Dr. Rosemary T. VanArsdel

Sep 1, 1926 - May 3, 2019


Dr. Rosemary T. VanArsdel, Distinguished Professor of English Emerita, University of Puget Sound, and an internationally recognized pioneer authority on British Victorian periodical literature, passed away peacefully in her home May 3, 2019, age 92. She was the author of nine books on her specialty plus numerous chapters in books, encyclopedia articles, and scholarly reviews, over a span of more than 40 years.

 As one of the earliest scholars to recognize the importance of periodicals to Victorian history and literature, she served on the Editorial Board of the 5-volume reference work, The Wellesley Index to Periodical Literature, 1824-1900, (1966, 1972, 1979, 1987, 1989) designed to identify authorship of thousands of articles published anonymously in over 40 nineteenth-century British periodicals. She was widely known for her pioneering work on the Westminster Review.  She also served on the advisory board, and was a contributor to, volume one of the Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals. 1800-1900. She was co-editor, with J. Don Vann, of four volumes of Victorian Periodicals: A Guide to Research, (1978, 1989, 1994, 1996) the pioneering guides to introduce methods for advanced Victorian periodicals research. In 1968 Dr. VanArsdel was a founding member, and later president, of the international Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) and a frequent contributor to its journal, Victorian Periodicals Review, serving several times as its Guest Editor, for special editions.  In 1986 she was designated “Scholar in Residence” at the Fawcett Library in London, followed by an invitation to read a scholarly paper at the International Library at the University of Wales.  One of Dr. VanArsdel’s most significant books was her biography of the Victorian pioneer in female journalism and public life, FlorenceFenwickMiller, (2001).


In 1990 Dr. VanArsdel, was recognized as a world-wide pioneer in Victorian periodial research when the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals created the international “VanArsdel Prize,” an annual award, open to all research universities world-wide, for the best graduate student paper investigating the history of British Victorian newspapers and periodicals. Later, The Rosemary T. VanArsdel Endowed Library Fund was created by the University of Washington Libraries to allow the University to acquire collections relating specifically to the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

 She also held memberships in many international literary societies, including the British Royal Society of Literature, the Oxford Bibliographical Society, the British Association for Victorian Studies, the George Eliot Fellowship, the Tennyson, Dickens, Browning, Arnold, and 1890’s Societies of Great Britain; also the Victorian Studies Associations of Western Canada, Toronto, and Australia. She was, in 1967, one of the founders, and later president of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, which is today a major world-wide scholarly organization.  Details of her career are also listed in the MarquisWho’sWho.

 In her younger years Dr. VanArsdel was active in the Seattle education and arts communities, serving on the boards of the Bush School, Seattle Junior Programs, the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and the Friends of the University of Washington Libraries.

 Dr. VanArsdel was born in Seattle in 1926, the daughter of Odin and Helen C. Thorstenson.  She attended the Stevens School, Broadway High School, and the University of Washington (earning bachelors and masters degrees in British literature) and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Her Ph.D. was from Columbia University in New York City. In 1966 she joined the faculty of the English Department at the University of Puget Sound, serving for a number of years as department chairman, and later as Founder and Director of the English program for its School of Law. Her twenty-four year career at UPS was marked by a number of innovative teaching programs, including her Writing Institute, which became a national model for demonstrating the usefulness of   an academic degree in English in the business world. From 1971 – 1977 she served as statewide director of the Achievement Awards Competiton for the National Council of Teachers of English, and in 1982 she received the Kappa Kappa Gamma Doris Bronson Morrill Award for Outstanding Service to Education. Dr. VanArsdel was also widely known for her active interest in her students, many of whom chose to follow her into the academic profession.

 In private life Dr. VanArsdel was the wife of the late Dr. Paul P. VanArsdel, Jr., MD who was  an honors graduate of Columbia University’s School of Medicine.  In 1953 he became a pioneer faculty member of the newly founded University of Washington School of Medicine, and later he served as one of the founders of its University Hospital (now The University of Washington Medical Center) as well as Head of the Division of Allergy.  In 1991, Drs. Paul and wife Rosemary, both graduates of Seattle’s Broadway High School, class of 1943, were honored by joint presentation of its Distinguished Alumnae Award.   He pre-deceased  her in 1994. She is survived by her daughter Mary M. VanArsdel of New York City and Seattle, her Sister-in-Law Ann Nugent of Bellingham, her beloved long time Secretary Betsy Hennessy, 6 beloved nieces and nephews, and many other cherished and loyal friends.

There will be a memorial celebration of her life on Saturday May 25, 2019 at St. Stephen’s Church, The Chapel, in Laurelhurst: 4805 NE 45th St., Seattle, with reception at her home to follow. All invited.

 Memorial remembrances may be sent to:

University of Washington Library, The Rosemary T. Van Arsdel Endowed Library Fund for Victorian/Edwardian Periodical Literature, c/o Carolyn Aamot, Head, Gifts Program, University of Washington Libraries, Box 352900, Seattle, WA, 98195-2900 or on-line at the Rosemary T. Van Arsdel Endowed Library Fund.

This obituary will also appear online at BonneyWatson.com















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