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Harriet Oxman papers

Call Number

MS 2922


1907-2017 (bulk, 1962-1987), inclusive


Oxman, Harriet, 1927-2019


1.42 Linear feet (in 2 boxes)

Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.


Diaries, correspondence, clippings, publications, and ephemera relating to the career of New York City educator Harriet Oxman, fifth and only female principal of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn (1972-1982). Includes Oxman's self-published The Rise and Fall, Erasmus Hall High School (2017).

Biographical/Historical Note

Harriet Morel Oxman (1927-2019) was a career educator who served the New York City school system from 1954 to 1982. A graduate of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations and New York University's School of Education, Oxman was hired in 1957 to teach social studies at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, where she would rise to grade advisor, guidance counselor, assistant principal in 1964, and principal in 1972, a position she held for a decade. Oxman was the fifth and only female principal in the long history of Erasmus.

Erasmus Hall High School (899-925 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York), descends from Erasmus Hall Academy, a private institution named for Dutch scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536). Erasmus Hall was founded in 1786 to educate the sons of the Dutch-speaking settlers of Flatbush, then an independent town of Kings County. It was the first secondary school to be chartered by the New York Board of Regents. The Academy building, constructed in 1787 in the Georgian and Federal styles, still stands and is an official New York City landmark. Flatbush was annexed by the City of Brooklyn in 1894, and Erasmus Hall was absorbed by the Brooklyn Board of Education. When Brooklyn joined Greater New York City in 1898, control of Erasmus Hall next went to the New York City Board of Education, which, between 1905 and 1940, constructed the current Collegiate Gothic buildings around the 1787 structure.

Harriet Oxman's tenure as principal (1972–1982) coincided with a period of decline in New York City's schools. Erasmus Hall, in the heart of then crime-ridden Flatbush, saw frequent violence and generally poor academic performance. In 1994, Erasmus was split internally in three separate schools: Humanities, Science and Mathematics, and Business and Technology. 2004 and 2006 saw the additions of the High School for Service and Learning and the Academy for Hospitality and Tourism.


The collection is organized in four series:

Series I. Principal's diaries, 1972-1980
Series II. Correspondence, 1965-2017
Series III. Print matter and ephemera, 1949-2017
Series IV. Postcards and photographs, 1907-1912, 1975-1987

Material is sorted chronologically within each series.

Scope and Contents

At the heart of Harriet Oxman's papers are the nine notebooks she kept as principal of Erasmus Hall High School between 1972 and 1980, in which she recorded daily happenings—not all of them pleasant—of the school and its community. Correspondence from alumni (1986–2005) recalls happier experiences. These are reflected by the various publications in the collection: school guides, commencement programs, clippings from The Dutchman, the school's official newspaper, and Oxman's own The Rise and Fall, Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, New York (self-published, 2017). Early twentieth-century postcards issued for the school's 125th anniversary, and photographs of its participation in the U.S. Bicentennial (1975-1976) and its own bicentennial celebrations (1987), round out the collection.

Access Restrictions

This collection is stored offsite. To arrange to consult it, please go to

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282. Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Harriet Oxman Papers, MS 2922, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

This collection is stored offsite. To arrange to consult it, please go to

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection combines three accessions donated to the New-York Historical Society by Harriet Oxman in 2012 (MS.2012.02), 2017 (MS.2017.31), and 2019 (MS.2019.030).

Related Archival Materials

The New-York Historical Society holds the Erasmus Hall Records, 1325–1989 (bulk, circa 1775–1975), MS 201, which include material relating to Brooklyn (particularly Flatbush) and prominent area families such as Cowenhoven, Lefferts, Lott, Vanderveer, and Zabriskie, and contain correspondence, minute books, papers, account and record books, maps, publications, photographs, printed material, and memorabilia. In addition to the online finding aid, a printed index to the collection is available on-site.

Collection processed by

Joseph Ditta (2018, 2019)

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:46:38 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is written in: English, Latin script.

Processing Information

Archivist Joseph Ditta first arranged and described the Harriet Oxman Papers, and published this finding aid, using Archivists' Toolkit in March 2018. He incorporated accruals to the collection and revised the finding aid using ArchivesSpace in June and October, 2019.


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024