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Dance Heritage Coalition

Biographical Sketch Table of Contents Container List

St. Denis (Ruth) Letters, ca. 1914-1959

- Scope and Contents Note

Scope and Contents Note


The Ruth St. Denis Letters comprise the personal and professional correspondence of Miss St. Denis from the years 1914 to 1958. The letters document Miss Ruth's long association with her husband and partner Ted Shawn; the Denishawn era; Miss Ruth's career after Denishawn; and Miss Ruth's relationships with members of her family and life-long friends.

The collection was received as a gift from Ruth St. Denis along with The Ruth St. Denis Papers [(S)*MGZMD 6], which consist of Miss Ruth's journal and writings; choreographic notes; music scores; information pertaining to the Ruth St. Denis Foundation and the Society of Spiritual Acts; financial records; and other miscellaneous material. Portions of the Ted Shawn Collection [(S)*MGZMC-Res. 31] are closely related to the St. Denis Letters and Papers, and the three should be used in conjunction with one another.

The Personal Correspondence of the Ruth St. Denis Letters is divided into three sections: Correspondence between Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn; Family Correspondence; and Correspondence to Ruth St. Denis. The St. Denis-Shawn correspondence consists of approximately 1,553 items, which date from 1914 to 1958. They include intimate letters from Miss Ruth and Ted Shawn's early years of marriage; letters from the time of their separation in the early 1930s; and letters from later years that reveal the great love, respect, and admiration they had for each other.

The Family Correspondence contains approximately 1,244 items from the years 1916 to 1957. Correspondents include Miss Ruth's mother, Emma Hull Dennis; her mother's nurse, Mary Calkins; her father, Thomas L. Dennis; her brother and his wife, Buzz and Emily Dennis; her half-brother Tom Dennis; and her nephews, Donald and George Dennis.

The correspondence to Ruth St. Denis constitutes the bulk of this collection, with approximately 5,826 items dating from 1917 to 1958. Contained in this section are letters from some of Ruth St. Denis' close friends, including Charles Allais, Fred Beckman, Ada De Lachau, Ruth Harwood, Anne Sherman Hoyt, June Hamilton Rhodes, and Pearl Wheeler. There are also letters from such important dance figures as Jack Cole, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, La Meri, and Charles Weidman.

All letters in the Personal Correspondence section are arranged alphabetically within each year by the correspondent's last name. In the event that Ruth St. Denis is the correspondent, the letter is filed under the last name of the person who received the letter. For example,

"Ruth St. Denis/Ada DeLachau" indicates a letter written to Ada DeLachau from Ruth St. Denis. Letters that were written to Ted Shawn or other people (but not from Ruth St. Denis) are listed at the end of each year.

The Professional Correspondence, spanning the years 1918-1960, consists of approximately 3,393 items arranged chronologically. Included in this section are letters regarding arrangements for concerts and lecture dates; Denishawn school business; publication efforts; filmmaking efforts; and general finances.

When noting the correspondents, the name of the individual or individuals writing the letter is listed first followed by a slash (/). Following the slash is the name of the individual or individuals to whom the letter is written.

Example: Ruth St. Denis/TS indicates a letter written by Ruth St. Denis to Ted Shawn.


Biographical Sketch Table of Contents Container List