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The General Collections



Starting Places
Biographical Sources
PATHFINDER: Biographical Sources
Genealogies, Local and Family Histories, City Directories
arrow graphicMemorial Volumes
Women's Writings
Other Sources




Memorial Volumes
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“Death of Ann Elizabeth Pierce.” Frontispiece engraving from Memoir of Ann Elizabeth Pierce (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1833; BR1715.P43 P5). General Collections.

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The General Collections hold about one hundred purportedly true accounts of the brief but exemplary lives and pious deaths of precocious children, and about eighty of these works describe girls. This unusual collection contains titles such as:

  • “Asleep in Christ”: A Short Narrative of Mary Harbridge by “her pastor” I. W. Baynes (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1839; BR1715.H33 B35) [catalog record]
  • Tears and Consolations: or, A Simple Recital of the Life and Death of Little Jenny by César Malan (Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1849; BR1715.J4 M3) [catalog record].
Written by parents, ministers, or friends, these stories present views on sin in children, stress the importance of early religious education, highlight the proper behavior of girls (with frequent emphasis on cleanliness and neatness), and describe how parents should approach the deaths of their children. Many were published by Sunday School societies in the first half of the nineteenth century. Other similar volumes may be found in the Rare Book and Microform Reading Rooms. The Library has digitized more than thirty memorial volumes including the two named above. From the catalog records, you can select PDF or Page view. List of digitized volumes. The American Memory site Sunday School Books: Shaping the Values of Youth in Nineteenth-Century America provides wonderful materials to give context to the memorial volumes.

Women (and more frequently men) were memorialized in a similar fashion. Relatives or friends published biographies, often with excerpts from diaries, letters, poems, and funeral sermons.The volumes were meant to show how a life should be lived. As one author explained in writing of her grandmother, she hoped “that the example of her pure and lovely life might have its effect upon her great-grandchildren, as well as upon my own generation.”10 These biographies, usually brief, provide rare glimpses into the lives of lesser-known women.

Among the topics often covered are

  • religious practices
  • marital relationships
  • childbearing
  • health
  • travels
  • how the women were perceived by friends and family


Davis, Gwenn, and Beverly A. Joyce, comps. Personal Writings by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989. Z1229.W8 D38 1989 MRR Alc [catalog record]. Search the index under “Memorial volumes.”

SAMPLE LCSH: As a rule, the only subject heading for memorial volumes is the name of the child or woman, so they must be searched by call number or through bibliographies.

LC CALL NUMBERS: Mostly in BR1714-BR1715 (for children) or CT275 (for women and men). Others on women have call numbers for specific occupations, such as nurses (some in RT37) or teachers (some in LA2317).

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