Bancroft, Margaret
Archive of Correspondence, Journal and Ephemera of Margaret Bancroft, Historian, Columbia University Professor, and Lesbian, 1909-1960

Large Archive of approximately 1297 letters, 4593 manuscript pages, (many with retained mailing envelopes), dated 1909-1960, mostly handwritten, some typed.

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Of the approximately 1297 letters, 655 letters are outgoing letters written by Margaret Bancroft to her brother, Richard Bancroft, an attorney. She also wrote 9 letters to her parents.

There are 613 incoming letters in the collection, of which 39 letters were written to Margaret by her brother Richard, 3 letters written to Margaret from her mother, and 13 letters written to her from her father, Edward E. Bancroft, the remaining 558 incoming letters being written by various individuals to Margaret Bancroft, mostly friends and colleagues, many of whom were other professional women, women of very wealthy families, etc. Several incoming letters were written by other family members, such as her “Aunt Barite” who lived in England. There are also some miscellaneous letters not written to, or by Bancroft.

Plus, a Manuscript Journal, Papers and Related Ephemera as follows:

1. Journal of Margaret Bancroft, written in German and English, 44 pp., entries dated 26 September 1913 - 3 February 1914, not signed, but internal evidence indicates that it is her journal. Margaret Bancroft reveals in her journal that she was in a relationship with a woman named Florence and writes on several occasions about her turmoil over this relationship (see examples below). While the journal is not signed (there is the letter “M” though at the end), it is the journal of a person who is studying medieval history and attending or working at Columbia University. All of which Margaret Bancroft did.

2. Papers include: Christmas Book (notebook) of Margaret Bancroft of "Names of People to whom to send cards and gifts, lists of cards and gifts receive," 1947-1952, plus 146 manuscript pages of miscellaneous notes, by Margaret Bancroft, related to her work as a professor; and 1 Notebook of Bancroft's brother, Richard Bancroft, of "Notes for New York State Bar Examination 1923."

3. The collection includes over 650 ephemeral items, such as: 88 index cards, filled with notes for a Tertullian project Bancroft was working on; 117 postcards, both used and unused; 17 telegrams (1927-1935); 82 used/unused envelopes, some could likely be matched to letters in collection; 6 photographs; 86 newspaper clippings; over 100 greeting cards, or calling cards, as well as a number of pieces of printed material (pamphlets, circulars, brochures, legal documents, advertisements, etc.); and a number of pages of manuscript documents and notes, both personal and work related, etc.

        Margaret Bancroft (1891-1979)

Margaret Bancroft was born about the year 1891, the daughter of Edward Erastus Bancroft (1858-1950) and his wife Josephine Augusta Given (1857-1924), of Wellesley, Massachusetts. Margaret’s father appears to have attended Amherst College and eventually became a physician. Margaret attended the local schools at Wellesley and graduated with an A.B. in 1912 from Wellesley College and then an A.M. in 1913 from Columbia University.  Her doctoral dissertation at Columbia was titled "The Popular Assemblies in the Municipalities of Spain and Gaul." In the 1920 Census she is found living at home, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, with her parents and siblings and working as a teacher at Wellesley College, where she worked for four years.

In 1920, Margaret is stated to have lived in Canada for one month; her mother's family appears to have been originally from Canada. By 1923, Bancroft had become a professor of history at Columbia University and worked there from 1923 to her retirement in 1960.

A passport application found on shows that in March of 1923 Bancroft was planning to embark on a grand tour of Europe. She listed Wellesley, MA as her permanent address, but she also kept an apartment on Morningside Drive in Manhattan. Her passport photo shows her with a cropped haircut and wearing a suit. Her witness on the passport application is a woman by the name of Nell Vandenburg, whom she had known just one month. A ship passenger manifest on shows that Margaret returned from a second European trip in 1927.

 Bancroft is found in the 1930 Census lodging at the home of Cora Hill, with another female lodger.  Margaret was listed as a teacher at "University," presumably Columbia University, as she began teaching at Columbia's School of General Studies in 1923. In 1930, she was 38 years old and still single. In 1931 and 1932 she is back in New York after two trips to Europe. In 1936 she went to Quebec, Canada, from England, again giving her address as Wellesley, Massachusetts. She was still single. She had other trips to Europe as well.

 After her retirement in 1960, Margaret kept an informal salon once a month at her Morningside Heights apartment, where students and friends would drop in. Margaret Bancroft died in June 1979 of cancer in New York. She was 87 years old and never married. Her journal of 1913-1914 (in the collection), indicates she had a relationship with a woman by the name of Florence. One of Margaret’s correspondents, a woman by the name of Helen Knowlton Goss Thomas, is known to have been a lesbian, and is enumerated in the census records with her female "partner".  

While in England, Margaret Bancroft spent time with Lady Hoskyns (1895-1994), nee Mary Trym Budden, grand-daughter of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.  Lady Hoskyns, was a mathematics don at Newnham College, she married Sir Edwyn Clement Hoskyns (1884-1937) in 1922. Sir Edwyn was a priest of the Church of England, academic and theologian. He was also 13th Baronet of Harewood, County Hereford.

The correspondence shows that Margaret made at least six trips to Berne, Switzerland, to receive medical treatment at a well-known clinic, the Kocher Klinik. Bancroft also went to Italy for medical treatment. She appears to have some sort of spinal problem and/or gland problem that was treated and may have been cured, or greatly helped by the clinic in Switzerland.

      Description of Collection:

       Outgoing Letters:

Outgoing letters written by Margaret Bancroft to her family were written mostly to her brother Richard Bancroft, an attorney, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. This section of the archive consists of 664 letters written by Margaret Bancroft and can be broken down as follows:

There are 9 letters written by Bancroft to her parents in Wellesley, Massachusetts, dated 1913-1935, and are written by her from New York City.

