Guide to the Eleanor F. Lewis (1882-1961) Papers

Collection Title: Eleanor F. Lewis (1882-1961) Papers
Dates: 1900-1977
Identification: 9/3/1
Creator: Lewis, Eleanor F. (Eleanor Frances), 1882-1961
Extent: 1 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The Eleanor F. Lewis Papers document Lewis's life and career at Northwestern University Library, spanning the years 1900-1977; the bulk of the materials relate to her retirement in 1948. Materials include: biographical materials; correspondence; articles; bibliographies; and a speech.
Acquisition Information: The Eleanor F. Lewis Papers are comprised of materials from the Faculty Biographical Files and the Alumni Biographical Files, Northwestern University Archives.
Processing Information: Janet C. Olson, November 2001.
Separated Materials: One photograph was transferred to the University Archives Photographic Collection.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Related Materials: Alumni Biographical Files, Series 51/2: Spencer Lewis (Box 3), Esther Bilbie Lewis (Box 4) and Eleanor Frances Lewis (Box 17); Records of the Evanston Academy, Series 38/3 (Box 17).
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Eleanor Frances Lewis was born on September 2, 1882, in Chinkiang, China, the daughter of Methodist missionaries. Eleanor Lewis returned to the United States to attend Hyde Park High School and the Evanston Academy, entering Northwestern University in 1900. While at Northwestern she was involved in the Chi Omega sorority and worked in the University Library (then located in Lunt Hall). Upon graduating, Lewis began working at the NU library, eventually becoming Head of the Reference Department. Lewis retired in 1948.

Both Lewis's parents attended Northwestern University; Spencer Lewis (1854-1939) received his AB in 1879, his MA in 1887, and an honorary DD in 1907 (he also received a BD from Garrett Theological Institute), and Esther Marian Bilbie (1859-1944) attended the Evanston Academy from 1879-80 and entered Northwestern as a member of the Class of 1883. After their marriage in 1881, the Lewises set sail for China where, after spending a year learning Chinese in Chinkiang, they established a teaching mission in Chunking. Eleanor's brother, Raymond Leslie Lewis, was born in Chunking. Aside from one or two furloughs in the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis spent over forty-five years in China.

Eleanor Lewis returned to the United States to attend Hyde Park High School and the Evanston Academy, entering Northwestern University in 1900. While at Northwestern she was involved in the Chi Omega sorority and worked in the University Library (then located in Lunt Hall). After graduating with an AB in 1904, Lewis planned to pursue graduate studies in language, but accepted the Library's offer of a full-time position. She would remain on the Library staff for the next forty-four years.

The staff of the Library at that time consisted of five or six librarians. Lewis worked in the combined Circulation/Reference/Reserve Department until 1918, when Reference became a separate department. When Deering Library opened in 1933, Lewis was named Head of the Reference Department, with a staff of four. She also took charge of exhibits, the rare book room, and the preparation of reading lists for the weekly Northwestern Reviewing Stand radio show. Continuing her involvement in Chi Omega, she was the editor of Eleusis from 1920 to 1924, and later was Alumnae Editor of Chi Foam. She served as Head resident in women's dormitories until 1930, when she built a home, which she named Maiden's Prayer, at 902 Lincoln Street. After Spencer Lewis's death in 1939, Esther Lewis returned to the United States from China and, until her death in 1944, lived with her daughter. Lewis also wrote poetry, composed a new school song and a script for a Historical Pageant of Northwestern University, and compiled numerous bibliographies. In 1944 she received a Service Award from the Northwestern University Alumni Association.

After her retirement from Northwestern University in 1948, Lewis built a new home, Vista Bella, near Panama City, Florida. Here she wrote a memoir of her childhood in China, Beads of Jade, published in 1958. She continued her interest in libraries, serving on the Board of Trustees of the Bay County Library and making provision in her will for the construction of a museum room for that library to hold her collection of Asian object. In 1960, she returned to Evanston for the 60th anniversary of the Northwestern Chapter of Chi Omega, at which the Eleanor Lewis Scholarship was established in her honor. Eleanor Lewis died on December 6, 1961.

Scope and Content

The Eleanor F. Lewis Papers document Lewis's life and career at Northwestern University Library, spanning the years 1900-1977; the bulk of the materials relate to her retirement in 1948. Materials include: biographical materials; correspondence; articles; bibliographies; and a speech.

Biographical materials include forms completed for the University Alumni Office by Lewis, tributes written after her death, and a transcript of a brief memoir of Lewis, by her friend Mrs. Harold Lueth, taken down by Rolf Erickson (Head Librarian) in 1977. Photocopies from an unidentified scrapbook are filed at the end of the folder. Newspaper and magazine articles that appeared on the occasion of Lewis's retirement in 1948, and obituaries published after her death in 1961, are included in the Clippings file, which also contains mentions of Lewis in various issues of Xi Foam, the newsletter of her sorority. Tributes, clippings and obituaries relating to Spencer and Esther Bilbie Lewis are contained in a separate folder.

The Correspondence file includes incoming and outgoing correspondence. Many of the letters exist only as photocopies. Most of the correspondence is between Lewis and Northwestern University administrators and Library staff members. Christmas cards sent by Lewis, featuring her poetry or photographs of her, are filed at the end of the folder. A separate folder holds photocopies of transcripts of letters Lewis received between 1913 and 1918 from Colonel John McRae, the author of the poignant World War I poem “In Flanders' Fields.” Apparently Lewis met McRae on shipboard during one of her trips abroad.

Lewis's busy writing career is documented in a speech given at the Chi Omega 50th Anniversary Dinner in 1945, articles on library matters and memoirs of her college life that appeared in such publications as Independent Education and the Northwestern University Alumni News (including a typescript history of Deering Library), a selection of bibliographies (including one on sources for Women in the War Effort), a typescript and accompanying correspondence relating to “An Historical Pageant of Northwestern University” that Lewis wrote and submitted, without success, to Dean Ralph Dennis and President Walter Dill Scott, and reviews and a jacket cover from Beads of Jade , her memoir of her childhood in China.

A final folder holds duplicate photocopies of some of the correspondence, made on plain paper (rather than thermal paper) at some undetermined time.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Library--Employees

Personal Name

Lewis, Eleanor F. (Eleanor Frances), 1882-1961

Subjects

Children of missionaries--China--Biography

Librarians--Illinois--Evanston


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical Materials, 1904-1977, n.d.Box 1, Folder 1
  • Biographical Materials: Spencer Lewis and Esther Bilbie Lewis, 1939-1944Box 1, Folder 2
  • Clippings, 1948-1962Box 1, Folder 3
  • Correspondence, 1911-1960, n.d.Box 1, Folder 4
  • McRae, Col. John (photocopies of typed transcriptions), 1913-1918Box 1, Folder 5
  • Speech to Chi Omega, 1945Box 1, Folder 6
  • Articles, 1907-1938Box 1, Folder 7
  • Bibliographies, 1929-1930Box 1, Folder 8
  • “An Historical Pageant of Northwestern University”Box 1, Folder 9
  • Beads of Jade (1958), cover and articlesBox 1, Folder 10
  • Duplicate photocopies (plain paper), 1958-1959Box 1, Folder 11