Vocational Adjustment Bureau. Records of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau, 1919-1953:
A Finding Aid
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
Processing of this collection was made possible by a grant from Clara Goldberg Schiffer.
Call No.: MC 389
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Vocational Adjustment Bureau
Title: Records of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau, 1919-1951
Quantity: 1.25 linear feet (3 file boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Records of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau, an organization that investigated vocational
opportunities for young women who had psychological and emotional challenges in finding
Accession numbers: 87-M70, 88-M118
The records of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau were given to the Schlesinger Library
by the estate of Blanche (Frank) Ittleson in May 1987 and in August 1988.
Processed: May 1989
By: Nancy Falk
Access. Collection is open for research.
Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Vocational Adjustment Bureau is
held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.
Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors'
heirs or assigns.
Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Vocational Adjustment Bureau Records, 1919-1951; item description, dates. MC 389,
folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
The Vocational Adjustment Bureau, commonly known as the Vocational Adjustment Bureau
for Girls or VAB, began operating in 1922 under the direction of Blanche (Mrs. Henry)
Earlier, in 1919, believing that social adjustment was not possible without industrial
adjustment, Ittleson had started the Committee on Vocational Guidance and Employment
as part of the Jewish Big Sisters. By 1922 the demand for guidance and placement services
had grown so much that the committee was reorganized into the Vocational Adjustment
Bureau, a city-wide, non-sectarian organization. It was incorporated in 1925 as the
New York Vocational Adjustment Bureau, Inc. The records date the beginning of the
Vocational Adjustment Bureau to 1919, although it was not a separate agency until
The purposes of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau as stated in the 1925 incorporation
papers were: "to conduct investigations into vocational opportunities for sub-normal
and maladjusted girls; to conduct a placement bureau for them; to make constructive
suggestions for such changes in their education as will give this special type an
equipment to fit them for a place in industry; to act as a clearing house for and
cooperate with existing organizations dealing with scholarship, school, placement
bureau or other civic bodies should they need such special service."
To these ends the Vocational Adjustment Bureau provided training workshops, direct
employment opportunities in its own workshops, and placement services, and it conducted
psychological and vocational tests for all its clients. The Vocational Adjustment
Bureau conducted studies itself, involved graduate students in studies, worked with
the Board of Education to provide mental hygiene classes in kindergarten and elementary
grades, and worked with and advised various agencies, hospitals, and schools on testing
and placement of mentally handicapped women, in the hope of making them productive
members of society.
Beginning in 1923 the Vocational Adjustment Bureau organized and ran workshops to
test, study, and train young women and eventually place them in suitable jobs. Studies
based on the sheltered workshops were written by staff and by graduate students from
Barnard, Columbia, and other schools.
By the late 1920s or early 1930s the Vocational Adjustment Bureau had a full-time
psychologist as director, a director for the workshops, and an active president (Blanche
Ittleson). Merchandise produced in the workshops was being sold in New York City department
stores. Clients were referred from schools, social service agencies, and hospitals;
about half these clients were Jewish, 40 percent Protestant, and 10 percent Catholic.
In 1934 Edna W. Unger, staff psychologist, surveyed industries to determine their
needs for Vocational Adjustment Bureau clients, and therefore what training the Vocational
Adjustment Bureau should continue to provide. In 1936 the Vocational Adjustment Bureau
began developing a proposal for an experiment "to educate teachers in mental hygiene
practices in the hope that early discovery and treatment of potential problems will
eliminate greater and more destructive forces later in life." This included a demonstration
project, "Mental Hygiene at the Kindergarten Level," at P.S. 33, 1942-1949. The Vocational
Adjustment Bureau was represented in the exhibit on mental hygiene at the 1939 World's
By 1941 the workshops had closed and the major work of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau
"was mental hygiene and social service." After nearly closing its doors, the Vocational
Adjustment Bureau changed course: by the fall of 1942 it was no longer working with
female clients but concentrated on vocational rehabilitation for men, specifically
those "rejected by and discharged from the armed forces because of mental and nervous
The Mental Health Project continued under the supervision of the National Committee
for Mental Hygiene (NCMH); rehabilitation of veterans was transferred to other agencies
by the fall of 1944. By the end of 1945, except for staff working at P.S. 33, the
Vocational Adjustment Bureau existed only as a legal entity. Correspondence of December
1945 discusses the transfer of client files to the Community Service Society of New
York. Joint minutes of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau and National Committee for
Mental Hygiene continue through 1949; according to a note in #4, the last meeting
of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau was held in January 1951.
