Letters from the Dust Bowl

Caroline Boa Henderson, class of 1901, maintained correspondence with her classmate Rose Alden for several decades following their graduation from Mount Holyoke. The Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections houses over 1300 letters and assorted papers written by and addressed to Henderson. In the letters below, Henderson writes to Alden about the beauty of Oklahoma and the publication of her writing in “The Atlantic” at the beginning of the Dust Bowl.


My dear little Rose:

Your letter reached me by round about ways and I felt truly grateful for your forbearance. For I remembered, though you did not mention it, that the letter of a year before had not yet been answered. It would take longer time than I have now at my command and longer I presume than you could spend to listen if I were even to try to tell you of all that has filled my days since last I wrote to you. But I want your friendship still if I may have it. I will try to suggest a mere “table of contents,” and let you fill in the rest.

A return to the old routine seemed intolerable, I hungered and thirsted for something away from it all and for the out-of-doors. So here I am, away out in that narrow strip of Oklahoma between Kansas and the panhandle of Texas, “holding down” one of the prettiest claims in the Beaver County strip. I wish you could see this wide, free western county, with its great stretches of almost level prairie, covered with the thick, short buffalo grass, the marvelous glory of its sunrises and sunsets, the brilliancy of its star-filled sky at night, where the stars shine through this clear pure air almost to the horizon line, the new plants which make the prairie more interesting than any of the botany books, though it is a pleasure, too, to read about the flowers in the book and so much more that has made the last six months a delight, in spite of hardships and expense that I could never advise anyone to encounter.

Dear Rose:

I am hoping that this may reach you before you leave Newark for your holiday vacation. Your friendly note was the first intimation I had received that the Atlantic had really made use of our little harvest story. Though they had accepted it promptly and paid me too much for it, I had heard no more about it and had begun to think that had come to themselves and that I should have to recover and return the amount of their pretty blue check. It was most kind of you to write, and a few messages from friends old and new who felt interested in the wheat situation have helped wonderfully to brighten what has otherwise seemed a pretty trying experience. Very many thanks!

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