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Smith, Hilda Worthington. Papers, 1837-1975 (inclusive), 1900-1975 (bulk): A Finding Aid

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


This collection was processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-0051-79-1260).
Radcliffe College
July 1980

© 1980 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: A-76
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: Hilda Worthington Smith, 1888-1984
Title: Papers, 1837 (1900-1975)
Quantity: 25 file boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 folio+ folder, 24 photograph folders
Abstract: Correspondence, biographical materials, diaries, etc., of Hilda Worthington Smith, the first director of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, and a founder of the Affiliated Schools for Workers, Inc.

Processing Information:

Processed: July 1980
By: Kathleen Marquis, Madeleine Bagwell Perez

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 7, 18, 403 951, 1577, 1626, 71-28, 71-104, 72-32, 72-81, 72-94, 73-79, 73-159, 74-142, 74-300, 74-337, 75-22, 75-125, 80-M110
The papers of Hilda Worthington Smith were given to the Schlesinger Library between 1965 and 1975 and in 1980 by HWS.

Preferred citation for publication:

Hilda Worthington Smith Papers, 1837-1975; item description, dates. A-76, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Hilda "Jane" Worthington Smith, labor educator, was born June 19, 1888, in New York City, first of three children of John Jewell and Mary Helen (Hall) Smith. The Smith family spent its summers in West Park, N.Y., where HWS was to found two resident workers' schools in the 1930's. The rest of the year was spent in their home near Central Park where HWS, her sister Helen Hall Smith (1892-1971), and brother Jewell Kellogg Smith (18??-1956) created an imaginary world described in her 1934 essay, "A Post Office in Fairyland."
Mary Helen Hall was one of three children of Charles Mason and Elizabeth A. (Peaslee) Hall. Her father was a lawyer in Chatham Four Corners (now Chatham Village), New York and served for one year as a United States Commissioner in New York City. Mary Helen Hall married John Jewell Smith in 1884. JJS first worked in the Treasurer's office of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. In 1859, with his brother-in-law, William C. Baker, he formed the firm of Baker, Smith and Company, a steam heating firm in New York City. The Company grew so rapidly that JJS soon m moved to New York City. He eventually became president of the Company and remained so until his death in 1901. JJS was also active in St. Timothy's Church (later Church of Zion and St. Timothy) and the Seamen's Mission. For further information on MHHS and JJS, see Opening Vistas in Workers' Education by HWS in the Schlesinger Library printed book collection.
Helen Hall Smith (1892-1971), sister of HWS, was in poor health during most of her childhood and adolescence. In 1917 she began working at the Spring Street Settlement (New York City) and Varick House, one of the early experiments in housing for women workers. Through an apprenticeship with the New York State Charities Aid, she was able to advance in the field of social work without a college degree. Most of her life was dedicated to helping dependent and neglected children. For a more complete biography of HHS see Helen Hall Smith: Her Book (#56v).
HWS was graduated from the Veltin School in 1906, and from Bryn Mawr College in 1910. Here, through her friendships with President M. Carey Thomas and other faculty members, she became interested in suffrage and social work. She served as president of the (student) Self-Government Association and as vice-president of the Christian Union. Returning home to act as companion to her mother, as she felt was expected of her, she arranged a volunteer position with the Girls' Friendly Society.
Her mother allowed her to return to Bryn Mawr for a year of graduate work, during which she taught Bible classes for black women service workers, her first experience with adult education. She received her M.A. in philosophy in 1911 and again returned home, this time volunteering for the Episcopal Church Mission of Help, an organization for delinquent girls. In 1912, she was permitted by her mother to enroll in the New York School of Philanthropy, as she had long wished to do; this provided a useful background for her later work with poor and immigrant students. In the fall of 1913 she accepted a position as a dormitory warden at Bryn Mawr College, leaving after one year to complete her two-year degree at the NYSP, from which she was graduated in June 1915.
She returned home for the last time and volunteered at a local orphanage, resigning in May of 1916 to accept the Directorship of the newly created Bryn Mawr Community Center. She remained in this position until 1919 and served for several years after-ward as the Center's president. HWS' mother and aunt lived with her for the first year, both volunteering at the Community Center. In 1917 her mother died; from that time until 1933 HWS made her home in Bryn Mawr. From 1919 to 1921 she was first Acting Dean and then Dean of Bryn Mawr College, directing academic advising and health services as well as supervising classes for black service workers at the College.
