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

 Person

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.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Eleanor F. Lewis (1882-1961) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 9/3/1
Overview 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.