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Suzanne Shelton Buckley Papers on Ruth St. Denis and Other Dance Subjects

Identifier: D018


Suzanne Shelton Buckley (1946- ) received her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. She wrote her dissertation about dancer and choreographer, Ruth St. Denis (1878-1968). Her dissertation was published by Doubleday in 1981 as Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis. Upon completion of her doctorate, she taught in the American Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Suzanne Shelton Buckley's papers include materials from her research and writing on dancer and choreographer, Ruth St. Denis.


  • 1879-1985
  • Majority of material found in 1978-1985


Digital Repository

Suzanne Shelton Buckley Papers on Ruth St. Denis and Other Dance Subjects

Biographical / Historical

Suzanne Shelton Buckley was born in Wichita Falls, Texas on April 27, 1946, the daughter of Elsa Barnes Shelton and Glenn Elbert Shelton. She received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English from the University of Texas at Austin in May 1968. From 1968 to 1970 she was employed as a writer for The Houston Post, in Houston, Texas. In September 1970, she entered the Graduate School in Austin and was awarded the degree of Master of Arts in American Studies in 1973. She was then employed as a dance critic for Texas Monthly and Dance Magazine, where she worked until the mid-1980s. Shelton received her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980. Suzanne Shelton wrote her dissertation and manuscript on Ruth St. Denis (1878-1968), a seminal figure in modern dance. Her dissertation was published by Doubleday in 1981 as Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis. After receiving her doctorate, she taught in the American Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin until the mid-1980s.

Suzanne Shelton became interested in Ruth St. Denis when she saw Ruth St. Denis as Isis on Egyptian Deity Cigarette packages. Ruth St. Denis is considered to be the mother of American modern dance and introduced Eastern dance forms to Americans. Ms. Shelton's book Divine Dancer covers the dancer's life and includes her marriage and long-time partnership with Ted Shawn, her affair with a Chinese diplomat Sun Nung Au-Young, her world tours and choreography of specific dances. Ted Shawn (1892-1971) was a divinity student at the University of Denver in 1910 when he began dancing. He was expelled the following year because dancing was discouraged at the University, which was still a Methodist university. In 1920 St. Denis and Shawn founded the Denishawn School. A number of notable modern dancers, including Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman, studied at the school.

Suzanne Shelton, a long-time resident of Austin, Texas was married to John Buckley, M.D. and had one daughter. After her husband died in the mid-1980s, Suzanne and her daughter moved to India, where she became director of an educational foundation. Suzanne Shelton Buckley is still director of the foundation and continues to live in India.


14.5 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Scope and Contents

The collection of papers contains materials on Suzanne Shelton Buckley's research on dancer and choreographer, Ruth St. Denis, including her dissertation, book manuscript, and miscellaneous research. There are also materials from Buckley's student years, and from her teaching activities (1982-1985). Materials from the years 1982-1985 include subject files related to her classes, as well as files for her classes in American Studies at the University of Texas. Others folders contain classroom materials, teaching plans, student papers, and teacher evaluation forms. Additional information covers subject files relating to various dance topics. These materials were arranged alphabetically by topic by Suzanne Shelton Buckley and contain articles, correspondence, documents, notes, and ephemera. The following information pertains specifically to Suzanne Shelton-Buckley and her research and writing about Ruth St. Denis held with this collection: Correspondence (1959-1961, 1975-1985) covers original letters and a postcard from Ruth St. Denis to Phillip Baribault; notes and correspondence with individual and repository sources; and notes, correspondence and forms regarding her dissertation and defense. Descriptions and notes pertaining to the specific dances: Babylon and White Jade performed by Ruth St. Denis are also available. Additional primary and secondary source materials include articles about Ruth St. Denis and influences upon her by Buckley, and papers and poems by Ruth St. Denis. There is also a chronology of St. Denis' life from 1884 to December 1968. Photographs and multi-media, primarily non-textual, are represented by items about Ruth St. Denis. These concern original photographs, programs, articles and Ruth St. Denis' autobiography. There are also a selection of audio interviews on cassette tape that Buckley conducted with various people associated with St. Denis. Microfilm copies of a number of publications are also included, and contain the New York Herald Tribune; European Edition, Paris, France (July 1906-Sept. 30, 1906); and letters and journals from St. Denis. Buckley's research (1881-1980) is arranged alphabetically by topic and contains articles, correspondence, ephemera, essays, legal documents, maps, news clippings, and poems. Some of the research materials are copies of primary sources, including documents, correspondence, and ephemera. This also includes articles, lists, notes, maps, and newspaper clippings. Drafts with accompanying notes of Buckley's dissertation are arranged numerically by chapter and inter-chapter numbers. The papers also contain the unbound signed copy of Buckley's dissertation as well as drafts and notes of the dissertation chapters and inter-chapters. Additional materials include Buckley's dissertation procedures, financial records, and general information on repositories and research. There are also records covering Buckley's receipts and notes of her dissertation expenses; letters and notes regarding interviews; letters, notes, articles, and bibliographies of general library research; the New York Public Library catalogue and dance brochure; notes from her dissertation defense; and University of California at Los Angeles Library Brochures and general information. Materials relating to Buckley's manuscript (1879-1965, 1977-1981) contain material relating to the publication of her dissertation in 1981 as Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis, by Doubleday & Co. The materials include book jackets, correspondence with publishers, lists, notes, photocopies of photographs, publicity, newspaper clippings, and a poster and newspaper clippings on the Ruth St. Denis Day held in Somerville, New Jersey in 1981. The 1879-1965 dates relate to photocopies of photographs.


The collection is arranged in three series: 1. Research on Ruth St. Denis, 1879-1981. 2. Materials from Student Years and Teaching Activities, 1982-1985. 3. Subject Files on Various Dance Topics, 1978-1985.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Suzanne Shelton Buckley, 1988.


No further accruals are expected.


Some materials may have been added to this collection since 1988, but as to their format or content, no records exist.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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