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© 2010 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: MC 636
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: Izetta Jewel, 1883-1978
Title: Papers of Izetta Jewel, ca.1850-1978 (inclusive), 1899-1965 (bulk)
Quantity: 15.43 linear ft. (37 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 3 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 2 photograph file boxes, 1 photograph folio folder, 2 photograph folio+ folders.
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of Izetta Jewel, stage actress, suffragist, radio commentator, and politician, consisting of biographical material, correspondence, speeches, scrapbooks, diaries, writings, clippings, photographs, family papers, etc.
Izetta Jewel was born Izetta Jewel Kenney in Hackettstown, New Jersey in 1883 to Elizabeth Henrietta (Denno) Kenney and Cornelius C. Kenney. Her mother was a suffragist and painter, for a short time offering art classes. Her father was a trained photographer who spent little time with the family, traveling throughout the United States and Mexico in an attempt to make his fortune until his accidental death in 1906 when he was hit by a train. Izetta Jewel had one sister, Hazel May Kenney, and a half-sister and half-brother, Bertha Church and Everett Church Jr., who were the product of her mother's previous marriage to Everett L. Church. Having been a young child when her biological parents divorced and her biological father being unknown to her, Bertha assumed the surname Kenney. It is unclear whether she was ever officially adopted by her step-father or whether she was informed of her true descent. Everett L. Church Jr. died as a young man.As a child, Izetta attended private schools: Pamlico in Pompton, New Jersey, and East Greenwich Academy in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, until she began her training at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She made her first stage appearance in the play Tess in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1900. She continued her stage work, traveling around the country making notable performances in New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, and joining various stock companies, among them the Castle Theater Stock Company in Boston, Massachusetts, until she arrived in Washington, D. C., and met and married William G. Brown Jr., a wealthy West Virginia congressman, in 1914. Following their marriage, the couple settled at Brown's estate in Kingswood, West Virginia. The couple had one child, Izetta "June" Brown, who was born just weeks before William G. Brown Jr.'s sudden death in March 1916.Following her husband's death, she became increasingly politically active, working in support of the suffrage amendment in West Virginia. She was also chosen to make the seconding speech for presidential candidate John W. Davis at the Democratic national convention in 1920, having attended as part of a national committee to look after the interests of the suffragists. Following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, she became one of the first women to run--unsuccessfully-- for United States Congress in 1922. She was an ardent supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1936 traveling ten thousand miles by plane with pilot Phoebe Fairgrove Omlie to campaign for him.After her unsuccessful run for Congress, Izetta Jewel Brown traveled abroad both alone and occasionally with her daughter, mother, and sister Hazel. She worked as a freelance lecturer and writer and served as a member of the Women's Committee of Four of the American Farm Bureau Federation, investigating country life abroad. Along with her daughter "June" and her mother "Lilla," she attended Rome's first women's suffrage conference in 1923. During her continuing travels she visited China, among other places, gathering information for her lectures and writings. After her return to the United States in 1927 she married Hugh Miller, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, dean of the College of Engineering at George Washington University and later head of the civil engineering department at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Both before and following the couple's marriage, she held a number of positions, working as freelance writer and lecturer (1920-1927); Radio Dramatic Director and Commentator on Current Events for WGY-Radio in Schenectady, New York (1927-1930); Commissioner of the Department of Public Welfare of Schenectady, New York (1929-1931); as well as holding several federal government positions (1935-1942), among them Regional Director of Women's Activities for the central states in the Work Projects Administration, and Regional Supervisor, War Public Services.Although Izetta Jewel appears to have been raised as a Methodist, she developed an interest in Christian Science during its early years. She seems to have been an adherent of the First Church of Christ Scientist under Mary Baker Eddy, but following Eddy's death in 1910, and a subsequent schism in the church, she followed the teachings of the Christian Science Parent Church under the leadership of Annie C. Bill. Bill had enlisted several prominent former members of the First Church, among them John V. Dittemore and A. A. Beauchamp. Izetta Jewel remained in regular contact with these leaders of the splinter church that was reorganized into the Church of Universal Design in 1924. She also developed a relationship with Francis J. Mott, who had been a follower of Bill since 1922. Following Bill's death in 1937, Mott, who had organized his own church called The Society of Life, presented his philosophy to the leaders of the Church of Universal Design, who voted to dissolve the church and urged members to join the society. With the exception of John V. Dittemore, who recanted his association with Bill and rejoined the First Church of Christ Scientist, most did, including Izetta Jewel. She held a number positions of authority in the several incarnations of the church, serving on the board of directors of The Society of Life and editor of its publication, Integration Magazine. Although The Society of Life is rumored to have dissolved shortly after World War II, Izetta Jewel continued a correspondence with Mott and received his newsletter until 1969, sending "donations" from time to time, indicating that at least a small core group of members continued to follow Mott's teachings.By 1948, Izetta Jewel had moved to La Jolla, California, purportedly for her husband Hugh's health. In the same year she began hosting a show on KQBC-Radio in La Jolla, interviewing various individuals and presenting news of local interest. She also began a column in the La Jolla Light, in which she mainly offered commentary on notable La Jolla women and on items of interest to women. She became involved with a number of local organizations including the Social Service League of La Jolla, the La Jolla Women's Club, the Theater and Arts Foundation of San Diego County, the La Jolla Playhouse Women's Committee, etc. Due to her husband's declining health it was necessary to place him in assisted living, where he died in 1965. She remained in La Jolla until her death in 1978.
Throughout the collection, members of Izetta Jewel Kenney's family are referred to by a variety of names including nicknames, stage names, and married names. Listed below are those commonly appearing.
- Henrietta Elizabeth (Denno) Kenney = "Lilla," "Jewel," Mrs. Jewel Kenney, "Lilla" Jewel Kenney, Izetta Jewel Kenney
- Izetta Jewel Kenney = Izetta Jewel, Izetta Jewel Brown, Izetta Jewel Miller
- Hazel May Kenney = Hazel May Godwin, Mrs. Don Godwin, Hazel May Horne, Mrs. Peter Horne
- Bertha Church = Bertha Kenney, Bertha Manning
- Izetta Jewel Brown = "June," Izetta Jewel Jr., Izetta "June" Miller, Izetta "June" Keane, Izetta "June" Smith, Izetta "June" Watkins
- Izetta Jewel Smith = "Taffy"
- William G. Brown Jr. = "Will Gay"
- Cornelius C. Kenney = "Neil," "Corny"
The collection is arranged in four series:
- Series I. Izetta Jewel, 1881-1978 (#1.1-27.10)
- Subseries A. Personal and biographical, 1881-1968 (#1.1-2.2)
- Subseries B. Diaries, log books, related, 1891-1964 (#2.3-5.5)
- Subseries C. Scrapbooks, 1885-1978 (#5.6-15.5)
- Subseries D. Correspondence, 1893-1978 (#15.6-22.6)
- Subseries E. Christian Science, 1917-1969 (#22.7-26.2)
- Subseries F. Professional, 1900-1961 (#26.3-27.10)
- Series II. Henrietta "Lilla" Elizabeth (Denno) Church Kenney, 1877-1924 (#28.1-33.9)
- Series III. Other family members, 1852-1965 (#33.10-37.11)
- Series IV. Photographs and oversized, ca.1850-1965 (#PD.1-PD.25, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, SD.1)
The bulk of the papers of Izetta Jewel arrived loose in cartons. Arrangement and folder titles were created by the processor. Family members of Izetta Jewel were often known by several stage names, nicknames, and/or married names (see above "alternate name formats"). Throughout the scope and content note, individuals are referred to by the name(s) they used during the specific time period in which they created the records being described. In an effort to keep the papers of individuals together, they are referred to by a single name, listing all incarnations, in the container list. For example, papers belonging to Izetta Jewel's daughter commonly known as June are referred to as papers of Izetta "June" Jewel (Brown) Keane Smith Watkins, in order to incorporate her birth name, nickname, stage name, and three married names. Other individuals are treated similarly.Series I, IZETTA JEWEL, 1881-1978 (#1.1-27.10), includes personal and biographical material, financial records, passports, licenses, membership certificates, diaries, scrapbooks, correspondence, material regarding Christian Science and splinter churches, professional papers, etc.Subseries A, Personal and biographical, 1881-1968 (#1.1-2.2), contains biographical essays; astrology and numerology charts; copies of book inscriptions; clippings regarding Izetta Jewel and various family members including her mother, daughter, first and second husbands, sisters, nieces, etc.; a family genealogy; licenses and certificates for membership in a number of groups; medical records; passports; student work, certificates, and publications from East Greenwich Academy; invitations, invitee list, etc., from Izetta Jewel's first and second marriage; a small amount of financial records from her time in La Jolla, California; itineraries, notes, etc., from a number of trips; and a handwritten will composed during her marriage to Hugh Miller. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.Subseries B. Diaries, log books, related, 1891-1964 (#2.3-5.5), contains diaries, log books, loose clippings, notes, etc. Early diaries (1891-1899) contain entries regarding social visits, school work, church events, etc. These entries continue throughout the subseries. By 1900, entries regarding her theatrical career begin to appear and continue until Izetta Jewel's marriage to William G. Brown Jr. in 1914. Entries during 1915-1916, regard married life, the birth of her child, Izetta "June" Brown, and her early childhood, as well as descriptions of social and political events of the time. Entries during 1925-1927, record her courtship with and eventual marriage to Hugh Miller. Also included are entries (from about 1918 onward) regarding her political activity in support of the passage of the 19th Amendment in West Virginia (1920), her unsuccessful runs as Democratic candidate for Congress from West Virginia (1922, 1924), her work in support of various Democratic candidates, etc., as well as entries regarding her work with various art, theater, and social organizations. The bulk of the diaries contain sporadic references to her Christian Science beliefs and various meetings and religious practices of both the original church and the splinter groups to which she belonged. The subseries is arranged chronologically. Loose materials were removed from diaries, etc., their original location noted, and foldered at the end of the subseries.Subseries C, Scrapbooks, 1885-1978 (#5.6-15.5), consists of bound volumes including pasted-in clippings and reviews, programs, photographs, advertisements, drawings, letters, etc., as well as loose contents of scrapbooks originally contained in three-ring binders that were recreated from earlier scrapbooks by daughter Izetta "June" Watkins. These were disassembled