In 1921, Bryn Mawr College began the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, with HWS as its first director. BMSS was modeled on European workers' schools visited by M. Carey Thomas. The school, in consultation with trade union women and the National Women's Trade Union League (for which HWS served as educational director in 1927), chose half of its student body from organized and half from unorganized labor. In 1924 and 1925 HWS herself spent a year observing European workers' schools. She continued as Director of the BMSS until 1933, in 1924 relocating the central office in New York City.
In 1926 HWS began organizing the first year-round resident workers' school. She and her sister purchased property near the family's West Park summer home in 1928, and tried unsuccessfully to operate one of the buildings as an inn. In 1929 HWS opened the Vineyard Shore Labor School, but was forced to close it by 1934 for lack of funds. This site eventually housed the Hudson Shore Labor School, the coeducational successor to the BMSS, of which HWS was also a founder and member of the Board of Directors. In 1951 the HSLS was discontinued as a resident school. The teacher training sessions were incorporated by Rutgers University as the Workshops in Workers' Education and Techniques at the Institute of Management and Labor Relations; HWS remained on the Advisory Committee for two years.
By 1927 workers' schools existed in many parts of the country and HWS served officially and unofficially on many of their advisory committees. She and other labor educators established the Affiliated Schools for Workers (1927-1939), later known as the American Labor Education Service (1939-1962), and HWS served as first Director (1927-1933). In addition to her involvement with the resident workers' schools, HWS helped in 1929 to establish the Art Workshop, a studio for workers in New York City, sponsored by the College Settlement Board. She also served as treasurer for the William Roy Smith Memorial Fund, which began in 1939 to develop labor education workshops around the United States.
HWS had been amazed to discover that European workers' schools, unlike her own, were receiving government subsidies. She was pleased therefore when Harry Hopkins appointed her as a specialist in Workers' Education for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in 1933. This position lasted until 1943 and was the first of HWS' many federal appointments. Much of her work for the FERA, and after 1939 as Director of the Workers' Service Program for the Works Progress Administration, consisted of placing unemployed teachers with organizations requesting federally sponsored instructors. From 1934 to 1936 she directed a program of resident camps for unemployed women (the so-called "She-She-She Camps"), modelled after her resident workers' schools.
After the termination of the WPA, HWS remained briefly as a Consultant in Labor Education, resigning in 1943. That same year she accepted a position with the Federal Public Housing Authority as Chief of the Project Services Section. She directed management of housing for war workers, who like her former students were mostly industrial workers, coordinating tenant organizations and education and health services.
HWS resigned this post in 1945 to become Chairman of the National Committee for the Extension of Labor Education. Acting as coordinator for this coalition of university and labor groups, HWS scheduled Congressional hearings, lobbied legislators, and supervised drafts and revisions of the Labor Extension Bill, which provided for federally funded workers' classes. Though this effort ended in 1951 without achieving its goal, many university extension programs were initiated by this campaign.
Having received a grant from the Ford Foundation's Fund for Adult Education to write a history of workers' education in the United States, HWS spent from 1952 to 1954 writing and gathering archival materials. From 1951 to 1957 HWS again made her home in West Park, remaining active in the community and running for Supervisor of the town of Esopus in 1956. In 1957 HWS began a series of relatively brief writing and consulting positions, which continued until her retirement in 1972. She served on the New York State Adult Education Bureau, directing a program of recreation for the elderly, from 1957 to 1959, and as Consultant for the Connecticut State Commission for Services to Elderly Persons from 1959 to 1961.
A three-month writing appointment with the Public Housing Administration brought her back to Washington, D.C. in 1962. She also wrote on contract for the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration, the Women's Bureau, and the Gerontology Branch of the Public Health Service. Her last appointment (1965) was as Consultant for the Training Division of the Community Action Program of the Office of Economic Opportunity. It gave her an opportunity to return to teacher education, observing and directing staff training for community centers.
At the age of 83, HWS retired to write a narrative of her seven years with the OEO, and thereafter to revise and expand her autobiography, Opening Vistas in Workers' Education, which was published in 1978. A poet all her life, HWS' poems have appeared in songbooks and periodicals, and in two privately printed volumes, Castle of Dream (1910) and Poems (1964). She died on March 3, 1984.


