The historical book collections at Simmons University reflect the strong professional orientation of the University curriculum. Represented are mostly 19th and 20th century works relating to public health nursing, social work and social welfare, children's literature, household economics, and the history of the book. There are also selected works by members of the faculty and alumnae/i.
The Knapp Collection of Early Children's Books was begun with a gift from the Detroit Public Library in memory of Dorothy Elizabeth Knapp, Director of Children's Services in Detroit. Knapp was a student at Simmons University in 1903-04 and lectured in the library school during the 1920's. The collection contains over 1,200 19th and early 20th century juvenile books by American, English, and some European authors such as Jacob Abbott, Juliana Horatia Ewing, Louisa May Alcott, Martha Finley, and Horatio Alger. The runs of Saint Nicholas and Youth's Companion are typical of periodicals also found in the collection.
The 1,500 volumes of the Social Work Archives Collection include the Donald Moreland and Robert Ramsey collections of late 18th, 19th, and early 20th century European and American works on the topics of philanthropy, slum life and poverty, child labor and welfare, medical care of the mentally ill, crime, and slavery. Included are Una and Her Papers: Memorials of Agnes Elizabeth Jones by her sister, with a preface by Henry Ward Beecher and an introduction by Florence Nightingale (New York, 1872); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written by himself (Boston, 1845); and Voices from Prison: a selection of poetry written within the cell, by various prisoners, edited by Charles Spear (Boston, 1849).