Archives West Finding Aid
Table of Contents
Opal Whiteley papers , 1911–1977
- Whiteley, Opal Stanley
- Opal Whiteley papers
- 1911–1977 (inclusive)19111977
- 11.25 linear feet, (16 containers)
- Collection Number
- Ax 097
- Opal Stanley Whiteley was an amateur naturalist and an author. She gave nature lectures around Oregon, while attending the University of Oregon. She wrote a book called The Fairyland Around Us, based upon her nature lectures. While the book was not published, in March 1920, The Atlantic Monthly published a serialized version of Whiteley's childhood diary and the book version was released in September of the same year. Controversy surrounded the publication, as people believed that Whiteley did not actually write the diary in her youth. After traveling the world for several years, Whiteley placed herself in Napsbury Hospital in England in 1948, where she died in 1992. The Opal Whiteley Papers consist of correspondence, class notes, personal and literary notes and writings, material relating to Whiteley's writings. Her self-published diary, The Fairyland Around Us, is also part of this collection.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
1299 University of Oregon
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.
- Additional Reference Guides
- Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Historical NoteReturn to Top
Opal Stanley Whiteley was born on December 11, 1897 in Colton, Washington to Mary Elizabeth Scott Whiteley and Charles Edward Whiteley. When Whiteley was about six years old, the family moved to Walden, Oregon, situated near the town of Cottage Grove. It was in Walden that Whiteley wrote a diary, later published in 1920 by the Atlantic Monthly, which was to become both celebrated and controversial.
Whiteley was keenly interested in nature, botany, and collecting a variety of specimens and objects from her outdoor environment. She became an amateur naturalist and utilized her interests in both nature and religion for her work in the Oregon Junior Christian Endeavor. By 1915, Whiteley was appointed state superintendent for all Junior Christian Endeavor work.
Whiteley grew passionate about writing nature books for children and realized that she needed to pursue a college education in order to acquire the resources to actualize this ambition. In 1916, she entered the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Whiteley did not have the financial resources to pay for her second year's tuition, so she devised a plan that would satisfy her need for income while engaging her intellect and passion concerning the natural environment. She traveled throughout Oregon giving a series of lectures on nature. Unfortunately, this endeavor did not bring in the needed funds to cover her educational expenses and so she had to drop out of the University. However, Whiteley was determined to finance her education and realize her literary goals and so she enacted a second plan. Armed with a portfolio of publicity stills, she traveled to Hollywood to find work as an actress.
When work as an actress did not materialize, Whiteley wrote a book called The Fairyland Around Us, based upon her nature lectures. She managed to raise funds for the book's publication through private donations, but the revisions she wanted cost more than she had. As a result, the printer scraped the plates. However, Whiteley finally managed to collect enough money to pay for the binding of several hundred copies. She was persuaded to look for a publisher on the East Coast and so she traveled to Boston. There, she approached Ellery Sedgewick, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, with her book. Sedgewick was not interested in the Fairyland manuscript, but inquired as to other writing Whiteley might have done. In March 1920, The Atlantic Monthly published a serialized version of Whiteley's childhood diary and the book version was released in September of the same year.
The diary was controversial for several reasons. First, Whiteley claimed that she had written the diary when she was six years old. Her use of French and Latin names and phrases seemed beyond the skills of a child at that age, as did her references to aspects of the Catholic religion. Secondly, Whiteley claimed to be adopted and that her natural parents were angels. Amid the controversy, Whiteley left Boston for New York and later, Washington, D.C. In 1923, she sailed to England and then journeyed to France. Her purpose in going to France was to meet the mother of Henri d'Orleans, a man of title whom she claimed as her true father. His mother sponsored a trip to India for Whiteley, a place that had fascinated her son. Whiteley wrote a book about India's royal family, which was printed in a London publication.
In 1925, Whiteley returned to England and in 1935, she was living as a ward of the city of London. It is not clear what transpired in her life during those ten years, and in 1948, she was deemed unable to care for herself and placed in Napsbury Hospital, a public care facility outside London. Opal Stanley Whiteley died at Napsbury in 1992.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
The Opal Whiteley Papers consist of correspondence, class notes, personal and literary notes and writings, material relating to Whiteley's Christian Endeavor work, collected pamphlets and booklets, ephemeral and miscellaneous materials, writings and publicity about Whiteley, Edmund Conklin's research notes and newspaper clippings concerning Whiteley, publications she owned and finally, photographs. Her self-published diary, The Fairyland Around Us, is also part of this collection.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top
|Guide to the Opal Whiteley Papers|
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- American diaries
- Authors, American--20th century
- Conklin, Edmund S., 1884-1942
- Moore, Carlisle
- Whiteley, Opal Stanley
- Oregon Christian Endeavor Union
Form or Genre Terms