Grace Delafield Day Spier papers
Grace Delafield Day Spier (1901-1980) was a social activist, a friend of Katherine Anne Porter, and the sister of Dorothy Day, editor of the Catholic Worker. She became active in the literary and intellectual circles of Greenwich Village in the second decade of the twentieth century. The collection consists of correspondence from Katherine Anne Porter about mutual acquaintances and personal life.
Important Information for Users of the Collection
This collection is open for research.
Grace Delafield Day Spier papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.
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Grace Delafield Day Spier was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, the fourth child of John and Grace Day. In 1904, the family moved to California. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Chicago where they remained until 1916 when the family returned to New York City. All of these moves were occasioned by John Day's career as a sports writer whose speciality was horseracing.
Upon the family's return to New York, Della, the name by which Spier was known throughout her life, took a secretarial course at Eastman's Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York. After graduation, she worked as a secretary for Nevin Sayre, the secretary and later director of the Fellowship for Reconciliation, a Quaker organization. Eventually, she worked with Margaret Sanger, the early-twentieth-century pioneer of birth control, and became an apostle spreading the gospel of birth control. Her sister, Dorothy Day, an American journalist and reformer, co-founded and edited the Catholic Worker. Birth control was a point of contention between Della and her sister Dorothy, a Roman Catholic crusader; despite their differences, the sisters shared a special closeness that remained constant until Della's death.
In 1923, Della went to live with her sister Dorothy in Chicago. That autumn they moved to New Orleans, and, by 1925, they were living in New York. It was through Dorothy that Della entered the political and literary circles of Greenwich Village, where she met Katherine Anne Porter sometime after 1925. Dorothy Day and Porter lived near one another in New York City and had many mutual friends. At this time, Porter was more sympathetic to Communism than Roman Catholicism, although she had been baptized in that faith in 1910. Consequently, her sympathies were more in tune with those of Della than those of Dorothy, a recent and rather devout convert to Catholicism. Della and Porter became fast friends. In August 1927, they were among those who demonstrated in Boston prior to the executions of the two anarchists Nicolo Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti.
In 1928, Porter was living in New York at 561 Hudson Street, in a boarding house which was sometimes referred to as the Caligari House or Casa Calagari, across the street from the Day sisters. In the spring of that same year, Della married Franklin Spier (1896-1973), a Jewish advertising agent and later promotion consultant to book publishers. In 1929, he founded Franklin Spier, Inc., an advertising agency for the publishing trade. In March of that year, Porter joined a group of four expatriate New Yorkers vacationing in Bermuda, two of whom were Della and Franklin Spier. Their vacation was fraught with bad weather and Della's illnesss with her first pregnancy.
Upon their return from Bermuda, the Spiers settled in New York on 17th Street, later moving uptown to 91st and 93rd Streets. From 1935 until 1950, they lived in the Bronx and thereafter in various Westchester County suburbs of New York. They had three children, John Simon, born in 1929; David Houston, born in 1931; and Susanna Day, born in 1935. The demands of her family occupied Della after 1929; however, she never lost her verve for social activism. As late as the early 1950s, she demonstrated with Dorothy against nuclear air raid drills in New York City.
Grace Delafield Day Spier died in April 1980 in Victoria, British Columbia, where she had moved in 1976 to live with her daughter Susanna.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The papers of Grace Delafield Day Spier consist of letters written by Katherine Anne Porter to Mrs. Spier between 1928 and 1931. This correspondence was written at places where Porter was vacationing, including Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Bermuda; as well as at Porter's more permanent residences in Mexico City and Berlin, Germany. The letters are primarily concerned with mutual acquaintances and personal life.
Custodial History and Acquisition Information
The papers of Grace Delafield Day Spier were purchased by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in November 1982.
Processed by: Mary Boccaccio, November 1982. Guide revised by: Deborah Volk, May 1995.
When the papers of Grace Delafield Day Spier were processed in November 1982, they were arranged chronologically into one series. This arrangement was retained when the guide to the collection was enhanced in 1995. At that time the letters were placed in new acid-free folders in a new acid-free box.
EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Michael Yates.
Arrangement of Collection
The collection has been arranged in one series
Detailed Description of the Collection
Series 1: Correspondence from Katherine Anne Porter, 1928-1931 (14 items)
This series contains fourteen letters from Katherine Anne Porter to Grace Delafield Day Spier (Delia). The earliest of the dated correspondence was written on July 17, 1928; however, it is clear that one of the undated letters was written in the summer of 1928 prior to July 17. The last letter in the collection, dated September 27, 1931, was written in Berlin, Germany. The majority of the letters were written while Porter was living in Bermuda and Mexico. They discuss a variety of topics and individuals. Notable persons mentioned include Dorothy Day, Becky and John Crawford, Malcolm and Peggy Cowley, Alien and Caroline Tate, Helen Black, Lallan Rogers, and Andrew Lytle. Important subjects include Katherine Anne Porter's unfinished biography of Cotton Mather and Dorothy Day's book No Continuing City. The letters mostly address matters of domestic life, children, mutual acquaintances, and, with the exception of one, are all typewritten. They have been arranged chronologically.
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame|
|Correspondence from Katherine Anne Porter, 1928-1931||series 1||box 1||folder 1|
|Correspondence from Katherine Anne Porter -- (Photocopies), 1928-1931||series 1||box 1||folder 2|
Additional correspondence to and from Katherine Anne Porter can be found in the papers of Katherine Anne Porter, Series I, Box 5, Dorothy and Delafield Day. Related materials may also be found in the Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection in Special Collections and University of Maryland, Memorial Library, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
Selected Search Terms
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.
- Allen Tate -- 1899-1979
- Andrew Nelson Lytle -- 1902-1995
- Caroline Gordon -- 1895-1981
- Edmund Wilson -- 1895-1972
- Grace Delafield Day Spier -- Archives
- Malcolm Cowley -- 1898-1989
Names (Added Entries)
- Dorothy Day -- 1897-1980
- Katherine Anne Porter -- 1890-1980