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MC 781

Gray, Helen Lingenfelter. Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, 1920-1984: 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 gifts from the Esther Margaret Ridder Preservation Fund, the Class of 1950 Fund, the Jeannette Ward Fund, and the Mary Maples Dunn Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 781
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Helen Lingenfelter Gray
Title: Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, 1920-1984
Date(s): 1920-1984
Quantity: 3.55 linear feet (8 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray, lawyer and women's rights and peace activist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 93-M130; 94-M156, 95-M145
The papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray were given to the Schlesinger Library by her husband, John Chipman Gray, in 1993 and 1994, and her son, John Chipman Gray, Jr., in 1995.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 2014
By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance of Emily Underwood.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Helen Lingenfelter Gray 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:

Helen Lingenfelter Gray Papers, 1920-1984; item description, dates. MC 781, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Materials

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Mary Jane Whitely Coggeshall Papers (A-13).


Donors: John Chipman Gray and John Chipman Gray, Jr.
Accession numbers: 93-M130; 94-M156, 95-M145
Processed by: Jenny Gotwals
The following items have been transferred to the Women's Newsletter and Periodical Collection (Pr-4):
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection (pending review by curator):


Helen Coggeshall Lingenfelter Gray was born in 1910 in Des Moines, Iowa, to lawyer Edward Alden Lingenfelter and Corinne Coggeshall Lingenfelter. Corinne Lingenfelter was a founder and the first president of the Des Moines League of Women Voters; her mother, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, was an Iowa suffragist, an officer in NAWSA, and an editor of The Woman's Standard.
Helen Lingenfelter attended Radcliffe College (AB, 1932) and received a law degree from National University (now George Washington University) in 1938. After college she worked as a secretary at the American Association of University Professors and at the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in Washington, DC. Following law school she worked as an attorney for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1938-1942). In 1941 and 1942 she also worked for the US Senate's Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee Investigating Violations of Free Speech and the Rights of Labor.
In 1941 she married physicist John Chipman Gray, Harvard class of 1930, and grandson of noted Harvard Law School professor John Chipman Gray (1839-1915). They had three sons, John "Chip" Chipman, Jr. (b. April 23, 1942), Edward "Ned" Coggeshall (b. December 15, 1943), and Roger Whiteley (b. June 3, 1946). The Grays lived in Washington, DC, when the children were young; John Gray conducted research for the Navy.
Helen Gray was a member of the Progressive Party, the DC League of Women Voters, the Lawyer's Guild, and supported other progressive causes. Raised a Quaker, Helen Gray was devoted to pacifism as a spiritual and political belief. She helped to organize a conference on Peaceful Alternatives to the Atlantic Pact in 1949, and explored peaceful alternatives to the Korea War through her various political groups and the American Friends Service Committee. In December of 1951, John Gray's security clearance was revoked; the Grays believed it was due to Helen's political persuasions.
In 1952, the Grays moved to Weston, Massachusetts. Helen Gray studied for and passed the Massachusetts Bar exam in 1953; from 1954 to 1955 she worked part-time as an attorney for the Boston Legal Aid Society, where some of her work was for inmates at the Framingham Reformatory for Women. John Gray taught at the Cambridge School of Weston for several years and also worked for Science Electronics Inc., a division of General Electric, where he developed lab and educational apparatus and teaching materials. While living in Weston, Helen Gray was active in her children's schools, the Women's Community League, and initiated a foreign student program and a United Nations week in the town. In the early 1960s, the Grays moved to Cambridge.
Helen Gray was an active Radcliffe College alumna. She served as Chairman of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Fund (1955-1957), First Vice President of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (1959-1961), and finally was President of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (1961-1963), a duty which included being an ex-officio member of the Radcliffe College Board of Trustees.
Helen Gray taught a class on government and civil liberties at a Dorchester freedom school in 1963 and 1964. Around the same time she volunteered to have a young African-American girl on parole report to her as a parole officer, and she began to be more interested in issues relating to youth "delinquency" and incarceration, poverty, racial relations, etc. She took on some pro bono Legal Aid cases, most of which involved advocating for incarcerated or impoverished clients. Helen Gray served on the Executive Board of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM) in the mid-1960s, and was a founding member of that organization's Women's Rights Committee. She was active in (including serving on the Steering Committee) Massachusetts Political Action for Peace (Mass PAX) in the 1960s, as well as numerous smaller peace and anti-Vietnam war groups and organizations. Helen Gray was also interested in the women's liberation movement of the late 1960s; she was a member of a small women's group and was actively involved in seeking out information and supporting the goals of young women.
Helen Gray donated her grandmother Mary Jane Coggeshall's papers to the Schlesinger in 1946. She died of Alzheimer's disease in December 1989.


