The Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness comprises over 6,000 works of fiction by women writers, including novels, short stories, poetry, works by Native American authors, travel writings, narratives of polar expeditions, captivity narratives, and works for children. The Collection was donated in 2014 to the Penn Libraries by Penn alumna Caroline Schimmel (CW’67) and has been augmented by subsequent gifts.
Collection description and information for researchers
The Schimmel Fiction Collection includes works by women writing from, and about, the Americas (North, South, and Central), in many genres. It covers a broad time period, from the colonial era in the late seventeenth century to the twenty-first. Authors in the collection are European and Euro-American, Native, and African American, and the Collection includes the written voices of women across many frontiers. Books are predominantly in English, with a few titles in European languages.
In most cases, authors in the collection are represented by all or nearly all published editions of their work. Notable authors in the collection include Aphra Behn, Willa Cather, Louise Erdrich, Zora Neale Hurston, Helen Hunt Jackson, E. Pauline Johnson, and Sarah Orne Jewitt, to name just a few. But the collection ranges very broadly and includes many non-canonical authors and non-canonical fiction genres.
Books in the collection are searchable in the library's online catalog.
- Browse the Schimmel Fiction Collection in the library's online catalog, Franklin (sorted by author, A-Z)
Manuscripts in the collection are cataloged with individual finding aids.
- The Elizabeth T. Miller papers (Ms. Coll. 1265, 5 boxes), document Miller’s 1940 travels through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
- Demerise Cowette, Livre de Chanson (Ms. Codex 1849): A volume of eighteenth-century French songs from the Acadian region of Kennebec, Maine, compiled ca 1920-1930.
About the collector
Caroline Schimmel is one of the last graduates of the former Columbia University Library School. She is an elected member of the Grolier Club, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Explorers Club. She is a full-time book collector and bibliographer. Her passion for her subject, inspired in the late 1960s by the women’s movement, and her training as a rare book librarian, have contributed to the development of her remarkable collection. In addition to the fiction Ms. Schimmel has donated to Penn, she has collected roughly fifteen thousand non-fiction works that document female accounts of settling the west, exploration and science in the wilderness, local histories, cookery, and Native American women. Ms. Schimmel remains an active collector and intends to continue adding to the Penn collection.