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Highlights from Women's History Manuscript Collections at the Rubenstein Library: Public Service & Social Reform

Public Service & Social Reform Overview

Image of publication about Martin Luther King and The Montgomery StoryThese collections include the personal papers of women and the records of women's organizations dedicated to serving and improving society. Additional materials can be found in large collections of family papers where the women belonged to philanthropic social clubs, or in the papers of public officials, newspaper editors, and clergy. Together, these materials cover a wide range of social causes and political issues of local, regional and national significance and concern women who were employed, elected or volunteered.

19th Century Collections

Edna Whitfield Alexander Papers, 1833-1985.
Jackson, MS. Civic and social leader. Correspondence, speeches, printed materials, notes, and photographs concerning support of South Africa and trips there during the 1960s and 1970s; anti-communism and related public advocacy; work as a prominent DAR member; and genealogical materials.

Sarah E. Thompson Bacon Papers, 1855-1904
Greene Co., TN. Federal spy. Correspondence contains testimonials of Thompson's services to the Federal government documenting her duty in hospitals where she nursed wounded soldiers, her spying activities during the Civil War and her lectures after the war.

G. Hope Summerell Chamberlain Papers, 1821-1946
Raleigh and Chapel Hill, NC. Author, artist, civic worker. Correspondence, diary, sketches, clippings, manuscript drafts, and printed materials document Chamberlain's work with the Raleigh Women's Club, the North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs, and the State Home and Industrial School for Girls; her publication of autobiographical and local histories; and her role as house counselor at Duke University Women's College.

Earnest Sevier Cox Papers, 1821-1973; (bulk 1900-1964)
Richmond, VA. Correspondence, writings, and printed materials of racial separatist and white supremacist include a considerable amount of correspondence with Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, black founder of the Peace Movement of Ethiopia which was based in Chicago, and correspondence with Amy Jacques Garvey concerning the Back to Africa Movement.

Ann Pamela Cunningham Letters, 1857-1874
Laurens, SC. Letters relating to the collection of money for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union.

Washington Dearmont Papers, 1787-1944; (bulk 1851-1930)
Clarke Co., VA. Routine family and business correspondence. Later correspondence concerns Mamie Dearmont and relates in part to women in politics in Colorado, 1912.

George Gage Papers, 1864-1903
Beaufort, SC. Letterbooks of George Gage and the journal of his wife Sarah Marshall Ely Gage. A letterbook (1873-1876) concerns his position as collector of customs and superintendent of lights and includes attendance statistics of black and white children at St. Helena's and St. Luke's Parish schools, South Carolina. Sarah Gage's journal contains the minutes of the Freedmen's Home Relief Association of Lambertville, New Jersey for which Sarah was secretary in 1864. The journal also describes her migration south to teach in a Freedman Bureau school in Beaufort, South Carolina (1866-1867).

George Gifford Papers, 1860-1920
Vassalborough and Portland, ME. Editor of the Portland Daily Press and elected state representative during 1860-1870s. Collection reflects Gifford and his wife's strong political views. Letters from Lucy Stone in 1873-1874 reveal Gifford to be a strong supporter of woman suffrage. Collection also includes correspondence among the women in the family related mostly to domestic issues.

H.J. Gow Diaries, 1896 Sept. 28-1897 June 13
Steatham, London, England. Diaries of wealthy and cultivated Englishwomen during her visits to the U.S. and Canada. Her principle purpose was to visit settlement houses in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to meet with the women who managed them. Extensive descriptions of visits with Jane Addams at Hull House date from the first decade of its operation.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow Papers, 1860-1952; (bulk 1863-1864)
Richmond, VA. Civil War letters from Greenhow, an agent and spy in the Confederate Service, to Alexander Robinson and Jefferson Davis reporting the progress of her work.

Greenville Ladies Association Minutes, 1861-1865
Greenville, SC. Portions of the minutes of an organization to aid Confederate soldiers.