The collection is arranged in three series:
- Series I. Administrative
- Series II. Programs
- Series III. Related material
This collection contains administrative records; correspondence; studies, reports,
printed material, and reprints about the Vocational Adjustment Bureau's work by Vocational
Adjustment Bureau staff and graduate students; studies and reprints on related mental
hygiene and vocational education issues, and miscellaneous reprints, clippings, and
There was no apparent order when the collection was received. The arrangement that
emerges from the material is a mainly chronological one, except for a few administrative
files (Series I: #1-6). The bulk of the records is in Series II: #7-47 and consists
of correspondence, studies, printed material, and reprints documenting the range of
activities of the Vocational Adjustment Bureau, from specific descriptions of girls'
circumstances, to the tests used, reports on the development and operation of the
sheltered workrooms and on mental hygiene work in public schools, analyses of various
occupations, surveys of worker needs of specific companies, and plans and reports
for testing and vocational guidance of veterans and 4-Fs (men considered unfit for
The administrative papers are incomplete, with only nine annual reports, several gaps
in the minutes (the largest from 1924 to 1936), and only sporadic financial records.
Correspondence, which is probably also incomplete, has been arranged chronologically
in its own folders, except that correspondence concerning a topic or project has been
filed with related memos, reports, etc. Studies and reprints have been interfiled
in chronological order with the correspondence and project material. Undated items
were filed with similar types of material or where they seemed to fall chronologically.
- Box 1: 1-19
- Box 2: 20-32
- Box 3: 33-51
- Series I. ADMINISTRATIVE
- 1. Certificate of Incorporation, 1925; Certificate of Change of Purposes, 1943.
- 2. Annual reports: 1930-1931, 1931-1932, 1934, 1937, 1940-1944, n.d.
- 3. Minutes, 1923-1942; some incomplete. Missing 1924-1936.
- 4. Minutes, 1943-1951; some incomplete.
- 5. Board and personnel, 1913-1951: lists, resumes, letterhead, telegram to Blanche Ittleson.
- 6. Financial, 1922-1946: incomplete lists of expenditures, salaries, income from gifts,
membership lists with donations, Workmen's Compensation policy, statement of rents
- Series II. PROGRAMS
- 7. Blanche Ittleson's survey of employment opportunities: correspondence, 1920.
- 8. Blanche Ittleson's survey of employment opportunities: survey, 1921.
- 9. Employment and work places: lists and notes, 1920s.
- 10. Client information (with names), 1938, n.d.
- 11. Blank forms, n.d.; statistics, including clients' religion, 1926, 1929, and psychological
- 12. Public relations: brochure, printed re: Vocational Adjustment Bureau's work, and notes
for fundraising [1925-1927]; "What you should know about us" ; "The VAB workshop.
A therapeutic-industrial experiment," Bulletin number1 ; "A placement bureau
and workshop for maladjusted girls" ; "Industrially redeemable," Emily T. Burr,
- 13. 1920s-1942: speeches and notes for speeches.
- 14. 1921-1928: correspondence; includes 1926 funding application describing early Vocational
Adjustment Bureau work.
- 16. Studies: "Vocational training for subnormal girls, an experiment in the garment machine
operating trade," Edna W. Unger, 1926, draft and printed.
- 17. Studies: "The relationship between mental age and vocational fitness, as shown by
a study of 100 subnormal girls at the VAB," Columbia University student, 1926(?),
- 18. Studies: "Selective tests for garment machine operators: experimental group, trade
school groups," Katharine Treat, 1927, typescript.
- 19. Studies, 1928-1931.
- "Four block industrial survey, vocational and employment section of welfare council,"
Grace Potter for Vocational Adjustment Bureau, 1930, typescript, carbon copy. "Four block industrial survey, vocational and employment section of welfare council,"
Grace Potter for Vocational Adjustment Bureau, 1930, typescript, carbon copy
- 20. 1930-1934: correspondence.
- 21. 1932-1942: testimonials.
- 22. Studies: "A study of the girl of borderline mentality from the point of view of vocational
adjustment," Columbia University student, 1931, typescript; "A study of the industrial
adjustment of psychotic girls," Janet Steinberg, 1931, typescript.
- 23. Studies: "A brief survey of industrial opportunities for maladjusted girls, New York
City. March-May, 1934," Edna W. Unger, 1934, typescript.
- 24. Studies: "Report of a limited survey of vocational training opportunities for maladjusted
girls in the New York City Public Schools," Edna W. Unger, 1934, typescript; "Unit
course. An experiment in the training of maladjusted girls conducted by VAB," Edna
W. Unger, 1934, fragment, typescript.
- 25. Studies: "A practical form of the girls' mechanical assembly test," Emily T. Burr
and Columbia University student, 1936, reprint; "I.E.R. girls assembly test, revised
norms based on short form," Emily T. Burr and Columbia University student, 1937, reprint;
"A cooperative study of performance on the I.E.R. girls assembly test at various mental
levels," Columbia University student, 1937, typescript; "An analytical study of the
MacQuarrie test for mechanical ability," Harriet Babcock and Marion Rines Emerson,
- 26. Samuel Pomerantz and Victoria-VAB Corp.: correspondence, legal agreements, law suit,
1934 - June 1938.
