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Laidlaw, H. B. (Harriet Burton), 1874-1949. Papers of Harriet Burton Laidlaw, 1851-1958: 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

The collection was reprocessed and microfilmed as part of a Schlesinger Library/University Publications of America project.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: A-63
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Laidlaw, H. B. (Harriet Burton), 1874-1949
Title: Papers of Harriet Burton Laidlaw, 1851-1958
Date(s): 1851-1958
Quantity: 4.17 linear feet (10 file boxes) plus 4 folio folders, 1 folio+ folder, 2 oversize folders, 1 object)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, diary, articles, speeches, etc., of H. B. (Harriet Burton) Laidlaw, teacher and writer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 55-46, 73-185
The bulk of the Harriet Burton Laidlaw papers was given to the Schlesinger Library in 1955 by her daughter, Louise Laidlaw Backus. The papers of Louise Laidlaw Backus, given by her daughter, Harriet Backus Todd, in 1973 contained some Harriet Burton Laidlaw material, which was transferred to this collection.

Processing Information:

Reprocessed: August 1989
By: Bert Hartry

Access Restrictions:

Access. Closed; use microfilm, M-133.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Harriet Burton Laidlaw as well as 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.


Collection is available to researchers on microfilm. Request as M-133.
Dates and/or other information have been written on some items by a number of people. In organizing the material, the processor accepted dates added by others and left undated material that was grouped with dated items where it was. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
The pages of some items were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreaders, and researchers. These numbers are in square brackets.
The film was proofread by University Publications of America.
Some loose clippings were mounted by the processor.
Some of the material in the collection was difficult to film due to such problems as flimsy paper with text showing through, faded or smudged writing, faint pencil notations, creased and brittle paper, or faded or blurred carbon copies on flimsy paper. The film was carefully produced to insure that these items are as legible as possible.
Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or the signature missing, as well as portions of letters, have been marked as fragments.
In some cases, magazines, membership directories, and other multiple-paged publications were not filmed in their entirety, but only the pertinent page(s), with the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.
All photographs were microfilmed with the collection. They are also available on the microfilm of the Schlesinger Library photograph collection (M-54).
In many cases, the enclosures referred to in letters are missing.

Preferred Citation:

H. B. (Harriet Burton) Laidlaw Papers, 1851-1958; item description, dates. A-63, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Harriet Burton Laidlaw Papers, 1910-1911 (A/L185).
The Schlesinger Library holds a privately published memorial to James Lees Laidlaw (324.3/L18l), and the papers of Louise Laidlaw Backus, Harriet B. Laidlaw's daughter (73-184--73-185). Although all papers pertaining to Laidlaw have been removed from the Backus papers, they document Backus' work for international organizations, an interest evidently passed on by her mother.
Louise Laidlaw Backus gave a collection of scrapbooks, clippings, periodicals and pamphlets relating to her parents' interest in suffrage, white slavery, amateur theater, etc. to the New-York Historical Society. These have been microfilmed by the Society.


Harriet Burton Laidlaw, suffragist, social and civic reformer, and internationalist, was born on December 16, 1873, in Albany, New York, the daughter of Alice Davenport (Wright) and George Davidson Burton. Laidlaw attended public school in Albany, and earned both Bachelor (1895) and Master (1896) of Pedagogy degrees from Albany Normal College. After graduation she moved to New York City, taught in the public schools, and in 1902 earned degrees from Barnard College (A.B.) and Illinois Wesleyan University (Ph.B.). During this time she also took summer courses at Harvard (1900), the University of Chicago (1901), and Oxford University (1903). She continued to teach and started graduate school at Columbia University, but stopped both when she married James Lees Laidlaw in 1905. A concern with women's rights now blossomed into a remarkably active involvement in a variety of causes and organizations. This life of public service is reflected in the following chronology.
Laidlaw was also active in the English Speaking Union, the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, Americans United for World Organization, the Citizens' Union of New York City, the Women's Union League, American Association of University Women, Children's Aid Society, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the New York Philharmonic Society, and other political and cultural organizations.