Hemphill Family Papers, 1784-1958
Due West and Charleston, SC. Papers of a Presbyterian minister, journalist, editor and senator, and other family members include information on temperance and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, war activities of women, and the women's suffrage proposal of 1892.

Hinsdale Family Papers, 1712-1973
Raleigh, NC. Collection contains the papers of Ellen Devereux Hinsdale and several other Hinsdale women which documents activities in various women's clubs. Includes record books from the Ladies Hospital Aid Association of Rex Hospital in Raleigh which contains information on fund-raising drives, social events, and sewing bees.

Gertrude Jenkins Papers, 1859-1908
Williamsboro and Winston-Salem, NC. Typed manuscript entitled "Endurin' the War," compiled by Gertrude Jenkins containing various Civil War reminiscences. The volume also contains the narrative of Margaret Elizabeth Clewell, describing her journey from Salem Female Academy, Salem, NC, to Fauquier County, VA, to nurse the sick of the 21st North Carolina Infantry, the hospital and care of the sick at Thoroughfair Gap, and the battlefield at Manassas.

Pendleton King Papers, 1876-1906
Greensboro, NC. Correspondence and other papers of King and of his wife, Helen Ninde King concerning Helen's literary efforts, women's rights, abstinence and the temperance movement.

Ladies Volunteer Aid Society of the Pine Hills Minutes, 1861
Chapel Hill, LA. Minutes recording the organization and meetings to support companies of soldiers from the area.

Malet Family Papers, 1832-1908
London, England. Collection includes the letters, 1842-1877, of Mary Anne, Lady Malet, from Sophia Fredrica Mathilda, Queen of the Netherlands, which contain details of the Queen's personal life; extensive comments on the political and diplomatic affairs of England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Russia; analyses of European leaders, especially Napoleon III; and discussion of her many friends and acquaintances in Europe.

Frank Moore Papers, 1865-1872
New York, NY. Author of Women of the War (1866), an account of northern women's service during the Civil War. Collection consists chiefly of letters from and about the women featured in the book who served as nurses or in a related capacity.

Helena Esther Florence Robinson Letters from Paris, 1848
Paris, France. Contains over 40 letters from Robinson to her brother and others commenting on events surrounding the 1848 Revolution in Paris.

20th Century Collections

Altrusa Club of Durham Records, 1933-2001
Durham, NC. Women's club. Chiefly correspondence, minutes, newsletters, financial records, and scrapbooks relating to social and philanthropic activities of the club.

Jessie Daniel Ames Papers, 1902-1946
Tryon, NC. Photocopy of a history, or possibly preparatory notes for a work on the founding of the Woman's Division of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation in 1920 and a summary of its activities up to 1940. Included are the text of speeches made by Mary Washington, Charlotte Hawkins Brown and others; membership lists and some financial records.

Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) Archives, 1972-1994
Atlanta, GA. Archives of early women's movement group include meeting minutes, project and resource files, and publications. Also includes the records of several other Southern feminist/lesbian activists groups and hundreds of periodicals of grassroots activist organizations.

Winifred Gail Soules Bradley Papers, 1952-1982; (bulk 1965-1979)
Durham, NC. Vice-president, League of Women Voters. Correspondence, printed material, writings, subject files and other papers document Bradley's activities in the League of Women Voters, UNESCO, the Women's Equity Action League and other feminist and women's organizations. Includes materials relating to the Equal Rights Amendment and extensive files on the 1978 International Women's Year Conference held in Houston.

William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection, 1933-1988 and undated
Greensboro, NC. Tapes and transcripts of 71 interviews conducted by Chafe, professor of History at Duke University, in preparation for his book Civilities and Civil Rights which documents aspects of the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. Interviewees include various members of the Greensboro black community, including teachers and former students of Bennett College which was a traditionally black women's school, and North Carolina A & T, and others involved in local sit-ins.

