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Keyserling, Mary Dublin Papers, 1924-1988: A Finding Aid

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


Radcliffe College
July 1991

© 1991 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: 88-M189--89-M203
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: Mary Dublin Keyserling
Title: Papers, 1924-1988
Quantity: 5 cartons, 1+1/2 file boxes, 1 oversize folder
Abstract: Biographical information, correspondence, speeches, etc., of Mary (Dublin) Keyserling, economist, government administrator, and director of the Women's Bureau.

Processing Information:

Preliminary inventory: July 1991
By: Anne Engelhart, Doreen Drury

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 88-M189, 89-M50, 89-M75, 89-M203
The papers of Mary Dublin Keyserling were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Dublin Keyserling in November 1988, and in March, April, and November 1989.


Access. Unrestricted.

Use Restrictions:

Copyright. The donor transfers her copyright to Radcliffe College for the Schlesinger Library.
Copying. Unrestricted.

Preferred citation for publication:

Mary (Dublin) Keyserling Papers, 1924-1988; item description, dates. 88-M189--89-M203, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Mary Dublin Keyserling, whose career as an admin-istrator and economist in the federal government spanned three presidential administrations, was born in New York City on May 25, 1910. The second of four children, MDK was greatly influenced by her parents, Louis and Augusta (Salik) Dublin, both of whom had emigrated from Eastern Europe. A professor of science and mathematics, her father was active in national public health organizations; as vice-president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company,he used the resources of the company to study the causes of death and illness. Her mother, a social worker, had graduated from Barnard College and served as head of a settlement house in Philadelphia. During MDK's childhood the family resided in Mamaroneck, a small town north of New York, but in 1924 moved to Manhattan, where MDK attended Horace Mann, a private school affiliated with Columbia University, and Barnard College.
After graduating from Barnard in 1930, MDK joined the research staff of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care in Washington, D.C. She next held a position as administrative assistant for the State Charities Aid Society in New York City. In 1933, having completed all but the thesis requirement for a doctorate in economics at the London School of Economics and Columbia University, she was hired to teach economics and statistics at Sarah Lawrence College. In the spring of 1938, MDK was asked to serve as executive director of the National Consumers' League in New York. During her tenure (1938-1941) the League pushed for the extension and improvement of state minimum wage legislation, opposed efforts to weaken prov-isions of the National Labor Act, and fought for food and drug legislation, and for the enactment of national health insurance.
In 1940, MDK married Leon H. Keyserling, an economist and general counsel for the U.S. Housing Authority, and moved to Washington. She was employed as coordinator of hearings for the House of Representatives Committee on National Defense Migration, which was concerned with the social and economic impact of population movements result-ing from the wartime build-up of industrial production. In 1942, MDK became Eleanor Roosevelt's personal advisor in the Office of Civilian Defense. Here she assisted in the effort to address problems faced by working women; with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, Congress passed the Lanham Act, which provided federally-funded day care to millions of children.
In the spring of 1943, seeking more direct involve-ment in the war effort, MDK accepted a post as an economist in the Foreign Economic Administration, a special agency set up to study the new supply and demand relationships spawned by the war. After the war and the dissolution of the FEA, she was hired by the Special Programs Division of the Office of International Trade (Department of Commerce) to do an analysis that fore-shadowed the soon-to-be-announced Marshall Plan. When the Special Programs Division became the International Economic Analysis Division in 1946, MDK was named director.
With the change in administration in 1953, MDK resigned her post in the Department of Commerce and, with her husband, set up an economic consulting office. The Keyserlings founded the Conference on Economic Progress (CEP), a nonprofit organization that engaged in economic research, education, and publication of studies concerning national economic problems. MDK was the CEP's associate director, 1953-1963; while serving in this post she testi-fied before Congress on pending labor and social welfare legislation. During this period MDK was also a member of the Woman's National Democratic Club, and was the only woman member of the Democratic Platform Committee. In 1961-1963 she served on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1964, President Johnson appointed MDK director of the Women's Bureau. In this post, she made a great effort to ensure the passage of legislation and the development of programs that would help lift women out of poverty. She spoke frequently about the activities and concerns of the Bureau and wrote many articles on issues of concern to women. She also served as executive vice-chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on the Status of Women, advocated passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, worked with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to develop standards for enforcement of Title VII, and, with the State Department and other organizations, worked to improve labor standards and employment opportunities for women in other countries.
Following her departure from the Women's Bureau in 1969, MDK returned to her work with the Conference on Economic Progress. As associate director she worked closely with her husband, the president and director of the CEP, until his death in 1987. Also in 1969, MDK was invited to do a speaking tour in Africa for the Department of State. On her return, she directed a national survey of day care services and needs. Her summary report of the study's findings, Windows On Day Care (1972), won her the Distinguished Service Award of the National Conference on Social Welfare. MDK subsequently served as executive director of Project Action Now for Children and Youth (1972-1973), directed a survey of funded child care programs in New York City (1974), and, under the auspices of the Child Welfare League of America, was the chief author of a comprehensive report that called for strengthening federal standards for child day care services (1976).
MDK lives in Washington, D.C., and continues to serve as a consultant to many public interest groups, and to federal, state, and local administrative and legislative bodies. For further biographical information, see the interview with her in the Schlesinger Library's Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project (OH-40).


This collection contains: biographical information; letters to MDK from her mother, father, and husband; photocopies of professional correspondence, mostly to MDK and primarily letters of appointment and of thanks; speeches, articles, and reports by MDK; and clippings about her. The letters from her parents evince a close relationship with her mother who wrote frankly of her frustration with MDK's father, and with her father who took a special interest in MDK's work.
The speeches, articles, and clippings were arranged chronologically by MDK in binders, which were disassembled during processing. Biographical papers and personal correspondence are followed by professional correspondence (#32-58), with speeches, articles, and clippings, arranged in one chronological sequence (#59-159); a few photographs are included in the last group.



Additional catalog entries

Conference on Economic Progress (U.S.)
District of Columbia. Commission on the Status of Women
Dublin, Augusta Salik
Dublin, Louis Israel, 1882-1969
Keyserling, Leon Hirsch
National Consumers' League
United States. President's Commission on the Status of Women.
United States. Women's Bureau
Child care services-United States
Fathers and daughters-United States
Government executives-United States
Husband and wife-United States
Jews-United States
Labor laws and legislation-United States
Mothers and daughters-United States
Sex discrimination against women-United States
United States-Officials and employees
Wages-Minimum wage-United States
Women-Education-Unites States
Women-Employment-United States
Women-Legal status, laws, etc.-United States


The following item has been removed from the collection and deposited in Schlesinger Library's book collection, July 1981: