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Mary Lee Harris Papers, 1897-1986

Mary Lee Harris Papers, 1897-1986

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UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
401 President Clinton Avenue
Little Rock, AR, 72201

Profile Description

Creation: This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2015-10-29T09:07-0500

Repository: UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Title: Mary Lee Harris Papers, 1897-1986
Dates: 1897-1986
Quantity: 3.5 linear feet; 5 document boxes and 3 phase boxes
Identification: UALR.MS.0245

Arrangement note

By type of material

Scope and Contents note

This collection contains photographs, diaries, correspondence from Mary's friends and neighbors in Pine Bluff, newspaper clippings, recipes, midwife documents, and books such as bibles and midwife instructionals. Also included are midwife accessories, such as a cap and gown. The diaries span from 1940 to 1960. Most entries record deaths and visitations. "Willie" is regularly mentioned.

Correspondence chiefly consists of letters from Mary's friends who lived in the Pine Bluff area and elsewhere. Mary's most frequent correspondent was Clara Clark, her grandmother's step-daughter. Correspondence from 1929 to the early 1930s contains items from Mary' s boyfriends. Many of the recipes in the collection are handwritten, but there are also clippings from newspapers and magazines.

The midwife documents apparently belonged to Mary E. Criner (1875-1964), an African American domestic worker and midwife from Ouachita County. The midwifery papers include instructional booklets on preparing for a baby and recipes for women who are in labor and the lying-in period before the midwife arrived. The collection also includes items belonging to Mary E. Criner's husband, John (1871-1954). UALR archivists have been unable to establish a connection between the Criner and Harris family.

Biographical Note

Mary Lee Harris was born in Malvern, Arkansas, in 1912. On 1928 February 9, she married Isaiah Harris at the age of fifteen. The couple separated a few years later, but Mary Lee Harris never divorced Isaiah Harris, and they had no children together. Mary would later discuss a man named Willie in her journals; and her correspondence includes letters from various men, including Ike Aiken.

Mary was the daughter of Georgia Lee Larkin (1897-1973), the daughter of Harriet Mason (1876-1954). Mary's great-grandmother was Violet Canady (1840-1912). Canady was born a slave and the child of slaves, but at around age twenty-five she married and began having children. Mary's mother, Georgia, was born in Louann, Arkansas. She married Willie Stephens at the age of fifteen, but she did not stay with him for her life. Willie Stephens died on 1928 March 26. They had one child, Mary Lee Harris.

On 1929 June 28, Georgia Lee Larkin married Rev. R. Y. Larkin. She stayed with him until he died in 1953. Mary's mother was active in the Highland Baptist Church in Pine Bluff throughout her life. As a young woman, Mary lived with her mother, Georgia, in Malvern, until her mother married Rev. Larkin. Mary then lived with her grandmother, Harriet. After Harriet suffered a stroke, Mary and her grandmother moved in with Georgia Lee and Rev. Larkin.

Mary Lee Harris suffered from chronic leg pain. At one point, she tried to fix it with surgery, but this was unsuccessful. After her mother died, Mary rarely left her house, electing instead to have groceries delivered to her home. Her disability worsened, though she would sometimes use home remedies. Mary died in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in the summer of 1986.

African Americans--Arkansas--History--20th century
Criner, John, 1871-1954
Criner, Mary E., 1875-1964
Hanners, LaVerne
Harris, Mary Lee, 1912-1986
Larkin, Georgia Lee, 1897-1973
Midwifery--United States--History--20th century
Pine Bluff (Ark.)--History--20th century
Recipes for health
Women--Arkansas--History--20th century


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for viewing at the Arkansas Studies Institute.

Conditions Governing Use note

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17-U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The person using this material is liable for any infringement.

Copyright for correspondence in the collections belongs to those correspondents or their beneficiaries. Persons wanting to re-use those materials are advised to obtain permission from copyright holders.

Administrative Information

Citation Notes

Bibliographic citation:

Mary Lee Harris Papers, 1897-1986, UALR.MS.0245, UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture, Arkansas Studies Institute, Little Rock.

Footnote or Endnote info:

Description of item, folder number, box number, Mary Lee Harris Papers, 1897-1986, UALR.MS.0245.

Processing Information note

Processed by Nicolette Lloyd, Graduate Assistant, 2014.

Related Material

See also Mary Lee Harris Collection at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Little Rock, Arkansas.

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