformer, and social activist Caroline Severance (1820-1914) and includes 631 manuscripts; 10,634 pieces of correspondence; and 9,007 pieces of ephemera.
    The collection consists of:
    Manuscripts (Boxes 1-7):
    The collection contains 631 manuscripts, 525 of which are by Caroline Severance. The manuscripts are comprised of speeches, essays, articles, notebooks, commonplace books, poems, and miscellaneous notes (there is also one diary of Caroline Severance). The manuscripts with titles are arranged alphabetically by author and title; however, the majority of Severance's speeches and essays do not have titles so they are arranged by subject and then arranged alphabetically by first line. Severance's manuscripts are mostly incomplete handwritten drafts. Also included in the manuscripts is a 347-page, unpublished autobiographical monograph by Caroline Severance entitled "Own Story," which spans the majority of her life. The subjects covered in the manuscripts are: African-American women suffrage and clubs, Jessie Benton Frémont, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Julia Ward Howe, kindergarten, Lulu Pile Little, Los Angeles, Helena Modjeska, Lucretia Mott, the peace movement, politics and labor unions, reform movements, religion, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, suffrage and women, temperance, women's clubs, and women's rights.
    Correspondence (Boxes 8-58):
    There are 10,634 pieces of correspondence, of which Caroline Severance writes only 232; most of her correspondence is made up of incomplete drafts of letters. The majority of the correspondence in the collection is addressed to Caroline Severance and includes letters written by more than 1,700 different authors.
    Notable authors include (piece counts in parenthesis): Susan B. Anthony (3); Rachel Foster Avery (2); Susan Look Avery (35); Alice Stone Blackwell (5); Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell (5); Elizabeth Blackwell (1); Henry Browne Blackwell (4); Jeanne C. Smith Carr (3); Carrie Chapman Catt (2); Amanda Mathews Chase (3); Clara Bewick Colby (11); Sarah Brown Ingersoll Cooper (5); Frederick Douglass (1); Will Allen Dromgoole (6); Georgia Ransom Fay Ferguson (31); Jessie Benton Frémont (35); Lily Frémont (10); Friday Morning Club (6); Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (14); Francis Jackson Garrison (16); William Lloyd Garrison (5); Charlotte Perkins Gilman (9); Kate M. Gordon (6); Margaret Collier Graham (11); Elizabeth Boynton Harbert (16); Phoebe Apperson Hearst (5); William Randolph Hearst (1); Isabella Beecher Hooker (1); Timothy Hopkins (7); Julia Ward Howe (3); Intercollegiate Socialist Society (2); Carrie Jacobs-Bond (6); Mary Ashton Rice Livermore (1); Jack London (2); Charles Fletcher Lummis (35); Alice Moore McComas (6); Mila Tupper Maynard (5); Elizabeth Smith Miller (3); Harriet Mann Miller (16); Maria Mitchell (2); Helena Modjeska (10); Dorothea Moore (6); Eva Perry Moore (3); National American Woman Suffrage Association (2); Nelson O. Nelson (46); New England Women's Club (2); Alice Park (20); Jenny Marsh Parker (9); Mary Elizabeth Phillips (32); Louis Prang (15); Mary Amelia Dana Hicks Prang (15); Ella Giles Ruddy (26); Kate Sanborn (4); Ellen Clark Sargent (7); Caroline M. Seymour Severance (232); James Seymour Severance (3,063); Mark Sibley Severance (557); Pierre Clark Severance (53); Theodoric Cordenio Severance (50); May Wright Sewall (6); Henry W. Seymour (1); Anna Howard Shaw (10); Homer B. Sprague (3); Julia A. Sprague (36); Rebecca Buffum Spring (5); Sarah B. Stearns (16); Lucy Stone (4); Henry Baldwin Ward (2); Lydia Avery Coonley Ward (17); Booker T. Washington (2); Kate Gannett Wells (12); Charles William Wendte (10); Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin (20); Gaylord Wilshire (8); J. Stitt Wilson (13); Woman Suffrage Convention (1); Kate Tannatt Woods (22); and Marie E. Zakrzewska (18).
    Ephemera (Boxes 59-84), Oversize Items (Boxes 85-86), and Calling Cards (Boxes 87-107):
    The majority of the 9,007 pieces of ephemera are directly related to Caroline Severance's various reform and club interests. It is arranged by type and subject, and consists of address books, appointment books, brochures, business papers, genealogy information for the Clarke, Severance, and Seymour families, greeting cards, invitations, legal documents, miscellaneous lists, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, petitions, club notebooks, photographs, postcards, fliers, programs, reprints, material related to the Harvard Club and the University Club of San Francisco, and financial papers of the Severance family and of the Sidney M. Smith Estate, of which James Seymour Severance was executor. The subjects covered are: kindergarten, Los Angeles, the peace movement, politics and labor unions, reform movements, religion, suffrage, temperance, Unitarianism, women's clubs, and women's rights. The 2,700 calling cards are housed after the Oversize Items; they are in alphabetical order.


