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MC 293

Switzer, Mary Elizabeth, 1900-. Papers, 1922-1973 : A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


Radcliffe College
January 1980

© 1980 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 293
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: MARY ELIZABETH SWITZER, 1900-1971
Title: Papers, 1922-1973
Quantity: 81 file boxes, 70 photograph folders 1 folio+ folder, 2 folio folders
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, speeches, etc., of Mary Switzer, government official.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 1980
By: Kathleen Marquis and Donna Webber

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 436, 1618, 1637, 1678, 1680, 1682, 69-24, 70-33, 70-35, 70-40, 70-53, 70-60, 70-91, 71-9, 71-60, 72-63, 73-27, 74-61
The papers of Mary Elizabeth Switzer were given to the Schlesinger Library by MES between 1962 and 1971, and by her secretary Frances Curtis between 1971 and 1974. They were processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-0051-79-1260).


Mary Elizabeth Switzer, government official, was born on February 16, 1900, to Julius F. and Margaret (Moore) Switzer of Newton, Ma. MES graduated from Radcliffe College in 1921 with a B.A. in international law. She moved to Washington, D.C., where her first position with the federal government was as assistant secretary to the Minimum Wage Board. She worked for the Department of the Treasury until 1953, principally for the Public Health Service and the Federal Security Agency, becoming increasingly concerned with health care issues. In 1950 she was appointed Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (which, in 1961, became the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration), overseeing its move to the newly-created Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1953. In 1967, responsibility for all federal rehabilitation services was combined under the Social and Rehabilitation Service (SRS); MES became its first administrator. She retired in 1970 and became vice-president of the World Rehabilitation Fund, where she remained until her death in 1971.
During her tenure at VRA and SRS, MES' principal responsibilities were to publicize the government's growing role in vocational rehabilitation and to encourage and support expansion of vocational rehabilitation projects among non-government groups and agencies. Programs for the mentally retarded and severely disabled were especially emphasized. Because of her expertise, MES was asked to participate in such bodies as the World Health Organization and the International Society for Rehabilitation; she served as advisor to many American health organizations, including especially the Menninger Foundation and St. Elizabeth's Hospital (see #1).
In recognition of her contributions to vocational rehabilitation, MES received the President's Certificate of Merit (1948), the Albert Lasker Award in medicine (1960), and numerous other awards and honorary degrees (see #784). In 1973, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare dedicated the Mary Elizabeth Switzer building in Washington, D.C.
For many years, MES shared a house with her life-long companion, Isabella Diamond, a librarian at the Department of the Treasury. They lived in Alexandria, Va., until MES' death on October 16, 1971.


The Mary Elizabeth Switzer Papers are divided into three series. Consisting mostly of MES' office files, her papers reveal very little either about her role in the making of administrative policy decisions or about her personal or family life. Files from her early work with the Federal Security Agency are more informative than the bulk of the collection, which documents MES' public relations function as the Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Series III, which documents MES' membership on the Board of Directors of the Menninger Foundation, is probably the most illuminating portion of the collection. For the most part, the papers have been left in their original file units and, while they have been rearranged, original headings have been retained.


A card for each of the following appears in the card catalogue:
American Friends Service Committee
Anderson, Mary, 1873-1964
Arthurdale Advisory Committee
Celebrezze, Anthony J., 1910-
Copp, Tracy
Diamond, Isabella
Flemming, Arthur Sherwood, 1905-
Florence Crittenton Mission
Gardner, John William, 1912-
Hill, Lister, 1894-
International Society of the Rehabilitation of the Disabled
Jane Addams Hall of Fame Committee
Kennedy, Edward Moore, 1932-
Kennedy, Robert Francis, 1925-1968
Lenroot, Katharine Frederica, 1891-
McNutt, Paul Vories, 1891-1955
Menninger, Karl Augustus, 1893-
Menninger, William Claire, 1899-1966
Menninger Foundation
National Rehabilitation Association
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
National Women's Trade Union League
Parran, Thomas, 1892-1968
Pressman, Joel J., 1901-
Radcliffe College
Raushenbush, Elizabeth (Brandeis), 1896-
Ribicoff, Abraham A., 1910-
Roche, Josephine Aspinwall, 1886-
Rusk, Howard A., 1901-
St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Scheele, Leonard Andrew, 1907-
Service Bureau for Women's Organizations
Shriver, Eunice Mary (Kennedy), 1921(?)-
Shriver, Robert Sargent, Jr., 1915-
U.S. Children's Bureau
U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare
U.S. Department of the Treasury
U.S. Federal Security Agency
U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
U.S. Public Health Service
U.S. Social and Rehabilitation Service
U.S. Vocational Rehabilitation Administration
Viscardi, Henry, Jr., 1912-
Wiesman, Margaret, ?-1953
Weybright, Victor, 1903-
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania
Speeches, addresses, etc.
U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare--Officials and employees
U.S. Department of the Treasury--Officials and employees
Vocational rehabilitation