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Guide to the Helena Born Papers TAM.009

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Judith Kotkin, Peter Filardo

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 20, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Born, Helena, 1860-1901
Source - dnr: Bailie, Helena Tufts, 1874-
Source - dnr: Avrich, Paul
Title: Helena Born Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1870-1906
Dates [bulk]: 1890-1901
Abstract: Helena Born (1860-1901), was a labor organizer, anarchist, and writer, was born in Devonshire, England. She became involved in the workers movement beginning with the London Dock Strike in 1889. In 1890 she emmigrated to the United States, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She learned typesetting and proofreading which became her life work. She wrote Whitman's Ideal Democracy, and Other Writings (1902), and other writings. Born was an apostle of simplicity and social regeneration. She appreciated the harmony and joys of nature and possessed the idealism of Thoreau. The papers contain scrapbooks, correspondence, autographed letters, photographs, memorabilia, poetry, essays, a biography of Born (written by Helen Tufts), her will and printed material. Her organizing efforts in Bristol are documented as well as her writing and publishing work. Of special note is a collection of business letters that Born gathered while she worked at Houghton Mifflin in Boston from such writers as William Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, Oliver W. Holmes, William James, and John Fiske.
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language: Materials are in English
Call Phrase: TAM.009

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Historical/Biographical Note

Helena Born, a labor organizer, anarchist, (Walt) Whitmanite, and writer, was born May 11, 1860 in Devonshire, England. She became actively involved in the workers movement beginning with the London Dock Strike in 1889. In 1890 she emmigrated to the United States, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She learned typesetting and proofreading which became her life work. She wrote Whitman's Ideal Democracy (1902), and other writings. Born was an apostle of simplicity and social regeneration. She appreciated the harmony and joys of nature and possessed the idealism of Thoreau.

She was an only child who received a good education at a school in Taunton and musical training in Bristol, where she became acquainted with the liberal thought of the day, reading Browning, Shelley, Morris, Thoreau, Carpenter, and Whitman. She joined the Bristol Women's Liberal Association, becoming interested in the subject of women's equality through suffrage, political education, and civic reform.

Though Born came from a well to do family, she came to sympathize with the laboring classes. Along with her friend Miriam Daniell, an ardent socialist, the two took up residence in the laborer's district of Hull and joined the local socialist society. In 1889 the London Dock Strike drew Born and Daniell into the English workers movement. They formed a branch of a labor union that was organized for unskilled workers throughout the country, and Born became its secretary. Born next decided to try and organize the seamstresses in Bristol. Even though she worked closely with the socialists, she came to lose faith in their theory, and after reading Herbert Spencer grew to accept the principles of "philosophical anarchism."

In the fall of 1890, Born accompanied Daniell to America, where the two settled in Cambidge, Massachuttes and it was here that Born learned type setting and proofreading which would soon provide her life's work. Because of an unhappy marriage Miriam Daniell decided to live in California, and Born want with her. Shortly thereafter Daniell died and Born returned to Cambridge. She spent her summers in Epsom, New Hampshire, where she was able to get close to and directly experience nature, was a vegetarian and the food she ate came from her own farming.

While living in Boston, Helena Born joined the local Walt Whitman Fellowship and before its membership she read many of the papers which her editor (Everett Press) published in a small volume entitled Whitman's Ideal Democracy, and Other Writings (1902). The book contained essays by Born on Thoreau, Whitman, Shelley, and William Carpenter. On February 27, 1901 she died of cancer in Boston.

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Scope and Contents

The papers contain scrapbooks, correspondence, autographed letters, photographs, memorabilia, poetry, essays, a biography of Born (written by Helen Tufts), her will and printed material. Her organizing efforts in Bristol are documented as well as her writing and publishing work. Of special note is a collection of business letters that Born gathered while she worked at Houghton Mifflin in Boston from such writers as William Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, Oliver W. Holmes, William James, and John Fiske.

The Bristol Socialist Society material documents the socialist movement in Bristol, England, concentrating in the years 1889 1890, and contains printed material related to efforts by Born and Miriam Daniell to organize unskilled workers,leaflets from the Women's Trade Association, the Bristol Labour Emancipation League, a paamphlet of the Rules of the Bristol Tailoresses, and an article entitled "Rational Dress For Lady Cyclists," 30 April 1900. The two scrapbooks hold mostly newspaper articles, 1870-1892, and some pertain to the Bradlaugh Case, William Gladstone, education and morals, women's work, and female suffrage.

