Sophy Burnham was born on December 12, 1936, in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of George Cochran, an attorney, and Sophy Tayloe (Snyder) Doub. She received her education from the University of Florence (1956-1957), and Smith College, where she earned a B.A. (cum laude) in 1958.

Ms.Burnham's career has been diverse. From 1962 to 1964 she was assistant curator for Museum Services at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. She was also associate editor for David McKay Co., Inc., New York (1971-73); contributing editor to "Town & Country," (1975-80); speechwriter for the secretary, Department of Housing & Urban Development (1977-79); contributing editor to "New Art Examiner" (1985-86); staff writer for "New Woman" (since 1984), and to "Museum & Arts/Washington" (since 1987); and consultant to (among others) the MITRE Corp., Veterans Administration, Public Citizen, INSLAW, and the Environmental Protection Agency (1978- 1988).

When she is not immersed in writing, Ms. Burnham is especially active in the community. She was founding member and vice-president of Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C. (1978-79); founding member of the D.C. Community Humanities Council (1979-85); member of the board for Children's Radio Theatre, Washington D.C., since 1978; member of the planning committee of the District of Columbia and the National Endowment for the Humanities, since 1979; member of the Literature Panel for the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities (1986-87); and committee member for the American Institute of Architects (1984-89).

As a writer, Ms. Burnham has earned many awards and honors, including best magazine feature from the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association, 1970; Daughter of Mark Twain, Mark Twain Society, 1974; National Episcopal Churches Episcopal Drama Award for play "Penelope," 1979; National Association of Community Broadcasters best children's radio play, "Witch's Tale," 1980; Communications Arts Magazine, "Realities," award of excellence for "Machu Picchu," 1980; and Women's Theatre Award, Seattle, Washington, for "Penelope," 1981. She is a member of the Authors Guild, and Washington Independent Writers.

Ms. Burnham's work includes a wide variety of writing styles: novels, plays, film-work, radio, political speeches, articles, essays, and journalism. Her essays have been reprinted in many countries. An avid traveller, herself, she has journeyed on assignement to Cameroon, Costa Rica, India, and Peru.

On writing, Ms. Burnham once remarked:

I first guessed I was a writer at the age of ten, when I failed my fifth-grade English exam. The reason I failed was because the first question was: "finish this paragraph." Forty-five minutes and two bluebooks later I was still scribbling away without having finished the paragraph - but I discovered what fun it is to write. It took another fifteen years to screw up my courage to try..."

(Contemporary Authors, Vol. 41-44, First Revision)

Today, Ms. Burnham is an established author of such well-received books as "The Art Crowd" (David McKay, Inc., 1973); "The Landed Gentry" (G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1978); "Buccaneer," a novel (Frederick Warne & Co., Inc., 1977); and "The Dogwalker," a novel that will be produced for film (Frederick Warne & Co., 1979).

Ms. Burnham's current fame, however, can be attributed to two of her most recent books, "A Book of Angels," (Ballantine Books, 1990), and "Angel Letters," (Ballantine Books, 1991). Her interest in paranormal phenomena, especially of angels, was first published in an article for "New Woman" magazine entitled, "Angels and Ghosts I Have Known" (April 1985).

Ms. Burnham's personal association with angelic phenomena occurred at the age of twenty-eight when an angel saved her life. Since then, so many inexplicable forces and coincidences have affected her life that she decided to write about them. Her research into such phenomena has not only produced two national bestsellers, but has gained her enormous attention from a reading public that hastens to acknowledge and share its own experiences with the paranormal.

One third of this unique collection consists of correspondence received by Ms. Burnham from people from all over the United States, as well as England and South Africa, who have read her article and books on angels. Almost every letter includes an account (if not more) of some first-hand experience with paranormal phenomena.

The collection includes the copious research notes and information files accummulated by the author on the subjects of angels and various paranormal phenomena. Publication/publisher files include correspondence with editors and publishers; permissions forms and letters; and artwork.

Manuscripts for "Angels and Ghosts I Have Known," and "A Book of Angels," are present along with drafts, outlines, and notes. Unpublished manuscripts for two other works by Ms. Burnham include "Glagor," and a proposal for articles on spiritual healing, another field in which Ms. Burnham greatly believes and indeed, practices.

Ms. Burnham resides in Washington, where she continues to write and support the arts. She is the mother of two (grown) daughters, Sarah Tayloe, and Molly Bright. Her most recent work is a novel entitled, "Revelations," published by Ballantine Books, 1992.

* * * * * * * *

Span dates: 1980-1992 Bulk Dates: 1985-1991

Size: 4.50 linear feet; 3 boxes

Provenance: Gift of Sophy Burnham, 1991.

Processed by Lisette Matano, October 1992.

BULK DATES: 1985 - 1991
SPAN DATES: 1980 - 1992

EXTENT: 3 boxes


SERIES: 1. Stories

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 1, Folders 1-67) This series consists of the some few hundred letters received by Ms. Burnham from people relating their experiences with the paranormal. Letters are grouped in roughly chronological order which corresponds with the publications of Ms. Burnham's best known writings on the subject, shown below - "Angels and Ghosts I have Known," article, New Woman magazine (April 1985). "A Book of Angels," (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990). "Angel Letters," (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991). Some of the correspondence has been arranged by subject by Ms. Burnham. The categories have been preserved with letters arranged alphabetically for each. All other correspondence is arranged alphabetically for each time period.

SERIES: 2. Stories - Related Correspondence

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 2, Folders 1 - 5) This is a small series of written responses to Ms. Burnham's article and books on angels and related paranormal phenomena. The letters are grouped in order of the publication they refer to, as follows: 1. Letters (1985) responding to "Angels and Ghosts I have Known," (article 1985). 2. Letters (1990-91) responding to "A Book of Angels," (book, 1990). In addition, there are miscellaneous letters and writing samples inspired by Ms. Burnham's works.

SERIES: 3. Publication/Publisher Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 2, Folders 6 - 22) This series consists of material related to the publication of Ms. Burnham's work on angels and the supernatural, namely her article, "Angels and Ghosts I Have Known," and her books, "A Book of Angels," and "Angel Letters." Files are grouped chronologically by publication.

SERIES: 4. Research Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 2, Folders 23 - 33) This series consists of research notes and related data collected by Ms. Burnham for "A Book of Angels."

SERIES: 5. Printed Matter

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 2, Folders 34 - 45) Contains printed matter (magazine and news articles, as well as xeroxed excerpts from books) on the subject of angels and miscellaneous paranormal phenomena. Includes printed information (brochures, membership forms, etc.) from various spiritual associations.

SERIES: 6. Manuscripts

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 3, Folders 1-33) Contains manuscripts and autograph notes by Ms. Burnham.