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Selma Walden papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-WaldenS

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, writings, photographs, and mementos of Selma Walden and her family, 1890-1979, bulk 1928-1951.

Includes a large amount of correspondence with family members as well as friends and acquaintances such as Vincent Starrett, Thomas Dreier, and many others. Also contains published and unpublished works, namely autobiographical material, essays, poetry, short stories, songs, and manuscripts. There are also some photographs, mainly of Selma Walden's family, as well as personal and non-personal mementos. In addition, there are biographical writings by Selma Walden's daughter as well as other family writings and one large manuscript of unidentifiable origins.


  • Creation: 1890-1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1928-1951



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Selma Walden 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 Selma Walden

Selma Walden was born in 1884 in Hersey, Michigan, to Swedish immigrants Charles Frederick Walden and Christina Ehn. When Selma was two, Charles and Christina moved north with Selma and their other children, Ellen, Oscar, and Hazel, to LeRoy, Michigan. At fifteen, Selma left high school, and, after working in her father's store, eventually decided to attend the Ferris Institute in Michigan to learn shorthand and typing. After finishing school in about 1903, she took her new skills and moved to Chicago to look for work. In 1909 she married George Lee Lincoln, who she met while attending the Ferris Institute, and the two took up residence in and around Chicago. The couple had three children together, Marjorie, George (Walden), and Elaine, but in 1929 they divorced.

After her divorce, Selma became involved in the Chicago literary and intellectual life. She was a member of the Seven Arts Club and later the Dill Pickle Club. It was during this period that she began to write fiction and poetry and to correspond with local literary figures, a practice she would continue for the rest of her life. After a few years in which her daughter Marjorie's became involved in what she felt were disastrous relationships with members of her social circles, Selma concluded that the Bohemian lifestyle was not for her. However, she continued to write journals, short stories, poetry, and extensive correspondence with those she admired. She occasionally published poems in newspapers or magazines, although she was not able to publish a full book. In 1945 she privately published her only book printed in her lifetime, a small collection of thirty-six poems entitled, Do You Ask for My Death? Her daughter, Elaine Lincoln, published a book of her mother's poetry in 1979 called Late Singing.

Despite the fact that after 1909 her legal name was Selma Walden Lincoln, she wrote and corresponded under the name Selma Walden for most of her life. Her divorce forced her to care for her children alone, and, after the death of her daughter Marjorie Lincoln Sheridan in 1942, she assumed responsibility for her three young grandchildren: Jimmy, Rose, and George Sheridan. Except for brief periods in New York, Michigan, and Libertyville, Illinois, Selma lived her adult life on the Near North Side of Chicago. She continued writing and corresponding until a series of strokes incapacitated her shortly before her death in 1951.


4.2 Linear Feet (10 boxes)


Correspondence, writing, photographs, and mementos of a Chicago working woman and poet, Selma Walden. Also writings by family members, including extensive biographical writings by and about those family members.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1901-1951
Boxes 1-4
Series 2: Works-Unpublished, 1922-1951
Boxes 5-6
Series 3: Works-Published, 1937-1979
Box 6
Series 4: Works-MacMillan and Company Materials, approximately 1944-1945
Box 7
Series 5: Photographs, 1898-1950
Box 8
Series 6: Mementos, 1909-1950
Box 8
Series 7: Family Writings, 1925-1979
Box 9
Series 8: Unidentified Manuscript, approximately 1940s
Box 10

Collection Stack Location

1 35 7


Gift of Elaine H. Lincoln (daughter), July 1953.

Processed by

Jennifer Lau, 2001, Elizabeth Druga and Ryan Welsh, 2007.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Selma Walden papers, 1890-1979, bulk 1928-1951
Jennifer Lau and Elizabeth Druga
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