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Ruth Sawyer Papers

Identifier: SC-003

Scope and Contents

The Ruth Sawyer Papers houses 29 drafts and typescripts of Sawyer's works; publisher contracts; extensive correspondence between Ruth Sawyer and various Sisters of St. Joseph; additional correspondence, including letters from Anne Carroll Moore, Margaret (Peggy) Durand McCloskey, and others; materials related to the dedication of the Ruth Sawyer Collection of children's books at the College of St. Catherine in 1958; Sawyer's various medals (Alexandrine, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Newbery, and Regina); other artifacts, such as Ruth Sawyer’s storytelling dress; audio recordings of Ruth Sawyer, storyteller; family photographs; accounts of Ruth Sawyer's memorial service; and additional biographical material.


  • 1881-2006

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Sawyer Durand (1880-1970) was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of five siblings. Her four brothers were much older than she and often travelled with their parents, leaving Ruth at home. Her first governess taught her French, but it was the next governess from Ireland, Johanna, who captured Sawyer’s heart and gave her a life-long love of folktales. Sawyer’s education included two years at the Garland Kindergarten Training School, and Columbia Teachers College. Inspired by Johanna and the English storyteller Marie Shedlock, Sawyer volunteered as a storyteller at the New York Public Lecture Bureau and later in orphan asylums, reformatories, and a women’s prison.

She married Albert Durand in 1911. They had two children, David and Margaret. Although she considered music and singing as a career, she settled into writing. Her works for adults include novels, magazine articles and stories, and a Broadway opera. Her most notable children’s books are Roller Skates and The Year of Jubilo. She received the Newbery Award in 1937 for Roller Skates. She authored numerous other books for children. These books were a result of her travels collecting folk stories from people she met in Ireland, Spain and Mexico. The best known are Christmas stories, including the Wee Red Cap. She published The Way of the Storyteller to help others acquire appropriate methods for selecting, learning and telling folktales. Recognized for her lifelong contributions to children’s literature, the American Library Association awarded her the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1965. In the same year, the Catholic Library Association presented her with the Regina Medal.

In 1942 Ruth Sawyer taught a summer school course in storytelling at the College of St. Catherine. This began relationship with several members of the Sisters of St. Joseph, culminating with the College's establishment of the Ruth Sawyer Collection of children’s books, which continues to be available in the Rare Book Room. The College also awarded her its Alexandrine Medal at this time.


2.125 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Related Materials

The Ruth Sawyer Collection of children's books is housed in the Rare Book Room. The holdings of this collection can be browsed in the library's catalog.

In Progress
Amy Shaw, Head of Archives and Special Collections, together with contributions by various graduate assistants
September 26, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the St. Catherine University Special Collections Repository

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