Saxon, Hortense, 1902-1989. Papers of Hortense Saxon, 1922-1929: 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
Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 910
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Saxon, Hortense, 1902-1989
Title: Papers of Hortense Saxon, 1922-1929
Quantity: .63 linear feet (1 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence of Hortense Carter Saxon, an African American woman who worked as servant
and housekeeper. Also includes employment agency receipts, two bank passbooks, a health
booklet, and two photographs, presumably of Saxon.
Accession number: 2005-M24
The papers of Hortense Carter Saxon were acquired by the Schlesinger Library in April
2005 from Dan Casavant Rare Books.
Processed: May 2017
By: Jehan Sinclair, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.
Access. Collection is open for research.
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Hortense Carter Saxon as well as copyright
in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Hortense Saxon Papers, 1922-1929; item description, dates. MC 910, folder #. Schlesinger
Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Hortense Carter Saxon was an African American woman who worked as a servant and housekeeper.
She was born on June 28, 1902, in Norwich, Connecticut, to Solomon and Bettie Carter.
Saxon's father died when she was young. She grew up in Connecticut with her mother,
a laundress from Essex County, Virginia. Hortense Carter Saxon and Robert A. Saxon,
an itinerant porter, had a son (Howard Carter Saxon) at a young age, around 1918.
In the 1920 United States census, Hortense Carter Saxon and her son, Howard, are listed
as inmates at the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls, a reformatory institution
for delinquent girls located in Middletown, Connecticut.
Saxon worked in New York City in domestic service. She lived in Far Rockaway, Queens,
as well as in Harlem. While in Harlem she boarded with two friends of the family,
Lottie and Arthur Washington. Around 1927 she was a housekeeper for doctor Eleanor
Bertine, one of the first Jungian analysts in the United States and a founder of the
New York Association for Analytical Psychology. While working in New York City, Hortense
Carter Saxon sent money, clothing, and other goods to support her mother, who was
the primary caretaker of her son until the 1930s. She also supported her young cousin
Roland Ellis, who boarded with her mother in Hartford, Connecticut. Hortense Carter
Saxon's aunt Annie Cannon also lived with Bettie Carter intermittently and helped
take care of Howard and Roland.
Saxon kept in contact with friends and relatives from both her side and Robert A.
Saxon's side of the family. Throughout the 1920s, Hortense Carter Saxon maintained
romantic relationships with multiple men, some of whom were married. Around 1930,
she married Robert Saxon and moved to Queens, with their son, Howard. Hortense Carter
Saxon eventually returned to Hartford, Connecticut, and lived the rest of her life
there. In a 1986 newspaper article she is described as "a host of nieces, nephews,
other relatives, and friends." In Hartford, Connecticut, she was a member of St. Monica's
Episcopal Church and their Ladies Auxiliary. She was also a member of Trellis Temple
No. 663, Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of The World, and served as
president of their Purple Cross Unit. She died on February 24, 1989.
The papers of Hortense Carter Saxon include correspondence between Saxon, her family
and friends; employment agency receipts; bank passbooks; a health booklet; and two
photographs. These materials document the daily life and relationships of working-class
African Americans in Connecticut and New York. Reoccurring themes within correspondence
include financial difficulties, work and employment, daily errands and outings, health,
and social activities. Correspondence provides glimpses into social life and courtship.
It also demonstrates the daily personal and financial hardships ordinary African Americans
faced during this time period. Materials also offer insight into Black family life
and the extensive familial and community networks used for financial and social support.
Materials are arranged alphabetically. Some names found in the correspondence are
difficult to read. Names that appear in brackets were interpreted by the archivist
and may not reflect correct spelling. Individuals indicated as "boyfriend" are men
whose letters have a romantic tone or who are referred to as "daddy," a 1920s slang
term for a boyfriend or lover, especially one who is rich.
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available
- 1.1. Card from Mr. and Mrs. [B.A. Pearkes], 1926
- 1.2. Card from Hortense Carter Saxon, envelopes, and chain letter, 1924-1928
- 1.3. Employment agency receipts, bank passbooks, health booklet, 1923-1929
- 1.4. Letters from sister-in-law Mae Blackwell, 1924-1928.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss daily life and health among family, need for clothing, Blackwell's
brother Robert Saxon's drinking problem, and Blackwell's heart condition.
- 1.5. Letters from friend and boyfriend Jack Blaylock, 1923-1926, n.d.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss financial difficulties, need for financial assistance and clothing,
work, and daily life.
- 1.10. Correspondence with mother Bettie Carter, 1923-1929.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss daily life and health among family; Bettie Carter's difficulties caring
for her grandson, Howard Carter Saxon, on her own; clothing for Howard Carter Saxon
and Roland Ellis; and Bettie Carter's dislike for Robert Saxon. Letters also include
requests, reminders, and demands for Hortense Carter Saxon to send money, a prescription
note for nux vomica, and a letter from [Aloy] to Bettie Carter about moving in together.
- 1.12. Correspondence with cousin Roland Ellis, 1925-1927.
Scope and Contents: Letters thank Hortense Carter Saxon for the gifts and clothing she sends to Roland
Ellis. He often describes whether or not the clothing fits. Letters also discuss daily
life and well being of Howard Carter Saxon, Bettie Carter, and Annie Cannon. Also
includes letter from Roland Ellis's mother (Lillie Ellis) to Roland.
- 1.16. Correspondence with friend Natalie Jenkins, 1925-1926.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss health, social activities, work, and dissatisfaction and boredom with
living in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Jenkins asks Hortense Carter Saxon to visit
her at Rockaway Beach Hospital where she underwent an operation. Includes a letter
from "Aunt Josephine" to Natalie Jenkins discussing Josephine's illness and financial
difficulties. Also includes letter from Natalie Jenkins's sister (Eva) and two unsigned
- 2.1. Letters from son Howard Carter Saxon, 1924-1928.
Scope and Contents: Letters thank Hortense Carter Saxon for the gifts she sends and report on whether
or not the clothing she sends fits. Letters also discuss Howard Carter Saxon progress
in school, daily life and well being of the family, how he spent his Thanksgiving,
what he wants for his birthday, what he wants for Christmas, and playing in the snow
with his friends. He often relays messages from his grandmother, Bettie Carter, about
sending money or buying items and asks Hortense Carter Saxon to visit him in Hartford,
- 2.2. Correspondence with husband Robert Saxon, 1923-1927.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss Robert Saxon's various service jobs, financial difficulties, health,
their relationship, living in Florida, and when he is going to visit. He often asks
for Hortense to send him money, apologizes for not writing more often, and responds
to Hortense's presumably angry letters. Robert's stationery often reflects the places
he is currently working and includes The Burritt (New Britain, Connecticut), Hotel
Matis (Meriden, Connecticut), Royal Poinciana Hotel (Palm Beach, Florida), and Pequot
Casino (New London, Connecticut). Also includes a letter from his sister Mae Blackwell
asking for a pair of shoes and suggesting a visit to their sister Edith Saxon for
- 2.4. Letters from friend [Toot], 1922-1923.
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss how dull Meriden, Connecticut, is when friends are out of town, social
activities, happenings among friends, sexual relationships, and town gossip. [Toot]
describes someone who was arrested for "keeping a bad house" and a woman with an abusive
- 2.6. Letters from friend Lottie Washington, 1923-1929
Scope and Contents: Letters discuss daily life and health, work, social activities, and mentions hair
straightening tools. Includes doodle of Hortense Carter Saxon.
- 2.8. Unsigned repayment agreement from Gus Glover, 1924
- PD.1. Photographs: Hortense Carter Saxon and others, n.d.
Scope and Contents: Includes tintype photograph presumably of Hortense Carter Saxon, Howard Carter Saxon,
and two white children she looked after as a domestic worker. Also includes photograph,
presumably of Hortense Carter Saxon, standing in a field holding an object.
Adultery--New York (State)
African American children
African American families--Connecticut
African Americans--Social life and customs--20th century
African American women--Connecticut
African American women household employees
African American women--New York (State)
Courtship--New York (State)
Dating (Social customs)--New York (State)
Working class African Americans--United States
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)--Social life and customs--20th century