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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1003: T-79: T-251

Additional papers of Clara M. Beyer, ca.1900-1991


Professional and personal correspondence, writings, and other materials from labor law specialist and labor advocate Clara Mortenson Beyer.


  • Creation: 1900-1991

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Clara Mortenson Beyer 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.


13.97 linear feet ((33+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder, 7 photograph folders, 29 audiotapes)

The additional papers of Clara Mortenson Beyer largely cover Beyer's professional activities, including as a consultant, advisor, and volunteer in the United States Department of Labor and other international development and political organizations. This collection also includes personal correspondence with colleagues and friends, and Beyer's children and grandchildren. In addition to correspondence, the collections contains reports, writings, statements, addresses, draft resolutions, speeches, clippings, photographs, and audiocassettes of interviews of Beyer and her colleagues and family. Any original folder titles appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the archivist.

In 1979, a preliminary inventory was created for additional papers of Clara Beyer (accession #75-192--81-M133). In 2019, the archivist reorganized this early collection and incorporated materials from later accessions, creating a new finding aid which supersedes the original 1979 inventory. Prior to depositing her papers at the Schlesinger Library, Beyer sorted and organized some of her correspondence into envelopes, often with informational annotations. She may have done this work partially to assist University of Mississippi professor Meg Murray in her research. In the early 1980s, Beyer was the subject of a biography being prepared by Meg Murray under a grant by Radcliffe College.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, ca.1900-1991 (#1.1-14.2, F+D.1, OD.1), contains extensive correspondence with family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, scholars doing research on Beyer's life and work, organizations valued by Beyer, former employees and employers, and politicians Beyer supported. Many of Beyer's friends were from the world of government, politics, activism, and civil and women's rights. The correspondence is comprised of letters, holiday and birthday cards, invitations, postcards, as well as clippings and printed materials. Letters from Beyer's family include from her three sons: Donald Beyer Sr., who was an army officer and eventually owned and operated a chain of car dealerships in Virginia; Richard Beyer who was a sculptor who lived in Washington state and created public art installations; and commercial aviation consultant Morten Beyer who lived with his family in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1960s and worked for Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA). Correspondence topics include acknowledgments for gifts; family updates and life events; health updates; invitations to baby showers and weddings; general daily activities related to family and work; and professional and volunteer interests. Richard Beyer's letters also include updates related to his artwork and commissions.

Beyer had originally sorted and arranged some of her personal correspondence into envelopes by year. The archivist re-sorted much of the correspondence by last name to create an alphabetical list. In the archivist's effort to identify individuals, some names may have been missed or misfiled. Folders of letters from Beyer's children and grandchildren also include communication with spouses. Correspondence from family, friends, and colleagues, with no last names (#12.13-13.2) may include individuals also found in the alphabetical listing.

This series also includes publicity materials about Beyer; biographical writings; University of California commencement booklet (1915); Beyer's account of surviving an earthquake while on vacation in Guatemala in 1976; testimonials, letters, clippings, and photographs given to Beyer upon her retirement from government in August 1958; transcript of Beyer's memorial service (November 16, 1990); and Neighbors for a Better Community by-laws and statement of purpose. Beyer founded and directed Neighbors for a Better Community in the 1960s in order to help foster community building between the African-American and white residents in her neighborhood in McLean, Virginia. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1925-1985 (#14.3-34.2), contains materials related to Beyer's advising, consulting, and volunteer work in international labor, foreign aid, and related work. Materials in this series include writings, reports, statements, addresses, draft resolutions, project files, correspondence and memos, speeches, material on foreign trips and conferences, as well as printed material, such as booklets and pamphlets related to women and/or labor in United States foreign aid.

The bulk of the files in this series relate to her role as a consultant in the United States Agency for International Development Office of Labor Affairs (1960s-1970s). Of particular note are Beyer's papers, such as memos, reports, and printed materials, related to her international travel. Beyer and Dr. Margaret F. Ackroyd were members of the women's affairs team of the United States Department of Labor. Together they traveled to several countries, including Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Iran under United States Agency for International Development funds. These were mostly study tours concerning the status of women and the role of women in social and economic development. Beyer and Ackroyd were particularly interested in the operation of women's bureaus or commissions, the development of labor laws to help eliminate discrimination based on sex, and in assessing the need for programs to improve the status of women. Ackroyd also served as consultant to the United States Department of Labor coordinating women's programs and advising developing countries on establishing programs for women in labor ministries. For additional correspondence with Ackroyd, see Series I (#7.4). This series also contains correspondence, directives, and reports related to Beyer's work proposing and supporting the Percy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973.

Other work documented in this series include Beyer's tenure as director of the Industrial Division of the Children's Bureau and as chair of the Federal Committee on Apprenticeship (1934-1941); as a member of the board of directors of the National Consumers League and the National Consumers Committee for Research and Education; her active planning and advising for International Women's Year, where Beyer was also one of the founders of the United States Center for International Women's Year; as a delegate for both the International Labour Organisation and the Organization of American States Inter-American Conference of Labor Ministers; as a technical assistance program advisor for the International Cooperation Administration; as a board member of the League of Women Voters Overseas Education Fund; and as a board member and chair of special committees for the Woman's National Democratic Club. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1901-1974 (#PD.1-PD.7), includes images of Beyer at government events, including with Senator Charles H. Percy and family members at an Agency for International Development awards ceremony honoring Beyer. Also included is a photograph of Beyer at the Organization of American States regional seminar in Argentina on women's bureaus that Beyer coordinated. Series is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, AUDIOCASSETTES, 1979-1982 (#T-79.1; T-251.1-T-251.28), contains audiocassettes of events honoring Beyer and interviews conducted in the 1980s with Beyer, former colleagues, and family members. The interviews cover broad areas of Beyer's life including her career, education, marriage and family, relationships with other officials and colleagues, views on social and political issues, and her extensive career working for equitable labor laws and women workers. The bulk of the interviews were conducted by scholar and researcher Meg Murray. Also included is an interview by scholar Kathryn Kish Sklar. Series is arranged loosely chronologically. For additional interviews of Clara Beyer see also Schlesinger Library's Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project (OH-40).

