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Edith Borroff papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Borroff

Scope and Content of the Collection

Original compositions and manuscripts, correspondence, recordings on reel to reel, cassette, and records, personal memoirs, poetry, academic records, research notes, thesis materials, class teaching materials, etc. Notable people include Irwin Fischer, Ross Lee Finney, Louis Baldwin Bergersen, Marie Borroff, and Louise Cuyler. Correspondence between Irwin Fischer and Edith Borroff has been taken from the Irwin Fischer collection and integrated into the Edith Borroff collection to provide more ease of access to our researchers. Books and music scores have also been removed in order to be individually cataloged.


  • Creation: 1800-2016
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-1999



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Edith Borroff papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Edith Borroff papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Edith Borroff

Edith Borroff was born on August 2, 1925, in New York City to professional musicians Albert Ramon Borroff and Marie Bergersen Borroff. She speaks happily of her childhood, stating that her parents “did well to not let her see the Depression” and being reminded that they “weren’t poor, just broke.” Growing up, she considered herself a bit of a “frustrated child,” given the differences between Edith and her sister, Marie, who had some of the highest test scores in the state, while Edith spent most of her school years struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia.

However, Edith still recalls many happy and exciting memories from her “Rockville years,” citing games she played with Marie and her cousins, going to museums with her family, and being encouraged to make things. When she wanted a dollhouse, her mother told her to make it. Her father brought home a spare carton and bits of wallpaper, Marie and Edith collected spare wood and fabric, and together they put together a makeshift structure.

One of her earliest childhood memories was when the Mozart G Major Sonata was assigned to her at age 4. Music permeated every aspect of her growing years, as her mother insisted that they be “musically literate.” Edith began composing before the age of six.

Edith admired her parents deeply. In her memoirs, she writes of her father’s phraseologies like the recounting of a philosopher’s tales: “make mistakes while you’re young” and “get your feet wet,” and she speaks of her mother’s progressive views on sex and sexuality as a blessing to her formative years.

The Borroff family moved to Chicago in 1941, where Edith attended Oberlin conservatory of Music and American conservatory of Music. She received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College, and graduated with her PhD in Historical Musicology from the University of Michigan.

She married George Mueller in 1946. A few years later, he left her, and she was forced to file for divorce in order to take a teaching position at Milwaukee Downer College. The divorce was finalized in 1949. She never remarried.

Though her concentration was in historical musicology, she also studied contemporary American music extensively. Over the course of her career she taught at SUNY-Binghamton (State University of New York), Eastern Michigan University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (where she was associate Dean), Hillsdale College, and Milwaukee Downer College, studying and teaching in the following areas: 17th century French chamber music, prehistory, American, contemporary, and the following artists: Irwin Fischer, George Crumb, Ross Lee Finney, and Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (on whom she wrote her dissertation).

She was close friends with many of the composers she studied and wrote about, even managing Irwin Fischer’s musical estate upon his death. There is some speculation regarding her relationship with Fischer in particular, through Edith’s memoirs and correspondence between the two. In her memoirs, Edith called their relationship “the affair of 1000 cold showers.” She received many consolation letters upon his death that read “we know how much he meant to you.” Edith also carried on correspondence with Irwin’s sons and wife throughout his life and beyond.

In 1992, Edith retired, her career spanning 7+ books and 60+ compositions. She died on March 10, 2019, in her North Carolina home.


31.5 Linear Feet (13 cartons, 15 boxes, 3 half boxes, 4 oversize boxes, and 4 audiovisual boxes)


Musicologist, Composer, Author, Professor, Pianist, Vocalist, and Lecturer, Edith Borroff lived from 1925 to 2019, boasting a career that spanned at least 7 books and over 60 compositions.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Works, 1920-2001, bulk 1950-1990
Boxes 1-6
Series 2: Correspondence, 1925-2015
Boxes 7-18
Series 3: Professional Papers, 1941-2011
Boxes 19-21
Series 4: Research Notes, 1951-1988
Box 22
Series 5: Audiovisual Materials, 1912-2004
Boxes 23-31
Series 6: Personal Papers, 1894-2014
Boxes 32-36

Collection Stack Location

1 6 5-6


Gifts, Edith Borroff, 1974-2019.

Processed by

Emily Richardson and Marlo Scholten, 2019.

Inventory of the Edith Borroff papers, 1800-2016, bulk 1960-1999
Emily Richardson and Marlo Scholten
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States