Mary Octavine Thompson Cowper Papers, 1895-1969; (bulk 1938-1969)
Durham, NC. Social worker, sociologist. Correspondence, writings, reports, and clippings relating to women's suffrage, working conditions in the North Carolina textile industry, juvenile delinquency and the creation of juvenile courts, and the formation of child care centers. Materials document Cowper's work as the executive secretary of the North Carolina League of Women Voters; her attempts to secure protective labor legislation for women and children; and the milk marketing controversy in Durham, 1948-1949. Letters and papers on the creation and operation of child care centers include extensive records from the Durham Nursery School Association, 1938-1965.

Duke University Oral History Program Collection, 1973-1978, 1992, and n.d.
NC and OK. Audio cassette tapes (ca. 325) and transcripts, chiefly concerning the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s, including sit-ins in Durham, N.C., and race relation in Oklahoma, focusing on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Many of the interviews are with black and white women, many of whom were local leaders, such as Ella Baker.

Helen Edmonds Papers, 1951-1994
Durham, NC. African American educator and historian. Correspondence, printed materials, clippings, and speeches document Edmunds' interests and activities as a member of the Republican Party, 1950s-1970s; her work as an alternate delegate to the U.N. General Assembly, 1970; and her duties as a college professor at North Carolina Central University.

Ever-Ready Club Records, 1927
Upstate NY. Minute books and cash record of the Catskill Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan Women's Klavern, May-Nov., 1927, includes names of members and officers. Documents naturalization (initiation) of new members, money raised through various social events, disputes among members

Mary Farrar Papers, 1916-1919
Norfolk Co., MA. Principally letters to Mary Farrar of Dorchester (Norfolk Co., Mass.) from Jennie (Stone) Abrams, concerning personal affairs, Alan Seeger's "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," the Red Cross, the Russian Revolution, World War I, and the return of the Jews to Palestine.

Mary Hinton Fearing Papers, 1923-1930
Elizabeth City, NC. Letters, clippings, printed materials and scrapbooks related chiefly to Fearing's duties as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1924 and 1928. Also contains information on other prominent women in the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Few Family Papers, 1861-1986
Durham, NC. Correspondence, photographs, clippings, printed materials, and memorabilia mainly documenting Mary Reamey Thomas Few's service on the National and North Carolina Republican Executive Committees, various Republican convention committees, and the Women's Republican Club of America. Correspondence reflects social and working relationships with other leaders in the Republican Party, particularly on the state level. Printed materials highlight national conventions. Memorabilia is mostly from the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns.

Milo Guthrie Papers, 1962-1990
Woodbury, TN. Papers of Milo Guthrie, printer and commercial artist active in social and political causes. The collection is made up primarily of printed materials from 1972 to 1976 representing activities and publications of new left wing political parties and organizations. Issues include workers and labor unions, black power, civil rights, women's liberation, farmers and farm labor, student activism and radical participation in local, state, and national elections.

League of Women Voters of Durham Papers, 1947-1991 and n.d.
Durham, NC. Operating files, 1947-1990; Bulletins, 1960-1990; Program files (including social issues, particularly education), 1961-1986; and Historical files, 1954-1988. The 3 boxes of Historical files include scrapbooks, clippings, notebooks of mimeographed information for officers, printed material, and minutes of the board and annual general meetings.

Lucy Randolph Mason Papers, 1910-1954
Richmond, VA and Atlanta, GA. Social reformer. Correspondence, speeches, minutes, printed materials, and clippings document Mason's work with the Richmond League of Women Voters and her duties as the southeastern public relations representative for the C.I.O. These materials contain information on women's suffrage and women laborers.

Jessie Marion Wall McCoy Letters, 1941-1943
Randleman, NC. Letters to McCoy while in nurses training from her mother, Marion A. Wall, who was serving in the Women's Army Auxilary Corps describing her duties, activities, and social life while stationed in Ft. Des Moines, Iowa.

