Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers, 1896-1923.
(Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material)

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LocationCall NumberStatus
Special Collections - Upon RequestMap room drawer K-4 folder 9Library Use Only
Special Collections - Upon RequestWorkroom range 3 section 4Library Use Only

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Document/manuscript/pamphlet/archival material
Physical Desc
1.1 cu. ft.
1 (1 map oversize folder)


Organization & arrangement of materials
Organization: I. Personal Papers; II. Clippings; III. Writings.,Arrangement: Series III. Writings arranged by genre.
General Note
Materials housed in Special Collections Division of the Main Library, Nashville Public Library.
General Note
A photograph of Virginia Armistead Nelson as a young woman is in the Nashville Room Historic Photographs Collection, item number P-345.
Restrictions on Access
In library use only. Available by appointment.
Abstract: Personal papers, news clippings and manuscripts of writings by author and playwright Virginia Armistead Nelson, spanning the years 1906-1923. Many materials are undated.
Scope and content: Personal papers consist of a small quantity of correspondence, particularly relating to her writing for the Nashville Banner newspaper and her submissions of works of fiction, plays, or poems to various magazines, agents, publishers or theatrical companies. A smattering of materials relating to clubs, social organizations and events is also included, as well as a few greeting cards. Some notes on Browning, miscellaneous notes, and two small publications designed as aids for authors round out the series. One undated photograph of Nelson as a young woman about to throw a snowball is in the folder containing greeting cards.
News clippings concern author George Ade; conferences on education held at Monteagle, Tenn. in 1919 and 1920, which Nelson attended; a large quantity of poetry clippings; and a variety of other clippings on various subjects and news items. Also included is a scrapbook (1896-1915) of various clippings, mostly aphorisms and poetry. Most materials are undated. Some loose papers which may be copies of poems written by others, or original work by Nelson, have been removed from the scrapbook, and are housed in subsequent folders. The folder of materials removed from page 119 includes a photograph of Nelson, seated, outdoors.
The heart of the collection is various works in manuscript or typescript form, including a number of drafts, written by Virginia Armistead Nelson. Many of her works are set in the Mid-South, Midwest, or East Coast. Themes include romance and manners, and relationships between men and women, sometimes influenced by the changing roles of women in society in the early twentieth century; World War I, with a clear influence from her experiences serving with the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A. (especially evident in a fragment entitled "The Winning Spirit," which would be incorporated into her novel, Shirley of Kentucky); wealth and society; travel; and rural versus urban life. Many of her poems concern nature and romance. In two of her short stories, "Adventure III," and "Jilted by Julia," she writes of a woman who dons a male disguise, whose relationships with both men and women are therefore complicated, though in the end of both stories, the female protagonist successfully wins a male suitor. Two historical dramas, "The Redemptioner" about Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia in 1675-1676; and the libretto, "Kalopin," about the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 as seen from the Native American point of view of various tribes, are also part of the collection, and both include Nelson's research notes.
Short stories include: "Two Letters" (1908); "The Color-Blind Reporter" (c. 1916); "The Esterbrook Way" (c. 1916); "The Confederate Ball at Pewee" (undated); "Perpetual Motion" (undated); a three-part story entitled "Adventure III" (undated); and "Jilted by Julia" (undated).
Several drafts of Nelson's novel, "Shirley of Kentucky" written circa 1920, are part of the collection and include a short fragment entitled "The Winning Spirit" which appears to be a partially autobiographical account of Nelson's return from France after World War I aboard the steamer Noordam. This fragment later seems to be incorporated into the manuscript of the novel. An earlier draft of the novel was entitled "Cranage Hall."
Plays include: "The Convict" (c. 1906); "The Hypnotist" (1907); "When Money Talked" (1907); "A Man's Past" (1908); "The Redemptioner" (c. 1908?) (earlier titles include "Bond and Free" and "Middle Plantation"); "The Choice" (1912); "The Imaginative Miss Constant" (c. 1915) (earlier titles include "The Pretenders" and "Seven of a Kind"); "Mary Must Marry" (c. 1923); the libretto, "Kalopin" (c. 1923); and several unidentified, undated fragments.
Poems are also part of the collection. They have been divided into two folders. One folder contains about thirty of Nelson's poems, including one entitled "Inspiration," written upon the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Query Club; and "The End of Youth" which received a prize from the Centennial Club in 1918. A second folder contains copies of others' works or unattributed poems, some of which may have been written by Nelson.
An essay entitled, "The Contribution of Men of the South towards the Fulfillment of American Ideals in Journalism" was probably written during Nelson's schooling and includes biographical sketches of numerous Southern newspapermen.
Works which are mentioned in the collection, but not extant, include: "The Woman Disposes" (play, 1910); "The Mocker" (play, 1912); and "Careers" (play?, 1923). It is possible that some of these may be among the unidentified fragments in the collection.
Preferred Citation of Described Materials
