About this collection

The May Wright Sewall Papers are a collection of documents comprised of approximately 500 letters written to May Wright Sewall dated between 1879 and 1919, and three guest books with remarks and signatures from 197 guests of the Sewall house.

The correspondents represented in this collection include not only people important to the history of Indiana but also those involved in national and international politics, social movements, and the arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These letters offer a fascinating first-hand glimpse into the issues of the times.

"I never left Mrs. Sewall’s presence without resolving to be more outspoken in good causes, more constant in their service, without a fresh resolve to let trivial concerns go and emphasize only really vital interests." -- Grace Julian Clarke

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Unbound by tradition, May Eliza Wright Sewall (1844-1920) endeavored to do all she could for causes still being fought for today-education, women’s rights, cultural enrichment, and world peace. From modest beginnings as a teacher in a one-room Wisconsin school, she became one of the leading citizens of Indianapolis and founder-with her husband Theodore-of the Girls’ Classical School of Indianapolis. Sewall helped to form many of the city’s enduring organizations: the Indianapolis Woman’s Club, the Indianapolis Propylaeum, the Contemporary Club and the Art Association of Indianapolis which has grown into the internationally-respected Indianapolis Museum of Art. She worked tirelessly on behalf of rights for women in the United States-and around the world-during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, giving the women’s movement an international focus through her pioneering involvement with the International Council of Women and the American National Council of Women.

Indianapolis author Booth Tarkington boldly claimed that, in company with Benjamin Harrison and James Whitcomb Riley, Sewall "would necessarily have been chosen ... as one of the ’three most prominent citizens’ of the place."

 
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