Doing Good by Stealth: The Philanthropy and Service of Annie Burr Lewis

Yale University

Yale University Art Gallery

Yale School of Nursing

Yale University Press

Annie Burr Lewis grew up with family connections to Yale University through male alumni and enthusiastic female devotees, but her 1928 marriage to W.S. “Lefty” Lewis, Yale Class of 1918, cemented those ties. Scholarship on the British world of the long eighteenth century was a focus of the Lewises’ life together and, by extension, of her support for the university. In addition, her connections to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and her interest in nursing also influenced her individual contributions to Yale.

Monetary Donations to Yale

In her lifetime and by bequest Annie Burr provided funds to support a range of Yale programs and initiatives, most notably the production and publication of the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (Yale University Press, 1937-1983); ongoing support for the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington; support students in the School of Nursing and in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and funding for the Yale University Press. The letter from Carlos “Tot” Stoddard Jr., of the Office of University Development, dated January 5, 1956 reflects Annie Burr's modest insistence that her gifts be treated without fanfare.

Gift to the Yale University Art Gallery

Annie Burr made a gift of this portrait of George Washington, by the noted American painter Rembrandt Peale, to the Yale University Art Gallery in 1953, and it was gratefully received by the recently appointed director, Lamont Moore. The portrait hung for many years over the mantel in the Old Library in the eighteenth-century Cowles House portion of the Lewises’ home in Farmington, as shown in this photo. Also in the Old Library were a number of items, some still on view, depicting either George Washington or his home at Mount Vernon, reflecting Annie Burr Lewis’s position as Vice Regent for Connecticut for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ association. Although now the property of the Yale University Art Gallery, the painting remains in Farmington.

Yale School of Nursing

Interest in nursing is a thread that ran through Annie Burr Lewis’s life. Elsewhere in this exhibition her service to the American Red Cross is explored. That interest, her connections to Yale, and her proximity to the campus, not to mention her gender, made her a welcome addition to the university’s Committee on Medical Affairs subcommittee on the School of Nursing, on which Reginald Coombe tapped her to serve. At the time, both the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine were losing money, and uncertainties about their future were affecting morale among the faculty and students. Annie Burr made a small but welcome gesture to improve the students’ living conditions with the gift of a Victrola radio. As a result of the subcommittee’s work and actions subsequently taken on the recommendation of the Medical Affairs committee, Yale committed to strengthening the school’s academic program, and the School of Nursing was positioned to thrive.

Annie Burr Lewis Fund at Yale University Press

The Yale University Press continues to publish scholarly monographs using money from the Annie Burr Lewis Fund. A wide range of prominient organizations and publications have recognized Annie Burr Lewis Fund books through awards, short-listing, and as outstanding academic titles. This recognition include Best Books  by The New York Times Book Review; Pulitzer Prize in Biography; Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine; Wolfson History Prize given by the Wolfson Foundation; Francis Parkman Prize awarded by the Society of American Historians; Annibel Jenkins Biography Prize given by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; John Ben Snow Prize awarded by the North American Conference on British Studies; Frederick Douglass Book Prize awarded by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries; and more.

Brief list of selected recent notable books published with the Annie Burr Lewis Fund by Yale University Press:

Chopra, Ruma
Almost Home: Maroons between Slavery and Freedom in Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Sierra Leone, 2018
*Outstanding Academic Title for 2018 by Choice Magazine

Damrosch, Leo
The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age, 2019
*One of the 10 Best Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review

Eltis, David
Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 2015
*PROSE Award for Excellence in Single Volume Reference/Humanities and Social Sciences category, given by the Association of American Publishers

Handley, Sasha
Sleep in Early Modern England, 2016
*2017 Social History Society Prize; shortlisted for the Wolfson Prize and Longman History Today Award, 2017

Herbert, Amanda
Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain, 2014
*2014 Society for the Study of Early Modern Women Best Book Prize on women and gender

Newman, Brooke
A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica, 2018
*2019 Gold Medal for World History sponsored by the Independent Publisher Book Awards; finalist for the 2019 Frederick Douglass Book Prize awarded by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition

O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, 2013
*2015 National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Excellence in American History Book Award; Society for Military History 2015 Distinguished Book Award in the U.S. category

Pincus, Steven
1688: The First Modern Revolution, 2009
*2010 Gustav Ranis International Book Prize given by Yale University’s MacMillan Center; 2010 Morris D. Forkosch Prize given by the American Historical Association

Polasky, Janet
Revolutions without Borders, 2015
*Finalist for the 2016 George Washington Prize sponsored by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience

Taylor, David
The Politics of Parody: A Literary History of Caricature, 1760–1830, 2018
*Outstanding Academic Title for 2019 by Choice Magazine

Wahrman, Dror
The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and English Culture in the Eighteenth Century, 2004
*2004 John Ben Snow Prize sponsored by the North American conference on British Studies; 2004–05 Louis Gottschalk Prize sponsored by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies