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Collection Overview

Oliver, María Rosa, 1898-1977
María Rosa Oliver Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
circa 1899-1997 (mostly 1930-1975)
9 boxes, 54 items, and 4.5 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-9


Consists of writings, correspondence, documents, drawings, photographs, papers of others, and printed material of María Rosa Oliver (1898-1977), Argentine essayist, short story writer, literary critic, and translator.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The María Rosa Oliver Papers consists of writings, correspondence, documents, drawings, photographs, printed material, and papers of others collected by Oliver. The strengths of the collection are the manuscripts by Oliver on a wide range of cultural subjects, covering the 1930s to the 1970s, correspondence with writers and editors of many nationalities, and photographs of Oliver with other cultural figures in Argentina and in her working role for the World Peace Council in the period 1953-1962.

The Writings series contains autograph and typescript drafts of Oliver's nonfiction articles, a small amount of typescript chapters of her published memoirs, and one typescript short story. The Correspondence series contains her correspondence with a wide range of Latin American authors and editors, including over 80 letters or cards by Victoria Ocampo, 23 letters by Eduardo Mallea, 40 letters in English by Waldo Frank, and 11 by prominent American dance promoter Lincoln Kirstein. Other Latin American authors or editors represented in the correspondence are Gabriela Mistral, Miguel Angel Asturias, Alfonso Reyes, José Bianco, Bernardo Kordon, Juan C. Onetti, Gabriel García Márquez, Brazilians Jorge Amado and Vinícius de Moraes, Cubans Roberto Fernández Retamar and Marcia Leiseca de Otero, Mexicans Arnaldo Orfila Reynal and Jesús Silva Herzog, and French authors Roger Caillois, Alfred Métraux, Simone de Beauvoir, and photographer Gisèle Freund. There are also 126 letters by Argentine film director Luis Saslavsky and letters from other political and cultural figures in Argentina, such as Rodolfo Aráoz Alfaro, Gregorio Bermann, and Raimundo Ongaro. The collection also includes correspondence with officers of the World Peace Council at the international and local level, such as the president Frédéric Joliot-Curie, chairman J. D. Bernal, Argentinian Alfredo Varela, Colombians Jorge Regueros Peralta, Jorge Zalamea, and Diego Montaña Cuéllar, and Chilean Olga Poblete.

The correspondence also contains Oliver's personal correspondence with family members, primarily with her mother, María Rita Romero de Oliver, and niece, María Teresa Bortagaray de Testa. There is a small amount of correspondence between other people which includes letters by others to Victoria Ocampo and Spanish authors Rafael Alberti and María Teresa León. The collection also includes Oliver family documents, drawings of and by María Rosa Oliver, and 135 photographs of Oliver from circa 1899 to the 1970s and of her family and friends, such as Victoria Ocampo, Waldo Frank, Lincoln Kirstein, Luis and Dalila Saslavsky, and Mexican actors Cantinflas and Dolores Del Rio. The Papers of Others series includes manuscripts of speeches about Oliver by José Bianco, Norberto Frontini, and Jorge Zalamea, and a manuscript by Raúl González Tuñón, "Cronica de la guerrilla literaria: El movimiento martinfierrista y el grupo del Boedo." There is a substantial amount of printed material of articles, both by and about Oliver, chiefly spanning the years 1934 to 1970. The printed material series includes one scrapbook compiled by the author, reviews of her books, Mundo, mi casa and La vida cotidiana, several posthumous reviews of her book Mi fe es el hombre, and articles about her.

Collection Creator Biography:

Oliver, María Rosa, 1898-1977

María Rosa Lucía Oliver Romero was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 10, 1898. She was the first of eight children born to her parents, Francisco José Oliver and María Rita Romero. Her siblings, in order of their birth, are Isabel Joaquina, Julia, Francisco J., Juan Pablo, Luis Ramón, Magdalena, and Samuel F. As documented in her memoirs, Mundo, mi casa, María Rosa Oliver had a normal childhood until she contracted polio at the age of ten. With the assistance of a Swedish physiotherapist, Olga Carlsson, she began a recuperation during which she developed a love of reading and drawing. In the late 1910s, Oliver began publishing journalism in magazines in Buenos Aires. Though confined to a wheelchair, Oliver travelled widely throughout her life. She travelled with her family in Europe in 1921, throughout Latin America, through much of the United States on lecture tours while working in the U.S. in the years 1942-1946, and to China, the Soviet Union, and other countries as part of her work for the World Peace Council (Consejo Mundial de la Paz) in the period 1948-1962. In her work for the World Peace Council, an international peace organization, Oliver served as a vice-president and an advisor to the directorial board of the council. The World Peace Council was formed after the convocation of several peace congresses in Europe: a congress held in Wroclaw, Poland, in 1948, and congresses held in Paris and Prague in 1949. During 1942-1946, at the invitation of the Roosevelt Administration, Oliver worked in Washington, D.C., as Special Coordinator in the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.

In the 1920s and 1930s, María Rosa Oliver met writers and artists active with the association "Amigos del Arte" in Buenos Aires. During this period, the city of Buenos Aires was home to writers and intellectuals from around the world, many of whom were fleeing Nazism in France and Germany. She became a friend and colleague of Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979), the founder of Sur, a literary magazine published in Buenos Aires, and was a member of Sur's editorial board (Comité de Colaboración) from the magazine's inception in 1931. Though they had disagreements over politics (see the letters in the collection, dated 1958 and 1961), Oliver and Ocampo were lifelong friends, and Oliver made many visits, especially in the 1930s, to Victoria Ocampo's house, "Villa Victoria," in San Isidro, Buenos Aires; there she met and became friends with Eduardo Mallea, novelist, critic, and literary editor of La Nación in Buenos Aires, and Waldo Frank, the American novelist and critic who was a popular figure in Latin America for his book America Hispana and other writings. Oliver was also friends with other cultural figures, such as Mexican author and diplomat Alfonso Reyes, French writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, and Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca. Oliver's memoirs, La vida cotidiana and Mi fe es el hombre, document this period of her life. She was also a close friend of Luis Saslavksy and his sister, Dalila Saslavsky. Luis Saslavsky was an Argentine film director who excelled in creating movies depicting fin-de-siècle Argentina.

María Rosa Oliver grew up in a home in Buenos Aires at Charcas 628, which is described in detail in her memoirs. She also lived some years with her mother on a small farm in Merlo, a town outside of Buenos Aires. Eventually, Oliver returned to Buenos Aires to live. After her mother's death in 1962, Oliver lived with two of her married brothers and sisters. She also had an attendant for many years, Josefa "Pepa" Freire, who accompanied Oliver on many trips to Europe, the Soviet Union, and other countries. The presence of María Rosa Oliver, with Pepa Freire pushing her wheelchair, became a well-known sight at conferences of the World Peace Council and other organizations. María Rosa Oliver died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 78 on April 19, 1977.

María Rosa Oliver was widely admired for her courage in the face of her physical disability, for her kindness and interest in people from all walks of life, and for her ability to transform the circumstances of her disability into a life of personal, political, and cultural engagement. She is mentioned several times in Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs, and Oliver, herself, wrote memoirs which critics have praised for the quality of her observations and literary style. Mundo, mi casa, in particular, has been described as a sympathetic evocation of life in Argentina at the start of the century, depicting a society long since changed.

The noted Argentine critic, Pedro Orgambide, wrote in the magazine Entre Todos in 1988, " María Rosa Oliver escribió centenares de artículos, notas críticas, ensayos y se acercó a la ficción a través del cuento....Pero su aporte singular a nuestra literatura, queda en sus libros de memorias, un género que ella cultivó con extrema sinceridad, con pasión y con un estilo muy sobrio y muy bello al mismo tiempo." (María Rosa Oliver wrote hundreds of articles, critical notes, and essays, and she approached fiction through short stories.... But her singular contribution to our literature rests in her books of memoirs, a genre which she cultivated with the utmost sincerity, with passion, and with a style very sober and very beautiful at the same time.)

Major publications include: Geografía Argentina (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1939); with co-author Norberto A. Frontini, Lo que sabemos, hablamos. Testimonios sobre la China de hoy (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Botella al mar, 1965); Mundo, mi casa (Buenos Aires: Falbo Librero Editor, 1965); La vida cotidiana (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1969); Mi fe es el hombre (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Carlos Lohlé, 1981).

Collection History


The collection was purchased from the author's family in 1997.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Claire A. Johnston in 1998. Finding aid written by Claire A. Johnston in 1998.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

María Rosa Oliver Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-9