The Hilda Worthington Smith Papers have been grouped in three series, each arranged chronologically except where noted. This collection includes the bulk of HWS's personal and family papers (Series I); significant portions of her professional papers, and of records of organizations and agencies in which she was active, are in other repositories (see description of Series II).
Series I. Family and Personal Papers is divided into three subseries, each arranged chronologically except as noted.
A. Charles Mason Hall and family consists of Hall family correspondence. The majority are letters between CMH and his mother, Huldah P. (Abbot) Hall, with a small amount of CMH's business correspondence, as well as autograph books, lesson books, and memoranda of CMH and various other family members.
B. Smith family contains the writings, correspondence, and other papers of John Jewell Smith; writings and correspondence of Mary Helen (Hall) Smith; and miscellaneous papers of the Smith children. The bulk is correspondence: from JJS to his wife MHHS and from MHHS to her daughter Hilda Worthington Smith. The writings include JJS's "Reminiscences of Family Life, 1834-1896"; his poetry, 1878-1884; and a biography, "Helen Hall Smith: Her Book," by HWS.
C. Hilda Worthington Smith -- Personal comprises the bulk of Series I and consists of biographical and school papers and personal correspondence. The biographical papers are primarily diaries, 1902-1941 and 1944-1964, chronicling HWS's life day to day and describing in detail much of her work; and an unpublished autobiography written in 1936 (with later additions) for a competition sponsored by the publisher Little, Brown and Company. Other papers include early poetry, Hall-Smith family genealogical material (#151), general biographical information, and awards.
The school papers derive from HWS's years at Veltin School (1903-1906), New York School of Philanthropy (1913, 1915), and Bryn Mawr College (1906-1909); they consist of themes, a thesis, a small amount of correspondence, class work, and a chapel talk.
HWS's personal correspondence is comprised of family correspondence and letters to HWS from classmates and former students. The family correspondence consists primarily of HWS's letters to her mother MHHS and her aunt Cora M. Hall. Two folders (#177-178) of letters to her sister Helen Hall Smith are closed until January 1, 1990.
There is little of HWS's personal correspondence. Letters to HWS from classmates at Bryn Mawr and New York School of Philanthropy discuss school, friends, summer vacations, illness, and so on. Letters to HWS from former students at the Bryn Mawr Summer School, Vineyard Shore Labor School, and Hudson Shore Labor School were arranged alphabetically by HWS and left in that order; on many HWS has made notations about the student. Also included are a few letters from other working people, correspondence with other friends and acquaintances, and a folder of HWS's annual newsletters.
An index of correspondents is listed near the end of this finding aid.
Series II. Professional Papers is arranged in twelve subseries (see Series List). The first ten (A-J) represent positions held by HWS and are arranged chronologically. Subseries K includes papers from various affiliations, while L consists of correspondence and writings.
A. Bryn Mawr College: WaWarden, 1913-1914; B. Bryn Mawr Community Center: Director, 1916-1919; C. Bryn Mawr College: Dean, 1919-1920. These three subseries cover HWS's employment after graduation from Bryn Mawr College and New York School of Philanthropy. They consist of correspondence, including several letters from M. Carey Thomas (President of Bryn Mawr College), notes, publicity, and other printed material. The diaries and autobiography in Series I will give the researcher a fuller picture of HWS's early work.
D. Workers' Education Specialist, 1921-1962? is divided into six subsections, representing five workers' schools and the agency developed to coordinate them, and arranged chronologically. For the most part these are HWS's office files; they document her administrative tenure in each school or agency. Correspondence and reports also document her role in the creation of several of the schools and her continued advisory influence after her official employment with each had ended. For the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry and the Hudson Shore Labor School there are administrative and student records, as well as printed materials, which together give a more complete view of HWS's role in these two schools than do the sparse records of the other three.