by the processor. Early scrapbooks (1885-1914) document both the theater in the early twentieth-century United States, as well as Izetta Jewel's personal theatrical career. Other scrapbooks document her marriage to William G. Brown Jr. (1914); political activity in the suffrage movement (1920), as Congressional candidate for West Virginia (1922, 1924), and as a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt for president (1936); her work in radio both in Schenectady, New York, and La Jolla, California (1928, 1965); her writing for various newspapers, etc. The subseries is arranged chronologically. Loose materials were removed from scrapbooks, their original location noted, and foldered at the end of the series.Subseries D. Correspondence, 1893-1978 (#15.6-22.6), consists of correspondence between Izetta Jewel and family members, including her father, Cornelius C. Kenney; her mother, Henrietta "Lilla" Elizabeth (Denno) Church Kenney; her sisters, Hazel May (Kenney) Godwin Horne and Bertha Church (Kenney) Manning; her first and second husbands, William G. Brown Jr. and Hugh Miller; her daughter, Izetta "June" Jewel (Brown) Keane Smith Watkins; and a number of cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws. Correspondence with family members relates incidents of daily family life, complaints about financial problems and requests for money (mainly requests for Izetta to supply money to her mother and family), and questions and comments about theatrical performances. Following the death of her first husband, William G. Brown Jr., correspondence includes discussions regarding the settlement of his estate, "Lilla" Kenney having been appointed executor following disagreements between Izetta and Brown's daughter from his first marriage. Letters from Hugh Miller record their courtship and include discussions re: Christian Science. Later correspondence with family members documents her daughter's travel, education, and theatrical career; the health care and subsequent death of her second husband, Hugh Miller; and her travels around the world. Other correspondents include fans, admirers, friends, and business acquaintances. While many of her fans and admirers merely commented positively on her performances on the stage, radio, and at speaking engagements, she did have several ardent admirers, among them Charles H. Asquith, J. Allen Davis, and Mackay Sutherland. Other correspondence includes condolence letters on the death of her first and second husbands and mother, answers to inquiries regarding theatrical roles, business-related correspondence regarding health insurance claims, and correspondence regarding various social organizations with which she was involved. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by author or subject. For additional correspondence see Subseries C. Scrapbooks, Subseries E. Christian Science, and Subseries F. Professional. Additional letters written by Izetta Jewel to various family members are located in Series II. Henrietta "Lilla" Elizabeth (Denno) Church Kenney and Series III. Other family members.Subseries E, Christian Science, 1917-1969 (#22.7-26.2), consists of pamphlets, circular letters, newsletters, correspondence, clippings, drafts, course materials, by-laws, minutes, study notes, speeches, etc., regarding Izetta Jewel's activity in the First Church of Christ Scientist and its splinter churches, the Christian Science Parent Church, The Fellowship of the Universal Design of Life, The Society of Life, and The Church of Integration. Izetta Jewel became deeply involved with the several incarnations of the church, serving in several positions including "Controller"on the board of directors of The Society of Life and editor of Integration Magazine. As a result she developed relationships with many of the leaders of the various churches and maintained correspondence with them. These leaders included Annie C. Bill, A. A. Beauchamp, John V. Dittemore, and Francis J. Mott. She participated in a number of classes and study sessions, maintaining her notes from both, and gave a number of speeches in an effort to gain converts for the church. She also maintained notes and analyses of her dreams, since they were apparently of interest to several of the splinter churches. Although The Society of Life was rumored to have dissolved following World War II, it seems to have continued for at least another two decades since Izetta Jewel's correspondence with Francis J. Mott continues into 1968 (sometimes under the name of The Church of Integration), and she received newsletters from Mott until 1969. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.Subseries F, Professional, 1900-1961 (#26.3-27.10), includes correspondence, meeting minutes, election returns, draft and published articles, radio scripts, programs and lists of theatrical performances, reports, speeches, etc., regarding her professional activities. Correspondence, minutes, reports, etc., regard her work as a member of the board of the Maret School, a private girls school in Washington, D.C. Several scripts, programs, and lists of theatrical performances document her early days in the theater prior to her marriage to her first husband. Drafts and published articles are mainly from her work as a freelance writer, but also include her column "Izetta Says," which appeared in the La Jolla Light. Radio scripts and correspondence document her work on WGY-Radio in Schenectady, New York, performing adaptations of the plays of David Belasco and relating stories of her personal travels and experiences, as well as her work on KCBQ-Radio in La Jolla, California, interviewing various individuals and presenting news of local interest. A small amount of correspondence and reports documents her work as Regional Director of Women's Activities for the central states in the Work Projects Administration. Speeches include those given at political events, those given as a member of the Women's Committee of Four of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and those given to various social organizations as an invited speaker during her time in La Jolla, California. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.Series II, HENRIETTA "LILLA" ELIZABETH (DENNO) CHURCH KENNEY, 1877-1924 (#28.1-33.9), includes biographical material, passports, correspondence, diaries, an address book, log book, ledgers, etc. Biographical material consists of a personal account (1886) of her abusive relationship with her first husband and reasons for divorcing him. The bulk of her correspondence consists of letters received from her daughters, Bertha, Izetta, and Hazel; her second husband, Cornelius C. Kenney; and her brothers, sisters-in-law, cousins, and other family members. Much of this correspondence relates family news such as births, deaths, and marriages, and records daily events and travels. Early letters from Izetta and Hazel describe their experiences at the private schools East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island and Pamlico in New Jersey, as well as their experiences traveling with a theatrical company and acting, Hazel having accompanied Izetta for several years playing bit parts in various stock companies. Later letters from Izetta record the settlement of her first husband's estate and the friction between her and her first husband's daughter, Jessie Brown. Letters from Cornelius C. Kenney describe his travels throughout the country and in Mexico and his efforts to "make his fortune." Complaints about lack of funds and requests for money seem to appear regularly throughout letters between family members. European letters consist of numbered packets including letters, postcards, clippings, and photographs (generally with an inventory) that were mailed by "Lilla" during her trip to Europe with her daughter Izetta and granddaughter "June" in 1924 and circulated among family members to be held for "Lilla" upon her return. They describe her travel and experiences in France and Italy and her attendance at Rome's first women's suffrage meeting. Diaries, log books, ledgers, etc., record daily family events, domestic duties, church attendance, social visits to friends and family, attendance at theatrical and musical performances, etc., as well as various types of accounts.Series III, OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, 1852-1965 (#33.10-37.11), consists of biographical material, letters, diaries, speeches, scrapbooks, and a small number of legal and financial documents of a number of family members. Family members include Izetta Jewel's father, Cornelius C. Kenney; her first and second husbands, William G. Brown Jr. and Hugh Miller; her first husband's father, William G. Brown Sr.; her sisters, Bertha (Church) Kenney Manning and Hazel May (Kenney) Godwin Horne; her daughter, "June"; and a number of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Much of this material consists of letters received, a large portion from Izetta Jewel, and serve to document a number of family events and her theatrical and political careers, et al. Papers of William G. Brown Sr. consist of a small number of letters written to his wife "Maggie" during his time in Congress and a small number of tax receipts, etc., indicating his ownership of property and slaves. Scrapbooks kept by Izetta "June" Brown, William G. Brown Jr. and Hugh Miller document their personal and professional lives. In addition to the scrapbook maintained by William G. Brown Jr. the series also contains congressional reports and speeches completed by Brown during his time in Congress.Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS AND OVERSIZED, ca.1850-1965 (#PD.1-PD.25, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.3, SD.1), includes photographs of Izetta Jewel throughout her life, including professional photographs taken during her theatrical career and for her political career. Additional photographs and images include those of ancestors in the Kenney and Denno families, her father, mother, siblings, et al., and both her first and second husbands, their ancestors, and their children by earlier marriages. A number of the photographs were taken by Cornelius C. Kenney during the time that he worked as a photographer. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*]. Oversized material listed in this series is either listed in other series or removed from folders listed in other series. Their listing here is meant to serve as a shelf list.