National Organization for Women Records, 1967-1977
Durham, NC. Correspondence, newsletters, by-laws and minutes of the Durham chapter.

Bobbye Ortiz Papers, 1919-1993 and undated; (bulk 1950-1990)
New York, NY. Chiefly the subject files and post card collection of Ortiz who was active in various international women's organizations from the 1940s to the late 1980s. Women's groups and issues in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia predominate these materials. Also included are numerous taped interviews with Cuban women (ca. 1960s) and Chinese women (ca. 1970s).

Mab Segrest Papers, 1967-2002 and undated
Durham, NC. Restricted. Correspondence, writings, printed materials, notes, and other papers relating to Segrest's personal life and her work as an author and publisher and an activist on behalf of women's rights and various gay and lesbian activities.

Semans Family Papers, 1809-2008 and undated; (bulk 1920-1991)
Durham, NC. Restricted. Chiefly the correspondence, writings, clippings, pamphlets, scrapbooks and photographs of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans relating to her service as city councilwoman, 1951-1955, and mayor pro-tem, 1952-1955, of Durham; her membership on various civic committees and boards; her membership on the Duke University Board of Trustees and the Board of the Duke Endowment; her interest in art and music including work with the North Carolina Conservatory Committee, the North Carolina Museum, the Governor's Commission on Fine Arts and other organizations; her interest in the Women's College of Duke University; and other matters relating to civic needs, race relations, and the arts.

Socialist Party Records, 1900-1987 and undated
Chicago, IL and New York, NY. Files of the organization's national offices include correspondence, minutes, financial materials, speeches, publications, reports, and press releases. Materials document the work of women leaders in the SPA such as Magurite Prevey, Harriot Blatch, Kate O'Hare, Lena Lewis, Florence Kelley, Luella Twining, Anna Maley, Mary Hapgood, Caroline Lowe, and Robin Meyers. Files also contain minutes, pamphlets, and posters demonstrating the party's stance on various women's issues such as suffrage, labor, education, and socialized medicine.

Southern Feminist, Inc. Records, 1982-1989
Athens, GA. Administrative files of the Southern Feminist, a bimonthly, then quarterly newspaper, and the Southern Feminist Extra!, a periodic newsletter. Both publications were an outgrowth of the ERA movement and served as a networking and communication tool for women's political activism in the South. Records include correspondence, drafts of articles, and subscription files maintained by editor and publisher Sharron Hannon of Athens, Georgia.

Mary Calvert Stribling Papers, 1835-1930; (bulk 1920-1929)
Martinsburg, WV. Papers relating chiefly to Stribling's activities with the West Virginia Chapter of the American Red Cross during World War I and through the 1920s, and to her activities as a member, treasurer, and president of the West Virginia division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Other materials include miscellaneous family papers documenting business ventures and education.

Lady Sarah Wilson Travel Diary, 1920, Mar. 1-July 20
Travel journal of Winston Churchill's aunt includes politically astute and detailed observations and comments regarding the government of Egypt, Malaya, Hong Kong, China, and Japan.

Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter Records, 1968-1981; (bulk 1968-1972)
Durham, NC. Correspondence, financial papers, by-laws, minutes, reports, photographs and scrapbooks of a non-profit community organization supporting efforts to prevent violence by focusing on easing racial tensions in the Durham schools and community.

Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) at Duke University Records, circa 1923-1985
Durham, NC. Restricted. Administrative records of the Durham YWCA since it's inception in 1920 and including the Harriet Tubman Branch which served Durham's black community since the 1930s to the 1970s. Includes scrapbooks, minutes, newsletters, project files, photographs, and other materials.

Matilda Young Papers, 1932-1933
Washington, DC. Correspondence of Young while in France as a companion to Alva Murray Vanderbilt Belmont and a memoir of Belmont's describing various aspects of her life including her involvement in the suffrage movement and other activities in behalf of women's rights.