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MC 886; Vt-95; M-139

Goff, Beth. Papers of Beth Goff, 1883-2005: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 886; Vt-95; M-139
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Goff, Beth
Title: Papers of Beth Goff, 1883-2005
Date(s): 1883-2005
Quantity: 6.05 linear feet (14 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 3 folio folders, 1 oversize folder, 3 photograph folders, 1 videotape, 1 microfilm reel)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Diaries, correspondence, clippings, etc., of Beth Twiggar Goff, writer and social worker.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 90-M130, 91-M18, 91-M124, 92-M20, 92-M121, 93-M31, 93-M128, 93-M151, 93-M183, 94-M23, 95-M8. Accession numbers 96-M47, 97-M7, 97-M58, 98-M9, 98-M35, 98-M107, 98-M179, 99-M30, 99-M139, 2000-M84, 2001-M137, 2002-M90, 2003-M13, 2006-M165, 2012-M150 were added to the collection in November 2016.
These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Beth Twiggar Goff between August 1990 and February 2003, and by her son, Stephen Gartrell, in September 2006 and March 2012.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 1995
By: Jane S. Knowles,Adelaide Kennedy,Deborah Tucker,and Barbara Kravitz
Updated and additional material added: March 2017
By: Mark Vassar

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Beth Goff is held by Goff's literary executor, Susan H. Gartrell. Copyright transfers to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library upon Gartrell's death. 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.

Preferred Citation:

Beth Goff Papers, 1883-2005; item description, dates. MC 886, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

BIOGRAPHY

Beth (Twiggar) Goff, writer and social worker, was born August 11, 1913, in Ossining, New York, the daughter of Augusta Cornelia Meeks and Albert William Twiggar, a dentist and three times mayor of the town. Goff earned an A.B. from Skidmore (1935) and an M.S.S.W. from Columbia School of Social Work (1964). She was married to Norman Horte (1936, divorced 1937), to Augustus Blair Gartrell (1943, died 1953), and to Robert John Goff (1954 until his death in 1982). She is the mother of two sons: Daniel James and Stephen Derby Gartrell.
After college Goff took a number of jobs: as junior social worker at Children's Village, Dobbs Ferry (1935-1936), assistant in the Personnel Department, Macy and Co. (1936-1938), and assistant in the Consumer's Department and Mail Order Department at Sears Roebuck (1938-1940).
Her principal avocation, however, was always writing. From 1926 until 1992 she kept a journal of her activities and emotions, and since 1985 has written letter-diaries to a friend. She was a freelance writer of movie and theater publicity for the New York Herald Tribune and other New York papers, and published occasional stories in The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines. From 1942 until 1943 she was a researcher for Time Magazine. A story written for The New York Times Magazine on divorce was published as a book for children entitled Where Is Daddy? The Story of a Divorce (1969) and won a special citation from the Child Study Association of America.
In the fifties, finding that writing did not pay, Goff turned to social work. She took a position at the Rockland State Hospital (1957-1962) and, after completing social work training, joined the Mount Kisco Mental Health Clinic (1964-1966, 1968-1980). Her other positions included Director of Social Services, Northern Westchester Hospital (1966-1968), and citizen-at-large on the Board of Rockland Community Action Council, a local anti-poverty agency. Following the death of her husband Robert Goff in 1982, Goff again took to writing and continued to write short stories, children's stories, poetry, and several novels for most of the remainder of her life. Unfortunately she was only successful in getting a few of her short stories published and one autobiographical novel, Understanding Backwards, was self-published. Goff died in 2006 after a long illness.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in two series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

