The collection is a rich resource for evidence not only on the life of Mary Howitt and herimmediate family but on a wide range of social, political, and literary subjects from themid-nineteenth century. The writers are observant, articulate and frank. The bulk of thecorrespondence was between women, and inevitably touches closely on domestic issues, including theraising of children, as well as on the role of women themselves. Geographical location is sometimesparticularly important, as in the series of letters from Mary's sister Emma Alderson, in Cincinnati,Ohio before the American civil war. The following series comprise the main elements in thecollection:
- Correspondence from Mary Howitt to her sister Anna Harrison, 373 Letters, 1822-1882; her nieceMary Harrison, 13 letters, 1847-1883; and unidentified and other correspondents (Ht 1);
- Correspondence from Anna Harrison to her daughters Mary Harrison, 13 letters, 1853-1873, MargaretYarnell, 7 letters, 1861, and Agnes MacDonnell, 6 letters, 1861; her sister Mary Howitt, 78 letters,1825-1867; and other correspondents (Ht 4);
- Correspondence from Emma Alderson to her sisters Mary Howitt, 76 letters, 1823-1847, and AnnaHarrison, 8 letters, 1824-1847; her mother Ann Botham, 40 letters, 1834-1847; and othercorrespondents. There are also parts of her American journal (Ht 7);
- Smaller series include correspondence from: William Howitt (Ht 2), Richard Howitt (Ht 3), DanielHarrison (Ht 5), Hannah Harrison (Ht 6), Harrison Alderson (Ht 8), Charles Botham (Ht 9), Anna MaryWatts (Ht 10), Alfred Howitt (Ht 11), Anna Mary Harrison (Ht 12), Margaret Ann Yarnell (Ht 13),Ellis Yarnell (Ht 14), Agnes MacDonnell (Ht 15), Emily Harrison (Ht 16), Joe (Ht 17), WilliamAlderson (Ht 18), Mildred Yarnell (Ht 19), Agnes Yarnell (Ht 20), miscellaneous items (Ht 21-27),and notes by biographer Amice Lee.