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COLLECTION Identifier: A-62

Papers of Belle Sherwin, 1880-1955


Correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, etc., of Belle Sherwin, suffragist and president of the National League of Women Voters.


  • Creation: 1880-1955

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Unrestricted, with the exception of volumes 2o-11o, which are closed; use microfilm M-58.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Belle Sherwin 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.


1.67 linear feet (4 file boxes) plus 1 oversize folder, 3 folio+ folders, 1 folio folder, 1 photograph album, 2 objects, 3 reels of microfilm (M-58)

The subjects covered in the collection illustrate Belle Sherwin's activities and wide range of interests and include her family, Wellesley College, her travels, civic organizations, the National League of Women Voters, women's organizations, suffrage, notable women, domestic and international politics, art, gardening, houses and education.

The Sherwin's papers given to the Library in 1960 are arranged chronologically and consist mainly of ancestral photographs, two photographs of Sherwin, Wellesley College material, including class of 1890 directories, and a National League of Women Voters commemorative book presented to Sherwin in 1930.

The contents of the scrapbooks are arranged more or less chronologically and consist mainly of newspaper clippings, many of which are undated and not identified as to source. They also include programs and other printed material, invitations, photographs, and correspondence. The last consists mostly of telegrams and letters to Sherwin on her retirement as president of the League.

Due to the chronological arrangement of the scrapbooks and because the various subjects listed above appear throughout the scrapbooks, the inventory gives only general information about what each volume contains. Readers interested in a particular subject, person or organization are advised to look through the entire microfilm of the scrapbooks.

The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., is the official repository for the archive of the National League of Women Voters, now the League of Women Voters of the United States. The archive includes material marked "Belle Sherwin, personal."


Belle Sherwin was born on March 20, 1868 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the oldest of three daughters of Frances M. (Smith) and Henry Alden Sherwin, a founder of the Sherwin-Williams Paint Company. Sherwin received her primary education in Cleveland, attended St. Margaret's School in Connecticut and graduated from Wellesley College in 1890. She taught history for a short period at St. Margaret's and in 1894-1895 did graduate work at Oxford University. For the next several years she taught at a girls' school in Boston. In 1899 she returned to Cleveland and began her long involvement with voluntary civic and women's organizations.

During the first years of this century Belle Sherwin was most active with the Visiting Nurse Association of Cleveland, serving on its board until 1924, and with the Cleveland Consumers' League, which she had organized in 1899. During World War I Sherwin coordinated the activities of Cleveland's women's organizations. She was named chairman of the Women's Committee of the Mayor's Advisory Board in 1917 and later in the same year was appointed Ohio Chairman of the Women's Committee of the U. S. Council of National Defense.

As a result of a visit by Maud Wood Park to Cleveland in 1910, Sherwin joined the College Equal Suffrage League. In 1916 she organized the Women's City Club of Cleveland. After the War (1919) she became president of the Woman Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland and a supporter of Carrie Chapman Catt. She became chairman of the Cleveland League of Women Voters (LWV) and was elected vice president of the National League of Women Voters in 1921. At the National League's fifth annual convention, 1924, in Buffalo, Sherwin was elected president. She moved to Washington, D.C., where the League had its national headquarters, and served as president until 1934.

Under the leadership of Belle Sherwin the League initiated many of the methods and programs still followed today. Adult political education efforts were intensified. The League increased the number of its round tables and schools of citizenship, added many publications, and in 1928 inaugurated the Voters Campaign Information Service, a series of weekly radio programs presenting without partisanship questions of public interest. The League continued to lobby the Congress, participated in the Conferences on the Cause and Cure of War (including the first, held in 1925), exhibited at the Sesqui-Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia (1926), and presented planks that included women's rights issues to both political party conventions in 1928 and again in 1932.

During this period Sherwin was also active in the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship and led the United States delegation to the Paris (1926) and the Berlin (1929) congresses.

In 1934, Marguerite Wells became the third president of the League. Belle Sherwin continued to live in Washington and remained active in a variety of organizations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the Consumers' Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration and to the Federal Advisory Council of the United States Employment Service (1934). Her other activities included the following: vice-president of the National Municipal League, member of the General Advisory Council of the American Association for Labor Legislation, and vice-president for North America of the Inter-American Union of Women.

Sherwin's interest in and involvement with Wellesley College continued throughout her life. She was first elected a trustee in 1918 and served until 1952. In 1950, the 75th anniversary year of the college, she was awarded an honorary LL.D. She also received honorary degrees from Western Reserve University (1930), Denison University (1931) and Oberlin College (1937).

In 1942 Sherwin returned to her family home in Cleveland, where she enjoyed her hobbies of gardening, reading and double crostics. She died in 1955.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 57-56, 80

The photograph album and ten scrapbooks of Belle Sherwin were given to the Schlesinger Library in 1957 by her niece, Mrs. Anthony Lee Michel (Sally Prescott). Further papers were added to the collection in 1960 by her nephew, John Sherwin Prescott.


The ten scrapbooks that make up the bulk of the Belle Sherwin Papers were selected for microfilming under a grant from the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation because both the scrapbooks and many of the individual items they contain were deteriorating rapidly. The paper was of poor quality and so had become brittle, and many pages were loose. Newspaper clippings make up a large portion of the contents; many were folded and/or overlapped and most were falling out, tearing, wrinkling or crumbling, especially at the edges. The Library could not continue to make this fragile material available to researchers except on microfilm.

Due to the variety of subjects covered by the material Belle Sherwin collected and the poor state of the scrapbooks, the Library had to make certain decisions on what to film and how to prepare the scrapbooks for filming. Some or all of the following conditions apply to each volume.

  1. 1. In some volumes the original page order was no longer obvious because of loose pages and missing page numbers. The numbers in parentheses are those of the processor. Blank pages were not numbered.
  2. 2. The photographs had been microfilmed with the Library's photograph collection. Only photographs on pages with other items were refilmed.
  3. 3. Items dealing with Sherwin were filmed in their entirety. Since the Library of Congress is the official repository for the records of the League of Women Voters of the United States, only the first page of League publications was filmed, unless all or some of a publication pertained to Sherwin. Materials from Wellesley College and various women's organizations were partially microfilmed: i.e., covers or first pages, and pages relating to Belle Sherwin, if any.
  4. 4. When possible, pamphlets, brochures, programs, invitations and letters were removed from the scrapbooks after microfilming. They are available at the Library.
  5. 5. Newspaper clippings that were folded, layered and/or inserted in envelopes and that do not deal with Sherwin of her activities were generally not filmed in their entirety.
  6. 6. Loose items and those found clipped to pages were filmed where they were found, if possible; otherwise they were filmed immediately after that page.
  7. 7. Many scrapbook pages contain items that overlap, were folded in order to fit on the page, or have multiple pages. Such scrapbook pages were filmed as they first appear and then as many times as necessary.
  8. 8. All newsclippings and some other materials were discarded after filming.
Reel Guide
  1. Reel 1: Volumes 2o-4o
  2. Reel 2: Volumes 5o-7o
  3. Reel 3: 8o-11o


  1. Box 1: Folders 12-21
  2. Box 2: Folders 22-31
  3. Box 3: Folders 32-41
  4. Box 4: Folders 52-56

Processing Information

Reprocessed: October 1979

By: Bert Hartry

Sherwin, Belle, 1868-1955. Papers of Belle Sherwin, 1880-1955: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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