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Marion Eaton Woodruff Diary

Identifier: Ms-1988-118

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a single four-year diary maintained by Marion Eaton Woodruff, a resident of Elgin (Kane County), Illinois, during the early 20th century.

The diary commences on September 4, 1923, with Woodruff departing Elgin for New York City, followed by a trans-Atlantic voyage. In brief entries, she describes daily activities with her daughter and other companions, as they travel through France, then through Italy and Switzerland before returning to France before departing for the United States the following August. During her travels, Woodruff names the restaurants, shows, movies, and sites that she visits and attends, including several trips to the Louvre. Her entries from home indicate a busy social life, and she mentions a number of activities, such as attending Boris Gudunov and seeing Sophie Tucker in a vaudeville performance. She attends a number of movies, providing a two- to three-word review of each. In addition to her daughters Helen M. Woodruff and Wilda Woodruff Compton, she mentions many other relatives, friends, and neighbors, and their interactions. In early 1926, she traveled to Wellesley College, and remained in the area for several weeks, sometimes traveling to Boston or New York, while her daughter Helen lectured at the college. She returned to Wellesley that April, then proceeded on another European trip in June, where she seems to have remained for approximately three months before returning to Elgin. (Because Woodruff sometimes made more than one entry for a single day, the chronology can be difficult to follow.)


  • 1924 - 1927


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

The writer of this diary never identifies herself by name, but the entries contain a number of clues that reveal the diary to have been written by Marion Eaton Woodruff.

Marion Francis Eaton, daughter of Lewis S. and Jane Fay Eaton, was born in Elgin (Kane County), Illinois, on November 5, 1859. The 1880 census shows Marian Eaton living in the Elgin home of her parents. She married Charles H. Woodruff (1855-1911) in Kane County on January 19, 1887, and the couple would have three daughters: Wilda (1887-1932), Rosella Marion (1890-1914), and Helen M. Woodruff (1899-1980). By 1900, according to the census for that year, Charles Woodruff was owner of a local iron foundry. Marion Woodruff continued to live in Elgin following the death of her husband but by 1930 had moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she lived with her daughter Helen, employed by Princeton University as a professor of archaeology.

Helen M. Woodruff, youngest daughter of Charles and Marion Woodruff, was born in Elgin, Illinois, September 25, 1899. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1922, she earned her master's and doctoral degrees at Radcliffe College, completing her dissertation in 1928. Entries in the diary of Marion Woodruff suggest that Helen Woodruff was briefly married to Daniel Crane Taylor (1897-1986), a professor of Shakespeare, in the 1920s. She received the Archaeological Institute of America's Fellowship in Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology in the 1920s, providing her the opportunity to travel and study in Europe for a year. After serving as curator at the Sears Museum in Elgin, she taught at Wellesley for a year. By 1930, Woodruff was employed by Princeton University as an archaeologist; in 1933, she became director of Princeton's Index of Christian Art. In 1942, Woodruff took leave from Princeton and joined the U. S. Navy's WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. That same year, she published the Index of Christian Art. She was discharged from the WAVES in 1945. Helen M. Woodruff died in New York March 27, 1980.

Wilda Woodruff, eldest daughter of Charles and Marion Woodruff, was born in Elgin, Illinois, November 29, 1887. She married Don Compton, vice president of the Grigsby-Grunow Company. The couple lived in Chicago and had three sons: Richard, Gail, and Charles. Wilda Woodruff Compton died in Chicago, March 22, 1932.


0.1 Cubic Feet (1 folder)


The diary maintained by Marion Eaton Woodruff, a resident of Elgin, Illinois during the early 20th century includes entries made during two lengthy European trips in the 1920s.

Source of Acquisition

The collection was purchased by Special Collections and University Archives in 1988.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Marion Eaton Woodruff Diary by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Marion Eaton Woodruff Diary was completed in 2021.

This collection was long identified as the "Travel Diary." Research in 2021 revealed that the diary had been the property of Marion Eaton Woodruff.

Marion Eaton Woodruff Diary, 1924-1927
John M. Jackson, Archivist
2021 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US