Collection consists of journals; correspondence; draft and published writings; biographical and personal material; letter-diaries written to Nathan Teitel; educational material; photographs; etc. The collection is organized in two series. Additional material (accession numbers 96-M47, 97-M7, 97-M58, 98-M9, 98-M35, 98-M107, 98-M179, 99-M30, 99-M139, 2000-M84, 2001-M137, 2002-M90, 2003-M13, 2006-M165, 2012-M150) was added to the collection in March 2017. This material is located in Series II (#118-220, Vt-95.1).
SERIES I, DIARIES, CORRESPONDENCE, AND RELATED, 1883-1994 (#1-117), consists of 54 journals (1926-1942, 1956-1994), with explanatory notes; letter-diaries written to Nathan Teitel (1985-1994); writings; scrapbooks; a household account book; and a spelling test from Skidmore College.
Early diaries, begun when Goff was 13, document her time at school in Ossining, New York, describing her class work and extracurricular activities (including team sports and acting), her relationships with her female friends and family, and her early experiences with dating boys. She regularly describes her feelings of inadequacy as a result of many of the boys she dates doing so for only a short time, as well as her self-consciousness about being taller than many boys her age. This self-consciousness continued into adulthood. Goff also describes several trips to West Point to participate in dances with several cadets, and her time at Skidmore College, as well as visiting several road houses during Prohibition. There is a gap in the journals between March 1933 and December 1934 at which time she was involved in a long-term relationship and engaged to be married. The engagement ended in December 1934 at which time Goff recorded entries in her journals for several days regarding the broken engagement and resumed making entries in August 1935. In 1936 the journals document her short-lived marriage to Norman Horte and her difficulties with the marriage and her relationship with her mother-in-law before traveling to Reno, Nevada, for a divorce in April 1937. During this time the journals also contain accounts of her time working at Children's Village, a facility for "troubled" juveniles, which she refers to as the "Juby."
In the early 1940s Goff's journals document her efforts at freelance writing for a number of newspapers and magazines and her unsuccessful efforts to secure a full-time writing position. They also describe her friendships and dating relationships with a number of men, making occasional veiled references to sexual activity, and contain a significant amount of personal introspection about her relationships with these men and those in her past. Journals during this period also contain occasional references to World War II. In her late 20s, Goff expresses her desire to have children (See #54, September 8, 1942) to give some meaning to her life, which is followed by one, introspective entry, and then a 14 month gap followed by a brief entry where she makes a side reference to her second marriage which occurred in July 1943, followed by the fragments of several torn-out pages. Later annotations made in the 1990s by Goff, indicate that she had no memory of why she had ceased maintaining journals in those years. There is a second gap in the journals between December 1943 and March 1956, which spans the time period when she met and married her second husband, Augustus Blair Gartrell, and had two children with him, and the period when she met and married her third husband, Robert Goff. Serveral times, in her diaries and elsewhere in the collection, she refers to her first two marriages being failures, but details of the second marriage are lacking except for several entries which postdate the marriage (See #62). Although she refers to a third pregnancy during this unsuccessful marriage, it is only in her later annotations in the 1990s that she mentions that she had an abortion. She resumed maintaining her journals in March of 1956, although entries are sporadic throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
During the 1970s Goff resumes making regular entries in her journals and describes her work with several patients at the Mount Kisco Mental Health Clinic; her relationships with her children and her third husband; and her dissatisfaction at her continued failed attempts at getting her writing published. As Goff nears her 60s, she begins to discuss issues with aging, including increased aches, pains, insomnia, and age-related illnesses. She also records her feelings about caring for an ailing and aging spouse as her husband Robert suffered from several strokes and other medical conditions, and was in need of the regular care of his wife and a visiting nurse until his death in 1982. From 1983 until 1994 Goff's journals contain regular entries regarding friends' deaths and her feelings about death, sexuality in later life, and depression and aging. They also contain entries regarding United States politics during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush presidencies, as well as its impact on world events, and her continued failures at getting her short stories and articles published. Explanatory notes were completed by Goff at some point in the 1990s and identify people referred to in the diaries and makes an effort to explain situations described and her feelings about the events and people. Later diaries are located in series II.
