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Elizabeth Henley Papers, 1918-2000

By Finding aid prepared by Trevor Sandgathe and Elizabeth Nielsen.

Collection Overview

Title: Elizabeth Henley Papers, 1918-2000

Predominant Dates: 1955-1981

ID: MSS Henley

Primary Creator: Henley, Elizabeth (1912-1981)

Extent: 1.05 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The Elizabeth Henley Papers are comprised of three series: Series 1. Research Materials, circa 1975-1980; Series 2. Written Works, 1928-2000; and Series 3. Personal Records, circa 1918 - 1981.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Elizabeth Henley Papers document the life and work of Elizabeth Henley, a Pacific Northwest poet and member of the Oregon State University faculty from 1959 to 1975. The collection is comprised of research materials; manuscript and audio-recorded drafts of Henley's work; published and pre-publication poetry; and personal materials including photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and yearbooks.

Scope and Content Notes

The Elizabeth Henley Papers are comprised of research materials and drafts, published and pre-publication poetry, and a small body of personal items documenting her life and interests. The bulk of the collection appears to relate to an unfinished book on author Walter De La Mare and includes 9 research notebooks, seven audiotapes, and a small body of transcripts derived from audio-recorded dictation. Henley's research files are comprised predominately of notes and early drafts, transcripts of poetry from other writers, and bibliographic references. The audiotapes include drafts dictated by Henley. These materials are largely undated but appear to have been generated after her retirement in 1975.

The collection also includes numerous examples of Henley's poetry including a "self-help manual for written examinations," a collection of poetry titled A Northwest Childhood, the posthumously published collection To Hear Unspoken Things, as well as several anthologies and literary magazines in which her work appears. The series also includes two handmade books, one featuring Henley's writing, and a small group of loose poems.

Also present is a small body of personal materials including 19 photographic prints and one photonegative, a small collection of greeting cards and correspondence, newspaper clippings, and several yearbooks.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Elizabeth Henley (née Watts) was born in 1912 in Bellingham, Washington. She attended the Bellingham Normal School and Whatcom High School before being admitted to the University of Washington, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English. Henley taught courses at the University of Washington between 1934 and 1940, while simultaneously establishing her reputation as a successful poet. After she married Preston Henley in 1940, the Henley family relocated several times. Henley taught at Hunter College in New York City and, later, Portland State College in Portland, Oregon. In 1959, Henley joined the English faculty at Oregon State College, where she remained until her retirement in 1975. She passed away in 1981.

Henley's literary interests were broad and included both poetry and children's literature. She had poetry published in numerous literary magazines, collections, and anthologies and a collection of her works, To Hear Unspoken Things, was published posthumously in 2000.

Author: Trevor Sandgathe

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 4 boxes, including 19 photographic prints, 1 photographic negative, 7 audiocassettes, and 1 oversize box

Statement on Access: This collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: Materials in the Elizabeth Henley Papers were donated to the Oregon State University Archives in 2009 by Elizabeth's son, John Henley. Additional accessions were received in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The collection now resides in the OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

Related Materials:

The OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center holdings include two oral history interviews with Elizabeth Henley's son, John Henley. These recordings are available in the OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 026). Additional materials related to the life and work of Elizabeth Henley can be found in the Oregon State University Memorabilia Collection (MSS MC), Harriet's Photograph Collection (P HC), and the News and Communication Services Records (RG 203).

The papers of other English Department faculty and poets can be found in the  Peter Copek Papers (MSS Copek), Richard Dankleff Sound Recording (MSS Dankleff), Ray S. Hewitt Collection (MSS Hewitt), Sigurd Peterson Collection (MSS PetersonS), and the M. Ellwood Smith Papers (MSS SmithME), Bernard Malamud Papers (MSS Malamud), and the Edwin T. Reed Papers (MSS Reed). Records documenting the English Department are located in the College of Liberal Arts Records (RG 143) and the English Department Photographs (P 222).

Preferred Citation: Elizabeth Henley Papers (MSS Henley), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: The Elizabeth Henley Papers were processed in 2010. The collection was reprocessed in 2018 to include recently accessioned materials.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid replaces a collection-level finding aid that was prepared in 2010.


Henley, Elizabeth (1912-1981)

People, Places, and Topics

American poetry--Oregon.
Children's poetry.
De la Mare, Walter, 1873-1956
Henley, Elizabeth, 1912-1981
Oregon State University--Faculty.
University History

Forms of Material

Film negatives.
Photographic prints.
Poetry--Women authors.

