1882-1961; bulk: 1890-1961

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Mary Bowditch Forbes of Milton, Mass., an ardent anti-suffragist, conservative Republican, anti-pacifist, anti-socialist, amateur poet, and admirer of Abraham Lincoln.

Biographical Sketch

Mary Bowditch Forbes was the daughter of James Murray Forbes and Alice Bowditch Forbes. Her siblings were Dorothy Murray Forbes and Allan Forbes. She was a horse and dog enthusiast, admirer of Abraham Lincoln, amateur poet, political conservative, anti-pacifist, and anti-suffrage lobbyist. She was single, resided in Milton, Mass., and summered at a family home in Dark Harbor, Islesboro, Maine, and sometimes at Nantucket.

Collection Description

This collection consists of correspondence; account books; scrapbooks containing Mary Bowditch Forbes's poetry and material concerning pacifism, World War I, women's suffrage, socialism, and other political subjects; papers related to her anti-suffrage work, including correspondence with Clara Vezin of the New Jersey Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage; poetry of Forbes and others; papers related to Abraham Lincoln and a replica of his birthplace that Forbes had built in Milton, Mass.; and financial papers, including checkbooks, bank statements, and bills and receipts. Among Forbes's correspondents are her parents James Murray Forbes and Alice Bowditch Forbes, siblings Dorothy Murray Forbes and Allan Forbes, Theodore Roosevelt, F. Lauriston Bullard, Buckminster Fuller, Vivian T. Pomeroy, and Walter G. Page.

Acquisition Information

Gift of H. A. Crosby Forbes of Cambridge, Mass., 1992.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Correspondence, 1882-1961

Arranged chronologically.

The correspondence in this series relates to Mary Bowditch Forbes's many interests, in particular Abraham Lincoln; anti-suffrage and other conservative political stances, including strong anti-FDR and anti-pacifist beliefs; family conflicts, notably her sister Dorothy's alcoholism; and the expenses of the family property in Milton, Mass.

Box 1
Undated, 1882, 1900-1927

Among the correspondents are Forbes's mother and father, anti-suffragist Clara Vezin (23 Nov. 1907), diplomat W. Cameron Forbes (25 Sep. 1916), Theodore Roosevelt (4 Jan. 1917; 8 Aug. 1918), Clement H. Norton (30 Dec. 1919), the secretary to the president (26 Jan. 1924), Louis A. Coolidge (7 Feb. 1924), Gen. William H. Bisbee (3 Aug. 1924), and Henry R. Rathbone (3 June 1926). Subjects include World War I, anti-suffrage, the Lincoln Cabin (a replica in Milton, Mass.), and the death of Richard S. Fay.

Box 2

Among the correspondents is Walter Gilman Page (28 May 1929). Subjects include the Lincoln Cabin, trust funds, family correspondence, financial matters (particularly the Milton estate), and Dorothy Murray Forbes's alcohol abuse.

Box 3

Included is a copy of a Franklin Delano Roosevelt letter (25 Feb. 1937). Among the correspondents are Robert Washburn (29 Apr. 1940), Wendell L. Willkie (30 Nov. 1940), the secretary to Winston Churchill (3 Feb. 1941), Pearl S. Buck (19 Aug. 1942; 26 Oct. 1942; 11 Jan. 1943), and editor Virginia Pennington (from 8 Apr. 1944). Subjects include Forbes's support of Alf Landon and her antagonism towards Roosevelt; a family dispute over the expenses of the Milton estate; Abraham Lincoln's birthday and the Lincoln Cabin; insurance policies; Forbes's anti-socialist and anti-communist views; the Islesboro (Maine) property; the death of James Murray Forbes (1937); Mary Bowditch Forbes's contribution to a proposed book entitled Lincolniana in Private Collections, compiled by Virginia Pennington (of Hobbies Magazine); the treason trial of Elizabeth Dilling (22 May 1944); the launching of the ship R. B. Forbes (14 Sep. 1944); the National Cathedral Association; and the death of Dorothy Murray Forbes (Nov. 1944).

Box 4

Among the correspondents are Helen Keller (25 Mar. 1946), Virginia Pennington of Hobbies Magazine, Unitarian minister and writer Vivian T. Pomeroy (20 Dec. 1946), MHS director Stewart Mitchell (12 Mar. 1947), Dwight D. Eisenhower (20 Feb. 1948), R. Buckminster Fuller (Sep. 1949), F. Lauriston Bullard (17 Oct. 1949), the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (12 Nov. 1949), and musician, lecturer, and writer Boris Goldovsky (11 Dec. 1957). Subjects include financial matters and insurance, Abraham Lincoln, the proposed Lincolniana book, and appeals to charities.

II. Volumes, 1892-1955

A. Miscellaneous volumes, 1892-1955

Arranged chronologically.

Box 5Folder 1
Memorandum book, schedule for piano lessons, undated

This volume apparently did not belong to Mary Bowditch Forbes.

Box 5Folder 2
Telephone number book, undated
Box 5Folder 3
History notebook, 1892
Box 5Folder 4
Account book, 1899-1908

This volume was kept by James Murray Forbes for Mary Bowditch Forbes.

