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Series II: Writings by Helen Worden Erskine
At a Glance
Material is arranged into four series.
Scope and Content
Correspondence, manuscripts, drafts, notes, documents, drawings, photographs, audio tapes, clippings, and other printed materials covering every aspect of Helen Worden Erskine Cranmer's life and career. There are extensive biographical files on: Jenny S. Bradley, Prince Charles of England, Joseph Dixon, Dwight and Mamie Doud Eisenhower, Rosina Lhévinne, Paul Niehans, the Morgan twins (Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and Thelma Morgan Converse Furness), Jovanka Tito, Harry and Bess Truman, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; and large files on crime, recluses, New York City history, and travel. There are extensive drafts and source materials for her unpublished autobiography. There are pencil sketches, pen-and-ink drawings, watercolors, charcoal sketches, photographs, and printed copies by Helen Worden Erskine Cranmer and by others.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Other Finding Aids
Card catalog and list (9 p.)
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
Series I: Catalogued Correspondence, boxes 1-2, is located on-site.
Series II, III, and IV are located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Researchers must wear gloves when handling photographs and artwork.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Helen Worden Erskine papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Wilbertine Teters Worden papers: papers of Helen Worden Erskine's mother, the journalist and writer Wilbertine Teters Worden. At the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.
Luellen Teters Bussenius papers: papers of Helen Worden Erskine's aunt, also a journalist and editor of The Delineator.
John Erskine papers: Papers of Helen Worden Erskine's first husband, Columbia University English professor, writer, and president of the Juilliard School of Music. At the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.
Reminiscences of Helen Worden Erskine : oral history, 1957: Transcript of an oral history interview with Joan Pring, in which Worden discusses her early life in Denver, Colorado and New York City; Paris, 1925; the New York World and World-Telegram, 1926-1931; and Professor John Erskine.
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Ownership and Custodial History
Gift of Linda Bradley Cranmer, 1986.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--Cranmer, Linda Bradley. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--03/15/86. Accession number--M-03.15.86.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Processed HR 03/16/88.
2014-07-11 xml document instance created by Adrien Hilton
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
2022-10-17 Biographical note expanded and other front matter updated by CLB.
2022-10-26 Photographs and artwork inventories updated by CLB.
History / Biographical Note
Helen Worden Erskine Cranmer (1896-1984), was a journalist, advice columnist, biographer, and ghostwriter. She worked as a reporter and columnist for The World (later New York World-Telegram) from 1926 to 1944, contributed freelance work to magazines from 1944 until 1956, worked as associate editor for Collier's from 1952 until 1956, and wrote the Dorothy Dix syndicated advice column from 1959 until 1964. She also published books on New York City and recluses, and served as a ghostwriter for several autobiographies and many biographical and autobiographical magazine articles.
Helen Worden was born in Denver, Colorado on July 12, 1896. Her father, Charles George Worden (1869-1897), was an attorney and publisher who died the year after Helen's birth. Her mother, Wilbertine Teters Worden (1867-1949), was also a journalist, as was her aunt, Luellen Teters Bussenius. She spent her childhood in Colorado and New York City.
Worden studied drawing at the University of Colorado from 1915 until 1919 and in Paris, with Andre Lhote (1885-1962), in 1925 and 1926. She often incorporated her own sketches in her columns. She joined the staff of The World as a society reporter, and later worked as a crime reporter for the New York World-Telegram from 1937 until 1944. (This role supported her subsequent appearance on "The $64,000 Challenge" television program with crime as her specialty.) In addition to her newspaper work, Worden published several books during the 1930s and early 1940s: The Real New York (1932), Round Manhattan's Rim (1934), The Society Circus (1937), Here is New York (1939), and Discover New York (1943).
In 1938, Worden wrote the first of a series of popular articles on the "Mystery Men of Harlem," the wealthy and reclusive brothers Homer and Langley Collyer. New York City's recluses were also the subject of Worden's 1953 book, Out of This World. She left the New York World-Telegram in 1944 to focus on freelance work. In 1953, during her tenure at Collier's, she joined the press pool for United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' tour of the Middle East and Asia; she was the only woman correspondent on the tour.
The Dorothy Dix advice column Warden wrote from 1959 until 1964 was the first syndicated advice column, originated by the journalist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (1861-1951) in 1895 and distributed by The Bell Syndicate. In some papers it appeared over other signatures: Clara Valli, Muriel Nissen, Kitty Kelly, or Gladys Parker. Joyce Brothers took over the column on Worden's departure in 1964.
Helen Worden was married to John Erskine, author and professor of English at Columbia University, from 1945 until his death in 1951; and to William Henry Harrison "Harry" Cranmer, a mining engineer, from 1959 until his death in 1967. She died in New York City on July 31, 1984.