Letter-diaries written to author and poet Nathan Teitel discuss both Teitel's and Goff's marriages, their writing (mainly regarding Goff's), feelings about depression and aging, and United States politics. Two additional folders of letter/diaries are located in series II (#118-220, Vt-95.1). Also included in the series is correspondence with her third husband Robert Goff (1953-1954) which documents their courtship; a novel fragment (1920) written while in second grade; two scrapbooks of clippings of her theater and movie criticism (1939-1943, 1940-1954); and other published and unpublished writings (1947-1990). The scrapbooks of original newspaper articles, which were exceedingly fragile, were microfilmed on one reel (M-139) and returned to the donor. Goff's mother kept two scrapbooks of her daughter's articles which duplicated the microfilmed material; these were not microfilmed.
SERIES II, ADDENDA, 1932-2005 (#118-220, Vt-95.1) consists of journals (1995-2005), correspondence, writings, personal and biographical materials, educational materials, photographs, and a travel log. Journals in this series continue in a similar vein to her earlier journals and document her feelings about death, sexuality in later life, United States and world politics, and depression and aging, although Goff also tended to ruminate about her past relationships with men she had dated, her husbands, various friends, and her sons, daughters-in-law, and her grandchildren, as well as providing detailed accounts of events that occurred earlier in her lifetime. As she aged, Goff tended to write more infrequently in her journals, having only completed one entry for 2005 and none in 2006, the year of her death.
Correspondence in this series consists of letters sent by Goff to her son, Stephen Gartrell, while he attended Antioch College and the University of Washington. These letters contain news of family, including Beth and Robert Goff and their other son Dan; occurrences in West Nyack, New York; plays and films attended; gardening; etc. Other correspondence consists of letters received by Goff from her mother containing news of Ossining, New York, her family, and other towns people and friends while living in New York City and attempting to make a living at writing; letters from Skidmore College friends and former boyfriends; correspondence with agents, publishers, and editors regarding Goff's writing submissions to various publications (mainly rejection letters); condolence letters on the death of her two sisters (who died in the same year); and letters with the Schlesinger Library regarding the donation of her papers and with researchers regarding the use of her papers.
The bulk of the series consists of Goff's published and unpublished children's stories and plays, short stories, plays, novels, poetry, letters to the editor, etc. While most of her letters to the editor appeared in print, most of her other writings were never published. Earlier in her career she did publish reviews and articles in the New York Herald Tribune and other New York newspapers, and had several short stories published in the New Yorker, Script, The New York Times Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post (under the pen name Guy Hasbrouck), and The American Magazine. In 1969 Goff published the children's book Where Is Daddy? The Story of a Divorce, an earlier version of which appeared in The New York Times Magazine (1968) under the title "The Story of Bubbles." In 1998 Goff self-published her autobiographical novel, Understanding Backwards. An earlier version, although considerably different from the published version, is also included in this series under the title "The More Things Change: Jobs, Sex, and Attitudes." Two of Goff's children's stories, Secrets and A Visit to Dad's House (a version of her children's book Where Is Daddy? The Story of a Divorce) were recorded by Caedmon Records in 1971. While unpublished, several of her plays and children's plays were produced at the Elmwood Playhouse, a community theater in Nyack, New York, with which both Goff and her husband Robert were associated. It is assumed that the Cub Scout plays included in this series were performed by her sons' Cub Scout troops.
Other material in this series consists of an award received on the publication of her children's book Where Is Daddy? The Story of a Divorce; her degrees from Skidmore College and Columbia University; grade reports, transcripts, and her master's thesis from Columbia University; Skidmore College spelling test, writing assignments, and 25th and 50th reunion books; photographs of Goff and her family, as well as several photographs of rehearsals of one of Goff's play at the Elmwood theater; a biographical sketch; and a travel log of a trip to England taken with her husband Robert Goff in 1976. The series is arranged alphabetically. Folder titles were created by the archivist.

CONTAINER LIST

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Adolescence
Aging--Psychological aspects
Authors--United States
Bereavement--Psychological aspects
Diaries
Girls--Social life and customs--20th century
Journalists
Journalists--United States
Marriage--United States
New York (N.Y.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Older people--Sexual behavior
Ossining-on-Hudson (N.Y.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Social workers
Social workers--United States
Teenage girls--Social life and customs--20th century
Voyages and travels
Women--Sexual behavior
Women journalists--United States

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