There are 13 letters written by Margaret to her brother Richard at Wellesley in 1926, from New York; Kingston, Pennsylvania; Atlantic City and Princeton, New Jersey. Richard Bancroft spent his entire life in Wellesley, thus all of Margaret's letters to him are addressed to that place.

In November of 1926, Margaret took a trip to Europe and wrote 35 letters to Richard from Rome, Italy, and the Rome suburb of Tivoli, Italy, as well as from London, and other places in England between Nov 1926 through the summer of 1927. Margaret was abroad to study at this time and to receive medical attention. She had her gall bladder removed in Rome and checked positive for no malignant growth. She had been in pain for years.  There are also 25 letters to her brother Richard dated from 1928-1929, from New York City, and from Wale Cove Cottage, Grand Manan, NB, Canada, where Margaret spent the month of August in 1928.

Bancroft took trips to Europe every summer from 1930 to 1936. During this period, she wrote 376 letters to her brother Richard during this time, not all though were from Europe. In 1930, she took a trip to Scotland, and then to Cambridge, England. In 1931, she again visited Cambridge and London. At Cambridge she visited family, friends, colleagues, did some studying, and took in Cambridge life, the city, fairs, races, etc. She appears to have had family and a number of friends in Cambridge.

Margaret made seven trips to Berne, Switzerland, every summer during the years 1930-1936. At Berne she attended the "Klinic Dr. Kocher," for an unspecified chronic medical ailment, which have been a spinal problem, or gland problem. These trips to Berne were for medical treatment, and also for pleasure. The correspondence tells of her medical problems and treatment.  When she wasn't in Europe in the summers, she was at home, at her apartment in Manhattan, on Morningside Drive, near her work as a professor at Columbia University. In 1933, while in Berne, she made a trip to Heidelberg, Germany and comments on the Nazis and the Hitler Youth. She also comments on the attitude that has developed in Switzerland and Germany towards Jews, as well as the political landscape in Switzerland and their Socialists. In 1935, she wrote from the ship M.S. Lafayette while crossing the Atlantic to Europe. During the 1936 Olympics in Germany, she writes her brother about not having any joy that most of the medals America won were won by “Negroes.” This is the Olympics when Jesse Owens won four Gold medals in Berlin, much to the dismay of Hitler who was trying to use the Olympics in Berlin to show the resurgence of Nazi Germany.

Bancroft wrote 184 letters to her brother Richard dated 1937-1952, from her home in New York.  She wrote several letters in the late 1930s from Midtown Hospital in New York City, where she was being treated. There are no letters from the years 1944-1946. The collection also includes 20 letters to her brother Richard that are not dated, with several of these letters being incomplete.

Margaret's correspondence to her brother speaks not only of family matters and friends, but also about her work at Columbia University, her colleagues, mutual friends and acquaintances and her various trips to England, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, her medical problems, of meeting an anti-Semite Dr. von Steiger in Switzerland, etc.

Incoming Correspondence:

The incoming correspondence to Margaret Bancroft consists of 613 letters, dated 1913-1959. Of the incoming letters, 39 letters were written to Margaret Bancroft by her brother Richard Bancroft dated 1924-1955; 3 letters written to Margaret from her mother, Mrs. Bancroft, dated 1913-1937; and 13 letters written to Margaret from her father, Edward E. Bancroft, dated 1934-1949. In addition, Richard Bancroft wrote 10 miscellaneous letters to other individuals and received 16 letters from various individuals. Some of these concern legal matters which he was working on.

The letters of Richard Bancroft to his sister were usually written on the letterhead of his law office in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and were sent to Margaret at her home in New York City. Richard Bancroft (1893-), Margaret Bancroft's brother,  was a graduate of Amherst College (Class of 1915) and worked as an attorney, admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1920. During WWI, he served in the C.A.C. (Coast Artillery Corps) as Assistant Adjutant at Base Hospital No. 7. Margaret’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bancroft, lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where Edward Bancroft was a doctor.

The remaining 558 incoming letters are written by various individuals to Margaret Bancroft, mostly friends and colleagues, many of whom were other professional women, professors, and some quite prominent (Lillian Procter, Alta Rockefeller Prentice, Lady Hoskyns, etc.); some of these incoming letters were written by other family, such as her “Aunt Barite” Barton, who lived in England.

There are also 12 miscellaneous letters, 36 manuscript and typed pp., written by other correspondents.

Some of the more prominent correspondents, either by fame, or by the number of letters written to Margaret Bancroft are as follows:

        Margaret Clapp (1910-1974)

4 letters, 5 manuscript pages, of Margaret Clapp, written to Margaret Bancroft, from Wellesley, Massachusetts, dated 1950-1951.

Margaret Clapp was an American scholar and educator. She became President of Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Clapp graduated from Wellesley College in 1930. She taught English literature at the Todhunter School for Girls in New York City for twelve years while working on her master's degree, which she obtained from Columbia University in 1937. During and after World War II, she taught history at City College of New York, Douglass College, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College. Her doctoral dissertation at Columbia grew into the biography Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow, published in 1947 and winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. While she was president of Wellesley College from 1949 until her retirement in 1966, the college's resources and facilities were substantially expanded. Clapp was a strong advocate of careers for women. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1952. After leaving Wellesley, Clapp served briefly as administrator of Lady Doak College, a women's college in Madurai, India, then as United States cultural attaché to India, and then as minister-councilor of public affairs in the United States Information Agency until her retirement in 1971. The library at Wellesley is named for her. She does not appear to have married.

       Andree Madeleine de Bosque (1897-) and Huguette de Bosque (1923-)

       28 letters, 56 pp., dated 1948-1952.

Andree and Huguette de Bosque were a mother and daughter from Paris, France and were friends of Margaret Bancroft. Huguette studied book illustration and became an illustrator, her mother may have been an art historian and the father, Andree’s husband Pierre de Bosque (1877-1961), also of Paris, France, may have been an academic as well. Andree Crombez was born in Belgium, the daughter of Jonkheer Henri Crombez (1856-1941) and Desiree Leclercqz (1862-1927). Jonkheer Henri Crombez was a son of François Crombez and a cousin of Louis Crombez, all being of low ranking nobility of Belgium and also all politicians. Henri Crombez became municipal mandatary in Taintignies: city councilor (1881-1895 and 1890-1921), ships (1881-1895 and 1895-1900), Mayor (1900-1919). He also became a liberal senator from 1898-1900 and Member of Parliament, both mandates for the district of Tournai - Ath from 1900 to 1905. Andree married Pierre de Bosque in December 1920 and they made their home in Paris. Andree and her daughter Huguette made a number of trips to America (Washington, New York, California, North Carolina, etc), with the correspondence mentioning their arrivals, where they would be, arranging meetings, and discusses the work they are doing.

Margaret Bateson Heitland (1860-1938)

16 letters, 36 pages, dated 1931-1935, written from Cambridge, England.

Heitland was a British journalist and social activist (suffragette). She was the daughter of William Henry Bateson, master of St. John's College, Cambridge, and his wife Mrs. Anna Bateson, and the sister of activists Anna and Mary Bateson, and the geneticist William Bateson.  She was honorary assistant secretary of the Cambridge Women's Suffrage Association when it was founded in 1884. In 1886 Margaret started work as a journalist and from 1888 was associated with the Queen, and in 1913 was editor of the Public Work and Women's Employment Department of a journal. She was the author-editor of Professional Women Upon Their Professions, among many other accomplishments.

Lady Mary Hoskyns (1895-1994)

20 letters, 56 pages, dated 1930- 1958, written from Cambridge, England.

Mary Trym Budden was the grand-daughter of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, and the wife of Sir Edwyn Clement Hoskyns (1884-1937), 13th Baronet of Harewood, County Hereford, England. Sir Edwyn was a priest, academic and theologian, and President of Corpus Christi, Cambridge. Mary was a mathematics don at Newnham College, Cambridge University. The couple married in 1922. After being briefly associated with a loosely Anglican (but increasingly creedless) group of scientific mystics called the Epiphany Philosophers, she soon became involved with Dorothy Kerin's foundation of Burrswood, a "Christian hospital place of healing" near Tunbridge Wells. This, along with her own ministry of healing and her involvement with the Board of Women's Church Work.1

1. Bockmuehl, Markus. Seeing the World (Studies in Theological Interpretation): Refocusing New Testament Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).


       Hugh C. Hughes (1893-1976) and Mary W. Hughes

12 letters, 26 pp., dated 1934-1958

H.C. Hughes was a distinguished Cambridge (England) architect. He was a member of the firm of Hughes and Bicknell, architects of many charming houses of the era, including one of the first and best of the modernist houses in Cambridge. He was an early student of the newly formed Department of Architecture at Cambridge University. Mary W. Hughes was his wife. They both write to Margaret Bancroft. The Hughes wrote from Cambridge, England, to Margaret in New York City, and once when she was in Berne, Switzerland.

       Wilton Marion Krogman (1903-1987)

       6 letters, 9 pp., dated 1939-1940.

Wilton Marion Krogman (June 28, 1903 – November 4, 1987) was an American anthropologist. He was a leader in the development of the field of physical anthropology, with an early and lasting interest in dental anthropology.

Over his long career he also contributed to osteology, racial studies, genetics, medical anthropology, paleoanthropology, constitutional anthropology, and human engineering. His main interests and his most important contributions were in the areas of child growth and development and forensic anthropology.

Wilton M. Krogman, familiarly known as Bill, was the son of Wilhelm Claus Krogman, a German immigrant living in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was a skilled craftsman, described as a perfectionist, who worked with his brothers on the first house by Frank Lloyd Wright.

       Francis Phelps-Penry

26 letters, 89 pp., dated 1928-1958.

Francis Phelps-Penry, of Surrey, England, was a friend of Margaret Bancroft who wrote to her from England and elsewhere. She was married to John R. Phelps-Penry and by the 1950s they made their home at 7 Oatlands Close, Weybridge, County Surrey, England. Letters are written by Phelps-Penry from Reno, Nevada; Bournemouth, England; Villars, Switzerland; and other places in England.

       Alta Rockefeller Prentice (1871-1962)

22 letters, 52 pp., dated 1925-1956; of the 22 letters, Alta Rockefeller Prentice wrote 8 of the letters, with the remaining 14 letters being written by other members of the Prentice family: Mary Prentice Porter (2); S. Parmalee Prentice (2); E. Parmalee Prentice (1); Pamela Prentice (1); Sartell Prentice (1); Benjamin Davis “Bingo” Gilbert (1); Madeline Prentice (5); Abra Prentice (1).

Alta Rockefeller Prentice was an American philanthropist and socialite. She was the third daughter of philanthropists John Davison Rockefeller (1839–1937) and Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman (1839–1915). Alta married attorney Ezra Parmalee Prentice (1863 – 1955), son of Sartell Prentice (1837-1905) and Mary Adeline Isham (1838-1913). Alta and Ezra had three children: John Rockefeller Prentice (1902–1972), Mary Adeline Prentice (1907–1981), and Spelman Prentice (1911–2000). In 1937, Mary Adeline “Madeline” Prentice married Benjamin “Bingo” Davis Gilbert.

Alta Rockefeller Prentice founded Alta House (c. 1900), a settlement house in Little Italy in Cleveland, Ohio, which is named in her honor. In 1910, Alta and Ezra bought 1,400 acres (5.7 km²) of land near Williamstown, Massachusetts. Elm Tree House, the Prentices' 72-room summer home on Mount Hope Farm, was completed in 1928. In the 1930s and 1940s, several geneticists were employed by Ezra to develop more profitable farm animals, particularly cattle and poultry. At that time, Mount Hope Farm was one of the most outstanding experimental farms in the United States. Alta died in June 1962 at the age of 91. Her property was willed to New York's Lenox Hill Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Elm Tree House was purchased by its current owner, Williams College.

