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Elizabeth Head Fetter papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Ax 743

Scope and Contents

The collection contains professional and personal correspondence including fan mail, day journals and travel diaries, manuscript materials, book reviews by Fetter, photographs and published material.

The correspondence and journals illuminate the conflict Fetter felt between her obligation to her family and her obligation to her own literary talent, her personal philosophy and its eventual interpretation through her novels, and her fear of a loss of creative writing powers. The correspondence with agents Paul Reynolds, Connie Smith, and Pat Schartle are especially complete and illuminating.

Correspondence is separated into professional incoming letters and personal letters, both organized alphabetically by name or title. Outgoing correspondence is organized by date (1931-1971) and there is a separate section of fan mail and responses by Fetter.

Manuscript material is separated into book-length manuscripts, and magazine articles and short story manuscripts. Book-length material includes drafts, outlines, synopsis, notes, proofs, corrections, revisions, and comments organized by title of work. Titles consist of "Ivy and the Id," "Mao," Shadow of a Joke," "Sweet Death of Candor," "Wives and Mothers," "You Never Really Know Anybody," and for an unfinished novel. Magazine and short story material includes drafts, notes, outlines, holograph corrections, and research material organized by title of work.

There is also a section of poetry manuscripts and book reviews by Fetter; material is organized by title of work. Other writings include novel and article ideas, T.V. scripts, a playlet, composition course notes, speech and personal notes, school notebooks, biographical material and photographs. Also available in this section are travel diaries for trips to Russia and Guatemala.

The rest of the collection contains published versions of articles, short stories, and serialized novels organized alphabetically by title.


  • 1931-1971


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Head Fetter (1904-1972) began her career as an advertising copy writer in Philadelphia but gave it up in the early 1930's to become a free-lance writer, which she pursued until her death in 1972. She also lectured at Bryn Mawr on experimental writing (1952-1956). Her community interests included the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (Housing Committee), The NAACP, and Planned Parenthood.

From the 1930s to the 1970s Fetter wrote numerous short stories and magazine articles on the topics of mental health, medicine, marital problems, travel, nature, and social ills. She often wrote under the pseudonym Hannah Lees.

Her most widely acknowledged book was Help Your Husband Stay Alive (1958), but she received critical praise for her three mystery novels: Prescription for Murder (1941), Death in the Doll's House (1943), and The Dark Device (1944). She was also critically praised for her novels dealing with female psychology: Till the Boys Come Home (1944), and Sweet Death of Candor (1969).


7.5 linear feet (5 containers)

Language of Materials



Elizabeth Head Fetter (1904-1972) was an author of mystery novels and novels dealing with female psychology, and a free-lance writer of short stories and magazine articles. The collection contains professional and personal correspondence including fan mail, day journals and travel diaries, manuscript materials, book reviews by Fetter, photographs and published material.


Collection is organized into the following series: Correspondence - Incoming Professional, Correspondence - Personal, Manuscripts - Book Length, Manuscripts - Magazine Articles and Short Stories, Poetry and Book Reviews, and Magazine Publications, Articles, Short Stories and Serialized Novels.

Other Finding Aids

Paper finding aid with additional information is available in Special Collections & University Archives.

Physical Description

5 record storage boxes

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff, 1973.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

This collection received a basic level of processing including minimal organization and rehousing.

Description information is drawn in part from information supplied with the collection and initial surveys of the contents.

Guide to the Elizabeth Head Fetter Papers
Revise Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Archivists' Toolkit Project Team
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA