Hoopes Sisters Illustrations
Susan Barribeau ’77, MA’91 had no time to waste when she came across a listing for 25 sketchbooks that had belonged to Margaret and Florence Hoopes. She recognized their names immediately.
It was 2008, and Barribeau — then the new English-language humanities librarian and literary-collections curator for UW–Madison Libraries — had struck gold. She knew the sisters as one of her favorite illustrating teams through her personal interest in collecting readers from the early 20th century. Some of their work appeared in the Alice and Jerry children’s books, similar to the well-known Dick and Jane series.
Barribeau acquired the set before anyone else could claim it, thinking the sketches would be a fitting addition to the William B. Cairns Collection of American Women Writers 1650–1940, housed in Special Collections in Memorial Library.
The sketchbooks contain a range of the sisters’ work starting around the 1920s. The artists, who lived together in Philadelphia, often practiced drawing using neighborhood children for models, and they included thorough notes with their sketches.
But this acquisition was just the beginning.
In 2012, Barribeau received an email from the owner of the Hoopes’ former house, saying that a box owned by the sisters was still sitting in the attic. Barribeau visited the home and retrieved the box — which held the sisters’ correspondence with publishers such as Row, Peterson, and Company and Houghton Mifflin Company — for the UW’s collection. While there, she also met a neighbor who knew one of the sisters.
“It was a series of odd things, which then continued with people contacting me through the years about this collection,” Barribeau says.
She has since met relatives — some of whom live in Madison — who have come to Special Collections to see the work. During one of their visits, they revealed a UW connection: although the sisters never married, their brother did, and one of his daughters married the late Saul Epstein, who was a physics professor at the university.
The Hoopes collection continues to expand beyond Barribeau’s expectations. Just when she thinks, “Okay, now I have them all,” she says, “I keep finding new series or new publications.”