Gillette, Mary, Papers, 1954-1986

Collection number: MC 273
Size: 1 box (0.5 cu.ft.)

About Mary Gillette

In 1943, Mary Gillette served as the dance chairman at the YWCA in Boston where she began a weekly Tuesday night square dance, presided over by the popular New Hampshire dance caller, Ralph Page. The dances proved to be very popular--the series lasted for some 25 years—and in little over a year’s time, were drawing over two hundred people every week. After one of these dances, Mary was chatting with Ralph and Grace Palmer, director of the YWCA, when the idea for holding a folk festival was born.

According to the History of the New England Folk Festival 1944-1994, "Mary Gillette envisioned a festival where New England's many ethnic groups could share their song, dances, and crafts and present them to a wider audience -- not in a commercial, isn't-this-quaint way, but in a simple, honest, straightforward manner."

The first festival was held at the Boston YWCA on October 28 and 29 1944. The New England Folk Festival Association (NEFFA) was chartered on November 28, 1950. Mary remained involved with NEFFA until she retired in 1984 and moved to the Midwest. She returned to Boston to be honored at the 50th Anniversary NEFFA festival in 1994. She died in 1997.

About the Mary Gillette Papers

Papers include NEFFA programs and news (1954-1986), posters from Cambridge YWCA dances, and close correspondence with Ralph Page and Ted Sannella. A certificate commemorates her involvement in organizing the Tuesday night dances at the Cambridge YWCA.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder], Box 1, Mary Gillette Papers, 1954-1986, MC 273, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Collection Arrangement

Collection is in original order as received.

Collection Contents

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Correspondence
Box 1, Folder 2Correspondence with Ralph Page
Box 1, Folder 3Correspondence with Ted Sannella
Box 1, Folder 4Dances
Box 1, Folder 5New England Folk Festival Association
Box 1, Folder 6NEFFA Festivals, 1954-1968
Box 1, Folder 7NEFFA Festivals, 1971, 1974
Box 1, Folder 8NEFFA Festivals, 1976-1979
Box 1, Folder 9NEFFA Festivals, 1983-1986
Box 1, Folder 10NEFFA News, 1984-1986
Box 1, Folder 11Publications, Music and Dance
Box 1, Folder 12Retirement Certificate from the Cambridge YWCA
Box 1, Folder 13Nametags from various dance events
Box 1, Folder 14Misc. programs, correspondence, and publicity related to Gillette's work calling folk dances for the Cincinnatti Folk Dancers, at the Kentucky Folk Dance Camp, and other occasions


Letters & Postcards
Newspapers & Publications