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Harriet Vittum Research Files

Identifier: Series 5

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Doris Overboe Papers fill five boxes and one card-file, and document her involvement with the Northwestern University Settlement Association (NUSA) and –the bulk of the materials—her research into the life of Harriet Vittum, long-time Head Resident at the Settlement. Although almost all of the research material consists of photocopies of original documents available elsewhere, the files provide leads and information about Vittum's life, and also reflect Overboe's research methods. Throughout the Overboe Papers, materials are organized roughly by subject (there is some overlap). Where possible, items are arranged chronologically within folders, although there is much undated material.

Files on Overboe's service with the NUSA include correspondence and general files, as well as files relating to specific roles she held on the various Boards. These files contain correspondence, memos from the NUSA, and Overboe's notes. Of particular interest are the “Leaves from the Past” articles that Overboe wrote for the NUSA newsletter from 1990 to 1999. The Centennial and Historical Committee file contains correspondence, meeting notes, outlines, and other documents showing how the committee proceeded. Other projects of note include her and her husband's work on the Campaign for Community Arts (1996-1998), which resulted in the construction of the Vittum Theater in the renovated Evanston Hall of the NUSA. One file documents the donation of the Records of the NUSA to the Northwestern University Archives in 1992. A final file relates to Overboe's work on another organization, the Children's Benefit League.

Overboe's editorship and contributions to the NUSA's centennial history, the Worn Doorstep, are documented in several files, including her drafts of sections on the North Shore Junior Board and other Boards, and research files on Wilton Wilson and Raymond Robins. Two typed drafts and a typeset manuscript are included. The correspondence with author Mark Wukas goes beyond the years of their collaboration, revealing the relationship the two had built. Letters from recipients of The Worn Doorstep, spanning the years 1991-1997, show Overboe's dedication to the project, her appreciation of those who helped with it, and her continuing efforts to promote the NUSA through the book (the final letter in the file is from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was presented with a copy in 1997).

A correspondence file summarizes the progress of the Women Building Chicago project. The vast amount of work that Overboe did in preparing her entry on Vittum for the book, from 1993 to 1999, is reflected in the many drafts of the article.

The papers include documentation of several other projects on Vittum that Overboe undertook during and after the work on Women Building Chicago. Her early intention to write a biography is evident during her participation in Artistic Circles, a writing group. She also successfully worked to have Vittum added to the Hall of Fame of Historic Illinoisians in the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 1994. The Vittum Park file documents Overboe's successful work in the rededication of the Park, at 5010 West 50th Street in Chicago, and includes copies of clippings from the original 1955 dedication as well as Overboe's correspondence with the Park District and her speech at the rededication event in 1996. In 1997, Overboe worked with the Parlin-Ingersoll Library in Canton, Illinois (Vittum's birthplace) to add Vittum to the Library's website of notable Illinois women.

Overboe's research files on Harriet Vittum fill two boxes and a card-file. Files fall into five categories: Biographical, Vittum Family Genealogy, Vittum Correspondence and Writings, Research Subject Files, and General Research Notes. As noted above, aside from the correspondence between Overboe and the research sources, almost all of the material is in the form of photocopies which Overboe obtained from a remarkable range of individuals and repositories. Materials are organized roughly by the main topics indicated in the folder titles.

The Vittum Biographical files include three folders of material from the estate of Augusta Webster, Vittum's friend and physician. After Webster's death, Overboe obtained these items, which include a number of newspaper clippings. The folders also include Overboe's correspondence with Webster and with her executors. Family genealogy files consist mainly of correspondence with distant relatives of Vittum; a separate file documents the long and lively correspondence Overboe maintained with Vittum's great-nephew, Daniel Vittum (Daniel Vittum became very involved in both the NUSA and the historical work Overboe was doing relating to his aunt). All of the material in the Vittum Correspondence and Writings files is photocopied from the General Administrative Records of the NUSA in the Northwestern University Archives.

The Research Subject Files are arranged alphabetically by either the person or topic covered in the file, or by the name of the repository or library from which the material was received. These files also contain photocopied material, often accompanied by Overboe's correspondence with the source. In the case of photocopied books or articles, the date in brackets indicates the original publication date. Two final folders and a card-file box contain miscellaneous notes and fragments of drafts.


  • c. 1990-2000


Conditions Governing Access

The folder relating to the Overboes' donations to the NUSA (Box 1, folder 3) is restricted; permission must be obtained from the Overboe family.


From the Collection: 6.00 Boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US