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Vivian Paley correspondence collection

 Collection — Box: 1-4
Identifier: 2019.paleycorr
The Vivian Paley correspondence collection is a compilation of four total donations from Randy Michael Testa (Harvard University), Eileen O’Donnell (retired educator), and Celia Genishi (Teachers College, Columbia University). This collection contains letters from Paley, audiorecordings of talks given by Paley, notes, brochures, draft manuscripts, and other related materials. Additional scope and content information can be found in the Contents List section of this finding aid.

The Vivian Paley correspondence collection has been arranged into three series, one of which has been further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in three archival document boxes and one cassette tape box.


  • 1986 - 2015
  • Majority of material found within 1998 - 2006



The materials in this collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donors have not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, they have given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


2.2 Linear Feet (3 archival document boxes, 1 box of audiocassettes)


The Vivian Paley correspondence collection is a compilation of materials pertaining to the life and career of Vivian Paley, most notable of which are handwritten letters from Paley to colleagues in the education field. The bulk of the materials are from between 1998 and 2006.

Biographical Note

Vivian Gussin Paley (1929-2019) was a noted preschool and kindergarten teacher and early childhood education researcher. She taught and did most of her research at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and authored thirteen books.

Paley was born in 1929 in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from the University of Chicago in 1947 and a B.A. in Psychology from Newcomb College in 1950. She then taught in New Orleans and later in Great Neck, New York. After receiving her M.A. from Hofstra University in 1962, she returned to Chicago where she remained for the rest of her teaching career.

Paley’s books contained her observations of and reflections about her classroom and students, primarily those at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools where she taught preschool and kindergarten for many years. To collect data, Paley made audio-recordings of her classrooms so that she could listen to and analyze the interactions that occurred. In so doing, she heard private conversations among children that helped her think about the ways young children communicate with each other. She used what she discovered to improve her teaching and children’s lives. Paley’s writings focused primarily on three major areas of concern she saw in children: fantasy, friendship, and fairness. Many educators believed that Paley’s greatest legacy is in the area of storytelling and fantasy play, which she argued could significantly impact a child’s academic and social growth.

Paley passed away on July 26, 2019.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Randy Michael Testa, 1997-2015

Subseries A: Correspondence from Paley
Subseries B: Audiorecordings of Paley
Subseries C: Manuscript
Subseries D: Ephemera, publicity, and miscellaneous

Series II: Eileen O’Donnell, 1986-2015

Series III: Celia Genishi, 2006-2014

Custodial History

The Vivian Paley correspondence collection was assembled by The Strong using donations received from Randy Testa, Eileen O’Donnell, and Celia Genishi in 2015 and 2016. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object IDs 115.403 (Celia Genishi), 116.2949 (Eileen O’Donnell), and 115.1615/ 115.2111 (Randy Testa).

Related Materials

Researchers interested in Paley’s career should also consult the Vivian Gussin Paley papers in the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Books and articles by Paley are also part of the holdings within the library stacks.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, October 2019
Finding Aid to the Vivian Paley Correspondence Collection, 1986-2015
Julia Novakovic
28 October 2019
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)