[OASIS] Harvard University Library
OASIS: Online Archival Search Information System
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:RAD.SCHL:sch01352View HOLLIS Record   Frames Version
Questions or Comments   Copyright Statement

On July 16, 2018, OASIS will retire. It will be replaced by HOLLIS for Archival Discovery. Please explore.
MC 661

May, Elizabeth Stoffregen, 1907-2011. Papers of Elizabeth Stoffregen May, 1907-2011: 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

Processing of this collection was made possible by the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 661
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Elizabeth Stoffregen May, 1907-2011
Title: Papers of Elizabeth Stoffregen May, 1907-2011
Date(s): 1907-2011
Quantity: 31.69 linear feet (76 file boxes) plus 5 folio folders, 4 folio+ folders, 43 photograph folders, 2 folio+ photograph folders, electronic records)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of economist and educator Elizabeth Stoffregen May, the first woman director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and a president of the International Federation of University Women.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 99-M76, 2002-M161, 2007-M81, 2011-M105
The papers of Elizabeth Stoffregen May were given to the Schlesinger Library by Elizabeth Stoffregen May between May 1999 and May 2007. Her obituary and memorial program were give to the library in June 2011.

Processing Information:

Processed: June 2011
By: Jessica Tanny, with assistance from Camille Torres

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted except #56.10, which is closed until January 1, 2026.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Elizabeth Stoffregen May is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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.

Preferred Citation:

Elizabeth Stoffregen May Papers, 1907-2011; item description, dates. MC 661, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is additional material at the Schlesinger Library; see Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project (OH-40; T-114) and Luncheon Series audio collection (T-118).


Donors: Elizabeth May
Accession numbers: 99-M76 and 2002-M161
Processed by: Jessica Tanny


The career of Elizabeth May, economist and educator, spanned over fifty years. Born Elizabeth Augusta Stoffregen on April 25, 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, she grew up the eldest of four sisters in Montclair, New Jersey. Her mother was Caroline Stumpf and her father was Carl Henry Stoffregen, the second generation head of Steinwender, Stoffregen & Co., a coffee-roasting and importing company.
Interested in global issues from an early age, Elizabeth first went abroad her senior year of high school, traveling in Europe for six months with family friends. Later, while a student at Smith College (B.A., 1928), she was president of the first League of Nations Model Assembly held in New England and also attended the Students' International Union in Geneva, Switzerland. Elizabeth's research on the economic valorization of the Brazilian coffee trade for her senior thesis at Smith became the basis of graduate work at both Radcliffe College and the London School of Economics (LSE), where she earned her Ph.D. in 1931. While in London, she met Geoffrey May, an American with a law degree from Harvard who was finishing a fellowship at LSE. They were married in September 1931.
Shortly after her marriage, May began her teaching career at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, teaching economics. In 1933 she was awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship to research and write her chapters for the collaborative book, International Control on the Non-Ferrous Metals. In 1939 May took a leave of absence from Goucher to work for the federal government as an economic analyst in the Division of Research and Statistics. She formally resigned from Goucher in 1941 to become a fiscal analyst at the U.S. Bureau of the Budget during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations (1941-1947). While at the Bureau of the Budget she worked on postwar issues for the U.S. economy. In 1947, the Truman Doctrine was signed and launched America's counter-offense to the Soviets with a grant of $400 million in aid to stabilize the Turkish and Greek governments. The American Mission for Aid to Greece was established to administer the economic and military assistance to the Greek government, and Geoffrey May was appointed assistant director of the program. In late 1947, Elizabeth May was also hired by the Mission for Aid as an economic specialist, tasked with evaluating the economy and preparing an official report.
Returning to the U.S. in 1949, May served as professor of economics and academic dean at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. During her fifteen years at Wheaton, she stepped in twice as acting president. In February 1964 Geoffrey May was taken ill and suddenly died. In June of that same year, Elizabeth May was appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson as the first woman director of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) promoting their mission to assist in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets. May spent much of her five years at the Ex-Im travelling internationally on assignments, including trips to Ghana, Japan, and Argentina. She served on the board of directors until her resignation was accepted by newly elected President Richard M. Nixon on April 17, 1969.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth May was a leader in the advancement of education for women. She first became involved with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 1936 when she was hired as Research Associate for Social Studies at the national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Years later, from 1961 to 1969, she served as First Vice-President and in 1967 she represented the AAUW at the 51st Council meeting of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) in New Delhi, India. In 1968 she was elected Third Vice-President of the IFUW and later served as First Vice-President (1971-1974) and President (1974-1977). In 1969 she joined forces with Althea Hottel (a former president of both IFUW and AAUW) and five other women to found the Virginia Gildersleeve International Foundation for University Women (later the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund).
In 1977, May retired to Harvard, Massachusetts, where she dedicated her time to town activities, including serving as a member of the town's Long Range Planning Advisory Committee. Over the years, she was often recognized for her achievements. In 1981, the Schlesinger Library chose her to be one of 40 subjects for its "Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project." In 1999, she was one of 30 women, including Julia Child and Betty Friedan, to be honored by her alma mater, Smith College, as part of the "Remarkable Women: A Smith Continuum" program. In 2000, at the age of 93, she was honored by the town of Harvard as their annual "Citizen of Note."
Elizabeth Stoffregen May died in her home in Harvard, Massachusetts, on March 27, 2011. She was 103.


