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May Sarton Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: PP-033

Scope and Contents

This collection documents May Sarton's enduring friendships with several Sisters of St. Joseph who were faculty or administrators at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University). Sarton was especially close to Sister Alice Gustava (Maris Stella) Smith, who was a member of the English faculty and herself an accomplished poet. Sarton made a donation to the college that enabled Sister Maris Stella to take a sabbatical. Sarton also acted as a mentor to Sister Mary Virginia Micka, another poet on the English faculty. The bulk of the collection consists of Sarton's letters to Sister Maris Stella and to Sister Mary Virginia, in which Sarton enclosed copies of her poems in the form of typescripts or fine letter-press printing, photographs, clippings, and other small gifts. The Micka correspondence also includes copies of Sister Mary Virginia's letters to Sarton. A smaller amount of correspondence with Sister Rosalie Ryan (English faculty) and three former presidents of the College (Sisters Antonius Kennelly, Mary William Brady, and Albert Huber) also exists.

Sarton's three visits to campus are also documented in the collection: her visit as Phi Beta Kappa scholar in 1958, her convocation lecture in 1968, and the presentation of the College's Alexandrine Medal to Sarton in 1975.

The remainder of the collection includes works by Sarton and biographical materials that were collected over the years by the Sisters.


  • 1957-1995


About May Sarton

"A poet, novelist, and essayist, May Sarton was born in Wondelgem, Belgium [now part of the city of Ghent]. Her family fled to England and then to the United States as World War I became inevitable. May’s father was a historian of science, employed by the Carnegie Institute in Washington and by Harvard University. Her education was piecemeal but rigorous, in spite of interruptions caused by the family’s travels between America and Europe. In 1926 she graduated from Cambridge Latin High School. Her interest in the theatre led her to join Eva LeGallienne’s Civic Repetory Theatre which ran out of funding after several years. May lectured at a number of institutions, was a instructor at Harvard, served as poet-in-residence at Bryn Mawr, among other positions. In 1958 after the death of her parents, she bought a farm in New Hampshire and...settled in rural New England for the rest of her life. She was a prolific writer, producing volumes of poetry, journals, and commentary. Among her most important books are The Bridge of Years (1946), Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Sing (1965) and The Reckoning (1978)." (Quoted from: Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society, Notable Women's Biographies, accessed on October 4, 2023 at


.54 Linear Feet (one and one-half boxes)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Additional materials related to Sarton's 1958 visit to campus are located in the Phi Beta Kappa, Gamma of Minnesota Chapter record group. These materials include correspondence between Sarton and Sister Mary L. (Kevin) O'Hara, correspondence between Sister Kevin and Phi Beta Kappa leadership, a program, and a photograph. Sarton was the College's first Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar.

May Sarton Papers
Amy Shaw
September 27, 2023
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the St. Catherine University Archives Repository

St. Catherine University
Archives and Special Collections
2004 Randolph Avenue
St. Paul MN 55105 U.S.A.