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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1129

Papers of Mary V. Ahern, 1940-2011 (inclusive), 1940-1990 (bulk)


Correspondence, programming schedules for Omnibus, radio scripts, and writings of Mary Ahern, Radcliffe College alumna and producer of radio and television programs. Material related to Leonard Bernstein's television appearances is also included.


  • Creation: 1940-2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1990

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary V. Ahern 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.


1 linear feet ((1 carton) plus 1 photograph folder, 1 folio photograph folder)

The collection includes programming ideas and schedules for Omnibus; the script of a documentary about Omnibus and a proposal for a book about the series; scripts for the radio program Ahern and Robert Saudek produced for the American Broadcasting Company; scripts for Leonard Bernstein's Norton Lecture series and articles and other material related to his involvement with Omnibus; reports on collections Ahern wrote for the Library of Congress and Columbia University; correspondence; Radcliffe College notes and coursework; and photographs. For interviews with Ahern conducted as part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration Oral History Project, see SC 185.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Mary Virginia Ahern was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1922, the daughter of Thomas and Nora Ahern. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked in real estate and insurance. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1942 and served in the United States Army's Chemical Warfare Service during World War II, supervising the inspection of gas masks, among other duties. She then enrolled in the Harvard Radcliffe Program in Business Administration, which offered management training to women. (Harvard Business School did not admit women until 1962.) As part of the program, Ahern had an internship at the American Broadcasting Company's public affairs office, which was headed by Robert Saudek. She collaborated with Saudek on radio documentaries and in the early 1950s worked with him to develop Omnibus, a television program which aired from 1952 to 1961. Ahern was a producer of the program, a role few women played in television at that time, and also wrote scripts and conducted research. The program was hosted by Alistair Cooke and featured appearances by Orson Welles, Ethel Barrymore and other actors. Most episodes were broadcast live and programming ranged from performances of new and classic plays to segments on children's toys and x-rays. Composer Leonard Bernstein was a frequent guest on Omnibus and Ahern's association with him continued into the 1970s, when she produced a popular series of lectures he presented on PBS. In the 1970s, William Paley established the Museum of Broadcasting (now the Paley Center for Media), with Saudek as president and Ahern as curator. Her work involved identifying and preserving notable television programs and commercials. She later did similar work for the Library of Congress, again in association with Saudek; her efforts greatly enhanced the library's radio and television holdings. Ahern died in 2021.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2021-M59

The papers of Mary V. Ahern were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary V. Ahern in April 2021.

Related Materials

There is related material: see the interviews with Ahern in the records of the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration Oral History Project SC 185.

Processing Information

Processed: June 2021

By: Susan Earle

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.

Ahern, Mary V. Papers of Mary V. Ahern, 1940-2011 (inclusive), 1940-1990 (bulk): 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 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Fund, Pforzheimer Fund for the Schlesinger Library, Sybil Shainwald Fund at the Schlesinger Library, and Class of 1955 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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