These records do not constitute the official archives of these schools or agencies. Records of the Affiliated Schools for Workers and its member schools are in the archive of its successor agency, the American Labor Education Service at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (see Inventory folder in Box 1). Additional records of these organizations, including the bulk of the later records of the ALES are in the ALES Papers at the Labor-Management Documentation Center at Cornell University.
E. Federal Emergency Relief Administration: Specialist in Workers' Education, 1933-1939. Works Progress Administration: Director, Workers' Service Program, 1939-1942. Consultant in Labor Education, 1942-1943. These three positions have been combined in one subseries because the changes in title do not represent changes in HWS's work. She coordinated a national survey of labor education and made recommendations to labor schools incorporating methods developed at her own workers' schools. This is reflected in the field reports and related correspondence as well as the combined subject files for these ten years. Included are correspondence and reports from the Camps for Unemployed Women and an extensive file of HWS's writings on workers' education from this period. Additional records on these years are at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York (see Inventory folder in Box 1).
F. Federal Public Housing Authority: Chief of Project Section, 1943-1945, includes correspondence, reports and a housing managers' manual, all documenting HWS's efforts to emphasize tenant services in the management of Federal housing projects for war workers.
G. National Committee for the Extension of Labor Education: Chairman, 1945-1951. Much of the correspondence, reports, bills, subject files, and printed materials produced or initiated by HWS as lobbyist for the NCELE concerns the development of labor education through university extension classes. In her 1948 essay, "Learning to Lobby," HWS reveals reactions to lobbying and to politics in Washington D.C.
H. Fund for Adult Education, Ford Foundation, 1952-1954, consists of general correspondence, a report on the Workers' Service Project, and correspondence about the American Labor Education Service "Archives" (records). The search for ALES records, and for an appropriate repository, resulted from HWS's research on the WSP.
I. Consultant for State Commissions on the Elderly, 1957-1961, contains correspondence, reports, minutes, notes and articles concerning HWS's work for recreation and other services to the elderly in New York and Connecticut.
J. Federal Agencies, 1962-1972, covers HWS's employment by several Federal agencies as consultant or writer: the Public Housing Administration, the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, the Public Health Service and the Office of Economic Opportunity. (The last position is described in the final chapter of HWS's autobiography; see #142.) The few papers from this period include minutes, reports, correspondence, notes and publications.
K. Other Professional Affiliations, 1914-1965, consists of organizations and groups, arranged alphabetically, with which HWS worked or in which she had an interest in addition to her various paid positions. The types of records vary considerably but in general include minutes, reports, correspondence, notes and publications. Included is the William Roy Smith Memorial Fund for Workshops in Living History, which in 1939 attempted to develop workers' education techniques pioneered at various workers' schools.
L. General Professional Correspondence and Writings, 1912-1972, includes correspondence, speeches and talks, writings, and newspaper clippings pertaining to HWS's professional life but not to any specific employment.
The correspondence, arranged chronologically, includes a large number of letters to HWS from organizations interested in refugees and work for women during the 1940's. These letters were written from Europe and detail the problems facing such organizations as the World Association for Adult Education and the YWCA Committee on Refugees. Also included is correspondence with Rose Schneiderman concerning HWS's career and Schneiderman's memoirs (4115).
Series III. Photographs is divided into two sections: Family and Personal, and Professional. The first contains photographs of HWS, her parents, grandparents, her brother and sister, other relatives, and a few friends.
The photographs from her professional career are arranged alphabetically by subject, the majority being of workers' schools, students, or camps. The folders on Bryn Mawr Summer School and Hudson Shore Labor School include photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt. Most of the photographs are identified and many are dated.