The collection is arranged in six series:


The papers of Elizabeth May include correspondence, memos, writings, speeches, photographs, and notes relating to her professional work at Goucher College, the Bureau of the Budget, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the American Mission for Aid to Greece. The collection also includes May's organizational records from her work with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), International Federation of University Women (IFUW), and the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF). There is also correspondence, notes, research, and photographs from her family, husband, and alma maters.
The collection was initially prepared and organized by Elizabeth May and her neighbor Audrey Ball. Most of the papers were organized into used envelopes with topic headings written on them by either May or Ball. Folder titles were created by the archivist based on the headings from the envelopes; direct phrases are in quotation marks. If there was additional information, the envelope was photocopied and placed in the first folder. There were also many binders throughout the collection with mixed topics arranged by May with numerical tabs, a table of contents, and sometimes a title. These binders, often called "administrative notebooks," were disbound and refoldered to retain the original tabbed structure. Throughout the collection there were many notations (by both May and Ball) on sticky notes. These were photocopied and retained whenever substantial information was written on them.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1907-2011 (#1.1-8.13, FD.1, F+D.1, PD.1-PD.2), includes May's address books, awards, calendars, clippings, itineraries, membership cards, name badges, notebooks, obituaries, an oral history conducted at Wheaton College, passports, speeches delivered at Wheaton College and other unidentified places, and writings. This series also contains some documents concerning her husband, Geoffrey May, including obituaries, clippings, calendars, and their wedding invitation. For condolence letters sent to Elizabeth May regarding Geoffrey's death, see Series III (#16.16-17.3). For an oral history conducted by Smith College, see Series II (#10.12). Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Series II, EDUCATION, 1915-2000 (#8.14-13.11, FD.2-FD.4, F+D.2, PD.3-PD.5), contains records from May's elementary and junior high schools, high school, college, and graduate schools. The grade school materials include report cards, creative writings, and a collaborative "paper" produced by a friendship club called the "Pansy Club." The materials from Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey, include report cards, correspondence, yearbooks, student newspaper, and a travel diary from May's senior trip to Europe with the Dutch family. Materials from Smith College include report cards, clippings, class work, correspondence, and files from the League of Nations Model Assembly and the Student International Union in Geneva, Switzerland. Also included are records documenting May's active alumnae work at Smith College including her contributions; correspondence; newsletters to the Class of 1928; and materials from the Board of Counselors, Alumnae Council, Remarkable Women award ceremony, and reunions. The materials from her two graduate schools, the London School of Economics and Radcliffe College, include correspondence and course notes. For correspondence with Bernice Cronkhite, Dean of Radcliffe College, see Series III (#15.9). For materials from the Schlesinger Library see Series V, Subseries E (#76.18-76.20). Folders are arranged alphabetically by school name and then by topic.
Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1907-2007 (#13.12-22.4, PD.6-PD.8, E.1), contains letters, photographs, obituaries, greeting cards, Christmas cards, get well cards, and birthday cards. There are folders of photocopied letters sent in multiple copies as a "round robin" among Stoffregen family members. Originals were not donated with the collection. The series also includes correspondence between Elizabeth and Geoffrey May and condolence letters sent to Elizabeth in response to Geoffrey's death in 1964. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic, then chronologically.
Series IV, PROFESSIONAL, 1931-2001 (#22.5-28.16, F+D.3, PD.9-PD.24, PD.45f+), contains records associated with Elizabeth May's professional work in both government and academia, including Goucher College, Bureau of the Budget, Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the American Mission for Aid to Greece. Records from May's career as Academic Dean of Wheaton College were not donated with this collection. For those materials, see the Elizabeth Stoffregen May Papers at the Marion B. Gebbie Archives and Special Collections at Wheaton College. The series is arranged into three subseries.