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Research Materials, circa 1975-1980

Series 1 is comprised of materials documenting Henley's research and writing processes, predominately relating to her unfinished book on author Walter de la Mare. Though largely undated, the materials in this series appear to have been generated after Henley's retirement in 1975.

The majority of series 1 is comprised of 9 notebooks which include partial drafts and notes about draft revisions, transcribed works from other poets, and bibliographic references. The notebooks also contain tipped-in items, including newspaper clippings, typed drafts, and other notes. In addition to the notebooks, the series contains 7 audiotapes with draft dictations and a series of typed transcripts likely produced using the included audiotapes. These transcripts appear to include near-final drafts of portions of Henley's de la Mare work. The series also contains a set of bibliographic note cards which appear to mirror, in part, bibliographic references in the notebooks.

Box-Folder 1.1: Notebook 1
Box-Folder 1.2: Notebook 2
Box-Folder 1.3: Notebook 3
Box-Folder 1.4: Notebook 4
Box-Folder 1.5: Notebook 5
Box-Folder 1.6: Notebook 6
Box-Folder 1.7: Notebook 7
Box-Folder 1.8: Notebook 8
Box-Folder 1.9: Notebook 9
Box-Folder 1.10: Bibliographic notes
Box-Folder 1.11: Draft audiotapes
Box-Folder 1.12: Draft audiotapes
Box-Folder 2.1: Draft transcripts
Series 2: Written Works, 1928-2000

Series 2 is comprised of published and pre-publication written works authored by Henley. The majority of the series is dedicated to Henley's poetry, though it does includes a "how-to" booklet for written exams, likely created for use by Henley's students at Oregon State College.

Extant poetic works include the unpublished collection of poems titled A Northwest Childhood; two collections of her works including a published volume titled To Hear Unspoken Things, a volume produced posthumously by her son, John Henley, and two nieces; three anthologies in which her work appeared: Whatcom Verse (1930), Birthday Candles Burning Bright (1960), and Unique: 66 Poems by 66 Poets (1969); and five literary magazines in which she was published: Poetry (1954 and 1960), The New Orleans Poetry Journal (1959), and The Horn Book Magazine (1979 and 1980). The series also includes two handmade books (one titled My God-daughters Book with poetry by Henley and a small book of Biblical verses) and five loose poems including one partial, handwritten draft.

Box-Folder 2.2: "Aristotle's Mittens: A Self-help Manual for Written Examinations", circa 1950
Box-Folder 2.3: A Northwest Childhood, undated
Box-Folder 2.4: The Selected Works of Elizabeth Watts Henley, ed. Ellen Watts Lodine, circa 2000
Box-Folder 2.5: To Hear Unspoken Things: Poems by Elizabeth Henley, ed. Ellen Watts Lodine, 2000
Box-Folder 2.6: Anthologies, 1930-1969
Box-Folder 2.7: Literary magazines, 1954-1980
Box-Folder 3.1: Loose poems, 1928-1964
Box-Folder 3.2: Handmade booklets, circa 1955
Box-Folder 3.3: "Discovering Oregon Originals" event materials, 2000
Series 3: Personal Records, circa 1918-1981

Series 3 includes a small amount of correspondence and greeting cards, newspaper clippings, photographs, a catalog from the State Normal School in Bellingham, Washington, and yearbooks from Whatcom High School and the University of Washington.

The newspaper clippings include Henley's marriage announcement and her obituary, several articles about local writers, and six articles about the disappearance of Thomas L. Gatch, Jr. (great-grandson of Oregon Agricultural College president Thomas Gatch) during his attempt to cross the Atlantic via air balloon. The photographs include portraits and candid shots of Henley throughout her life, images of friends and family, and views of Henley family homes.

Box-Folder 3.4: Correspondence and greeting cards, circa 1974-1980
Box-Folder 3.5: Newspaper clippings, circa 1940-1981
Box-Folder 3.6: Photographs, circa 1930-1980
Box-Folder 4.1: Photographs (oversized), circa 1930-1956
Box-Folder 3.7: State Normal School Catalog, Bellingham, Washington, 1918
Box-Folder 3.8: Kulshan, Whatcom High School, Bellingham, Washington, 1927
Box-Folder 3.9: Tyee, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 1931

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