Box 5Folder 5
Account book, 1911-1919

This volume was kept by James Murray Forbes for Mary Bowditch Forbes.

Box 5Folder 6
Record of birthdays, 1931 to ?
Box 5Folder 7
Address book for Christmas cards, 1939
Box 5Folder 8
Account book, 1954-1955

B. Scrapbooks and guest books, 1910-1955

Arranged chronologically.

Box 5Folder 9
Scrapbook, undated

Included are papers related to U.S. presidents through Benjamin Harrison.

Box 6Folder 1
The Clamshell, 1910-1919

This volume contains photographs, signatures of guests, poetry, and newspaper clippings. Included are suffrage/anti-suffrage clippings and poetry, World War I clippings and memorabilia, and a signed Marcel Duchamp print of "Nude Descending a Staircase" on the last page.

Box 6Folder 2
The Pebble, Dark Harbor, Islesboro, Maine, 1913-1928

This volume contains photographs, newspaper clippings, signatures of guests, and poetry. Subjects include World War I, suffrage/anti-suffrage, and Forbes's anti-socialist views.

Box 7Folder 1
The Clamshell, 1920-1944

This volume contains signatures of guests, photographs of dogs, etc., poetry, and newspaper clippings. Subjects include the golden wedding anniversary of James Murray Forbes and Alice Bowditch Forbes.

Box 7Folder 2
The Lincoln Cabin, 1923-1926

This volume contains only signatures of guests.

Box 7Folder 3
Scrapbook, 1927-1950

Included are clippings, correspondence, and photographs from family vacations at Nantucket.

Box 8Folder 1-2
Scrapbook, 1936-1938

This volume contains newspaper clippings of Mary Bowditch Forbes's poetry and clippings related to her political and personal interests.

Box 8Folder 3-4
Scrapbook, 1938-1940

This volume contains newspaper clippings of Mary Bowditch Forbes's poetry and clippings related to her political and personal interests.

Box 8Folder 5
Anchors Aweigh, Islesboro, Maine, 1940-1955

This volume contains signatures, poetry, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Included is a poem by painter Margaret Fitzhugh Browne with her signature, as well as a photograph and a newspaper clipping.

III. Miscellaneous papers, 1887-1961

Box 9
Anti-suffrage papers, 1914-1922

Included are letters; notes, etc.; papers related to the National Women's Party meeting in Boston (1919); anti-suffrage newspaper clippings (1914-1920); printed anti-suffrage literature, including pamphlets, flyers, etc.; and a scrapbook of telegrams, newspaper clippings, correspondence, postcards, and other printed items.

Box 10
Writings and Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, 1887-1961

This box contains poems and writings by Mary Bowditch Forbes and others, including Forbes's autobiography; pencil drawings by Forbes; ephemera; and Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, including notes, clippings, and items sent to her by other Lincoln enthusiasts. Forbes's property in Milton, Mass., was an exact replica of Lincoln's birthplace, and she usually had a celebration there on the anniversary of his birth.

Box 11
Greeting cards, postcards, and miscellaneous newspaper clippings, 1916-ca. 1961

IV. Financial papers, 1901-1960

A. Bills and receipts, 1901-1960

Arranged chronologically.

Box 12
Box 13
Box 14
Box 15

B. Financial statements, 1924-1960

Arranged chronologically.

Box 16
Box 17
Box 18
1938-1950, 1952-Sep. 1953
Box 19
Oct. 1953-1954
Box 20
1955-Mar. 1956
Box 21
Apr. 1956-June 1957
Box 22
July 1957-10 Oct. 1958
Box 23
15 Oct. 1958-6 Jan. 1960
Box 24
12 Jan.-12 Dec. 1960
Box 24
Income taxes, 1955-1960

C. Checkbooks, 1923-1960

Arranged chronologically.

Box 25
Box 26
Box 27

V. Printed matter, 1883-ca. 1961

This series contains signed Buckminster Fuller printed items, Theodore Roosevelt Club circulars with engravings and original packaging, two maps, and a copy of Extending the Right of Suffrage to Women: Hearings Before the Committee on Woman Suffrage, H.R. Res. 200 (1918).

Box 28

Preferred Citation

Mary Bowditch Forbes papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Bullard, F. Lauriston (Frederic Lauriston), 1866-1952
Forbes, Alice Francis Bowditch, 1848-1929.
Forbes, Allan, 1874-1955.
Forbes, Dorothy Murray, 1881-1944.
Forbes, James Murray, 1845-1937.
Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895- .
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Museums.
Page, Walter Gilman, 1862-1934.
Pomeroy, Vivian T. (Vivian Towse), 1883-1961.
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919.
Vezin, Clara.


New Jersey Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.


Account books--1899-1908.
Account books--1911-1919.
Account books--1954-1955.
Family history--1900-1949.
Family history--1950-1999.
Women and peace.
Women and socialism.
Women poets.
World War, 1914-1918--Public opinion.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives. One glass-plate negative has been removed to Misc. Glass Plate Negatives (Box 2).