        Lillian Procter (1875-1967)

        11 letters, 27 pp., dated 1949.

Lillian Procter, of the Procter family of Procter & Gamble fame, was the daughter of Harley T. Procter and Mary E. Sandford (1850-). Lillian was married in 1901 to Fritz W. Hoeninghaus, a German, whom she divorced when he took up arms for his native land in World War One. After her divorce, she called herself Mrs. Sandford Procter.

        Machteld E. Sano (1903-1993)

        36 letters, 62 manuscript pages, of Dr. Machtled E. Sano, written to Margaret Bancroft, dated 1948-1958.

One of Margaret’s regular correspondents was a Belgian-trained clinical pathologist by the name of Machteld E. Sano, who was known for her research on tissue culture and use of fibrin glue for skin grafting. She was a pathologist and captain during WWII. During the war she carried out postmortems on military personal. She has stated that she was proud to be a chief pathologist but maintained that the army could have made better use of her qualifications in research in the field of surgery and medicine, especially "war surgery" where her work was made use of widely by the English Army and Navy and some American surgeons, with nerve grafting and lesions of the spinal cord.1 She published a book in 1943 titled "Skin Grafting: A New Method Based on the Principle of Tissue Culture." She does not appear to have married.

1. Women Doctors in War, by Bellafaire, Judith and Graf, Mercedes (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2009)

       Mrs. Helen Knowlton Goss Thomas (1890-1972)

11 letters, 21 pages, dated 1951-1958, written from Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, addressed to Margaret in New York City.

Helen K. Goss was born in 1890 in Melrose, Massachusetts, the daughter of a coal merchant. Her father was the child of immigrants from Holland and Germany. Helen graduated from Wellesley College. She is found in the 1920 Census as a lodger in Boston, rooming with a family and working as a teacher. She is listed as married, but there is no sign of a husband. She appears to have married a man with the surname of Thomas. In the 1930 Census, Helen is now enumerated at Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was listed as the head of the house, with a woman by the name of Julia Larimer listed as a "roomer." Helen was listed as a text book author, Julia had no occupation. Helen was divorced, Julia single.  Helen either authored, or co-authored, a number of social studies books. Helen was listed in a newspaper notice as being a lecturer of geography at Wellesley College and at Teachers' School of Science of Harvard University.

The two women (Helen and Julia) travelled together to Europe in 1936. When the 1940 Census was taken, Helen G. Thomas was enumerated at Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. Helen is still listed as "divorced." Julia Larimer (1886-1968) still lived with Helen and is listed as the "partner" of Helen. Julia is listed as a housekeeper in a private home. Presumably, the two women are lesbians, and had lived together for at least ten years. Julia took care of the home, and Helen was self-employed as a text book author.

If we go back earlier in time, we find in the records that Julia Larimer lived at home with her parents and sister in Topeka, Kansas in 1920. She was listed as a college teacher. Online information shows that Julia graduated from Wellesley College and after teaching in Kansas, she moved to New York City to teach, before being appointed to the Wellesley College Relief Unit during WWI, where she went to France to work after the war. She was recommended by Senator Charles Curtis (1860-1936), who knew Larimer most of her life (family friends in Kansas). Curtis, whose mother was ¾ Native-American, became Vice-President of the United States under President Hoover. Helen Goss Thomas was also active in the Wellesley College Relief Unit and was in charge of all supplies for the Wellesley Units overseas.

        H. Theodric "Ted" Westbrook

        6 letters, 20 pages, dated 1930-1938, written from several locations in New York State.

Westbrook attended Hamilton College, and graduated with his A.B. in 1922, and an M.A. from Wesleyan University in 1923. He took a position at Columbia University in the Department of Classical Philology, where he taught Greek and Latin.

     Besides the more prominent correspondents listed above, there are numerous other letters written by various individuals to Margaret Bancroft and dated from 1918 to 1959. The bulk of them date from the 1930s to 1950s. Of these letters about 22 are not dated, or incomplete.  The letters are addressed to Margaret either at her home in New York City, or her family home at Wellesley, Massachusetts, or in the case of some of the earlier letters, when she was in Cambridge or London, England, or while in Berne, Switzerland, where she was receiving medical treatment at the Klinic Kocher. The correspondents write from various locations: New York; Wellesley; Philadelphia; and elsewhere in New England and around America, and from Cambridge, or London, or from correspondents when they were traveling. There are a number of letters written from fellow faculty, or staff at Columbia University. The bulk of Margaret’s correspondents are women. Some of these additional correspondents include: Gilbert Highet, the classicist; James H. McGregor, longtime professor of Zoology at Columbia University; Allan Nevins, historian; Clemewell Lay, headmistress at the Emma Willard School, in Troy, New York; Dr. A. G. Welsford, a leader of the reform movement of the British Medical Association, who operated on Bancroft in Rome to remove her gall bladder; Prof. Katharine C. Reilly, professor of Greek & Latin, Columbia University; Louise S. Waite, instructor of Latin at Wellesley College; Adelaide Meara Hammond, daughter-in-law of Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice John Wilkes Hammond; Dr. Edwin A. Locke, faculty of Williams College; Dr. Josephine Hemenway Kenyon, pediatrician and public health author; amongst many others.

        Sample Quotations of Outgoing Letters:

"Berne, 11 June 1933

Dearest darling Richie:

Dearest Richie...In Switzerland the worm is turning & the Socialists are now beginning to be attacked by the middle-class people like the small proprietors of stores, restaurants, etc. In Berne which has been very socialistic the numbers in the gov't are now 49 Socialists & 51 others. But the Socialists fight hard - they have all gov't & railway offices & when their opponents tried to vote a 7% reduction of salary the Socialists beat it. But the ordinary people are very tired being taxed so heavily & they will win eventually I think. Hitler is the great hero of the anti-Socialists & if he can hold out he will save all Europe the Swiss believe...Margaret."