Cite as: Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code). Nashville Public Library does not have intellectual property rights to these materials.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition unknown;,Acc. RT-100.
Biographical or Historical Data
Virginia Armistead Nelson was born in Nashville, Tenn., the daughter of William Cowper and Mary Louise Armistead Nelson. Sources conflict about when she was born - possibly as early as 1882 or as late as 1898, although she was probably born on April 30, of whatever year. She received her primary and secondary education at private schools in New Orleans, La. and Louisville, Ky. She attended Ward-Belmont Seminary, Peabody College, Watkins Institute, Vanderbilt University and Columbia University of New York City, taking courses in English, sociology, and economics. Apparently she never graduated from any of these institutions of higher learning. She was society editor for the Nashville Banner newspaper from 1912 to 1918, and was active in several different social, patriotic, and literary organizations throughout her lifetime. Based upon fragmentary evidence, she likely supported women's suffrage. In 1915, with her brother, Wilbur, she purchased property near Monteagle, Tenn., but continued living in Nashville. In 1917, she served with the American Red Cross Emergency Service Canteen Corps, greeting troop trains at Nashville's Union Station. She then joined the Y.M.C.A.'s war efforts, going overseas where she served in Paris, Monte Dore, and Monte Carlo. After the Armistice, and back in Paris, she worked in the records division and interviewed numerous war volunteers. Much of the Y.M.C.A.'s history of their activities during World War I would be based upon the records she created and maintained. She returned to the United States aboard the Noordam in Aug. 1919. In 1919 and 1920, she attended major conferences on education held at Monteagle, Tenn., and may have reported on them for the Nashville Banner newspaper. She was briefly married to Charles B. Parmer in the early 1920s, and they may have lived in New York City for a short while. They apparently had no children. In 1924, she was back in Nashville, likely divorced, and began working at Peabody College for Teachers as their Publicity Director where she served until 1927. In 1925, she helped organize the Nashville chapter of the Women's Overseas Service League. She would become the local president the following year. Later, in 1942-1944, she served as president of the Washington, DC unit, and in 1945-1947, she served as national president of the organization. In 1926, she helped establish the Poetry Society of Tennessee. In 1927 she worked with the Nashville branch of the American Red Cross, providing flood relief in Louisiana, and in 1928 served at the national headquarters in Washington, DC. In 1929, she performed additional flood relief work in Alabama. In the spring of 1930, she joined the staff of the Washington Post, where she worked in advertising, later specializing in school advertising. She left the Post in 1947. While at the Post, in 1941, she wrote columns for the Nashville Tennessean on Washington society life. She was a member of the Washington Branch of the National League of American Pen Women from 1950 to 1960. She died in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 1965, and her body was returned to Nashville for burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Biographical or Historical Data
Outside of her work with the newspapers, few of Virginia's writings were published. However, her work did receive some recognition. Her poem, "Inspiration" was selected as the commemorative poem by the Query Club during their twenty-fifth annivesary in 1910. Another poem, "The End of Youth" won first place in a war poetry contest sponsored by the Centennial Club in Nashville in 1918, and Nelson donated her proceeds to the American Red Cross. According to her obituary, she received a Biennial Award from the National League of American Pen Women, although it is not known when she won this award, nor what work merited it. Perhaps her greatest literary honor came in 1930 when the Chicago Grand Opera Company bestowed their Bispham's Award to her for her libretto, Kalopin. This opera tells the story of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes from the perspective of the Cherokee and other Indian tribes. Dr. Charles S. Skilton of the University of Kansas collaborated with her on the music and provided criticism of early drafts.
Biographical or Historical Data
Virginia typically wrote using her full name, Virginia Armistead Nelson, although while married, she signed some pieces as Mrs. Charles B. Parmer. Occasionally, she used the pen name, Armistead Nelson. Most of her work consisted of short stories, plays, and poetry.
In English
Ownership and Custodial History
Unknown provenance.
Process;,2010;,Linda Barnickel;,removed from Literary Works Ephemera Subject Files; Persons Ephemera Subject Files; and Scrapbooks Ephemera Subject Files.
Accumulation and Frequency of Use
No further accruals are expected.


APA Citation, 7th Edition (style guide)

Nelson, V. A., & Skilton, C. S. Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers .

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation, 17th Edition (style guide)

Nelson, Virginia Armistead, d. 1965 and Charles Sanford Skilton. Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers. .

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities (Notes and Bibliography) Citation, 17th Edition (style guide)

Nelson, Virginia Armistead, d. 1965 and Charles Sanford Skilton. Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers .

MLA Citation, 9th Edition (style guide)

Nelson, Virginia Armistead, and Charles Sanford Skilton. Virginia Armistead Nelson Papers

Note! Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy. Citation formats are based on standards as of August 2021.

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