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Jeannette Mirsky Papers

Identifier: BC20-12

Collection Scope and Content Summary

This collection consists of correspondence, academic records, manuscripts, drafts, publications, photographs, newspaper clippings, and travel documents of Barnard alumna, author, and world traveler, Jeannette Mirsky. Also contains program for her memorial service in Box 28. The correspondence is almost exclusively letters, postcards, and telegrams addressed to Mirsky. Carbon copies of letters composed by Mirsky are mostly limited to business transactions with publishers.

Mirsky’s original writings are contained in manuscripts, notes, and drafts related to her publications. Complete manuscripts of To the North!,The Westward Crossing, Houses of God, The World of Eli Whitney, andSir Aurel Stein are included in this collection, and feature extensive notes and edits by Mirsky and outside editors.

The photographs in this collection are often unlabeled, and include images collected for various publications, images of Mirsky’s travels, and personal and family photos. Mirsky also held on to many newspaper clippings of her book reviews. The collection also contains additional clippings that she gathered for research purposes. There is a large collection of clippings from German language newspapers as well.

Of special interest are materials related to a speaking engagement at the University of Alaska where Mirsky traveled north of the Arctic Circle, and received a lithograph noting this accomplishment. Of additional interest are a series of letters in which Mirsky was recommended for an honorary doctorate at Columbia University.


  • Creation: 1892 - 1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1921 - 1986


Language of Collection Materials

Bulk of collection is in English. Some folders contain newspaper clippings in German.


Box 27 contains confidential documents related to Jeannette Mirsky's personal finances, taxes, and publication royalties. Due to the confidential information they contain, taxes, royalties, and financial information have been moved to box 27. Access to this box is restricted until 2017.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard College Archives. The Barnard College Archives approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.


Jeannette Rachel Mirsky was born in 1903 to Michael D. Mirsky and Frieda Ettelson Mirsky. She attended Barnard College, where she earned her A.B. in 1924. From 1935-1938 Mirsky did graduate work at Columbia University, studying under Franz Boas and Margaret Mead.

Mirsky was married twice, first to Arthur J. Barsky, who she divorced in 1940, and then to Edward Ginsburg, an industrial engineer, who she married in 1942. Mirsky lived briefly in South Carolina with Ginsburg, but ultimately moved to Princeton, NJ in 1950, where Mirsky would reside for the rest of her life. Edward Ginsburg died in 1959, and Mirsky did not remarry again. Throughout her career she continued to publish under the name Mirsky, although she did change her last name to Ginsburg after her marriage to Edward.

In 1934 Mirsky published her first book,To the North!, which recounts the history of Arctic exploration. Her book largely discredited Frederick Cook's claims to discovering the North Pole, and went out of print for a number of years due to a lawsuit by Cook. The book was re-released in 1946 by Alfred A. Knopf under the new title, To the Arctic!: The Story of Northern Exploration from the Earliest Times to the Present. In addition to English, the book was published in German, Spanish, and French.

Jeannette Mirsky continued to publish books until 1977. Her books include, The Westward Crossings (1946),The World of Eli Whitney (1952),Elisha Kent Kane and the Seafaring Frontier(1954),The Great Chinese Travelers: An Anthology (1964),Houses of God (1965), andSir Aurel Stein, Archaeological Explorer (1977). During this time she also wrote book reviews, was a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica, edited The Lady, a book by Barnard Professor Emily James Putnam, was a visiting fellow in the department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University, and spent much of her time travelling.

Jeannette Mirsky died in Princeton, NJ on March 10, 1987 at the age of 83.


12.35 Linear Feet (27 document boxes, 1 oversize box)


The collection consists of the personal papers of author, geographer, explorer, and Barnard alumna, Jeannette Mirsky. It includes her personal and business correspondence, academic records, manuscripts, drafts, publications, photographs, maps, and information about her world travels.

Collection Arrangement

The records are arranged in seven series, two of which have been further arranged in subseries. The contents are arranged in original order. The series and subseries arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series 1, Academic Records, 1921-1948

Series 2, Correspondence, 1892-1987

Subseries 2.1, Personal Correspondence, 1921-1986
Subseries 2.2, Business Correspondence, 1937-1984
Subseries 2.3, Michael Mirsky Papers, 1892-1924

Series 3, Manuscripts, Drafts, and Publications, 1921-1986

Subseries 3.1, Maps and Illustrations, 1940-1980
Subseries 3.2, To the North
Subseries 3.3,The Westward Crossing, 1965-1978
Subseries 3.4, Houses of God, 1940-1969
Subseries 3.5,The World of Eli Whitney, 1939-1984
Subseries 3.6,Sir Aurel Stein. 1970-1978

Series 4, Newspaper Clippings, 1921-1987

Series 5, Photographs, 1921-1986

Series 6, Travel Expenses and Receipts, 1970-1982

Series 7, Financial Documents and Taxes, 1921-1986 (Restricted)

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Archives by the Society of Women Geographers, 2012.


No additions are expected.

Processing History

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by graduate assistant Heather Lember in June, 2013. Updated by Joan Hsiao Archive Fellow in November, 2017.

Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Encoding: Machine readable finding aid encoded in EAD 2002.

Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Jeannette Mirsky Papers
Heather Lember
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States