Bowles, Dorothy Stebbins Collection

Bowles, Dorothy Stebbins Collection
Credit: Dorothy Stebbins Bowles Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Dorothy Stebbins Bowles and her daughter Sally celebrating the Holi Festival, India 1952
      film (15,140 ft.) ; si.; 16mm reversal positive
      1927 – 1965
      Essex, Connecticut
      The collection consists of a total of 15,140 feet of 16mm film from the 1920's-1960's. These consist mostly of home movies shot by Dorothy Stebbins Bowles in India and Connecticut, including family activities, sailing, and travel through Asia, Europe, and Africa. Also included are two stageplays made in the 1930's, "Happy Days" and "The Great Discrepancy" and a sound film shot in India in 1953. Footage associated with well-known political figures includes Eleanor Roosevelt, Helenka Adamowska Pantaleoni (silent film actress and founding director of UNICEF), Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru (first prime minister of India), Rajendra Prasad (first president of India), and King Tribhuvan of Nepal. Coverage of family recreation includes the sailing trips on the family Yacht around Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Bermuda, Maine, and Long Island Sound.
      Dorothy Stebbins Bowles, nicknamed Steb, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1903 and died in Essex, Connecticut, in 1989. She traveled around the world in the 1920s and lived in India for many years during the 1950s and 1960s. Her father, Harry Stebbins, owned a lumber business in Boston. Her mother, Ada Eloise Stebbins, was an accomplished pianist, composer, and music teacher. She also had an older sister, Frances or Frannie Stebbins Pond.

      Dorothy graduated from Vassar College in 1925 and from Smith School of Social Work in 1926. In 1927 she took a trip with a friend, Kay Wharton, around the world, which she documented with her 16mm film camera. Along with a group of friends, including Roger Clapp as director, she starred in two amateur stage plays, "Happy Days" and "The Great Discrepancy" during the early 1930s. Some of these friends along with her family appear in her early films. She worked as a social worker with the Junior League in Boston until her marriage to Chester "Chet" Bowles in 1934.

      Chet worked in advertising in New York and had two children from a previous marriage, Barbara and Chester Jr., when he met Dorothy. They lived in Saybrook, Connecticut, until 1939 when their new house in Essex, Connecticut, was completed. They had three children, Cynthia (born 1936), Sally (born 1937), and Sam (born 1939). Chet continued in the advertising business until the United States entered WWII. He took a job with the state of Connecticut in the Wartime Rationing Office until he was appointed head of the Office of Price Administration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The family lived in Washington, D.C., from 1943-1947 while Chet was director of the OPA and films from this period include many of his co-workers and their families.

      In 1947 the family returned to Connecticut where Chet was elected Governor in 1948, and served one term. Chet, Dorothy, Cynthia, Sally, and Sam relocated to India in 1951 when Chet was appointed the Ambassador to India and Nepal. In 1953 they returned to their home in Essex, Connecticut. Dorothy and Chet continued to travel around the world and her films document their trips to Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Africa, Russia, and Europe through the late 1950s. Chet won a seat in the House of Representatives and served from 1959-1960. In 1960 he was selected as a foreign policy advisor to Senator John F. Kennedy and become Under Secretary of State in 1961 after Kennedy was elected President. He was once again appointed Ambassador to India and returned to the country with Dorothy in 1963. In 1968 they returned to Essex, Connecticut, where they remained until their deaths in 1986 (Chet) and 1989 (Dorothy).

      Sailing was a passion of both Dorothy and Chet and many films show the couple sailing from Connecticut to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Bermuda, Maine, and Long Island Sound.
      Northeast Historic Film
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      38 Items in this collection