Lamont, Corliss, 1902-1995. Papers of Corliss Lamont, 1929-1932: 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
Call No.: MC 339
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Corliss Lamont, 1902-1995
Title: Papers of Corliss Lamont, 1929-1932
Quantity: .83 linear feet (2 file boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence and clippings of Corliss Lamont documenting his support of scrubwomen
at Harvard University during the 1930s.
Accession number: 76-165
These papers of Corliss Lamont about the Harvard scrubwomen matter were given to the
Schlesinger Library in May 1976 by Corliss Lamont.
Processed: May 1982
By: Elisabeth Elkind
Access. Collection is open for research.
Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Corliss Lamont as well as copyright
in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
Corliss Lamont Papers, 1929-1932; item description, dates. MC 339, folder #. Schlesinger
Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
The "Harvard scrubwomen" of this collection were women who cleaned Widener Library
and were caught in the university's struggle with the Minimum Wage Commission of Massachusetts.
In December 1920 representatives of Harvard testified against the proposed 37c an
hour minimum wage on the grounds that Harvard had always paid more than the minimum
and that, with its budget adopted, the University could go no higher. Early in 1922,
an inspector from the commission visited the University and was assured that the wages
were satisfactory; he left without seeing the payroll. In 1925, four "scrubwomen"
appeared before the Minimum Wage Commission to complain of Harvard's wage scale. It
took until November 1927 to determine that the Widener cleaning women did indeed come
within the provisions of the minimum wage decree for "Office and Building Cleaners."
(Chambermaids, or parlor maids as the University called them, were not covered.) In
March 1928 the commission accepted the University's explanation that the scrubwomen's
twenty-minute rest period, when deducted from hours worked, brought their wages up
to the minimum. However, Harvard failed to supply the required written statement of
this situation, and therefore, late in 1929, the commission threatened to publish
a notice of the University's non-compliance with the minimum wage laws. Harvard responded
by firing the nineteen scrubwomen, and in January 1930 the case appeared in the Boston
Corliss Lamont, a Harvard alumnus of the Class of '24, initiated a protest of the
underpayment of the women. As secretary of the alumni committee concerned with the
matter, he was largely responsible for raising the money needed to pay the women what
Harvard owed them under the minimum wage law. Lamont was then an instructor of philosophy
and Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University. He has written on humanism, civil liberties,
Soviet society, and related issues. (See Who's Who in America, 1980-1981.)
As much of the campaign was conducted by letter, the bulk of the collection consists
of correspondence. In 1930 and 1931 Lamont wrote to other alumni, to students, professors,
the press, and to members of the Harvard corporation. Their responses, positive and
negative, are included in this collection. Initially, Lamont wanted signers of an
open letter to the corporation and the press expressing moral outrage. When this letter
did not achieve results, he sought contributions; alumni would repay the scrubwomen.
Fundraising was called off in May 1930 when the university promised there would be
an investigation of employment and the general wage scale at Harvard. But this investigation
did not cover scrubwomen, and fundraising efforts were renewed in October. On December
24, 1930, $3,880 was distributed to the nineteen women.
Also included in the collection is the correspondence of Gardner Jackson of Boston,
a writer for the Nation, who had attended Harvard, and who took an active interest in the case beginning
in January 1930. He kept informed of activities at the State House pertaining to the
dispute, and it was he who advised Lamont to contact Margaret Wiesman, executive secretary
of the Consumers' League of Massachusetts. Wiesman interviewed the fired scrubwomen
(see #25). A few letters to or from the scrubwomen themselves are in #25 and #28.
There are also numerous clippings and a small amount of financial information. Headings
in quotation marks are those of C.L.
The Schlesinger Library's Consumers' League of Massachusetts collection (B-24) includes
three folders on the Harvard scrub-women, including correspondence with Corliss Lamont.
