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COLLECTION Identifier: A/S2715

Letters of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer about Wendell Willkie campaign for president, 1939-1940


Letters between Mary Elizabeth Sawyer and members of various Republican groups documenting Sawyer's work with local Black voters to promote Wendell Willkie as candidate for United States president.


  • Creation: 1939-1940
  • Creation: 1939-1940


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 Elizabeth Sawyer as well as 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 folder
1 folder

Collection contains eleven letters between Mary Elizabeth Sawyer and members of various Republican groups documenting Sawyer's work with local Black voters to promote Wendell Willkie as candidate for United States president. There are seven letters from the Massachusetts Republican State Committee; the first letter from the committee describes their need for "a competent young colored woman who might cover Massachusetts for a publication issued in connection with the Republican National Committee" and their hope that Sawyer, as an experienced newspaper writer, will considering applying. There are carbon copies of two letters from Sawyer to the committee, including one in which she provides the names of Black citizens in Williamstown and North Adams who are interested in political affairs. Several of these letters from the Massachusetts Republican State Committee are from the "Western Division Headquarters of Colored Work" in Springfield, Massachusetts. In addition, there are two form letters from the Republican National Committee and the National Voters League of Colored Americans asking for Sawyer's support.


Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, daughter of Henry H. and Mary Elizabeth Williams Spencer, was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, on May 17, 1911. She attended Saint Andrew's School in Rochester, New York, and graduated from Williamstown High School in 1929. She attended Wellesley College and the Rochester (New York) Collegiate Center. Sawyer was active in the local and state Massachusetts Republican party, and she was managing editor and a writer for the Republican Party publication The Women's Voice. An African American woman, Sawyer worked to encourage Black voters to vote for Wendell Willkie during the 1940 election. Sawyer was also a missionary for First Congregational Church of Williamstown; she was sent to work as a social worker for Saint Mark's Congregational Parish in Roxbury, Massachusetts, during the early 1940s. She was secretary to the superintendent of Williamstown Public Schools from 1942 to 1956. In 1956, she married Raymond Arcelius Sawyer, and they moved to Mount Vernon, New York, where she worked as a senior clerk for the Mount Vernon public schools. Returning to Williamstown in 1973, she served on the board of directors of the Berkshire County chapter of the Red Cross, the Williamstown Council on Aging, and was treasurer of the Republican Town Committee. Sawyer died December 8, 2001, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2022-M98

The letters of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer were acquired by Schlesinger Library from Between the Covers Rare Books in May 2022.

Processing Information

Processed: July 2022

By: Paula Aloisio

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.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library Fund and the Kim A. Bendheim 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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