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MC 811

Mattlage, Louise. Papers of Louise Mattlage, 1937-1995: A Finding Aid

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

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 811
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Mattlage, Louise
Title: Papers of Louise Mattlage, 1937-1995
Date(s): 1937-1995
Quantity: 3.55 linear feet (8 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 9 photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Unpublished and published poetry, clippings, programs, scrapbooks, photographs, etc., of feminist Louise Mattlage, poet, teacher, and dancer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 2005-M44
The papers of Louise Mattlage were given to the Schlesinger Library by her daughter, Valerie Mattlage, in 2005.

Processing Information:

Processed: December 2014
By: Jennifer Beigel with the assistance of Mark Vassar and Dan Bullman.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Louise Mattlage 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.

Preferred Citation:

Louise Mattlage Papers, 1937-1995; item description, dates. MC 811, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Valerie Mattlage
Accession number: 2005-M44
Processed by: Jennifer Beigel
The following newsletters and periodicals have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Printed Materials Division:
The following books have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Printed Materials Division pending review by curator:
The following periodicals have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Harvard-Yenching Library:


Marie Louise Mattlage, known as Louise, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1906, the daughter of Alsatian immigrants. Her father, who held a PhD in chemistry, relocated the family for work. She attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. In 1930, she married Walter F. Mattlage and the couple had two children, Valerie and Jonathan. The family lived in New York and Connecticut for much of their lives. Mattlage was a feminist, as well as a poet, dancer, and teacher. During her career, she worked as a dance instructor at the YWCA, the New Paltz Normal School, the West Chester Art Center, and the University of Bridgeport. She was the director of both the Fairfield County Modern Dance Workshop, a dance troupe composed of young mothers, as well as the Dancers of Faith, a group based in Connecticut devoted to spiritual worship through dance. She also served as the president of the Sacred Dance Foundation. She authored four books of poetry, as well as Faith Dancing: An Affirmation of Life, published in 1974. She traveled extensively throughout her life, eventually moving to Southport, Connecticut, in 1970 and spending winters if Key Biscayne, Florida. In 1989 she and her husband relocated to Boca Raton, Florida, where they lived until their death. In 1999, she passed away at the age of 92 due to advanced Alzheimer's Disease.


The collection is arranged in three series:


Series I, PERSONAL,1953-1992 (#1.1-1.6), includes personal correspondence with friends and colleagues. Many of these letters focus on stages of her professional career, such as her departure from University of Bridgeport and her involvement with the Dancers of Faith. Other letters discuss her children. There is also a letter from a doctor giving her the number of an Alzheimer's support group, the only mention in her papers of the illness that would eventually take her life. Also included is personal journal containing both entries about her everyday life and drafts of poems, itineraries and clippings about the Festival de Musique, a festival she attended several times, and several handwritten notes to herself and to her family members. This series includes a folder of letters that Mattlage wrote to an unknown recipient. It is unclear whether they are actual correspondence, an essay, or a short story. In these letters, Mattlage discusses her complicated relationship with her faith and refers to the struggles that the unknown recipient has been through. Folder titles were created by the processor. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series II., PROFESSIONAL, 1937-1992 (#1.7-9.4, FD.1, F+D.1), includes Mattlage's published and unpublished writings, including poems, essays, newspaper articles, lectures, and children's stories. Mattlage's writing illuminates her views on the relationship between religion and dancing, her childhood, her relationship with her family, and the place of women in the world. Many of her poems and essays concern injustices visited upon historical and mythical women. She also wrote numerous poems dedicated to her daughter, Valerie, whom she refers to as her best friend. Mattlage's essays offer glimpses into her childhood that her personal papers do not offer. In various essays, she writes about the experience of growing up as the child of immigrants, of a near-death experience caused by a high fever, and the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. Other essays range in topic and discuss the negative effect of competition on children; ageism in the dance world; the suicide of her friend, Elizabeth Gould Davis; and the difficulties of balancing her life and career with her husband's career. Mattlage also wrote numerous essays and poems concerning her travels to foreign countries including China, Japan, and the Philippines. Also included in the collection are materials relating to her dance career, including clippings, announcements, advertisements, programs, performance scripts, photographs, and choreography drawings. These papers also document the performances she participated in with the Dancers of Faith during the height of her dancing career. Clippings are filled with effusive praise over the uniqueness and talent of Mattlage and her dancers. Scripts and choreography illustrations provide details of the content of the performances. Also included is her artwork, which consists mainly of abstract watercolor paintings and pencil drawings. Folder titles were created by the processor. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1942-1995 (#PD.1-PD.10f), includes photographs of Louise Mattlage in various dance poses and in a number performances with other dancers, including the Dancers of Faith. Also, included are photographs of students from the New Paltz Normal School in dance classes and performances. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Arts and religion--United States
Child sexual abuse--United States
Dancers--United States
Improvisation in dance--United States
Manuscripts for publication
Modern dance--United States
Poets, American--20th century
Voyages and travels
Dancers of Faith (Dance company)