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Sophy Burnham Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS129

Scope and Contents

One third of this unique collection consists of correspondence received by Ms. Burnham from people from all over the United States, as well as England and South Africa, who have read her article and books on angels. Almost every letter includes an account (if not more) of some first-hand experience with paranormal phenomena. The collection includes the copious research notes and information files accummulated by the author on the subjects of angels and various paranormal phenomena. Publication/publisher files include correspondence with editors and publishers; permissions forms and letters; and artwork. Manuscripts for 'Angels and Ghosts I Have Known,' and 'A Book of Angels,' are present along with drafts, outlines, and notes. Unpublished manuscripts for two other works by Ms. Burnham include 'Glagor,' and a proposal for articles on spiritual healing, another field in which Ms. Burnham greatly believes and indeed, practices.


  • 1980-1992


Conditions Governing Access

Researchers must obtain permission from Sophy Burnham to access personal correspodence, diaries, journals, and other personal papers. Contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

Sophy Burnham grew up in Maryland, attended a private girls school, and graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA with a degree in Italian Language and Literature. From 1962 to 1964, Ms. Burnham served as assistant curator for Museum Services at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., becoming head of their newly developed film and television unit. She was also associate editor for David McKay Co., Inc., New York (1971-73); contributing editor to 'Town & Country,' (1975-80); speechwriter for the secretary, Department of Housing & Urban Development (1977-79); contributing editor to 'New Art Examiner' (1985-86); staff writer for 'New Woman' (since 1984), and to 'Museum & Arts/Washington' (since 1987); and consultant to (among others) the MITRE Corp., Veterans Administration, Public Citizen, INSLAW, and the Environmental Protection Agency (1978- 1988).

When she is not immersed in writing, Ms. Burnham is especially active in community theater. She was founding member and vice-president of Studio Theatre, Washington, D.C. (1978-79); founding member of the D.C. Community Humanities Council (1979-85); member of the board for Children's Radio Theatre, Washington D.C., since 1978; member of the planning committee of the District of Columbia and the National Endowment for the Humanities, since 1979; member of the Literature Panel for the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities (1986-87); and committee member for the American Institute of Architects (1984-89). As a writer, Ms. Burnham has earned many awards and honors, including best magazine feature from the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association, 1970; Daughter of Mark Twain, Mark Twain Society, 1974; National Episcopal Churches Episcopal Drama Award for play 'Penelope,' 1979; National Association of Community Broadcasters best children's radio play, 'Witch's Tale,' 1980; Communications Arts Magazine, 'Realities,' award of excellence for 'Machu Picchu,' 1980; and Women's Theatre Award, Seattle, Washington, for 'Penelope,' 1981. She is a member of the Authors Guild, and Washington Independent Writers.

Ms. Burnham's work includes a wide variety of writing styles: novels, plays, film-work, radio, political speeches, articles, essays, and journalism. Her essays have been reprinted in many countries. An avid traveller herself, she has journeyed on assignment to Cameroon, Costa Rica, India, and Peru. On writing, Ms. Burnham once remarked: I first guessed I was a writer at the age of ten, when I failed my fifth-grade English exam. The reason I failed was because the first question was: 'finish this paragraph.' Forty-five minutes and two bluebooks later I was still scribbling away without having finished the paragraph - but I discovered what fun it is to write. It took another fifteen years to screw up my courage to try...' (Contemporary Authors, Vol. 41-44, First Revision) Today, Ms. Burnham is an established author of such well-received books as 'The Art Crowd' (David McKay, Inc., 1973); 'The Landed Gentry' (G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1978); 'Buccaneer,' a novel (Frederick Warne & Co., Inc., 1977); and 'The Dogwalker.'

Ms. Burnham's current fame, however, can be attributed to two books, 'A Book of Angels,' (Ballantine Books, 1990), and 'Angel Letters,' (Ballantine Books, 1991). Her interest in paranormal phenomena, especially of angels, was first published in an article for 'New Woman' magazine entitled, 'Angels and Ghosts I Have Known' (April 1985). Ms. Burnham's personal association with angelic phenomena occurred at the age of twenty-eight when an angel saved her life. Since then, so many inexplicable forces and coincidences have affected her life that she decided to write about them. Her research into such phenomena has not only produced two national bestsellers, but has gained her enormous attention from a reading public that hastens to acknowledge and share its own experiences with the paranormal.

According to Ms. Burnham's website (accessed 1/13/2015), she currently divides her time between Washington D.C. and Taos, New Mexico, spending time with her friends, daughters, four granddaughters, and her horse.


3 Linear Feet (3 record storage boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Custodial History

The papers were placed on deposit at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in 1991.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Sophy Burnham, 2015-2022.

Sophy Burnham Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057