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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1140: Phon-79

Papers of Katherine Pollak Ellickson, ca.1830-2019 (inclusive), 1930-1996 (bulk)


Correspondence, diaries, writings, and photographs of Katherine Pollak Ellickson, labor economist, assistant director of the AFL-CIO's Social Security department, and executive secretary of the President's Commission on the Status of Women. Correspondence of members of Ellickson's extended family, including her husband, parents, and sister is also included in the collection, along with genealogical material such as family trees.


  • 1830-2019
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1996


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 Katherine Pollak Ellickson 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.


18 file boxes ((7.51 linear feet), 8 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 phonograph record)

The original collection (cataloged as A/E46) consisted of Katherine Pollak Ellickson's essay entitled "The President's Commission on the Status of Women: Its Formation, Functioning, and Contribution;" photocopies of letters commenting on the essay; and a letter by Ellickson commenting on Cynthia Harrison's book On Account of Sex. The remaining materials, which form the bulk of the collection, were donated by Ellickson's daughter, Margaret Ellickson Senturia, in November 2019. This material includes Ellickson's correspondence with her extended family; oral histories; diaries; poetry by Ellickson; and labor pamphlets written by her. The collection also includes correspondence and other material related to Ellickson's extended family, including her parents, Inez Cohen Pollak and Francis Deak Pollak, and her sister Inez Pollak.

Most of the material donated by Margaret Senturia had been foldered and labeled by her or other family members. The archivist refoldered the collection but kept the organization of the original folders intact and retained folder titles whenever possible. Titles created by the archivist appear in square brackets. Considerable overlap in date ranges exists between the folders of correspondence. Ellickson donated her professional papers to the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University. Only a very small amount of material related to her professional life is included in the Schlesinger Library collection.

Series I, KATHERINE POLLAK ELLICKSON, 1907-2005 (#1.1-12.3), includes biographical and autobiographical writings about Ellickson, including oral histories; diaries; schoolwork; and poetry and professional writings, including labor pamphlets and Ellickson's essay on the work of the President's Commission on the Status of Women (and letters by fellow members of the Commission commenting on the essay); and an article written by Ellickson while a student at Vassar College and published in The New Republic, critiquing college education. The bulk of the series consists of Ellickson's correspondence with family and includes letters exchanged with John Chester Ellickson throughout their marriage; with Margaret Ellickson Senturia (including during her childhood, college years, and first marriage, with one letter expressing the wish to improve their communication); and extensive correspondence with Inez Cohen Pollak. Of note are Ellickson's letters from Bryn Mawr Summer School and Brookwood Labor College, which reflect her increasing interest in labor economics and a letter from Ellickson to Inez Cohen Pollak dated December 8, 1941, discussing the United States entering World War II. The series is arranged alphabetically and thereunder chronologically. Considerable overlap exists in the date ranges for several of the correspondence folders.

Series II, ELLICKSON, POLLAK, AND COHEN FAMILIES, ca.1853-2019 (#12.4-18.17), includes family histories and family trees; John Chester Ellickson's personal and professional correspondence; a diary he kept during World War I and a transcription of it; resumes and a biographical sketch by his daughter Margaret; and condolence letters received upon his death. Most of his correspondence with Katherine Pollak Ellickson appears in Series I. Series II also includes Frances Deak Pollak's correspondence, including with his wife and children; poems he wrote, including one addressed "to the Misses Earle, [Gertrude] Stein, Appenheimer, and [Inez] Cohen"; and an obituary and biographical information for him. The series also includes material related to Inez Cohen Pollak, with a letter explaining why she did not wish to change her last name from "Cohen"--with the implication that the name might be considered "too Jewish"--being of particular note. The series also includes a letter from psychologist William James, with whom Inez studied, comparing her favorably to the Radcliffe College undergraduates he taught. Additional material includes writings and correspondence of Ellickson's siblings Franklin and Inez Pollak, including a diary Inez kept during a 1930 trip to Russia and letters she sent to her family during the trip. The series is arranged alphabetically by family member.

Series III, AUDIOVISUAL AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1830-1978 (#PD.1z-PD.9z, Phon-79.1), includes tintypes and a daguerreotype of Ellickson's great grandmother and other family members; formal and informal images of Ellickson alone and with others, including Vassar College classmates, family, and professional colleagues; and a recording of the 1950s radio program "Labor the Nation" with Ellickson speaking about Social Security. The collection also includes a photograph of Francis Deak Pollak and Inez Cohen Pollak on the steps of a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a group of friends including Gertrude Stein. The series is arranged by format and thereunder chronologically.

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


Labor economist Katherine Pollak Ellickson was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1905, the daughter of Francis Deak Pollak and Inez (Cohen) Pollak. She had two siblings, Franklin and Inez. Her father was a lawyer and died in 1916. Her mother taught school before marrying and was active in the Teachers' Union Auxiliary, the National Consumers' League, and the National Council of Jewish Women. Ellickson attended the Ethical Culture School in Manhattan, New York, and graduated from Vassar College in 1926. She also pursued graduate studies at Columbia University.

Ellickson's lifelong commitment to the women's and labor movements was reflected throughout her career. From 1927 to 1929, she worked at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry and from 1929 to 1932 at Brookwood Labor College in Katonah, New York. Her work at Brookwood included field work in Southern textile mill towns and West Virginia coal camps. She also worked for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) Southern teachers' training school in 1934. She married John "Chet" Chester Ellickson, an agrarian economist, in 1933; they had two children, Margaret and Robert. The family lived in Washington, DC. John Chester Ellickson died in 1970.

From 1935 to 1937, Ellickson served as assistant to the director of the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). She worked as an economist for the National Labor Relations board from 1938 to 1940 and for the Social Security Board in 1940 and 1941. In 1942 she became the CIO's associate director of research and served in this capacity until 1955. During this time she was secretary of the Social Security Committee and represented the CIO on government advisory committees on Social Security, women and children, farm labor, and other issues. When the CIO merged with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1955, Ellickson was appointed assistant director of the Social Security Department, with special responsibility for old age and disability insurance. Her work helped secure the passage of health insurance legislation that eventually led to the establishment of Medicare. In 1963, she was appointed executive secretary of the President's Commission on the Status of Women. She retired in 1967, after working briefly for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Katherine Pollak Ellickson died in 1996 in La Jolla, California. She was posthumously inducted into Labor's International Hall of Fame.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Katherine Pollak Ellickson, 1907-2005 (#1.1-12.3)
  2. Series II. Ellickson, Pollak, and Cohen families, ca.1853-2019 (#12.4-18.17)
  3. Series III. Audiovisual and photographs, ca.1830-1978 (#PD.1z-PD.9z, Phon-79.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 76-334, 77-M15, 89-M32, 2019-M202

The papers of Katherine Pollak Ellickson were given to the Schlesinger Library by Katherine Pollak Ellickson between 1976 and 1989, with an additional donation in December 2019 by her daughter, Margaret Ellickson Senturia.

Existence and Location of Originals

Originals of the typescript of Ellickson's essay "The President's Commission on the Status of Women: Its Formation, Functioning, and Contribution" are located at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University; see the Papers of Katherine Pollak Ellickson, 1921-1989 (#LP00321). Additional related material is located at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University; see the Papers of Katherine Pollack Ellickson on Microfilm (5425 mf).

Processing Information

Processed: September 2021

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Henry Schull and Yolande E. Bennett.

A portion of the collection was previously cataloged as A/E46.

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 Eliza Taylor and George W. Ransom Memorial Fund, the Robert and Elizabeth Owen Shenton Fund, and the Fleisher Acquisition 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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