A-60; M-136, reels A2-A4
Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers of Molly Dewson, 1893-1962: A Finding Aid: A Finding
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: A-60; M-136, reels A2-A4
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962
Title: Papers of Molly Dewson, 1893-1962
Quantity: 1 linear feet (1 carton) plus 1 oversize volume)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, writings, speeches, etc., of Mary "Molly" Williams Dewson, suffragist,
reformer, and head of the Women's Division of the Democratic Party.
Accession numbers: 53-12, 59-33, 59-55, 59-66, 14, 36, 56, 159, 352
These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library in 1953, 1959, 1960, and 1961 by
Mary Dewson. The collection was reprocessed and microfilmed as part of a Schlesinger Library/University
Publications of America project.
Reprocessed: July 1991
By: Bert Hartry
Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-136.
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Molly Dewson as well as copyright in
other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Molly Dewson Papers, 1893-1962; item description, dates. A-60, folder #. Schlesinger
Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Molly Dewson papers in the
Woman's Rights Collection, 1915-1960 (M-136, reel A1; WRC)
and Molly Dewson albums, 1861-1962 (M-120)
Mary ("Molly") Williams Dewson (February 18, 1874 - October 21, 1962) was born in
Quincy, Massachusetts, the daughter of Elizabeth Weld (Williams) Dewson and Edward
Henry Dewson. After earning an AB degree from Wellesley College (1897), Dewson was
hired as secretary of the Domestic Reform Committee of the Women's Educational and
Industrial Union in Boston. She left this position in 1900 to become the superintendent
of parole at the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls, Lancaster, where
she remained until 1912. There she met Mary G. ("Polly") Porter (1884-1972), a student
at the Boston School for Social Workers, who began an internship under Dewson's supervision
in 1909. When her internship ended, she withdrew from school, choosing to remain at
the Industrial School as a volunteer. By 1910, Dewson and Porter had come to think
of their friendship as a "partnership"; it was to last until Dewson's death.
After briefly (1913-1917) running a small dairy farm with Porter, Dewson returned
to reform work, a field that occupied her for the next two decades. She was particularly
active in the Massachusetts woman's suffrage movement, and in the campaign of the
National Consumers' League to secure passage of minimum wage laws for women and children.
During World War I, Dewson and Porter spent 15 months with the American Red Cross's
Bureau of Refugees in France. Between 1919 and 1938 they lived in New York City, spending
summers at the Porter family's house in Castine, Maine. While Dewson was working in
New York and Washington, D.C., and traveling, the independently wealthy Porter bred
and raised Sheltie dogs at a kennel she owned in Georgetown, Connecticut.
By the late 1920s, Dewson became convinced that needed reforms could best be achieved
from within organized political parties; she therefore initiated efforts to increase
the number of women active in the Democratic Party. She organized women to work in
Alfred E. Smith's presidential campaign (1928), and for Franklin D. Roosevelt's New
York State gubernatorial race (1930) and his subsequent bids for the presidency. In
1933, thanks to the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt, her political ally and personal
friend, Dewson was appointed head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National
Committee. She is credited with securing important positions for many women in the
Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. She was appointed to the Social
Security Board in 1937 but resigned the following year.
Dewson and Porter spent the early years of their retirement in Castine, Georgetown,
and New York, but in 1952 established permanent residence in Castine, where Dewson
died in 1962.
For additional biographical information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), Who Was Who in America (1961-1968), and Partner And I: The Life of Molly Dewson, New Deal Politician, by Susan Ware (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).
The collection is arranged in two series:
- I. Personal and biographical
- II. Paid and volunteer work
The papers provide some information about Molly Dewson's education and family, particularly
her mother, and document her many paid and volunteer activities: Women's Educational
and Industrial Union, Massachusetts State Industrial Schools, woman suffrage, the
American Red Cross in France (World War I) and International Social Service, Inc.,
the Consumers' League, minimum wage legislation, the Democratic Party, Franklin Delano
Roosevelt's campaigns, and the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee.
There is little documentation of Dewson's childhood, adolescence, or her "partnership"
with Polly Porter.
Series I, Personal and biographical, includes the following in the order listed: reminiscences
of her mother, correspondence (general, employment related, autobiographical, personal),
Wellesley College material, a travel diary and related correspondence, and clippings
Series II, Paid and volunteer work, includes correspondence, Dewson writings and speeches,
programs, reports, personal Red Cross documents, minutes, publications, campaign literature,
clippings, etc. It is arranged chronologically by subject or organization and within
most of these categories. Papers documenting Dewson's work with the Democratic Party
(the largest section), are arranged by type (correspondence, writings and speeches,
other party documents, clippings, printed material), each type arranged chronologically;
there is a small section for the Maine Democratic Party. Dewson's writings and speeches
are filed with the organization or topic to which they pertain.
Dewson included explanatory notes with many of the papers. These are placed with the
items to which they refer, or at the beginning of the file unit covering the subject
she describes. Many letters in the collection, both to and from Dewson, are copies;
some were made by her, some by others.
Most clippings were discarded after microfilming.
- Series I. PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL
- 1. "My Little Mother," by Molly Dewson, ts., n.d.; includes correspondence, (scattered),
- 2. "As I Remember My Mother," by Molly Dewson, typescript, n.d.
- 3. Correspondence. General, 1893-1897, 1909-1955 (scattered), n.d.
- 4. Correspondence. To Molly Dewson, other to other: letters of recommendation, job offers,
- 5. Correspondence. With Grace Abbott, 1921-1923; includes material re: Molly Dewson's
United States Civil Service examination.
- 6. Correspondence. Re: Porter-Dewson farm (1920s?) Molly Dewson autobiographical letters
to Lorena A. Hickok et al., 1950-1960
- 7. Correspondence. With Felix Frankfurter, 1936-1938, n.d. Includes Molly Dewson speech
re: Elizabeth Glendower Evans, 1938.
See also #3.
- 8. Correspondence. Sarah Porter Eastman to Mary [i.e., Molly Dewson], re: Julia A. Eastman;
includes article about Julia A. Eastman by Katharine Lee Bates, 1911.
- 9. Wellesley College. Classbooks, 1897
- 10. Wellesley College. Classbooks, 1907, 1910, 1927, 1947
- 11. Wellesley College. Typed letters, signed to Molly Dewson: from Alumnae Council, 1920,
Alumnae Office, 1932 Molly Dewson speech to Wellesley Club of New York, 1938: "An
Amateur's Views on Education"
- 12. Travel: Diary, European trip, 1927 Correspondence re: free trip to France (1929),
- 13. Clippings re: Molly Dewson, ca.1904-1962 (scattered). Includes correspondence, Who's Who biography.
See also #26o, 47-49.
- Series II. PAID AND VOLUNTEER WORK
- 14. Women's Educational and Industrial Union: most re: School of Housekeeping, printed,
- 15. Massachusetts State Industrial Schools. Molly Dewson writings and speeches, ms., printed,
- 16. Massachusetts State Industrial Schools. Correspondence, 1909-1912, n.d.
- 17. Massachusetts State Industrial Schools. Programs, 1910-1912, n.d.: meetings at which
Molly Dewson spoke, theater, etc.
- 18. Women's issues. Correspondence, 1912-1955 (scattered), re: suffrage, Women's Status
Bill (1947), Suffrage Archives, New England Hospital.
- 19. Women's issues. Miscellaneous: Women's City Club of New York: Bulletin, 1925 Commission
on Government and Politics: paper re: women, 1940/1941 Molly Dewson speech on women
and "gainful occupations," n.d.
- 20. American Red Cross service, World War I. Official American and French personal documents,
bill for uniform, French government publication, 1917-1919
- 21. American Red Cross service, World War I. American notices, publication, banquet program,
- 22. American Red Cross service, World War I. Molly Dewson reports (after Armistice), 1918;
anonymous speech (?), n.d.
- 23. American Red Cross service, World War I. Correspondence, 1917-1921; includes personnel
- 24. American Red Cross service, World War I. Correspondence. Molly Dewson to family, 1917-1918
- 25. American Red Cross service, World War I. Correspondence. Related correspondence, some
with French women, 1918-1956 (scattered)
- 26o. American Red Cross service, World War I. Clippings from French newspapers, 1918. Discarded
- 27. American Red Cross service, World War I. International Social Service, Inc., 1929-1958
(scattered): mainly correspondence; includes minutes (March 1954).
- 28. Consumers' Leagues: National and New York. Correspondence. General, 1919-1958 (scattered)
- 29. Consumers' Leagues: National and New York. Correspondence. From and re: Florence Kelley,
1919-1957 (scattered), n.d. Includes correspondence with Grace Abbott, 1931.
- 30. Consumers' Leagues: National and New York. Miscellaneous: Work log, re: minimum wage
brief, ca.1922 National Board of Directors meeting minutes, March 1932 National League
meeting agenda and Molly Dewson (?) remarks, Dec. 1932 Cleveland newspaper articles
(typescript copies), 1933
- 31. Consumers' Leagues: National and New York. Publications, 1920-1928
- 32. Democratic Party. Correspondence. With Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1928-1945; includes
one from Eleanor Roosevelt. Typescript copies.
- 33. Democratic Party. Correspondence. Re: Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation and Library,
1947-1959, n.d.; includes statement of policy, minutes (April 1949), library report,
- 34. Democratic Party. Correspondence. General correspondence, including The Jefferson
Society of New York, 1928-1959 (scattered).
- 35. Democratic Party. Correspondence. 1936 campaign; includes Molly Dewson reports.
- 36. Democratic Party. Correspondence. From Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1947. Also clippings
re: Schlesinger, 1949, 1959, n.d.
- 37. Democratic Party. Correspondence, 1939-1940, n.d.: others to and re: Dorothy McAllister,
Director, Women's Division, Democratic National Committee (DNC).
- 38. Democratic Party. Molly Dewson writings and speeches,1933-1937, n.d.
- 39v. Democratic Party. Molly Dewson writings and speeches."An Aid to the End" ("Story of
my part in helping Franklin D. Roosevelt"), typescript carbon copy. Volume I
- 40v. Democratic Party. Molly Dewson writings and speeches."An Aid to the End" ("Story of
my part in helping Franklin D. Roosevelt"), typescript carbon copy. Volume II
- 41. Democratic Party. Molly Dewson itineraries, 1930, 1936
- 41a. Democratic Party. Photograph of fellow Democratic Party worker, Charles Michelson,
FILED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS.
- 42. Democratic Party. Rainbow fliers, 1936, n.d.; includes Molly Dewson article re: Mary
- 43vo. Democratic Party. Democratic National Convention, 1936: souvenir program with articles
re: Cabinet, government departments, biographies, etc.
- 44. Democratic Party. Social Security Board: correspondence with United States Civil Service
Commission re: age discrimination (typed letter, signed, typescript copies), Molly
Dewson radio address, 1937-1938.
- 45. Democratic Party. Conference programs: Women's Division, Democratic National Committee,
1937; National Institute of Government, 1940.
- 46. Democratic Party. Miscellaneous campaign material, 1928-1940 (scattered)
- 47. Democratic Party. Printed material. The Democratic Digest, published by Women's Division, Democratic National Committee. 3 issues, 1936, 1940,
- 48. Democratic Party. Printed material. The Democratic Digest, published by Women's Division, Democratic National Committee. Clippings, reprints
from The Democratic Digest, 1936-1937
- 49. Democratic Party. Printed material. The Democratic Digest, published by Women's Division, Democratic National Committee. Clippings, reprints
from The Democratic Digest, 1938-1943, n.d.
- 50. Democratic Party. Printed material. Re: Harriet Kerr, Molly Dewson's secretary, 1958.
- 51. Democratic Party. Printed material. CIO Political Action Committee pamphlets, 1944
- 52. Democratic Party. Printed material. Clippings, 1924, 1948. Discarded after filming.
- 53. Maine Democratic Party. Correspondence. General, 1947-1958
- 54. Maine Democratic Party. Correspondence. Re: Maine minimum wage legislation, 1954-1955
- 55. Maine Democratic Party. Correspondence. Mainly with Frank M. Coffin, 1954-1959.
See also #56.
- 56. Maine Democratic Party. Correspondence. With and re: Paul A. Fullam, 1954-1955
- 57. Maine Democratic Party. Molly Dewson writings and speeches, 1937, 1952
- 58. Maine Democratic Party. Pre-convention platform committee: questionnaires, result
analyses, recommendations, 1956, 1958
- 59. Castine Woman's Club, re: program on juvenile delinquency, 1956
Age discrimination--United States
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Europe--Description and travel
Juvenile delinquency--United States
Maine--Politics and government
Minimum wage--United States
Politics, Practical--United States
United States--Officials and employees
Voyages and travels
Women political activists--United States
Women--Political activity--United States
Women's rights--United States
World War, 1914-1918--War work--Red Cross
World War, 1914-1918--Women
Abbott, Grace, 1878-1939
Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966
American Red Cross in France
Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964
Armstrong, Florence A. (Florence Arzelia), 1884-1962
Bingham, Barry, 1906-1988
Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941
Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1866-1948
Briggs, Le Baron Russell, 1855-1934
Coffin, Frank M. (Frank Morey), 1919-2009
Consumers' League of New York City
Democratic National Committee (U.S.). Women's Division
Democratic Party (Me.)
Democratic Party (U.S.)
Eastman, Julia A. (Julia Arabella), 1837-1911
Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937
Farley, James A. (James Aloysius), 1888-1976
Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library
Furman, Bess, 1894-1969
Fuster, Marie E.
Hickok, Lorena A.
International Social Service
Kelley, Florence, 1859-1932
Kendall, Elizabeth Kimball, 1865-1952
McAllister, Dorothy S.
Muskie, Edmund S., 1914-1996
National Consumers' League
Norton, Mary Teresa, 1875-1959
Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955
Putnam, Elizabeth Cabot, 1836-1922
Reed, Stanley Forman, 1884-1980
Richmond, Mary Ellen, 1861-1928
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
Schlesinger, Arthur M. (Arthur Meier), 1917-2007
Stantial, Edna Lamprey
State Industrial School for Girls (Lancaster, Mass.)
Stebbins, Lucy Ward, 1880-1955
Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Tully, Grace G.
United States. Social Security Administration
Van Kleeck, Mary, 1883-1972
Vieillot, Marie Thérèse, 1888-1985
Williams, Elizabeth Weld, 1836-1912
Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.)
Woolley, Mary Emma, 1863-1947