    The collection is arranged in the following order, with each section being arranged alphabetically by author and title:
    • Manuscripts (Boxes 1-7)
    • Correspondence (Boxes 8-58)
    • Ephemera (Boxes 59-84)
    • Oversize Items (Boxes 85-86)
    • Calling Cards (Boxes 87-107)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906.
    Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.
    Frémont, Jessie Benton, 1824-1902.
    Fröbel, Friedrich, 1782-1852.
    Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928.
    Modjeska, Helena, 1840-1909.
    Severance, Caroline M. Seymour (Caroline Maria Seymour), 1820-1914.
    Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 1815-1902.
    Avery, Susan Look.

    Corporate Names

    Harvard Club of San Francisco (Calif.)
    Southwest Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)


    African American women--Societies and clubs.
    African American women--Suffrage.
    Child labor--Law and legislation--United States.
    Clothing and dress--Social aspects--United States.
    Cooperation and socialism--United States.
    Feminists--United States--Archives.
    Kindergarten--United States.
    Suffragists--United States--Archives.
    Temperance--United States.
    Unitarianism--United States.
    Women--Legal status, laws, etc.
    Women--Societies and clubs.
    Women--Suffrage--United States--History--19th century--Sources.
    Women--Suffrage--United States--History--20th century--Sources.
    Women socialists--United States.
    Women's rights--United States.

    Geographic Areas

    California -- History -- 19th century.
    California -- History -- 20th century.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Description and travel.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- 19th century.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Politics and government.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.


    Articles--United States
    Business letters--United States
    Commonplace books--United States
    Diaries--United States
    Journals (accounts)--United States
    Legal documents--United States
    Letter books--United States
    Letters (correspondence)--United States
    Notebooks--United States
    Notes--United States
    Pamphlets--United States
    Personal papers--United States
    Photographs--United States
    Speeches--United States

    Added Entries - Personal

    Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906.
    Avery, Susan Look.
    Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950.
    Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895.
    Ferguson, Georgia Ransom Fay.
    Frémont, Jessie Benton, 1824-1902.
    Garrison, William Lloyd, 1838-1909.
    Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935.
    Graham, Margaret Collier, 1850-1910.
    Harbert, Elizabeth Boynton, b. 1845.
    Hearst, Phoebe Apperson, 1842-1919.
    Hooker, Isabella Beecher, 1822-1907.
    Howe, Julia Ward, 1819-1910.
    London, Jack, 1876-1916.
    Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928.
    Mitchell, Maria, 1818-1889.
    Modjeska, Helena, 1840-1909.
    Park, Alice, 1861-1961.
    Ruddy, Ella Giles, 1851-1917.
    Sanborn, Kate, 1839-1917.
    Sargent, Ellen Clark.
    Sewall, May Wright, 1844-1920.
    Shaw, Anna Howard, 1847-1919.
    Stearns, Sarah B.
    Stone, Lucy, 1818-1893.
    Ward, Henry Baldwin, 1865-1945.
    Ward, Lydia Avery Coonley, 1845-1924.
    Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915.
    Wendte, Charles William, 1844-1931.
    Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith, 1856-1923.
    Wilshire, Gaylord, 1861-1927.
    Wilson, J. Stitt (Jackson Stitt), 1868-
    Zakrzewska, Marie E. (Marie Elizabeth), 1829-1902.

    Added Entries - Corporate

    Association for the Advancement of Women.
    Friday Morning Club (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    National American Woman Suffrage Association.