A selection of photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Clara Estelle Mortenson Beyer was born April 13, 1892, near Middletown, Lake County, California. She was the sixth daughter of Morten Mortenson and Mary Frederickson. Her parents were Danish immigrants, and when her father died at an early age, her mother worked as an unskilled laborer. Beyer received a bachelor's degree (1915) and master's degree in economics (1916) from the University of California, Berkeley. Soon after graduation she was recruited by the President of Bryn Mawr College to teach a new course on labor (1917-1918). After a year she was offered a teaching position at Barnard College, which she accepted but soon left after Felix Frankfurter recruited her to serve on the War Labor Policies Board (1919-1921). In this role, she worked primarily on workmen's compensation and price control. On July 30, 1920, she married an army major and an early pioneer in labor relations Otto Sternoff-Beyer, Jr. (1886-1949). They had three children; Morten (1921-2010), Donald (1924-2017), and Richard (1925-2012).

The Beyers moved to New York where Clara Beyer went to work for the Joint Legislative Council for the Enactment of a Minimum Wage Law for Women in New York (1919-1921). She returned to Washington to be the executive secretary of the Organization for the Ratification of the Child Labor Amendment. Beginning in the 1920s and for nearly forty years Beyer was connected with the United States Department of Labor and built a reputation as a specialist in labor law, often drafting legislation, including the Wage and Hour Act and child labor laws. She served as economist for the Children's Bureau (1928-1931), director of the Children's Bureau's Industrial Division (1931-1934), and associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards (1934-1957). Beyer attended the International Labor Organization's annual conferences as a United States Government Advisor throughout her career. She became acting director of the Bureau of Labor Standards just prior to her retirement from the Department in 1958.

After Beyer's retirement, she continued to be active in labor-related government projects. In 1958, she became technical assistance program advisor for the International Cooperation Administration, where she produced the widely-used manual "The Role of Labor Departments in the Developing Countries for the Economic Cooperation Administration." In 1961, she worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as an advisor in labor law administration and traveled extensively, meeting with leaders of developing countries to discuss labor issues. She dedicated special attention to the need to integrate women into the development process. She promoted passage of the Percy Amendment (1973) to the Foreign Assistance Act and helped develop administrative programs for putting the Amendment into effect. The Percy Amendment urged that high priority be given to programs calling for the integration of women into the development process of their own countries. While at the Agency for International Development, Beyer was active to ensure that the Percy Amendment would be administered in such a way as to encourage the integration of women into more and better positions within the agency itself. She also initiated the position of Women's Activities Advisor in the labor division of USAID, and served in that capacity until her final retirement in October 1974. Beyer also worked in various capacities with the Organization of American States, the International Labour Organisation, and other federal, international, and women's agencies, including as a board member of the Overseas Education Fund of the League of Women Voters and member and program committee chair of the Woman's Democratic Club.

Beyer received many awards and recognitions during her life, including an Agency for International Development award honoring her service (1974) and remarks of recognition from California representative Norman Mineta in the House of Representatives (1982). Beyer died in 1990. She was survived by her three sons, twelve grandchildren, and twenty-three great-grandchildren.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, ca.1900-1991 (#1.1-14.2, F+D.1, OD.1)
  2. Series II. Professional, 1925-1985 (#14.3-34.2)
  3. Series III. Photographs, 1901-1974 (#PD.1-PD.7)
  4. Series IV. Audiocassettes, 1979-1982 (#T-79.1; T-251.1-T-251.28)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 75-192, 78-M174, 78-M182, 80-M231, 81-M42, 81-M133, 82-M157, 82-M81, 85-M25, 89-M21, 90-M42, 91-M31, 93-M117

The papers of Clara M. Beyer were given to the Schlesinger Library by Clara M. Beyer between 1975 and 1989. Accession #90-M42 was given to the Schlesinger Library by Clara Beyer's son Richard S. Beyer, April 1990. Accession #91-M31 was given to the Schlesinger Library by Dan Lazorchick, February 1991. Accession #93-M117 was given to the Schlesinger Library by the Murray Center via Ruth Hill, July 1993.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Clara Mortenson Beyer, 1911-1965 (A-159) and Interviews of the Women in the Federal Government Oral History Project, 1981-1983 (OH-40).


Donor: Clara Beyer

Accession numbers: 75-192, 78-M174, 78-M182, 80-M231, 81-M42, 81-M133, 82-M157, 82-M81, 85-M25, 89-M21

Processed by: Laura Peimer

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. International Labor (vol. 14, #2)
  2. IWY Bulletin (September 1975--February 1976)
  3. IWY Calendar of Events and Excerpts from the World Plan of Action (1975?)
  4. The National Voter (vol. 29, #4; vol. 31, #3; vol. 31, #4; vol. 32, #3; vol. 33, #1)
  5. Network News: The Newsletter of the National Women's Health Network (May/June 1983)
  6. New Directions for Women (January/February 1983)
  7. Population Report: Pregnancy Termination (Series F, #1, April 1973)
  8. Womanpower (November 1975)
  9. Women in Action: An Information Summary for the Federal Women's Program (vol. 4, #4)

Processing Information

Processed: October 2019

By: Laura Peimer

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are often not retained.  Other material not normally retained include clippings that are not by or about the collection's creator.

Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson). Additional papers of Clara M. Beyer, ca.1900-1991: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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