Subseries A, Goucher College, 1931-2001 (#22.5-23.2, PD.9), includes lecture notes and syllabi from courses taught, correspondence, and some committee work. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries B, Bureau of the Budget, 1936-1999 (#23.3-23.17, F+D.3, PD.10), includes committee work, correspondence, directories, draft writings, personnel actions, research notes, and working papers. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries C, Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), 1961-1999 (#23.18-27.13, PD.11-PD.22, PD.45f+), includes a business card, clippings, directory, memos, notes, press releases, spreadsheets, statistic research, proposals, materials regarding her presidential appointment, and daily appointment schedules. There is correspondence with colleagues and invitations from the White House including the 1965 Inaugural Ball (#25.18-25.19). There is also correspondence called "Chron. Files" which contain outgoing letters regarding mostly non Ex-Im business May conducted while Director of the Ex-Im Bank from 1964-1969. Across all the "Chron. Files" folders are letters regarding such topics as maintaining her affairs in Harvard, Massachusetts while living in Washington, D.C.; settling the estate of Geoffrey May; arranging speaking engagements; recommendations for former students and colleagues; setting up social engagements with friends and relatives; letters to heads of academic institutions including Smith College and Wheaton College; letters to neighbors in Harvard, Massachusetts; and organizing and maintaining AAUW business. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries D, American Mission for Aid to Greece, 1947-1999 (#27.14-28.16, PD.23-PD.24), includes correspondence with Greek colleagues and "round robin" letters exchanged with the Stoffregen family while in Greece. Also includes clippings, reports, identification card, work contract, spreadsheets, and writings. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Series V, ORGANIZATIONS, 1936-2002 (#28.17-76.22, FD.5, F+D.4, PD.25-PD.35), contains records from Elizabeth May's volunteer work with organizations including the American Association of University Women, the International Federation of University Women, the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, and the Wolf Trap Foundation. For volunteer alumnae work, see Series II. The series is arranged into five subseries.
Subseries A, American Association of University Women (AAUW), 1936-2002 (#28.17-32.14), includes Board of Directors meeting minutes, clippings, committee work, conferences, correspondence, member lists, research on the AAUW/IFUW organizational dues issues, and United Nations seminars. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.
Subseries B, International Federation of University Women (IFUW), 1964-2002 (#32.15-65.19, FD.5, F+D.4, PD.25-PD.32), contains May's records as a member of the Board of Directors of the IFUW from 1968 until her retirement as president of the organization in 1977. Correspondence includes circulars, handwritten note cards, Christmas greetings from friends and IFUW member organizations, letters from IFUW Executive Board Members; and materials regarding triennial conferences, the VGIF, and the AAUW. Other materials include brochures; Board of Officers correspondence and meeting minutes; committees including the Dues Committee and the Committee for the Award of International Fellowships; constitution and by-laws; Council meeting agendas and minutes; mailings to members such as newsletters and circulars; materials sent from member organizations; materials from regional meetings such as those held in New Delhi, India (1967), Managua, Nicaragua (1971), and San Salvador, El Salvador (1975); Triennial conference programs, agendas, planning documents, reports, and meeting minutes; materials generated as a member organization of the United Nations including records from the 1975 International Women's Year; and workshops and seminars. Some documents are in French or Spanish. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic and then chronologically.