"17 July 1933, [Berne]

Dearest Richie...At present my head is whirling with figures & where I shall be when I emerge is more than I can say! You see the exchange between Germany & America is very bad 2.90 marks for $1 instead of 4 & Americans are keeping away so they have introduced Register marks - these a foreigner with a passport may buy outside of Germany only at the rate of 3.40 per $1. You get a check & it is paid in cash to you only in Germany. You cannot carry out of Germany more than 200 marks inside the border & you must declare all checks, letters of credit &c. going in. We start at 10:10 am tomorrow & shall get to Heidelberg the 20yth to Wiesbaden next, then Bonn...Margaret"

"21 July 1933,

Dearest Richie...We had lemonade in the court of an old guild house - several Hitlerites Nazi soldiers came in. Everywhere you see odd ones & the boy scouts wear the colors: golden brown pants & shirt, with red arm band & swastika. In every town a few red flags with black swastika in a white circle. A few men wear moustaches like Herr Hitler. There is good order, perfect peace. A few signs show patriotism. In the station posters with view of Germany "Ihre Heimat ist schon" = "Your home is beautiful" etc., but no oppression or disturbance anywhere - The one newspaper I've seen shows nervousness - particularly that France is planning secret league with Poland or that she is doing something about the Ruhr. Everyone is very polite & kindly - houses look shabby & the more southern part poorer but here in Heidelberg bright & happy & healthy.”

"Klinik Kocher [Berne]

4 - VII – 34


Dearest darling Richie,

These treatments are working like a charm & though I have to go carefully as they are quite strong I feel better in many ways than I have in untold years. I have never seen such care and attention to detail as they give here. It is a lesson to me & whatever the Swiss may or not have in the way of artistic qualities, they have in wonderful patience & conscientiousness and great powers of deduction as witness both Dr. Kocher & Prof. T. Schumi. Mrs. Tschumi came to call yesterday & tendered an invitation to tea tomorrow to meet Sir James & Lady Frazer. He is one of the most famous living anthropologists & wrote a huge series of tomes on primitive & later religious practices called "The Golden Bough," which is the compendium...Margaret"

[Bonn, Germany]

"13 - VI – 35

Dashing down to post for the fast boat


Dearest darling Richie:

...There is a great deal of feeling against the Jews here - they say they run U.S.A & are part negro from ancient days - I read that in a virulent U.S.A. pamphlet. Dr. Von Steiger says "polizia versa" and made a thumbs down about them & said U.S.A. must turn them out as did Germany, a lot of bitter propaganda. I am very sorry...Your loving sister Margaret."


“The Klinik Kocher


16 -VI-35


Dearest darling Richie:

…I called at the Tschumis Friday & had a fine visit. They think Pres. Roosevelt & the ‘Brain Trust’ a ‘Fool Trust.’ They are mad at England for going off the gold standard and precipitating us. They think, as I do surely, that Switzerland may soon get forced off gold though they recently bitterly voted to stay on.

A big old bank has recently asked for a prolongation – gold money which was pouring in to Switzerland in these earlier years is now streaming out & the papers say that the ‘crises’ has now reached Switzerland. They bemoan the approach of lower value for their money as they have to buy food, wool, cotton, oil, coal &c. and have no mineral of their own.

The Tschumis say that a friend of theirs who is a forcibly returned newspaper correspondent from Berlin for a Berne newspaper says that Germany is in a dreadful state and that the Hitler regime is due to fall very soon by civil war if necessary.

Meanwhile, Berne looks & seems prosperous, everything is neat and clean and loads of people shopping…Margaret”

“Klinik Dr Kocher

Berne, Swisse

21 – VII-35


Dearest darling Richie:

…He [Dr. von Steiger] says that all the non-Jews want the Jews to buy the Island of Madagascar & go there to live, good climate, &c. Could be gotten cheap (800,000,000 Francs?). He says that the Jews of American and Germany are pouring into Switzerland. They are buying up all the real estate & farms & juggling them round to the loss & distress of the peasants. They also control the horse & cattle trades & make the poor ignorant farmers sell good animals cheap & unload bad ones on them at a high price. Do not quote me on this as I think it’s terrible to persecute a whole race so!

…The most interesting thing I have done since talking with you was to talk with Dr. von Steiger yesterday…How he hates the Jews! It’s really terrible to see the amount of racial hatred the Nazis & Counter-Nazis have stirred up. He showed me a small condensed edition of the Talmud translated into German with italicized portions containing sentences like these: “Save the life of your fellow men, unless they be gentiles.” “Do not beat or rob anyone, unless he be a non-Jew.” These are not exact words but just as boldly stated. He also talked of old civilizations. He specially loves the Greeks. His own father was one of the Swiss Guard of the King of Naples until 1859 when Garibaldi smashed up the Kingdom & used to go fighting the brigands. He is of a noble Swiss family, very neat & well educated. He is a great friend of Dr. Kocher’s but not loyal to him & very jealous. I allowed no unfair sneering I can tell you – The Swiss from the few I have seen are stingy & bigoted & allow no joking about their country. They are honest and patriotic, slow & very thorough. Dr. Kocher, Prof. & Mrs. Tschumi & my dear little nurse Margarite Borel are exceptions to the bad points & excel in the good ones…Margaret.


“Klink Dr. Kocher


19th & 20th August 1936


“Dearest darling Richie:

Well in less than 2 weeks now I’ll be leaving…

The patients here are a dead bore now. The 2 English people named Bradshaw leave today. I did like them; but the Tschumis should have returned last night…

The big international automobile race will be here Saturday & Sunday. I know how much you’ll like to see it and I have kept wishing you could be here in my place as I shan’t go…everyone is all of a flutter.

America is getting weak in sports. It makes me so ashamed to think that though we won 12 or 13 points at the Olympic Games so many were Negroes. I feel no joy from such prowess & representation. Do you think it a sign of decay when a people takes no interest in sport? It may be so in a way as their glands may be weak & that may mean lessened vitality but on the other hand what coarse looking brutes athletes are and usually low in the grey matter…[Margaret]

Sample Quotations from the journal of Margaret Bancroft, 1913-1914:

While the journal is not signed, internal evidence indicates it is the journal of Margaret Bancroft. It is known that Margaret was a medieval historian, studied German, and attended Columbia University at this time. The journalist is engaged in all three of these activities. The journal is written in German and English, and is 44 pages in length, entries are dated 26 September 1913- 3 February 1914. Margaret reveals in her journal that she is a lesbian. She writes on several occasions about her turmoil over a relationship she is in with a woman named Florence (see examples below). While not a signature, there is the letter “M” at the end of the journal.

"26 September

Tomorrow at six I begin work again. First of all, I am going to see to it that I don't cheat myself. In the second place I must mark in a fashion that I shall not have occasion to reproach myself or let others do so. It is my plan then to rise at six and work in my journal until 7 or 6:45. Spend one hour of the morning in thinking on paper and most of the afternoon in composing German. Except for the morning I shall not set any fast rules. However, my rate must be ten hours. Stanhaftigkeit - Do I possess the power of resistance? I must acquire it...I can conquer myself. I may then dream of having influence, power. There is no reason why I should not work regularly six days in the week until the spring holidays or the end of the first semester. Thereafter there will be something in the idea of enjoying a well-earned holiday - study - think - exercise - Learn Life - Daily let me try to incorporate those ideas - There simply must not be any interruption. Nothing to worry you."

"27 September

The first day started late by one hour and ten minutes. This we shall make up, but I must be through at 5:30. If I were working for someone else and came this late, I should be informed to look elsewhere for work. And yet there was all that laziness. At least let me work steadily now..."

"On 8th January 1914

I am so angry with Florence that I am not going to write her until I get back from my vacation namely the fifteenth of April. If she hasn't got time to correspond with me now I shant have time later on. I think I deserve some consideration too. If she hadn't treated me in that cold fashion I should not have said those bitter things. At any rate I shall be the height of politeness hereafter. In the meantime, I am going to work and carry out my resolutions. When I get those bad spells, I am going to work in here. I am going to keep her letter in my pocket as a warning to be answered the fifteenth and not bother about her. Not a word said all this time. And then get three words. If she doesn't write by the fourth, I am not going to write to her at all. She has nothing to give me but I won't take anything from her. So, then she can write and wait good and long. If I have to get along without a wife, very well. I just feel like writing here if she has no time to acknowledge my letters, I am afraid I haven't any time for her either. You have nothing else to give me but affection. But if you hurt me in that fashion, very well. I can prove to you I can live without my girl. It is I that was most anxious to keep the relationship up. It is I that will break. Thus, isn't any sense in my eating my heart away. For when you will have time I won't. I have not the slightest intention of being treated by any woman in that fashion and I shan't ever marry to be [costumed] in the fashion I have let myself be tendered by you. No girl, I'm [heeping] mad with you. It is because I expected to get affection and get nothing instead. No, I'm not for quasi relationships. While I meant something else when we promised each other to be friends, nevertheless you are not even acting in that way. The chances are that where you will have time to correspond, I won't. Accordingly let's cut knowledge of each other. I didn't mean anything to you anyway and you don't want to mean anything to me. There isn't any sense in my saying ugly thing to you..."

"9 January 1914

Girl where is your humor? And they shall do something from lack of knowledge. Carlyle accused the Jews that they had no sense of humor. He too suffered from lack of knowledge. Thank goodness...Yes, I have respect for duty. The less you care for me, the more I like you. Only I saw fine morning to hear that you are tired of the relationship and you want to cut it. Fool that you are, if she wanted to cut it, she would have done so and nothing would have helped. She did not tell you frankly and openly her thoughts concerning you. Accordingly, you need not show too great dependence on her. Be pleased to know that some that excessive occupation of hers will cease and then she will have lots of time to write and until then you will wait laugh and take it in jest. In the meantime, you have two more weeks to wait and you will undoubtedly write nothing of state of mind or of anything private...."

"11 January 191[4]

Florence, Florence. Why did you let me write you wild words? Why did not you tell me to stop. Now I understand you. I am ashamed, deeply ashamed of myself. Now you know I should have stopped talking nonsense if you had told me to. And you let me move on in this fashion all this time. You have been more than charitable with me. You have acted exactly as a fine sensible girl would have done. And my respect for you is unbounded. Now I know something about you.”

“13 January 1914

Now I am going to talk sensibly. Florence, Florence, why didn’t you send me that note four months ago. You would have saved yourself all that trouble. When one person does not care for the other and gets letters such as I have been sending you, I can well imagine that their [impression] does not give any pleasure. And then I also imagine that that was the reason you did not write all this time. So, you see if you had told me not to write you would have been saved all that trouble. I did not realize until I got you note what I was doing. And now I am deeply pained because I could as well not have made any foolish utterances and kept them to myself. This is a queer passion, this passion of love, and it is in my case the queerer because you yourself are indifferent to me. I am not fooling myself with any notions that you care anything about me. And then I also realize that you and I are perfect strangers. What is there in me that can interest you? Nothing that I know. And I am very skeptical as to your sympathizing with my ambitions. As for yourself, from the first you roused me to activity. I saw some sense in my life and how did you do it by a peculiar method of suggestion and exhortation.

But you did move for me. You suggested to me a line of thought that may have unheard of results, do you remember last Fall my reading you a paper on the Flora of Love in the Nibelungan. Well, now I am working out the idea in Parzival. The chances are that my dissertation will be on the same subject. I should not be surprised if that were to turn out my life work. Isn't that a good enough reason why I should fall in love with you. But the essence of love is [service] self-sacrifice. Now there is nothing I should like better. Of course, you don't need either my service nor my self-sacrifice. But perhaps a time will come when you may want me to serve you. Then perhaps you will want to serve me too. Perhaps the time is not ripe for it. Girl, I don't blame you one bit for not having time to write to me. I had no business writing you epistles such as I have. No, I have had not the right either. It was impatience. But I did not realize at the time the impact of my words, and when I got started I just went on and took for granted that you would read. I don't feel bad that you did not answer them, because they did not deserve to be answered. Only you should have written as fast as you could write, that such letters were unwelcomed. I shan't ever again give way to my feelings again. I am going to live in a fashion so that you will wonder whether I have any sentiment or feeling or passion."

