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Inman, Mary, 1894-1986. Papers of Mary Inman, 1940-1983: 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.: 78-M137--87-M142
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Mary Inman, 1894-1986
Title: Papers of Mary Inman, 1940-1983
Date(s): 1940-1983
Quantity: 5 linear feet (5 cartons) plus 1 folio folder, 1 oversize volume, 2 audiocassettes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, financial and medical records, photographs, etc., of Mary Inman, trade union organizer, Marxist theorist, and author.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 78-M137, 87-M82, 87-M142
The papers of Mary Inman were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Inman in July, August, and November 1978, and by her executor, Helen Turner, in May and September 1987.

Processing Information:

Preliminary inventory: November 1992
By: Jennie Guilfoyle

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Inman is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library or whomever. 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:

Mary Inman Papers, 1940-1983; item description, dates. 78-M137--87-M142, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Mary Inman, Communist and crusader for women's rights, was born Ida May Inman on June 11, 1894, in Burnside, Kentucky, to James Jett and Mildred (Taylor) Inman. Inman was the last of her parents' nine children; her mother and an older sister died by the time she was thirteen, leaving Inman to manage the household for her father and five brothers. She did this until 1917, when she married James Frank Ryan. Their union was a happy one and lasted until his death in 1959.
When Inman was sixteen, she became a member of Eugene V. Debs's Socialist Party. After her marriage, she took a job, joined the Railroad Workers' Union, and spent several years doing trade union organizing. She lived more than half her life in California, first in Los Angeles and then in Long Beach. After moving there, she became an active member of the Communist Party although she drew censure from some Party members for her advocacy of women's rights.
Inman's efforts to incorporate women's rights with Marxism began in 1934, when she read Clara Zetkin's pamphlet, Lenin on the Woman Question. She urged various party leaders to write a document which would help women organize themselves as a labor force. When no one responded to her call, she rented an office and wrote her first book, In Woman's Defense. She adopted the pen name Mary Inman, which she used from then on with most people outside her immediate family.
Inman spent the rest of her life writing articles, pamphlets, and many letters and giving speeches insisting that women's work in the home is a necessary form of labor that deserves wages and unions. Her writings include the newspaper, Facts for Women, which she edited and published from 1943 to 1946, and the pamphlet, The Two Forms of Production under Capitalism.


The collection includes correspondence with family, friends, and fellow Communists; other letters concerning her ideas and writings; a number of family documents, Mary Inman's financial and medical records, and other personal documents; two audiotapes; notes for and copies and proofs of her various writings; photographs; a scrapbook of newspaper articles; and numerous pamphlets and articles she saved, most dealing with Marxism and feminism. With the exception of materials relating to Facts for Women and In Woman's Defense, most of the collection dates from the last twenty-five years of her life.
The papers have been arranged in three series:
Series I, Personal and biographical (#1-90), includes autobiographical writings by Inman; her birth and marriage certificates and other personal documents; audiotapes; photographs, financial records for Inman, James Frank Ryan, and Inman's sister, Florence Anderson; and correspondence, both personal and business.
Series II, Writings (#91-164), includes copies of Inman's newspaper, drafts and published copies of her books and articles, speeches, lectures, correspondence relating to her writings, and notes and quotations.
Series III, Writings by others (#165-180f), consists of articles and pamphlets written by others and saved by Inman.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Communists--United States
Women and socialism--United States
Women--Employment--United States
Women labor union members--United States
Women's rights--United States
Aptheker, Bettina
Aptheker, Herbert, 1915-2003
Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970