The collection is arranged in seven series:


The papers have been divided into seven series: Personal and family, General correspondence, Writings and speeches by Harriet Burton Laidlaw, White slavery, Suffrage and other U.S. issues, World War I, and International organizations and issues.
The papers provide information about Laidlaw's youth, education, family, friends, her involvement in woman suffrage campaigns, social and civic reform movements, her dedication to peace and international understanding, and the organizations with which she worked. There is little information about her social life.
There is correspondence in every series, and individuals and issues overlap. Colleagues and associates were also personal friends. Researchers should refer to the Index of Selected Correspondents, which follows the inventory.
Series I, Personal and family, is divided into three sections. The first, Biographical, includes photographs, clippings, a diary, school and college papers, calling cards, and a guest book. The second section consists of papers pertaining to James Lees Laidlaw (James Lees Laidlaw), and the third, Family, mainly correspondence, is further sub-divided by writer and recipient.
Series II, General correspondence, is divided into two sections. The first consists of letters from a large number of people; they are arranged chronologically, with undated letters at the end. In the second section letters are grouped by writer and arranged chronologically within each group; three of the men represented here were probably suitors of Harriet Burton. Not all enclosures referred to in the letters are extant.
Series III, Writings and speeches by Laidlaw, is divided into five subject sections, four being the same subjects as those covered in series IV-VII, with miscellaneous subjects in the fifth. The arrangement within each section is chronological, and the series includes works in manuscript, typescript, and print.
Series IV, White slavery, mainly documents Laidlaw's and James Lees Laidlaw's support of Rose Livingston, a prostitute turned social reformer, and consists of correspondence (with Rose Livingston and others), photographs, reports, and writings and speeches by others. There is also a typescript of "My Story: The history of a prostitute's life in San Francisco," by Margaret von Staden. The overall arrangement is chronological, with undated and miscellaneous material at the end.
Series V, Suffrage and other United States issues, is divided into the following sections: National American Woman Suffrage Association, Men's League for Woman Suffrage, New York State suffrage campaign, Other suffrage organizations, Other suffrage correspondence, Anti-suffrage material, Labor, League of Women Voters, and Prohibition. The last three subjects are included here because Laidlaw's suffrage activities led naturally to her involvement in related issues. The series consists of correspondence, photographs, minutes, financial records, press releases, bulletins, printed material, lists, reports, speeches, fliers, programs, valentines. The letters from Anna Howard Shaw to Laidlaw discuss personalities and disagreements in the suffrage movement. Each section is arranged chronologically.
Series VI, World War I, includes correspondence, certificates, and printed material re: Laidlaw's activities during 1917-1919. There is also information concerning the status of Army and Navy nurses. The arrangement is chronological.
Series VII, International organizations and issues, includes correspondence, reports, minutes, printed matter, press releases, lists, programs, and statements of purpose. The bulk of the material relates to the League of Nations and organizations supporting it; the remainder is about other international groups with which Laidlaw was affiliated. The arrangement is chronological.
Laidlaw subscribed to a clipping service; these and other clippings were scattered throughout the collection; most were discarded after microfilming.