"14 January 1913

I suppose Florence does care for me a bit. Otherwise she would not care to keep up the relationship. She could have said that I must try to forget her. If she does not write me for the fourth, I shall stop writing too. Then I shall have my dissertation to finish. And when that's done I shall set out to fulfill my promise. Then, however I won't marry her or even propose. If she is still unmarried I'll not take it as a sign that she resisted me. For not to write all that time is sufficient to free me from my promises..."                                                                                                                        

"3 Feb.

...But I am interested in the epics and no one has discussed the [xxxxx] therein and as far as I know the love element in itself in medieval German literature has not been treated so that I with my present limitations I see great possibilities in that field. In my present state of enthusiasm, I feel as if I should like to write a book that will be regarded by the Germans too...But I realize that I must [xxxx] myself first of all medieval spirit which I don't find by any means easy. In the second place I want to get a small enough [portion] to treat in a dissertation. That's the reason Professor Thomas I cannot tolerate the idea of interrupting the course of my studies. And so, I shall be at Columbia if I have to work and do nothing else but perform the minimal resistance required. Yes, but I must be at Columbia next year."


      Sample Quotations from Incoming Correspondence to Margaret Bancroft:

“Columbia University in the City of New York

University Extension

Oct. 22, 1924

My dear Margaret,

Both your letters reached me together this morning. We are deeply sympathetic with the intense anxiety through which you are passing and you are constantly in our thoughts. I have followed you on your midnight journey and wished that there was some way to relieve the terrible strain. You are most kind to write me how things are going and that I am able to give some definite information to your many inquiring friends and students.

Mr. Earle telephone me yesterday that your classes were all cared for indefinitely. Mr. Raymond and Mr. Purden of Barnard will have them and Mr. Waterman has offered to fill in any gaps. All are most concerned for you and have expressed great sympathy for your distress.

With affectionate greetings and warmest sympathy for your anxieties, Faithfully yours, Katharine C. Reiley”

“Williamstown, Massachusetts, 21 August 1925


Dear Margaret,

You spoke on the steamer of a girls’ boarding school near Boston where good serious work is done. Madeline has word from Vassar that she can go there this Fall if she will pass her Physics examination in September, so she is now at work and I think will probably succeed in entering Vassar. Nevertheless, there is a chance that she may not succeed, and in order to have a resource in such an event I would like to know about the school you have in mind.

Will you please let me know where it is and how to address the principal?

Affectionately, Alta Rockefeller Prentice”

“Ellen Browning Hall

Scripps College

Claremont, California

September 22, 1930


My dear Margaret,

…Early in August I signed on the dotted line to be director of a residence hall and do whatever special tutoring was necessary in the Department of English here at Scripps. I know that I shall have to begin at the beginning about Scripps College because you’ve probably not heard of it, and since it is west of the Hudson you’re probably already sniffing at the very name…

It was founded only three years ago by a Miss Scripps whose brother has made a name for himself for the finest kind of journalism in this part of the world. It is a small college for women (limited to 200) federated with Pomona (similar to Grinnell and Oberlin) and ultimately to be part of a plan for a federated college to be known as Claremont College. You see Pomona is coeducational, Scripp’s for women; then the plan includes an undergraduate college for men.

The students are a choice group. The girls apparently come from homes of culture and wealth, and the whole atmosphere is on e of great refinement. The buildings are dreams; my little suite opens on to an adorable patio beyond which loom the mountains. By the bye Mrs. Clifton from Wellesley was in this hall last year. People liked her but say that she was very homesick during her stay here. She is at the new International House which Mr. Rockefeller has given to the University of California at Berkeley.

This particular job I have is merely a stepping stone to something else – what I do not know. But the chance to affiliate with Scripps was too good to turn down, even though I had offers from teachers’ colleges, which would have paid me three times as much. If nothing develops here, there are other possibilities in this part of the world.

The Dean is a Bryn Mawr product A.B., A.M., Ph.D. The faculty is quite unusual – a French baron son of a diplomat, gives philosophy; a Britisher (U of London) does a course in Economic Geography and so on. At the end of the sophomore year the students come up for comprehension after the Oxford play. Then the last two years are for specialization, so that at the end of four years they are examined on their major field only. The first graduating class goes out this June.

…I hope that you have a splendid year, and that the Ph.D. will be near completed by the time you are ready to come home.

I miss N.Y. and the pleasant contacts there. In fact, I’d like nothing better than to live very near that city.

Lovingly, Clemewell Lay”


419 West 119th Street

New York City



Dear Miss Bancroft:

Alc. Frg. 2B4, with its reference to Apollo’s Hyperborean vacation, and his swan-chariot, would seem to be Alcaeus quoted or paraphrased in Himerius or. Xiv 10; that is, fragments 2,3,& 4 of the Alcaeus fragments on page 147 of Bergk: Poetae Lyrici Graeci, tom. Iii, poetae melici.


That is at least the nearest thing to it which I have found. 2B4 I cannot explain, and probably Pauly has some private notation which one should have investigated. But the facts, decorated and diffused, are in Himerius all right.


I hope this may have saved you some trouble. If there is anything else I can do to help at this very trying stage of reducing the book to order, do let me know.


With kind regards, Yours sincerely, Gilbert Highet”





“The University of Chicago

Department of Anthropology

November 7, 1939


Dear Miss Bancroft,


The article by Dart on ‘Racial Origins’ is in an entire volume on Bantu speaking tribes. The only suggestion I have is that you get the list of books published by Routledge and trace it further. I have a reprint and it does not tell who the editor is. I am returning the letter by Dr. Newcomer. I agree with him in general. Certainly, it cannot be denied that Vitamin D therapy is necessary to harmonious bone development.

I regret to inform you that I am forced to leave school for several months. I have an eye condition that necessitates an operation and a subsequent rather protracted period of convalescence and rest. I am especially enjoined against much reading. If I can be of assistance to answer specific questions not involving further reading I shall be, of course, at your disposal. Call on me whenever you wish and I shall be frank to tell you whether or not I can be of service to you.


Cordially yours, W. M. Krogman”



Columbia University in the City of New York

Department of Zoology

November 30, 1939


Dear Miss Bancroft,


I find that the two tables you asked about, showing the morphological and chronological sequence of fossil hominids that Professor Weidenreich showed during his lecture on Tuesday, are in a pamphlet containing six of his recent lectures which I received a few days ago from Peking. I shall be glad to let you have it for a few days if you would like to read the lectures and copy these tables.

Sincerely yours, J.H. McGregor”


"23 October 1948

Dear Margaret,

Thanks for your letter and I'm happy to see you are doing so well and are busy, the best medicine there is...You may be amused to learn that I had a paper accepted by the new Cancer Journal put out by "Dusty." It amuses me immensely because it’s going to be quite important. Short as per usual. I have demonstrated that cells which look identical are potentially different according to the disease the person has.

Besides I'm on a rampage with a woman surgeon trying to put something over. I'll tell you about it.

I was in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, conclusion the people I thought were going to write a book on the same subject as I, have such different ideas that I'm afraid I shall be obliged to write mine after all. With two papers accepted and four more to go and a book and a booklet in my head, you see I shall be slightly busy. However, music and thinking out my problems is a most harmonious occupation, so now whenever I think of my paper on cellular potentialities, I think of the easier Sonata of Beethoven in G Major and his Bagatelle. The research trickles along with the notes...Machteld [E. Sano]

"[6 Dec 1948]

Dear Margaret

Yes, I too enjoyed our little evening together. Yes, we all know that we are close to the edge of unveiling the enigma of cancer. In fact, I think we have it but that does not yet bring us the cure. You see my dear, after working in science for a while I have adopted a very definite philosophy. It’s just this that I refuse point blank to tag along with any publicity and advertising maneuver or for that matter involve my scientific integrity. I also am unable to make my mind work in the direction Public Health wants it too. I have made some very fundamental and important observations, which upset our concepts but it is not in direct line with the problem I am engaged upon. So, they feel that my work has given no results. It is questionable whether I shall get another fund. They treat you as if you were some dirt in the gutter. Why do you want more money? And my dear they have the whole detailed budget right in front of them! As if I was going to use it for myself. These my dear, are the first symptom of what government health program will be. Paper, paper and more paper. That is the only reason I would like to have money of my own so I could ignore the whole batch of them. It will heed more Dusty Rhoads than there already are.

Yes, I probably could collect urine of cancer patients, but how send them. It would involve a lot of work for which I unfortunately don't have the time collecting, name, data, packing etc. etc. You see it isn't just obtaining them.... lots of love, Machteld [E. Sano]”

"Dear Margaret,

...The trip south was very interesting. The position offered in Houston left me too little freedom to do the type of research I would like to do. Also, above me was going to be 'a nut,' mentally fussy, with much bluff etc. So that proposition is out. They offered me only 2000 more - considering it would cost me 1000 more to live there - moving, etc. and no practice. I thought that was ridiculous.

The lecture and exhibition in New Orleans was a huge success. The following week I lectured to the College of American Chest Physicians. Last Tuesday I was in Washington and lectured to students and staff at Harvard University. Oh, I forgot, I gave two movies & lectured on the 17th of April in Atlantic City in the ballroom of Convention Hall! But the lecture at Howard Medical School was one of my most memorable, inspiring and pleasing experiences. I wanted to stop after one hour but had more material and so they told me to go on as long as I wanted. Also, I did not have to introduce my work, they knew all about tissue culture. Never have I been to lecture like it because the audience was so responsive that I was able to put over quite a few things with a sense of humor. the professor of pathology said that beside the interesting lecture they all thought I 'had such a delightful sense of humor"! It makes me realize more than ever that surroundings and stimuli even if not uttered are so important. So, you see my dear that I have not been exactly lazy...Lots of love to you.... Machteld [E. Sano]



“May 24, 1953

Dear Margaret,

You’ll be wondering why you haven’t heard from us. Your letter came while we were in the South and awaited our return a couple of weeks ago. We were so glad to have it and know you are so well, but alas, the dear little glass bird was smashed to bits! The two you gave us last year give us much pleasure and the girl who cleans for us has orders to take great care when dusting. We appreciate your sending another and feel very sad that it was handled so roughly in the mail.

We drove as far south as Charleston where we saw the famous plantation gardens at the peak of their spring bloom – azaleas in such masses of brilliant color that they were breath-taking. Then a quiet sojourn at a very pleasant place ten miles north of Myrtle Beach where we had a tiny cottage in a pine grove near the beach and spent our days very lazily. While there we went on a tour of old plantations near Georgetown and two visits to Brookgreen, the lovely outdoor museum of sculpture established by Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, a place I love and can never get enough of. On the way home we idled through Virginia, stopping three days in Williamsburg.

...It was good to hear that Bernice is well again, but I was distressed to hear that Hazel Lockwood had lost her job at the Natural History Museum. She was doing such fine work there and it is tough to lose a position at our age. The dropping of fifty must mean, I suppose, financial retrenchment, but I’m awfully sorry she was one of the victims. Your tales of burglars and a suicide are horrifying. Do keep your doors well locked!

I’ll be waiting for a phone call to tell me you are here, and it will be good to have you back again. Julia joins me in sending much love as always.

Yours, Helen [Goss Thomas]”