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Call No.: M-133, reel D26; WRC 633-643
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Florence Luscomb, 1887-1985
Title: Papers of Florence Luscomb in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1959
Quantity: 14 folders (10 folders, 1 folio folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 1 photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Photographs, correspondence, speeches, etc., of Florence Luscomb, social and political activist. These papers are part of the Woman's Rights Collection.
Florence Hope Luscomb, life-long social and political activist, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on February 6, 1887, the daughter of Otis and Hannah Skinner (Knox) Luscomb. Her father, an unsuccessful artist, and her mother, the daughter of a Republican Congressman from St. Louis, separated when Florence Luscomb was one and a half. An inheritance from her maternal grandmother enabled Hannah Skinner Luscomb to contribute to and work for labor, women's rights, and suffrage organizations, as well as to raise Florence Luscomb alone. Florence Luscomb's older brother, Otis Kerro Luscomb, apparently lived with their father.After attending a private secondary school (Chauncy Hall), Florence Luscomb graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an S.B. in architecture in 1909. She was a partner in Ida Annah Ryan's architectural firm until 1917, when, because of the World War I building slump, she left architecture to become executive secretary for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association. Florence Luscomb was renowned among suffragists for giving open-air speeches and selling The Woman's Journal on the Boston Common. After 1920, she held paid executive positions in the Boston League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Civic League (concerned with prison reform), the Joint Board of Sanitary Control (policing factory safety), and the Massachusetts branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She lived with her mother until Hannah Skinner Luscomb died in 1933, at which time Florence Luscomb decided to stop working for pay so that she would not take jobs away from those who needed them. She extended her radical volunteer activities and became a full-time social and political activist.In the early 1920s Florence Luscomb began to serve on the boards of civil rights, civil liberties, labor, peace, and other organizations. She ran for public office at least four times, each time unsuccessfully. Florence Luscomb's social activism came full circle in the 1970s, when the burgeoning women's movement called on her as a frequent speaker. Along with her new status as "foremother," she remained involved in current issues, such as the Vietnam War and school busing in Boston. She encouraged the new movement to encompass the needs of all kinds of women. As she had earlier reminded union audiences that labor includes women, in the 1970s she reminded feminists that "women" includes poor and Black women.In 1980, after living in cooperative houses and then with her friend Dorothy Colby, Florence Luscomb moved into the Emerson Convalescent Home in Watertown, where she died in 1985 at the age of 98.For further biographical information, see two pieces by Sharon H. Strom, "Leadership and Tactics in the American Woman Suffrage Movement: A New Perspective from Massachusetts," Journal of American History 62 (September 1975): 296-315, and "Florence Luscomb: For Suffrage, Labor, and Peace," in Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change, edited by Ellen Cantarow (New York: Feminist Press, 1980), 4-51. For additional documentation of Florence Luscomb's life, especially the later years, see the Florence Hope Luscomb papers at the Schlesinger Library.
This series consists of photographs, correspondence, speeches and writings by Florence Luscomb, flyers, clippings, pamphlets, posters, articles, cheers, songs, reports, permits, a map, a certificate, and a United States flag, all documenting Florence Luscomb's suffrage work and suffrage campaigns in Massachusetts, Ohio, and other states. Some correspondence pertains to the WRC itself. There is some material from all four of Florence Luscomb's political candidacies and her work against anti-communism.