Born's essay manuscripts include "Whitman's Ideal Democracy," "Bias, "Minority Report On Capital Punishment," "Whitman and Nature: Thoreau, and "The Secret of Time and Satan." The letters portion of the collection includes autographed letters that Born collected while she was a proofreader at Houghton Mifflin in Boston. For the most part, the letters are businesslike and are from notables such as John Fiske, Willian Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, Oliver W. Holmes, Percival Lowell, William James, and George Kennan. Some are dated when she was not employed there. There are also undated autographed proofs collected by Born, including "The Mountain Ride" by Clinton Scollard, "The Verry" by Henry van Dyke, "In Memoriam Stevenson" by Owen Wister, "Moosilauke" by E.D. Proctor, "Land of My Dreams" and "Vain Freedom" by Louise Chandler Moulton.

The letters portion of the collection includes letters written to William Bailie. The letters were written in 1898, and a poem "Blossoms" that reveal the intimate and close relationship between Born and Bailie. There are also letters to Helen M. Tufts and letters to Born from Miriam Daniell, wife of William Bailie.

The Walt Whitman Fellowship/In Memoriam (to Helena Born) material relates to a 1901 memorial meeting of the Fellowship. Included are drafts of eulogies to Born written by other members of the Walt Whitman Fellowship, including William Bailie, Emma Heller Schumm, and Horace L. Traubel. Also included is a postcard announcing the meeting, obituaries, newspaper reviews of Whitman's Ideal of Democracy, and an undated six page biography of Born written by Helen M. Tufts.

Arrangement

Organized into one alphabetically arranged series.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bailie, Helena Tufts, 1874-
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892
  • Born, Helena, 1860-1901
  • Daniell, Miriam
  • Van Dyke, Henry, 1852-1933
  • Wister, Owen, 1860-1938
  • Moulton, Louise Chandler, 1835-1908
  • Proctor, Edna Dean, 1829-1923
  • Scollard, Clinton, 1860-1932
  • Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925
  • Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894
  • Kennan, George, 1845-1924
  • Bailie, William, 1867-1957
  • Bailie, Helena Tufts, 1874-
  • James, William, 1842-1910
  • Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
  • Avrich, Paul

Document Type

  • Pamphlets.
  • Memorabilia.
  • Poetry.
  • Wills.
  • Signatures (names)
  • Biographies.
  • Brochures.
  • Correspondence.
  • Eulogies.
  • Scrapbooks.

Subject Organizations

  • Atlantic monthly

Subject Topics

  • Socialist parties.
  • Liberty.
  • Anarchism -- United States.
  • Labor unions -x Organi-ing -- England -- Bristol.
  • Anarchists -- United States.

Subject Places

  • Bristol (England)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection, which were created in 1870 to 1906, are in the public domain. Permission to publish or reproduce is not required.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Helena Born Papers; TAM 009; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Helena Born Photographs (PHOTOS 003)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Helena Tufts Bailie through Professor Paul Avrich, 1973. The accession number associated with this gift is 1973.002.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Autographed Letters: Contains businesslike letters from notables, e.g., William Jennings Bryan, John Fiske, William James.
1880-1906
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Autographed Manuscript Proofs Collected by HB as a Proofreader at Houghton & Mifflin in Boston.
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Bristol Socialist Society: Contains Appeals to workers from the Bristol Strike Committee; Bristol Labour Emancipation League; Efforts by HB to unionize unskilled workers.
1889-1890
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Essays (Also contains an envelope to Atlantic Monthly Press addressed to William Bailie)
1891
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Essays: "Bias"; "Insincerity"
1887-1888
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Essay: "Whitman's Ideal Democracy"
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Letters, Personal: Contains eighteen letters by HB to William Bailie; Letters by HB to Helen M. Tufts; Letters to Born from Miriam Daniell.
1898
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Letters, Personal: Contains twenty letter by HB to William Bailie; one poem, "Blossoms."
1898-1901
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Scrapbooks: Contains newsclippings on British economic, political and social issues; The Bradlaugh case; William Gladstone; Articles on women's work and female suffrage.
1870-1892
Box: 1 Folder : 10 The Walt Whitman Fellowship / In Memoriam (to Helena Born): Contains, eulogies, postcard announcing memorial meeting; newsclipings re Born's death; Reviews of HB's Whitman's Ideal Democracy.
1901-1902

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