The collection is arranged in three series:


The papers of Helen Lingenfelter Gray contain correspondence, notes, minutes, fliers, and lists relating to the committees, issues, and legal causes she worked for, as well as to her household and family concerns. The collection documents Gray's work in the anti-Vietnam war movement; with women's liberation groups in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts; in the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, where she established a Women's Rights Committee; as an advocate for incarcerated women; and as an anti-racist activist and freedom school educator. Most of the collection was foldered and titled by Gray. Her original titles appear below; titles created by the archivist appear in brackets.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1920-1984 (#1.1-2.8), includes correspondence, notes, lists, etc., that relate to Gray's family, household, and personal life. Gray was a list-maker, and included here are lists she made of daily schedules for her sons, their chores, what belongings to pack on family camping trips, and what kinds of games to play at the children's birthday parties. One of Gray's three sons served in the Army in the early 1960s, another was a conscientious objector. Helen Gray was heavily involved in the proceedings around Roger Gray's draft case (#1.12), and was concurrently a draft counselor for other young men. Several letters (#1.7) describe the McCarthy-era charges of Communist sympathies brought against John Gray in 1951. Work Helen Gray undertook in the Weston, Massachusetts, community to broaden international understanding through foreign student exchange is also documented (#1.11, 2.7). The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series II, RADCLIFFE COLLEGE, 1944-1975 (#2.9-3.9), includes Gray's notes, correspondence, and other Radcliffe College-related documents. Most of the material dates from the late 1950s to early 1960s, when Gray held a number of elected alumnae positions. Helen Gray was Chairman of the Radcliffe Alumnae Fund (1955-1957), First Vice President of the Radcliffe Alumnae Association (1959-1961), and then President of the Radcliffe Alumnae Association (1961-1963), a post which included being an ex-officio member of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees. In 1967, Gray was asked to help mediate a dispute between Radcliffe students and the College administration over housing and meal plan-related issues; Gray ended up supporting the students. Folders may include correspondence with Radcliffe College staff and other alumnae, notes, notes for speeches, minutes, agendas, etc. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series III, ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISM, 1938-1984 (#3.10-9.5, FD.1), contains correspondence, minutes and notes, fliers, and articles that document Gray's legal activism and political work. The bulk of the material is from the 1960s and 1970s and is files relating to Gray's work with the American Friends Service Committee, Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Political Action for Peace; more general folders relate to her involvement with the Vietnam War draft opposition and antiwar movement (including anti-war protests at Harvard), women's liberation movement, and freedom schools. Other topics represented include fair housing, racial justice, and penal reform in Massachusetts.
Most of the files on CLUM contain a mixture of Executive Committee meeting minutes, agendas, notes, and correspondence. Gray was a constant donor to liberal and radical political causes during the 1960s and 1970s; some of the files contain evidence of her financial support of some of the causes. Much of Gray's anti-war work was grounded in her Quaker upbringing; this collection contains a lot of AFSC material that documents the Cambridge office's anti-war work. Despite being decades older than most of the other women involved in women's liberation groups in the late 1960s, Gray was a willing participant and supporter of many local Cambridge projects, including the Women's Center, the Women's Community Health Center and the Bread and Roses restaurant. Correspondence from younger women (#8.12) attests to Gray's relationship as a mentor and advisor to younger women spearheading this local organizing. Several folders contain correspondence from Gray's early political work in Washington, DC. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Black nationalism--United States
Cambridge (Mass.)--Politics and government--20th century
Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Civil rights--Massachusetts
Conscientious objectors
Draft--United States
Home economics--United States
Legal aid--United States
Peace activists
Protest movements--United States
Quakers--United States
Social movements
Students, Foreign--Massachusetts
United States--Race relations
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--United States
Weston (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Women and peace--Massachusetts
Women and peace--United States
Women lawyers--Massachusetts
Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States
Women--Political activity
Women's rights--Massachusetts
American Friends Service Committee
Bell, Carolyn Shaw
Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947
Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Cronkhite, Bernice Brown, 1893-1983
Durr, Virginia Foster
Massachusetts Political Action for Peace
Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985
Radcliffe College. Alumnae Association
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Radcliffe College--Students
Rothschild, Maurine
Van Waters, Miriam
Women's Community Health Center (Cambridge, Mass.)