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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 391

Papers of Eleanor G. Coit, 1894-1971


Correspondence, photographs, etc., of Eleanor G. Coit, labor education expert.


  • Creation: 1894-1971

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Eleanor G. Coit 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 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder)

This collection has been arranged in two series:

Series I, Personal, 1-73, includes photographs of family and friends, information about family history, and letters from co-workers in the YWCA, American Labor Education Service, and the workers' education movement here and abroad. The letters from friends demonstrate the close personal ties that developed among the women involved in the YWCA and labor education movement, and complement the official records of American Labor Education Service and the summer schools for workers that are in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the School of Industrial Relations of Cornell University and other repositories. Additionally there are Coit's personal medical, financial and other business papers.

Series II, Professional, 74-88, provides information about Coit's early career in the YWCA, includes tributes from colleagues worldwide at the time of her retirement from American Labor Education Service (1962), and documents Coit's post-retirement activities.


Eleanor Gwinnell Coit, labor education expert, was the daughter of Emma Gwinnell and Henry Coit, M.D., and was born in Newark, New Jersey, on May 6, 1894. She received an A.B. (1916) from Smith College and an A.M. (1919) from Columbia University.

Coit was Industrial Secretary of the New Jersey branches of the Young Women's Christian Association at Newark (1916-1917), and Orange (1917-1919), General Secretary at Bayonne (1919-1921), and Industrial Secretary of the YWCA at Buffalo, New York (1922-1925). From 1926 until 1928 she was Industrial Secretary of the National YWCA in New York City. In 1928 Coit was appointed director of the Educational Department, the research arm of the Affiliated Schools for Women Workers in Industry (known later as the Affiliated Schools for Workers, 1929-1938, and the American Labor Education Service, 1938-1962). She was responsible for research in workers' education and for coordinating summer schools for workers.

In 1934 Coit succeeded Hilda Worthington Smith as director of American Labor Education Service and retained this post until 1962, when the organization was disbanded. In 1935 she was awarded an American Scandinavian Fellowship and visited labor education programs in Sweden, Denmark, and England. During the late 1930s, she helped to establish workers' education programs in 75 different localities under the Works Progress Administration. From 1938, she worked with education directors of AFL-CIO unions to sponsor joint union/American Labor Education Service education programs and conferences; beginning in 1952 these programs increasingly focussed on the United Nations and the involvement of labor in international affairs. American Labor Education Service also fostered international exchanges of workers and arranged visits of foreign union members. At American Labor Education Service, Coit drew on the expertise of a network of reform-minded women that included academic social scientists and former YWCA industrial and executive secretaries (including Marie Algor, Ernestine Friedmann, Alice Shoemaker, Amy Bruce, and Louise McLaren). These women directed summer schools, established workers' education programs, carried out research and field work, and ran seminars and conferences. Their years of cooperative work resulted in lasting friendships.

After retirement, Coit remained active in the Council of National Organizations for Adult Education, in church, labor, and social work associations. She died in 1976.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 79-M309

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library in May 1979 by Bert Hansen.


  1. Box 1: Folders 18-50
  2. Box 2: Folders 51-62
  3. Box 3: Folders 63-73
  4. Box 4: Folders 74-88

Processing Information

Processed: February 1989

By: Jane S. Knowles

Coit, Eleanor G.. Papers of Eleanor G. Coit, 1894-1971: 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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