The IFUW is divided into four components: The Triennial Conference, the Council (the executive body of the IFUW), the Board of Officers (responsible for carrying out and coordinating the organization's policies and programs), and the Standing Committees. The Board of Officers is made up of two components: the Board of Officers (the executive board members) and the Advisory Group, which was established in 1965 to advise on the development of IFUW programs and consists of the executive board, the standing committee chairs, and representatives from related international organizations such as the AAUW. As the Council meets at each Triennial Conference and at least once between conferences, some council meeting information can be found with conference materials. Board of Officers include materials regarding the Advisory Group and the Executive Secretary (a paid position in charge of operating IFUW headquarters). Other records of Elizabeth May may be held in the IFUW archives (1919-1997) at the Aletta Institute for Women's History in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Subseries C, Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (VGIF1969-2002 (#65.20-72.12, PD.33), contains May's records as a founder and organizer of the VGIF (formerly the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund for University Women), a group that provides small grants for grassroots projects which empower women and girls in developing countries. It was founded in 1969 by eleven members (including May) from the International Federation of University Women. Records in this subseries include Board of Trustees and Director memos, certificate of incorporation, committee meeting minutes and agendas, correspondence, history, and projects including the Project 5-0 Calcutta. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic, and then chronologically. The Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund Records are held by the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.
Subseries D, Wolf Trap Foundation, 1964-1991 (#72.13-75.3), contains May's records as an early board member for the non-profit National Park for the Performing Arts founded by Catherine "Kay" Filene Shouse in 1966 and first opened in 1971. Records include Board of Directors and Executive Committees, by-laws, committee meeting minutes and agendas, correspondence with Shouse, founding documents, publications, and materials from the Wolf Trap American University Academy for the Performing Arts. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries E, Other organizations and groups, 1948-2000 (#75.4-76.22, PD.34-PD.35), include records from the American Women for International Understanding delegation to China; Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; the Cosmopolitan Club; Harvard, Massachusetts municipal committees; National Economists Club; and the Schlesinger Library. Folders are arranged alphabetically by organization name.
Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1907-1985 (#PD.36-PD.44f+), contains photographs of Elizabeth May with family members and Geoffrey May; Girl Scouts; the Stoffregen family's houses in Montclair, New Jersey; on her first trip to Europe; at Wheaton College; and portraits. Folders are arranged alphabetically. #PD.1 - PD.35, PD.45f+ contain photographs found with other documents. Photographs were removed and foldered separately, and their folders listed in the various series above.
A selection 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 [*].

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Christmas cards
College teachers--United States
Economists--United States
Electronic records
Greeting cards
Harvard (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Husband and wife
International Women's Year, 1975
Love letters
Oral histories
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (Va.)
Women college graduates--Societies and clubs
Women college teachers--United States
Women economists--United States
Women government executives--United States
Women--International cooperation
Women--Massachusetts--Societies and clubs
Women--United States--Societies and clubs
American Association of University Women
American Association of University Women. Educational Foundation
American Association of University Women. Massachusetts State Division
Export-Import Bank of the United States
Hamburger, Erna
Hottel, Althea K. (Althea Krantz), 1907-2000
International Federation of University Women
London School of Economics and Political Science--Students
May, Geoffrey
Paquier, Alice
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Radcliffe College--Students
Roy, Bina
Shouse, Catherine Filene
Smith College--Alumni and alumnae
Smith College. Class of 1928
Smith College--Students
Stoffregen, Carl H.
United States. Bureau of the Budget--Officials and employees
Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund for University Women