Box 1 contains inventory of collection including relevant inventories from other repositories.

Additional catalog entries

Affiliated Schools for Workers
American Labor Education Service
Barnard Summer School for Women Workers in Industry
Bookbinder, Hyman H
Bryn Mawr Community Center
Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry
Christgau, Victor, 1894-
Coit, Eleanor Gwinnell, 1894-1976
Dulles, Eleanor Lansing, 1895-
Farrell, James Thomas, 1904-
Friedmann, Ernestine L, 1885-1973
Gamble, Mary Nan
Glassgold, A.C.
Hall, Charles Mason, 1821-?
Hewes, Amy, 1877-1970
Highlander Folk School
Hinton, Carmelita (Chase), 1890-
Hopkins, Harry Lloyd, 1890-1946
Hudson Shore Labor School
Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963
Kellogg, Paul Underwood, 1879-1958
Kenyon, Dorothy, 1888-1972
LaFollette, Charles Marion, 1898-
Lenroot, Katharine Frederica, 1891-
Leslie, Mabel
Lockwood, Helen Drusilla, 1891-1971
Loucheim, Kathleen (Scofield), 1903-
McBride, Katherine Elizabeth, 1904-
National Committee for the Extension of Labor Education
Ogden, Jean (Carter), 1897-
Park, Marion (Edwards), 1875-1960
Pell, Orlie [Anna Haggerty], 1900?-1975?
Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965
Peterson, Esther (Eggertsen), 1906-
Rauh, Joseph L, Jr., 1911-
Reuther, Victor George, 1912-
Roosevelt, Anna Eleanor (Roosevelt), 1884-1962
Rutgers University. Workshops in Workers' Education and Techniques
Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972
Smith, Helen Hall, 1892-1971
Smith, John Jewell, 1834-1901
Smith, Margaret (Earhart), 1902-1960
Starr, Mark, 1894-
Thomas, M[artha] Carey, 1857-1935
United States. Federal Emergency Relief Administration
United States. Federal Public Housing Authority
United States. Works Progress Administration. Workers' Service Program
Vineyard Shore Labor School
Williams, Aubrey Willis, 1890-1965
Winant, John Gilbert, 1889-1947
Witte, Edwin Emil, 1887-1960
Woodward, Ellen (Sullivan), ?-1971
Bryn Mawr College
Chatham Four Corners, New York
Drama in education
Emigration and immigration
Family records
Hall family
Home labor
Labor and laboring classes -- Education
New York School of Philanthropy
Public housing
Smith family
Student activities
Summer School for Office Workers
Teachers, training of
United States. Office of Economic Opportunity
World War II, 1939-1945



The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the Norfolk Public Library Norfolk, VA, July 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the American Jewish Historica Society, July 1980:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the Williams College, Chapin Library, August 1980:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the Widener Library, Harvard University, August 1980:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the Graduate School of Design Harvard University, September 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the FDR Library, Hyde Park, New York, October 1980:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC, October 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the Bryn Mawr College Library, October 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the New York Public Library, New York, NY, October 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the Stanford University Libraries, Dept. of Special Collections, Fall 1980:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the University of Maine at Orono, Fall 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the Labor-Management Documentation Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, December 1980:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison WI, January 1981:
The following item has been removed from the collection and donated to the Schlesinger Library Printed Books Department, 1959:
The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to Schlesinger Library Printed Books Department, 1980: