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SC 149

Siegel, Frances, 1909-2006. Papers of Frances Siegel, 1927-2008: 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

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: SC 149
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Frances Siegel, 1909-2006
Title: Papers of Frances Siegel, 1927-2008
Date(s): 1927-2008
Quantity: 4.3 linear feet (8 file boxes, 1 folio box) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, photographs, awards, and travelogs of labor activist Frances Siegel, Radcliffe College Class of 1931.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: R2006-5
These papers were given to the Archives by Barbara Messore, Fraces Siegel's niece, in April 2006. The FBI file was acquired by the Archives in January 2008.

Processing Information:

Processed: July 2006
By: Amanda Schmidt


Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright 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. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Frances Siegel Papers, 1927-2008; item description, dates. SC 149, folder #. Radcliffe College Archives, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Barbara Messore
Accession number: R2006-5
Processed by: Amanda Schmidt
The following printed materials have been removed from the collection and returned to the Tess Oliver.
The following sound recordings have been removed from the collection and donated to the Library of Congress:
The following sound recordings have been removed from the collection and donated to The Guthrie Center:


Frances Siegel was born March 24, 1909, the daughter of Myer Siegel and Annie Siegel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She received her A.B. from Radcliffe College (1931) in Economics, focusing on Labor Economics.
While at Radcliffe, Frances Siegel worked part-time as a secretary for Harvard Professor George Sarton, the editor of Isis, a journal on the history of science, medicine and technology and their cultural influences. After graduation, Frances Siegel went to New York City looking for employment, but with the scarcity of jobs due to the Great Depression, she returned to Cambridge. Briefly, she worked (Jan.-Apr. 1932) for Professor Arthur Lamb, proofreading the Journal of the American Chemical Society. From 1934 to 1952, Frances Siegel returned to work as a secretary for George Sarton in Cambridge, Mass., assisting in proofreading, editing, and compiling bibliographies on the history of science for Isis, as well as compiling the indices to Volumes 2 and 3 of Sarton's Introduction to the History of Science. During this time, Frances Siegel corresponded frequently with Dr. Alexander Pogo, the Astronomy Editor at Isis. Later in her life (start date unknown) until 1974, Frances Siegel worked as an administrative assistant for various professors in the biochemistry department at Brandeis University.
Although Frances Siegel was never able to find work within her field of interest she devoted much of her life to the labor movement, as well as other peace and social justice organizations. From 1935 to 1939, she volunteered as a secretary for the Labor Research Association, where she edited the association's monthly bulletin and prepared several reports for local trade unions. Although sympathetic to the Communist Party, it is unknown whether she was actually a party member. Her support caused the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate her for "subversive activities" during the 1940s and 1950s, according to her college file.
Frances Siegel's advocacy and support focused on peace and anti-nuclear organizations, progressive and leftist politics and political candidates, and health care reform. Among the local Cambridge and Massachusetts organizations she worked for were the Massachusetts Tenants Organization and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. Other organizations she supported were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the B'nai B'rith Anti-defamation League, and United Farm Workers of America. She subscribed to several progressive periodicals, including The Nation and contributed toPeople's Weekly World (formerly the Daily Worker). She was, wrote the former editor of People's Weekly World, Tim Wheeler, a "legendary contributor." Frances Siegel's collection of pins and buttons illustrate her support of numerous labor, peace, and social justice organizations and movements, including a pin most likely from the 1930s, advocating "Save the Spanish refugees."
For her contributions, Frances Siegel received many awards, including recognition from the National Committee of Christians and Jews for "Outstanding Service to the ideals of brotherhood and for the dedication to the betterment of mankind and the improvement of human relations" (1983), from the City of Cambridge a resolution for outstanding community service (2006), and the John Phillip Sousa Award (September 10, 1984), in recognition of outstanding advocacy efforts made on behalf of Cambridge-Somerville elders. This award was given by the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services, the Cambridge Council on Aging, the Somerville Council on Aging, and the Cambridge Committee of Elders.
Frances Siegel traveled extensively abroad to Mexico, the Soviet Union, Cuba (a Women Strike for Peace tour), and South America, as well as all over the United States and Canada. Throughout her life Frances Siegel maintained correspondence with many traveling companions and friends that she met during her travels.
In the later years of her life Frances Siegel continued to live in Cambridge, but spent summers in Ogunquit, Maine with her sisters Mary Russak and Fannie Jacobs. Frances Siegel died on January 12, 2006.


The collection is arranged in four series:


This collection consists of biographical information, personal correspondence (much of which relates to her labor advocacy, as well as gives insight into political and current events), travel documents and photographs. Additionally there are printed materials relating to the labor movement, travel and cultural activities, as well as some music.
Series I. Personal (1.1-2.10, 8.6) includes biographical information, her FBI file, awards, memorabilia, programs, an obituary and remarks from her memorial service, and photographs of Frances, her family and friends, and many photographs documenting her travels around the world.
Series II. Correspondence (2.10-4.23) includes personal correspondence spanning Frances Siegel's lifetime. The early correspondence documents her years at Radcliffe and involvement in the National Student League. The undated letters from here sister, Mary Siegel '26, shed particular light on her time at Radcliffe, the Great Depression, and her commitment to the labor movement. The bulk of the correspondence is from friends made through her work with George Sarton, her involvement with the New England chapter of the Labor Resource Association, and friends made while travelling, both native to the country and travel companions. The correspondence also contains a great deal of evidence on current events and political situations in the United States, as well as in Europe, the Soviet Union, China and India. Letters from Anant Pandya, written on his trip across the United States and Canada, as well as en route to India via Europe, give a unique view of the United States from a foreigner's perspective, through observations about labor and politics.
Series III. Travel (4.24-6.4) includes brochures, travel itineraries, pamphlets, postcards, information regarding safe travel in Cuba and South America, and miscellaneous other printed materials related to Frances' travel. Places of travel include Mexico, South America, Cuba, the Soviet Union, Europe, Canada and the United States
Series IV. Printed Materials (6.5-8.5) contains items from Frances Siegel's personal library, including music and art, labor publications and periodicals, communist and socialist publications, political satire, peace pamphlets, and printed materials on travel abroad

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Canada--Description and travel
Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-1934 : Chicago, Ill.)
Civil rights--United States
Color slides
Communism--Soviet Union
Communism--United States
Cuba--Description and travel
Europe--Description and travel
India--Description and travel
Jewish women--United States
Labor unions--United States
Peace movements--United States
Social reformers
Socialism--United States
South America--Description and travel
Soviet Union--Description and travel
United States--Description and travel
Women in the labor movement
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
Labor Research Association (U.S.)
National Student League (U.S.)
Pandya, Anant (Anant Hiralal), 1909-1951
Pogo, Alexander, 1893-1988
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Radcliffe College. Class of 1931
Russak, Mary Siegel
Sarton, George, 1884-1956
United States. National Recovery Administration