1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Frances Evelyn Henley Papers

 Female architect of Providence, Rhode Island.

 Architecture, circa 1896-1955.

 Size: 1.5 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 486

 Processed by: Harold Kemble (c. 1984) and R. P. Flynn (June 1997)

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

Frances Evelyn Henley was born in Crompton (Warwick), Rhode Island, daughter of Charles A. and Mary E. Booth Henley. She was raised and educated in Providence, where she became the first woman to enter the Rhode Island School of Design for the study of architecture. She graduated with honors in 1897, and succeeded eventually in finding a place as a draftsman in the office of a Providence architectural firm. Upon the death of the founder, she became the head of the firm and was for thirty years the only female architect in Rhode Island practicing under her own name. She designed and built mostly residences up and down the Atlantic coast. Her name is most closely associated with the design and construction of the main building of the Mary Wheeler School in Providence. She died at her home in Pawtuxet (Warwick) in 1955. More detailed biographical information is available in the papers.

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Scope and content:

The bulk of the collection consists of diaries spanning the years 1922 to 1954 (several years are missing). Also present are letters from her cousin, Howard Heydon, during the last two years of her life. Howard signs the letters, "Brother," however, there is no indication in the Henley genealogy that Frances ever had a brother. A number of speeches and radio talk scripts dated between 1913 and 1934 offer interesting views of her struggle to establish herself in the male-dominated architectural profession.

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The papers were acquired at auction in 1984. No restrictions have been placed on their use.

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Processing note:

The papers were initially organized, and a finding aid was created, by Harold Kemble in the 1980s. In 1997, some miscellaneous material was found to still be loose and disorganized, at which time it was sorted, put into folders, and integrated with the rest of the collection. Additions to the finding aid were made accordingly.

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Box 1.

Folder 1. RISD catalogs, 1896 and 1928 (exhibition)

Folder 2. Newspaper clippings/articles, 1906-1950

Folder 3. Court documents, FEH vs. Simmons and Walker, 1908

Folder 4. Speeches and talks, 1913-1934

Folder 5. Undated fragment of speech

Folder 6. Correspondence, 1927-1943

Folder 7. Miscellaneous notebooks: 1930, 1945-50, and undated

Folder 8. Diary 1932-1946: "Little Journeys"

Folder 9. Project specs for Trinity Episcopal Church (Pawtucket, RI), 1937

Folder 10. Correspondence, 1951-55

Folder 11. Correspondence, undated

Folder 12. Handwritten manuscript, "Decorative Iron", undated

Folder 13. Biographical notes on FEH

Folder 14. Miscellaneous - professional

            - professional certificates, RISD bulletins, and business cards

Folder 15. Miscellaneous - personal

            - social invitations, social/political club pamphlets, personal finances, bequeathments

Box 2.

Folder 1. Diary fragments, 1944, 1945

Folder 2. Henley genealogy

Diaries, 1922-1954 (some years missing)

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Architecture - Rhode Island

Diaries - 1922-1954

Henley, Frances Evelyn (1873-1955)

Henley Family

Trinity Episcopal Church - Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Women - Education (Higher) - Rhode Island

Women - Employment

Women architects - Rhode Island

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