- 1. From Corliss Lamont, January-February 1930
- 2. From Corliss Lamont. "Form letters - Open letter," March 1930
- 3. From Corliss Lamont. "Letters sent out by Corliss Lamont," March-April 1930
- 4. From Corliss Lamont. "First plan," April-May 1930
- 5. From Corliss Lamont. Harvard Alumni Bulletin "letter - Second fund," May-October 1930
- 6. From Corliss Lamont, October 1930-July 1931
- 7. From Corliss Lamont. Massachusetts Minimum Wage Commission, 1930-1931; includes testimony
by Corliss Lamont, copy of Mary Gordon Thompson letter.
- 8. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Gardner Jackson, February-April 1930; includes 1920
- 9. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Gardner Jackson. "Gardner Jackson letters on fund,
- 10. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Gardner Jackson, July 1930-February 1932
- 11. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "On the Open letter," March 1930
- 12. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "Yes" on the open letter, March 1930
- 13. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Lists of "Signers" of open letter, March 1930
- 14. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "'No' on Open letter," March-April 1930
- 15. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "Contributions," April 1930
- 16. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "Letters and telegrams on fund (first plan)," April-June
- 17. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Re: Harvard Alumni Bulletin letter, October 1930
- 18. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. Contributions "acknowledged and deposited (second plan),"
October 1930-January 1931
- 19. To Corliss Lamont from alumni. "Letters, Miscellaneous to Corliss Lamont 1930"
- 20. To Corliss Lamont from Harvard officials. "Scrubwomen correspondence with corporation,
President Lawrence Lowell, and Overseers," December 1929-May 1930
- 21. To Corliss Lamont from Harvard officials. Robert K. Lamb, Harvard News Office, March-August
1930, May 1931
- 22. To Corliss Lamont from Harvard officials. Thomas N. Perkins, lawyer for Harvard, April-October
- 23. To Corliss Lamont from students. "Crimson and Paul Sweezy letters," April-December 1930
- 24. To Corliss Lamont from students. Edward J. Ginsburg, April 1930-January 1931
- 25. To Corliss Lamont from others. "Wiesman, Margaret (through fund distribution)," 1930;
includes excerpts from her interviews with scrubwomen.
- 26. To Corliss Lamont from others. "Wiesman, Margaret (after fund distribution)," January
- 27. To Corliss Lamont from others. "U.S. Dept. of Labor, Women's Bureau," May-August 1930;
includes Mary Anderson.
- 28. Scrubwomen. "Fund transactions with Women," October 1929-December 1930; includes work
records, letters from scrubwomen.
- 29. Scrubwomen. Harvard Scrubwomen Fund, 1930-1931
- 30. "Clippings before open letter," January-February 1930
- 31. "Clippings on fund - first plan," April-May 1930
- 32. "Undergraduate ball clippings," May 1930 a benefit for the scrubwomen
- 33. "Clippings with false back pay story," June 1930
- 34. "Clippings correcting false back pay story," June-September 1930
- 35. "Clippings on investigation," June-November 1930
- 36. "Bulletin letter (fund clippings)," October-November 1930
- 37. "Clippings on payment of back wages: Prelim.," December 1930
- 38. "Clippings on final distribution," December 1930
- 39. Clippings. "Editorials on fund," December 1930
- 41. "Clippings of special interest," 1930, 1931, 1937, 1948
- 42. Clippings. "Yale chambermaids," April-June 1930
- 43. "Lampoon cartoon clippings," January-February 1931
- 44. Clippings. Corliss Lamont at Special Legislative Commission on Massachusetts Minimum
Wage Law, October 1931.
Strikes and lockouts--Building cleaning industry
Women cleaning personnel--Massachusetts
Working class women
Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964
Consumers' League of Massachusetts
Harvard University--Alumni and alumnae
Jackson, Gardner, 1896-1965
Lowell, A. Lawrence (Abbott Lawrence), 1856-1943
Thompson, Mary Gordon, 1885-1973
Wiesman, Margaret, 1898-1953