- 27. Samuel Pomerantz and Victoria-VAB Corp.: correspondence, legal agreements, law suit,
July 1938 - 1939.
- 28. 1935-1937: correspondence; includes project outline.
- 29. Mental Hygiene Experiment with Board of Education: minutes, correspondence, proposals,
progress reports, final report, 1936-1937.
- 30. Mental Hygiene Experiment with Board of Education: minutes, correspondence, proposals,
progress reports, final report, 1938.
- 31. Mental Hygiene Experiment with Board of Education: minutes, correspondence, proposals,
progress reports, final report, 1939.
- 32. Mental Hygiene Experiment with Board of Education: minutes, correspondence, proposals,
progress reports, final report, 1939: final report.
- 33. 1938-1939: correspondence; includes radio show script, December 1938, and poem, n.d.
- 34. New York World's Fair exhibit on mental hygiene, 1937-1939: minutes, financial information,
correspondence, proposals for and description of exhibit.
- 35. 1939-1942, n.d. Reprints: "Occupations for the mentally retarded," Vocational Adjustment
Bureau, 1939; "The psychiatric social worker looks at the school," Ethel L. Ginsburg,
1939; "Negro applicants at the VAB," Zaida Metcalfe, 1940; "Low average girls," Emily
T. Burr, n.d.; "Helping 4-F's to vocational adjustment," Edgar M. Stover, 1943.
- 36. 1940-1941: correspondence; includes agendas from NCMH meetings.
- 37. 1942: correspondence.
- 38. Mental hygiene at kindergarten level, P.S. 33: correspondence, proposals, reports,
- 39. Mental hygiene at kindergarten level, P.S. 33: correspondence, proposals, reports,
1946-1949; includes final report.
- 40. 1942, 1944. Re: veterans: "Outline of plan to establish a system of mental rehabilitation
for soldiers whose nerves are shattered," typescript; "Rehabilitation needs of the
psychoneurotic veteran," ts.
- 41. Correspondence, 1943.
- 42. Correspondence, 1944-1946.
- 45. Clippings re: Vocational Adjustment Bureau and Vocational Adjustment Bureau personnel,
- 46. Other organizations: printed programs from dinners and conferences, annual report,
- 47. Photographs: three of unidentified people, one of a building.
- Series III. RELATED MATERIAL
- 48. 1930-1931: "Tentative plan for co-ordination of Jewish employment work and federation
of existing Jewish employment bureaus," Emanuel Sisterhood of Personal Service, typescript;
"Job study of waitresses: Opportunities for waitresses in New York City," Emanuel
Sisterhood of Personal Service, 1931, typescript and carbon copy; "Psychological testing
in psychopathology," Harriet Babcock, 1931, reprint fragment.
- 49. 1932-1941. Reprints: "Employment conditions in social work," 1932; "Report of the
psychiatric consulting service of the women's division of the Emergency Work Bureau,"
1934; "Care and treatment of the problem child," 1935; "What education is of most
worth?" 1936; "Teacher's rating scales for pupil adjustment," 1937; "Public School
500 Manhattan (The Speyer School)," 1937; "A health program for the Jewish Center,"
1937; "The mind of tomorrow," 1939; "Personality and efficiency of mental functioning,"
Harriet Babcock, 1940; Better Times: New York City's Welfare News Weekly, 23:10, 1941.
- 50. Judson Health Center, 1953, n.d.
Disabled veterans--Vocational rehabilitation--New York (State)--New York
Employment agencies--New York (State)--New York
Mental health services--New York (State)--New York
Mental retardation--New York (State)--New York
Mentally ill--Rehabilitation--New York (State)--New York
New York World's Fair (1939-1940)
Occupational training--New York (State)--New York
Sheltered workshops--New York (State)--New York
Social service--New York (State)--New York
Social work with people with mental disabilities--New York (State)--New York
Veterans--Mental health services--New York (State)--New York
Vocational education--New York (State)--New York
Vocational guidance--New York (State)--New York
Women--Employment--New York (State)--New York
Women--Vocational guidance--New York (State)--New York
Youth--Mental health--New York (State)--New York
Adlerblum, Evelyn D.
Babcock, Harriet, 1877-1952
Burr, Emily Thorpe
Community Service Society of New York
Emanuel Sisterhood of Personal Service
Frank, Alda M.
Greenberg, Benjamin B., 1888-
Ittleson, Blanche Frank, 1875-1975
Jewish Board of Guardians
Lowrey, Lawson Gentry, 1890-1957
National Committee for Mental Hygiene
New York (N.Y.). Board of Education
Public Educational Association
Stevenson, George Salvadore, 1892-1983
Unger, Edna W.