“We cannot change the world but we can change the people in it.” The Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson Papers

Document 1: Diary Entry on Love and Marriage     |     Introduction to Documents 2 & 3
Document 2: 21 November 1924, Eleanor to Bill Stevenson     |     Document 3: 17 November 1925, Bumpy to Bill Stevenson
Document 4: Girl Trouble and Divorce     |     Document 5: “The Soldier Takes a Wife”
Document 6: Recreational Program     |     Document 7: Fair Employment Practices Council and Democracy
Document 8: Women’s Group Tea     |      Document 9: The Weaker Sex      |      Document 10: PAUW the Challenge to Education Today
Document 11: Making Use of Their Education     |      Document 12: Letter of Condolence      |     Bibliography

Document 2: 21 November 1924, Eleanor to Bill Stevenson

Eleanor Bumpstead in 1925.
Eleanor Bumpstead in 1925. Source: Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 6. Photographs, Box 2. Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219, O.C.A.

Author: Eleanor Bumstead

Recipient: William Stevenson

Date: 21 November 1924

Location: Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 1. Correspondence, Box 1. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.

Document Type: Autograph Letter


Original                       Both                    Transcription





Friday              Nov. 21

My darling-

I am contrite and filled with utmost remorse. Dear, dear, Bill please, please forgive me I have been a horrid girl and deserve no sympathy, I know, but because I do love you forgive me. I have been a wretch about writing and you have been so kind. I can never tell you what your letters have meant. I have loved each & every one. Don’t don’t [sic] be [apprehensive?] sending them. When you spoke of the cold bleakness of Oxford it was almost more than I could bear, I wanted you here with me in front of a warm, warm fire and a [illegible] – heated back [ground?] and a nice book and Kind [sic] words and gentleness. But then I suppose you men are meant for a coarse [inside?] life that is why you appreciate us so much more, we are the softening, mellowing influence. I am [forced?] to enclose a rather nice poem of Masefields-[1]

Her Heart[2]

Her heart is always doing lovely things

Filling my wintry mind with simple flowers

Playing sweet tunes on my untuned strings

Delighting all my undelightful hours


She plays me like a lute, what tune she will

No string in me but trembles at her touch

Shakes into sacred music, or is still

Trembles or stops, or swells, her skill is such

And in the dusty taverns of my soul

Where filthy lusts drink witches brew for wine

Her gentle hand still keeps me from the bowl

Still keeps me man, saves me from being swine


All grace in me, all sweetness in my verse,

Is hers, is my dear girls, & only hers




Perhaps a bit [showy?] but nevertheless amazingly flattering to my sex. I hate to think that is the only reason I like it.

You sweet, sweet person, a wave of pain smites me when I think how little I’ve written and how often I have really wanted to, you must believe that. It is so difficult when insisting demanding [illegible]-

I don’t quite understand your last letter, it baffles me. In the first place it started “Eleanor dear” and that made me shiver just a bit. Then I didn’t quite see – you know about that friend.[3] To whom did you refer. You didn’t go into any details. Am I stupid? I’m sorry if so I really don’t mean to be. Do explain, it left me in a [quandary?] & I reread it many times. I felt you were very angry & at me.  Bill at times I rebel so at our being so far away, it is so so difficult, our love was quite new & forming, it should have been tended carefully & allowed to expand & grow great & strong. What right have we to test it so. I often think letters a great curse and [inserted with a carrot: the] cause [inserted with a carrot: of] more misunderstandings than any one thing. I really hate them. I want to see your face & watch you when you say things – I pound my fist in the desk and childishly say “Why is is [sic] be love [sic]” – Silly Eleanor – what is a year- a long long time and I’m miserable – Stop it atonce [sic]-

Dearest, underneath it’s all quite the same so don’t be alarmed that I didn’t understand your last letter. I’m really just a peevish silly child, but please bear with  me- because I do love you-

Your letter to the [illegible] was returned to me – you asked me to send it so I will. I seem like last weeks [sic] cake, hard & stale but I will.

I can’t bear it if you don’t write often. I will really write you constantly now-



[1] John Masefield (1878-1967), a British poet and author who was originally trained as a merchant seaman. He was appointed the British poet laureate in 1930, and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935 (“Biography John Masefield.” Poetry Foundation, 2016. Source.; “John Masefield | British Poet | Britannica.com.” Accessed 5 July 2016. Source).

[2] “Her Heart” was published in January of 1918, in The Poems and Plays of John Masefield, Volume 1 (“HER HEART.” EBSCO Host. Accessed 5 July 2016. Source).

[3] Bill’s letter on 23 November 1924, though probably too early to have been sent in response to this one, mentions a discussion he had with a friend named Helen about his love for Eleanor. It is possible that this is the same friend being referred to here (William Stevenson to Eleanor Bumstead, 23 November 1924. Subgroup I. William E. Stevenson papers, Series 1. Correspondence, Box 3. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.).