This index includes the names of selected writers (including organizations) and recipients. Information about persons and subjects is not indexed.
Key: No symbol = Writer
* = Writer and recipient
( = Recipient
The numbers refer to folders.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Amateur theater--New York (State)--New York
Civic improvement--New York (State)--New York
International cooperation
New York World's Fair (1939-1940)
Non-governmental organizations
Prostitution--United States
Social work with prostitutes--New York (State)--New York
Women--Societies and clubs
Women--Suffrage--New York (State)--New York
Women--Suffrage--New York (State)
Women--Suffrage--Soviet Union
Women and peace
World War, 1914-1918--War work
Addams, Jane, 1860-1935
Allen, Florence Ellinwood, 1884-1966
American Foundation
American Social Hygiene Association
Anthony, Lucy Elmina
Backus, Dana Converse, 1907-1989
Backus, Louise Burton Laidlaw, 1906-1973
Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958
Belmont, Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt, 1853-1933
Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950
Blake, Katherine Devereux, 1858-1950
Blatch, Harriot Stanton, 1856-1940
Boeckel, Florence Brewer, 1885-1965
Brown, Gertrude Foster, 1867-1956
Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924
Burns, Lucy, 1879-1966
Butler, Nicholas Murray, 1862-1947
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947
Citizens Union of the City of New York
College Equal Suffrage League
Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933
Crowdy, Rachel E.
Damrosch, Walter, 1862-1950
Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947
Dickerman, Marion, 1890-1983
Dreier, Ethel Valentine, 1872-1958
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
Dyer, Rowland S. H.
Empire State Campaign Committee (New York, N.Y.)
English-Speaking Union
Gardener, Helen H. (Helen Hamilton), 1853-1925
Gaynor, William Jay, 1851-1913
Gildersleeve, Virginia Crocheron, 1877-1965
Glasgow, Ellen Anderson Gholson, 1873-1945
Hale, Beatrice Forbes-Robertson, 1883-1967
Hall, Florence Howe, 1845-1922
Hay, Mary Garrett, 1857-1928
Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, 1878-1951
Holt, Hamilton, 1872-1951
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Howe, Julia Ward, 1819-1910
Hudson, Manley O. (Manley Ottmer), 1886-1960
Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968
International Language Association
Jacobs, Pattie Ruffner, 1875-1935
Kelley, Florence, 1859-1932
La Follette, Belle Case, 1859-1931
Laidlaw, James Lees, 1874-1932
Lamont, Margaret, 1905?-1977
League of Nations Association (U.S.)
League of Women Voters (U.S.)
Livingston, Rose
Lowell, A. Lawrence (Abbott Lawrence), 1856-1943
Martin, Anne, 1875-1951
McCormick, Katharine Dexter, 1875-1967
Men's League for Woman Suffrage
Mills, Harriet May, 1857-1935
National American Woman Suffrage Association
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
New York State Woman Suffrage Association
New York State Woman Suffrage Party
Ohio Equal Franchise Association
Ohio Woman Suffrage Association.
Owen, Ruth Bryan, 1885-1954
Owens, Helen Brewster, 1881-1968
Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955
Paul, Alice, 1885-1977
Peabody, George Foster, 1852-1938
Peck, Mary Gray, 1867?-1957
Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965
Rankin, Jeannette, 1880-1973
Reid, Helen Rogers, 1882-1970
Reilly, Caroline I.
Reinhardt, Aurelia Henry, 1877-1948
Reszke, Edouard de, 1853-1917
Rockefeller, John D. (John Davison), 1874-1960
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Ryan, Agnes E., 1878-1954
Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972
Shaw, Anna Howard, 1847-1919
Simkhovitch, Mary K. (Mary Kingsbury), 1867-1951
Smith, Alfred Emanuel, 1873-1944
Sporborg, Constance Amberg, 1880-1961
Staden, Margaret von
Stowe, Lyman Beecher, 1880-1963
Thomas, M. Carey (Martha Carey), 1857-1935
Thompson, Dorothy, 1893-1961
Trask, Katrina, 1853-1922
Tuttle, Florence Guertin, 1869-1951
Underwood, John Curtis
United Nations Association
United States Food Administration
Upton, Harriet Taylor
Vorce, Ethel R.
Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940
Wambaugh, Sarah, 1882-1955
Wells, Marguerite Milton, 1872-1959
Whitehouse, Vira Boarman, 1875-1957
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
Wise, Stephen Samuel, 1874-1949
Woman Suffrage Party
Women's Non-Partisan Committee for the League of Nations
Women's Political Union
Women's Pro-League Council.