Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Caroline F. Putnam Papers, 1868-1895

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray and Meg Hixon, July 2011

Summary Information
Title: Caroline F. Putnam papers
Creator: Holley, Sallie, 1818-1893 and Howland, Emily, 1827-1929
Inclusive dates: 1868-1895
Bulk dates: 1868-1877
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection consists of personal letters that Caroline F. Putnam, an antislavery activist and schoolteacher, wrote to Sallie Holley and Emily Howland, her colleagues and friends, between 1868 and around 1877. Putnam described the everyday challenges of running a school for freed slaves in Lottsburg, Virginia, as well as Reconstruction politics in the postwar South.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Helen R. Liedel (Mrs. Donald E. Liedel), 2006. M-4499.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Caroline F. Putnam Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with fragments and an invitation placed at the end.


Caroline F. Putnam was born in Massachusetts on July 29, 1826, and entered Oberlin College in 1848. There, she became involved in the abolitionist movement and met Sallie Holley (1818-1893), a fellow abolitionist who became Putnam's lifelong friend. After their graduation, the two women traveled around the northern United States to raise support for abolitionism, and both grew interested in the welfare of freed slaves during the early years of the Civil War. In 1868, Putnam opened the Holley School in Lottsburg, Virginia, named in honor of Sallie Holley. The school held daytime classes for African American children and evening classes for freed slaves to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. Putnam ran the school until her retirement in 1903. She died in Lottsburg on January 14, 1917.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (111 items) contains personal letters that antislavery activist and schoolteacher Caroline F. Putnam wrote to Sallie Holley and Emily Howland, her colleagues and friends, between October 22, 1868, and 1877. Putnam described the everyday challenges of running a freedmen's school in Lottsburg, Virginia, as well as Reconstruction politics in the postwar South.

In her earliest letters, Putnam discussed an upcoming trip to Virginia; her impressions of Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.; and the opening of the Holley School in Lottsburg Virginia, in 1868. Most letters pertain to her life and work at the Holley School, the administrative aspects of running the school, and the numerous struggles faced by her students, mostly freed slaves and their children. On November 21, 1868, she described classroom conditions on one particularly cold evening, encouraged other educated women to help educate former slaves, and favorably compared her students to their white counterparts. Her letters to Holley often mention the work of Emily Howland, who ran a similar school in Heathsville, Virginia, until 1870. In her later letters, Putnam addressed the positive and negative responses to the school from members of the community, such as the moving reflection of an African American preacher overwhelmed by seeing children from his community coming home from school, as only white children had been able to do before the war (November 21, 1868).

Putnam also wrote about local politics and the Grant administration. For example, she addressed one letter to Senator Charles Sumner, congratulating him on his efforts to prevent disenfranchisement of freedmen (December 25, 1869). She read widely, and her letters often contained references to both local and national newspapers.

Additional material includes a printed invitation from Booker T. Washington to the Fourth Annual Session of the Tuskegee Negro Conference (ca. 1895), and several fragments.

Subject Terms

    • African Americans--Education--Southern States.
    • Freedmen--United States.
    • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
    • Northumberland County (Va.)
    • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--Virginia.
    • Virginia--Politics and government--1865-1950.
    • Women teachers--United States.
    • Putnam, Caroline F., 1826-1917.
    Genre Terms:
    • Invitations.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Caroline F. Putnam papers [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-17
     October 22, 1868-December 1, 1875, and  undated
    Folder   18  
    Fragments and Printed Invitation
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The following manuscript collections have additional manuscripts by and related to Caroline Putnam and Sallie Holley:

    The following item is housed in the Book Division: Herbig, Katherine L. Friends for Freedom: Lives and Careers of Sallie Holley and Caroline Putnam. 1977.

    The Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College has a collection of Emily Howland family papers, with letters by Caroline F. Putnam.


    Butchart, Ronald E. "Putnam, Caroline F." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.