MC 396; M-131
Northrop, Alice Rich, 1864-1922. Papers of Alice Rich Northrop, 1883-1924: A Finding
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 396; M-131
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Northrop, Alice Rich, 1864-1922
Title: Papers of Alice Rich Northrop, 1883-1924
Quantity: 3.34 linear feet (8 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Diaries, photographs, etc., of Alice (Rich) Northrop, author and botanist.
Accession numbers: 89-M22, 2009-M164. 2009-M164 was added to the collection in April 2017.
The papers of Alice Rich Northrop were given to the Schlesinger Library by her grandsons
John Northrop in January 1989 and Geoffrey Northrop in August 2009. Folders #1v-15v were microfilmed with funds from the John H. Northrop
estate and from the Friends of the Schlesinger Library.
Processed: July 1990
By: Eve Golden
Updated: April 2017
By: Anne Engelhart
Access. Originals of #1v-15v are closed; use microfilm M-131. The remainder of the
collection is open for research.
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Alice Rich Northrop is held by the President
and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers
in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
The diaries of Alice Rich Northrop were microfilmed because of their fragility, and
to make copies more widely available.
Undated diary pages were numbered by the processor to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader,
and the researcher. In most volumes diary pages are headed by printed dates; in these
cases no numbers were added.
Information added by the processor, such as page numbers or dates, is enclosed in
The film was proofread by the processor and corrections made where necessary. These
corrections may disrupt the sequence of frame numbers.
Although care was taken to ensure that the material be as legible as possible, the
condition of some of the volumes and items made microfilming difficult:
1. Much of the paper is brittle and in many cases sections of pages have crumbled
2. Several of the volumes have suffered severe insect damage, so that parts of many
pages are missing.
3. Many photographs are faded or have been defaced.
4. Many entries were written in pencil, which has faded.
5. Several of the books are badly discolored by glue stains and/or chemical reactions
The 1908 journal (9v) was removed from its binder for preservation purposes and filmed
as a series of loose leaves. These are filed in folders but folder numbers do not
appear on the microfilm. Though filmed in chronological order, this journal is listed
out of order in the inventory because it is stored in its own box.
All pages used by Northrop, either for writing or for affixing clippings, photographs,
etc., were filmed. Unused pages were not filmed. In dated diaries the dates of the
unfilmed pages have been noted in square brackets by the processor. In 8v-15v all
of these notes have been filmed. In 1v-7v, when the notes fell on an otherwise empty
two-page spread, it may be absent; all of Northrop's material is present, however.
The versos of envelopes were microfilmed only if they contained return addresses or
Loose items that obviously belonged where they were found were filmed there. Other
loose items were filmed at the end of the volume in which they were found.
Some enclosures referred to in letters are missing.
In some cases letters are attached to diary pages in such a way that a page or a signature
cannot be read.
Some pages had to be filmed more than once for one or both of the following reasons:
1. The presence of folded and/or multiple-paged items, such as cards, clippings, or
2. Postcards or photographs that were hinged to make the text on the reverse side
In some cases, theater programs and other multiple-paged items were not filmed in
their entirety, but only the pertinent page(s), with the title page where necessary
to establish name and date of publication or event.
Northrop frequently pressed botanical and other specimens in her notebooks. When the
specimen was well attached or well preserved, it was left in place and filmed. Some
specimens had crumbled so badly that they had to be removed before filming.
Some volume numbers in the inventory do not agree with the volume numbers that Northrop
REEL LIST (M-131)
Folders 1v-7v: M-131, Reel 1
Folders 8v-13v: M-131, Reel 2
Folders 14v-15v: M-131, Reel 3
Alice Rich Northrop Papers, 1883-1924; item description, dates. MC 396, folder #.
Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
The daughter of Mary (Althouse) Rich and Franklin Rich, Alice Bell (Rich) Northrop
was born in New York City on March 6, 1864. She had two brothers and a sister, all
younger than she; all three had died by the time Northrop was thirty-four. She attended
New York public schools and Hunter College, and then taught briefly in the New York
City school system.
Northrop's diaries begin just before her nineteenth birthday and indicate an early
and intense interest in nature studies. In 1889, at the age of twenty-five, she married
John Isiah Northrop, an instructor of botany and zoology at Columbia University. The
couple commenced a series of wide-ranging field trips, but in 1891, almost exactly
two years after their marriage, Dr. Northrop was killed in a laboratory explosion
at the Columbia School of Mines. Northrop's only child, John Howard Northrop (Nobel
Laureate in Chemistry, 1946), was born eight days after his father's death. Northrop
suffered a long and severe illness after the near-simultaneous loss of her husband
and birth of her son, but then began to rebuild her life. She was by then instructor
of botany at Hunter College, and continued to teach there throughout the period covered
by these papers. She did not marry again, but raised her son alone, suspending her
travels for several years while he was very young; when he was about six she resumed
them, taking him with her.
