Erma Perry Papers

Identifier: 96-42

Scope and Contents

The Erma Perry Papers consists almost entirely of the professional papers of Mrs. Perry and includes manuscripts of her articles, scrapbook pages of clippings of Perry's published articles, black notebooks of notes and ephemera, transcripts of some of her taped interviews, a selection of audio cassette tapes of interviews, representations of travel slide shows, and some ephemera.

The collection was divided into series, based on Perry's arrangement of the materials.

Series 1 consists of manuscripts of Mrs. Perry's articles, some correspondence related to individual pieces, and a few photographs. The manuscripts are in typed form; some on yellow paper appear to be in draft form while others which were typed on Perry's letterhead are copies of articles as submitted to various publications. Perry occasionally made penciled notations as to whom the articles were submitted for publication, and whether they were accepted or rejected. These articles were preserved in folders, filed alphabetically by either the name of the locale or individual whom Perry interviewed. The folders originally contained numerous flyers, brochures, and maps of the region being investigated; they have all been discarded, leaving only the articles, any correspondence, and a few representative photographs.

Series 2 contains materials originally kept in black composition notebooks by Perry. These notebooks seem to have been the preferred method for collecting information about Perry's travel destinations. Arranged alphabetically, they contain Perry's notes, business cards of contacts, flyers, some correspondence, a few photos or postcards, and miscellaneous ephemera.

Perry collected her published articles and filed them chronologically in large scrapbooks. Dating from 1954-1981, they are the only documentation of Perry's early journalism career prior to becoming a travel writer. The original covers of these scrapbooks have been removed and the articles placed in acid free folders, maintaining Perry's original order.

Perry preferred to record her interviews on cassette tape, rather than take notes during the interview. She saved many of the tapes and for a few, made rough transcriptions. A sampling of the tapes and all the transcripts have been preserved as Series 3 to provide evidence of her voice and interview style.

Perry was an accomplished public speaker and developed several slide presentations for various groups. These travelogs were accompanied by a full, typed script and cassette tape of Perry's presentation. All the scripts and tapes have been preserved in Series 4; only one slide show was saved as a representation of her presentations.

The last series, Series 5, contains a few pieces of ephemera: a cloth shoulder patch for the travel writers' association, and prize ribbons which Perry won for her photographs at camera club competitions.


  • 1954-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical note

Erma Jackson McNeil Perry was born in Winthrop, Massachusetts in about 1914 or 1915. She received a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, from Boston University in 1936. Erma married Irving Perry on April 29, 1939; they had two children: Dorothy Perry Toy and Irving Chester Perry III. The Perrys maintained two homes; one in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and in Conway, New Hampshire.

Mrs. Perry was a member of the Society of Friends and very active in Friends committees, including the Women's Committee of the International House, the Social Order Committee and the Friends Prison Service Committee.

Perry began her journalism career in about 1954 when she went to work as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. She wrote on a variety of topics related to homes and notable buildings, home decorating, and entertaining, but as she herself commented, she always wrote from the human interest angle. She preferred to record interviews on cassette tape, rather than taking notes during the session; she felt it interfered less and promoted the flow of conversation. Later, she transcribed the interviews at least in part.

Gradually, Perry worked herself into a full time job as a free lance travel writer. She was a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and of the Freelance Council of the SATW. She traveled extensively, both on private tours and with the SATW, to Europe, Africa, and Asia. During her travels she sought to make herself inconspicuous, to meet people of the country in which she was visiting, and to obtain a real "feel" for the country. Her husband did not travel with her, and once, when asked where Mr. Perry was by the distinguished Polish subject of an interview, replied that her husband did not enjoy traveling, so she (Erma) traveled by herself.

Erma wrote extensively and her columns were syndicated in many newspapers and magazines in the U.S., South America, and Asia. She won several awards for her articles, including awards from the Readers' Digest Magazine in 1971 and 1972. She was made an honorary citizen of Texas in 1972. Her name appeared in Who's Who Among American Women, Who's Who in the East, Dictionary of International Biography, World Who's Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and others.

Erma Perry died in 1996.

[Sources: Contemporary Authors, vol. 89-92. Detroit: Gale Research Company; Erma Perry. "Traveling Light: Brasilia Rises From Brazil's Wil...." Jewish Exponent. n.d. [fragment of article]; and various articles and interviews throughout the Perry collection.]


12 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials



Erma Perry was a free lance travel writer. Included are manuscripts, both draft and final, for Perry's articles; clippings of her published materials; notebooks containing field notes of many travel destinations; audio tapes and transcripts of a sampling of her interviews; narrated slide shows of travel destinations; and ribbons Perry won from camera club competitions (1954-1993).


Arranged into the following series: 1) Manuscripts; 2) Notebooks; 3) Scrapbooks; 4) Tapes and Transcripts; 5) Slide Shows; 6) Ephemera

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dorothy Perry Toy in October 1996.

A Part of

Nevada women's archives.


Guide to the Erma Perry Papers
December 23, 1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)