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Anna O'Neill Johnson papers

Collection MS-1986-023: Anna O'Neill Johnson papers


  • Creation: 1888 - 1952
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1915 - 1926

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of letters to Anna O’Neill Johnson in her capacity as chair of the Boston Committee for the Fatherless Children of France charity during the World War I era, for which she solicited letters, manuscripts, and artworks from well-known persons to be sold at auction as a fundraiser. The collection also contains some of Johnson's personal correspondence documenting her political interests and her work arranging lectures. Please note that secretaries often answered for their employers, especially in the case of aristocracy. When these secretaries did not sign their names, or their signature was illegible, the correspondence is listed under the name of the original addressee.

An auction catalog for the sale of the materials in 1921, and related clippings, give the correspondence further context. Manuscripts by authors, politicians, and notable figures such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, Robert Herrick, Alfred Noyes, Robert Service, and W. B. Yeats also form part of the collection. A small number of these manuscripts are listed in the auction catalog, but the majority are not.

Johnson's papers also contain materials related to Edwin Markham, an American writer (poetry and prose), lecturer, and critic. The bulk of the collection is composed of forty-two letters to Anna O’Neil Johnson, handwritten or typed by Edwin Markham. The letters primarily discuss social engagements, lectures to be given, and the work Markham was involved in. The papers also include letters from Markham's wife Anna Catherine, as well as his son and his secretary, to Johnson. There are also a selection of printed and autographed poems written by Markham and a couple of photographs of him.


Language of Materials

The majority of this collection is in English, with many items in French and a few in Polish, Serbian, and Spanish.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. The Fatherless Children of France manuscripts are fragile and should be handled with extra care.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note: Anna O'Neill Johnson

Anna O’Neill Johnson (circa 1884-1957) married David J. Johnson in 1911. They made their home in Boston, where she was active in local Catholic charities and interested in political issues. During the World War I era, Johnson served as the chair of a fundraiser for the Fatherless Children of France, writing to well-known people to solicit manuscripts and artwork that could be sold at a benefit auction. The auction was held at the American Art Galleries in New York on February 28, 1921. Johnson purchased the entire collection for $10,000, and donated it to the College of the Holy Cross in 1953.


1910 United States Federal Census. Roll T624_890, page 22A. Accessed March 10, 2014.

Biographical Note: Edwin Markham

Charles Edward Anson Markham, known as Edwin, was born in Oregon City, Oregon, in 1852. He lived in California from 1857-1901, receiving degrees from California College, California State Normal School, and Christian College. He worked as a school teacher and administrator until he moved to Staten Island, New York with his wife Anna Catherine and son Virgil. Markham's first poem to achieve popular acclaim was "Man with a Hoe" (1898), inspired by a woodcut by Francois Millet. Markham's poetry often dealt with social and industrial problems, in line with social reform movements of his time. He wrote and lectured, at both literary and labor movement events, until his death in 1940 in New York City.


Nash, William R. “Edwin Markham’s Life and Career – A Concise Overview,” Modern American Poetry. Accessed July 15, 2019.

“Markham Family Papers,” Online Archive of California. Accessed July 15, 2019.;developer=local;query=;style=oac4;view=admin#bioghist-1.3.6


3.75 Linear Feet (7 containers)


This collection consists primarily of materials gathered by Anna O'Neill Johnson to support the Fatherless Children of France project during the World War I era, including correspondence and manuscripts by well-known authors, politicians, and public figures; an auction catalog for the Fatherless Children of France fundraiser held in 1921; and related clippings. Johnson's papers also document her friendship with American poet Edwin Markham through his correspondence to her, her notes on their conversations, as well as autographed poems he gave her.


This collection is arranged in three series: I. Fatherless Children of France project; II. Edwin Markham, and III. Collected correspondence.

Series I. Fatherless Children of France project is further divided into three subseries: A. Auction catalog; B. Correspondence; C. Manuscripts.

Series II. Edwin Markham is further divided into five subseries: A. Correspondence, B. Newspaper clippings, C. Notes, D. Autographed poems by Markham, and E. Photographic portraits showing Edwin Markham in his home with a book.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Related Materials

The Fatherless Children of France, Archives and Special Collections, College of the Holy Cross.

Edwin Markham family papers, MSS.2015.10.1, San Jose State University Special Collections and Archives.

Processing Information

Johnson's materials from Edwin Markham and his family were previously described separately as the Edwin Markham Papers, MS.1986.024. However, since the contents are those received or created by Johnson, they were added to her described papers in 2021.

Anna O'Neill Johnson Papers
1888-1952 (bulk 1915-1926)
Richard Burley and Adrienne Pruitt
March 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States