She traveled widely in the American and Canadian West and Northwest, and in Central
America and the Caribbean, at a time when most of these areas were considered inaccessible
to non-native women, and were still largely unexplored even by (non-native) men. Throughout
her adult life she endeavored to make the joys of nature available to people confined
to cities, and for this purpose she founded the School Nature League in 1917. The
Northrop Memorial Nature Camp was eventually established at her property in Mt. Washington,
Massachusetts, to continue that work.
Northrop helped write two books: A Naturalist in the Bahamas, written with her husband and edited by H.F. Osborn (ca.1910); and Through Field and Woodland, a guide to upland flora in New England, edited by O.P. Medsger (New York: Putnam, 1925). She also contributed articles to
botanical journals, and gave new plant specimens as well as writings to major research
institutions, among them the American Museum of Natural History, the Gray Herbarium
at Harvard, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.
Northrop lived most of her adult life in New York State: in Yonkers, and in Columbia
County in the Berkshires, where she also had a house. In 1919 she moved to High Meadows
Farm near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where the Northrop Memorial Camp now stands.
While she was out with colleagues to complete the arrangements for the foundation
of the camp, her car was hit by a train, and she died on May 6, 1922, at Mt. Riga,
The collection consists of bound diaries, a loose-leaf journal (which was dismantled
and put into folders for preservation), and small notebooks. Most of these volumes
were used as a combination of diary, scrapbook, and field notebook, but a few were
travel diaries alone: for instance 7v, which covers the 1906 Central America trip,
and 9v, the 1908 Gold River expedition. Northrop saved photographs, plant and insect
specimens, sketches, field notes, theater programs, and correspondence, and kept them
in her diaries. She was a humorous, keen, and methodical observer of the external
world. If her interest extended to the internal world, she did not document it in
her diaries, which tended to focus on the practical rather than the emotional side
of her life; some of the diaries in the later accession (#18-33) have a little more
detail about her thoughts and feelings. Many of the diaries contain the program of
outings for her nature study courses. Also included are a photograph of Northrop and
her son; letters and clippings on the deaths of John Isiah Northrop and Alice Rich
- Box 1: 1v-7v
- Box 2: 8v, 10v-11v
- Box 3: 9v (9v.a-9v.n)
- Box 4: 12v-15v
- Box 5: 16-22, 24-25
- Box 6: 26-28
- Box 7: 29-31
- Box 8: 32-34
- 16. Clippings and photocopies of letters re: death of John Isiah Northrop, 1891; also
photocopy of letter by Northrop on his accident, 1891
- 17. Letters, clippings, memorials re: death of Alice Rich Northrop, 1922; also brochure
published by the School Nature League, ca.1924
- 18. Diary, September 1, 1883 - April 9, 1884
- 19. Diary, April 9, 1884 - September 6, 1884
- 20. Diary, July-August 1887
- 21. Diary, 1897-1899; includes photographs of Nova Scotia
- 22. Diary, 1900; includes photograph, images of places visited such as Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island.
See #23f+ for schedule removed from #22.
- 23f+. Maps removed from #22, 29, 31.
- 24. Diary, 1900; includes lists of bird sightings
- 25. Diary, 1901; includes photographs
- 26. Diary, 1903; includes photographs, clippings, etc.
- 27. Diary, 1904; includes travels to St. Louis World's Fair, Great Lakes, photographs,
maps, schedules, letter, etc.
- 28. Diary, 1906; includes photographs
- 29. Diary, August-September, 1906?; includes travel to Great Britain, photographs, images,
See #23f+ for map removed from #29.
- 30. Diary, 1908; includes clippings, photographs, etc.
- 31. Diary, 1911; includes travels to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, clippings, maps, images,
photographs, etc.; also clipping, program, 1895-1896.
See #23f+ for schedule removed from #31.
- 32. Diary, 1915; includes travels to Florida, letters, photographs, letters, programs
- 34. Photographs, postcards, letters, program, etc., removed from #33
- 35. Photograph: Alice Rich Northrop and John Howard Northrop, ca. 1906.
FILED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS.
Bird watchers--United States
Columbia River Valley--Description and travel
Florida--Description and travel
Gold River Valley--Description and travel
Great Britain--Description and travel
Maritime Provinces--Description and travel
Women botanists--United States
Women naturalists--United States
Women scientists--United States
Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922
Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 : Saint Louis, Mo.)
Medsger, Oliver Perry, 1870-1954
Northrop, John Howard, 1891-1987
Northrop, John I. (John Isaiah), 1861-1891
Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935
Shaw, Charles H.