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Call No.: SC 108
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Carola Bell Williams
Title: Papers of Carola Bell Williams, 1908-1982
Quantity: .63 linear feet (1+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 volume, 2 folio+ folders)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, publicity, monologue scripts, photographs, etc., of Carola Bell Williams, actress and monolgue writer who took graduate courses at Radcliffe College.
Carola Bell Williams, actress and monologue writer, was born in 1900 in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended local schools. After her father's death in 1913, her mother took her to Europe where she studied drama at a French boarding school in Munich. Her shock at seeing war preparations and troop movements was later expressed in the monologue "Good-Bye John".Williams received her A.B. (1921) from Flora Mather College of Western Reserve University and did graduate work at Radcliffe (1921-1923), where she joined the 47 Workshop under the direction of George Pierce Baker, and studied playwriting, acting, costumes, and stage design.Williams married Robert I. Williams, a patent attorney, and they had two sons, David and Hall. The family home was in Ossining, New York. David became a school principal and Hall, a physician. Williams's husband died in 1988.Williams's theatrical career, writing, directing, and acting in her own monologues, began in the mid 1940's following a serious illness and a series of jaw operations. In an interview, Williams described how "my jaw was wired and twisted, the mobility of my mouth gone. I had given up all hopes of ever acting again. But when you feel that you cannot do a thing, you find that you can." Her monologues provided Williams with the means to express her political, artistic, and religious convictions. Williams researched her characters thoroughly, and was meticulous in all details of language and costume. She focused on a wide spectrum of women who were exceptional in character and accomplishments and broke barriers by their courage, persistence, and grace in living.In 1949, Williams attended her first CFO (Camps Farthest Out) gathering, an interdenominational, interracial Christian movement with many camp conferences throughout the United States and Canada. This proved to be a personal and artistic turning point: her religious convictions present even in her early monologues, became more evident in her later work, culminating in 1951, with her monologue play, "The Supreme Court". Subsequently, almost all of Williams's artistic work centered on devotional subjects.
MONOLOGUES and PLAYS (1921-1984)
- "A Nice Boy and All That", 1921: Presents a glimpse into the relationships and family networks of the period.
- "Goodbye John", 1941: Monologue in 5 scenes expressing Carola Bell Williams's feelings about the senselessness of war and describing impact of the war on the lives of five women.
- "No Bowl of Cherries", 1941: Six different women's lives ranging from a charwoman to a middle American.
- The Foundling", 1943: Carola Bell Williams describes an early experiment in "progressive" child rearing and its consequences.
- "The Four Freedoms", 1944: The meaning of America and "The Four Freedoms" explained to a young girl journeying to America from a Japanese prison camp.
- "Remember The Ladies", 1944: This monologue incorporates eight monodrama-scenes and presents glimpses into the lives of eight significant American women, ranging from Abigail Adams, who admonishes her husband to "remember the ladies" in drafting the Constitution to a woman who contributes to the war effort by maintaining her husband's forge; also includes Susan B. Anthony who was committed to forging laws designed to set other women free.
- "Jennie June Croly", 1947: This monologue dramatizes the founder of women's clubs.
- "Henrietta Szold", 1947: This monologue presents a glimpse into the life and character of the founder of Israel's Hadassah Hospital and the Youth Aliya movement (a movement dedicated to the rescue of children from the camps of Nazi Europe and their rebirthing in Israel).
- "A New World", 1947: A charming fantasy about a world of good will. In this world, one may not buy good will, one may only "win it".
- "God's Supreme Court", 1951: Carola Bell Williams wrote that this monologue "came" to her one night as she slept. It embodies much of her religious philosophy as well as her dramatic art. In this monologue, seven women die in the same bus accident, appear before the heavenly tribunal and experience God's love in judgements.
- "Two Women of Bethlehem", 1952: This monologue depicts the birth of Jesus and, the responses of two women to the birth.
- "Who Dwelleth in the Secret Place", 1980: This is another monologue on the birth of Jesus. It refers to God as "she".
- "The Gospel according to St. Luke", 1983: Dialogue between Luke and Mary following the crucifixion.
- "A Meditation for Good Friday", 1984: Carola Bell Williams wrote that she felt that she was "guided" in her writing of this monologue. She wrote it for the benefit of her minister's presentation as part of his sermon for Good Friday. The monologue dramatizes a conversation between Mary and John at the time of Jesus's death.
This collection consists of personal, biographical, and professional papers and photographs of Carola Bell Williams, largely relating to her career as a playwright and actress. There are research notes, drafts and final scripts of Williams's monologues, production lists for costumes, sets, lighting and cues, correspondence, publicity, photographs and flyers. The personal papers consist of twenty-five years of Christmas poems, childhood and other writings.
- Box 1: 2-34
- Box 2: 35-66