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Gwen Reed Papers

Identifier: 1997-01-02

Scope and Contents

Papers of Gwen Reed, a Hartford tobacco worker turned actress, educator, and community worker. Included are papers from her involvement with Community Players, Hartford Stage Company, and Playtime for Tots. Theater programs and scripts constitute about a third of the collection. A valuable source of information is Reed's scrapbook from her time with the Charles Gilpin Players (1936-1939), a beneficiary of the Federal Theater Project. Reed is also well known for having portrayed Aunt Jemima throughout New England during a 17-year career with the Quaker Oats Company. Additional material includes photographs, a video tape from WFSB Channel 3, and plaques.


  • Majority of material found within 1936 - 1974

Biographical / Historical

Gwendolyn B. Clarke was born in 1912 to Georgianna and George Nathaniel Clarke of New York City. Georgianna soon left her husband, and she and her daughter settled in Hartford in 1921. Both worked in the tobacco fields, but Gwen also graduated from Arsenal Elementary School and Hartford Public High School. She briefly attended Hartford Federal College before marrying John T. Reed in 1935. The couple separated a few years later and were divorced by 1948.

In October 1936, the Charles Gilpin Players formed, with Gwen as their secretary. She began her acting career with the Charles Gilpin players as well, with a role in the June 1937 performance of "Trilogy in Black." Over the years Gwen performed in and directed numerous productions in Hartford. In 1946 she began a 17 year tenure portraying Aunt Jemima for the Quaker Oats Company. Gwen traveled all over New England promoting the brand.

In Hartford, Gwen was dedicated to educational and community work. She made television appearances on Channel 3's children's program "Ranger Station," originated the Playtime for Tots program in Bellevue Square, as well as teaching in the Head Start and Reading is Fundamental Programs.

Following Gwen Reed's death in 1974, Hartford Mayor George A. Athanson dedicated a storytelling room to Gwen at the Ropkins Branch of the Hartford Public Library.


3 Linear Feet


Papers of noted Hartford actress Gwen Reed.

Processing Information

EAD Finding Aid created January 2013. Transferred to ArchivesSpace September 2019.
Gwen Reed Papers
A Guide to the Collection at the Hartford History Center
Jennifer Sharp
2013 January
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Hartford History Center Test Repository Repository

Hartford History Center
Hartford Public Library
500 Main St
Hartford CT 06103 USA